Practically the only ghosts at VMI are First Classmen in good standing and with a full tank of gas. Because VMI’s history as an armory, and as a source of military personnel – some of whom were killed in action – and accidents, VMI takes on a dark cast whenever the sun goes down. While not as scary as the Clifton Bunnyman, there is plenty of creepiness on the post, not just in Smith Hall.
Folks have reported tears coming from Virginia as she mourns her dead. People have seen blood coming from the painting above the altar in JM Hall – a field of lost shoes, and lost souls? In 80s there was a portrait of a cadet which had been painted over a an earlier work of a woman kneeling. Legend went that the woman was the mother of the cadet, who’d been killed in battle. This was one of many legends at VMI.
Two of my BRs broke two legends: First Rat Sentinel never graduates, until BR Cheadle graduated; and no Cadet of Yankee origin who lived over Washington Arch, where General Jackson lay in state, ever graduated.
Given the violence regularly perpetrated on the 5th Stoop, initially as a room for several BR until attrition took effect, and then as HQ of the RDC, it’s little wonder folks have reported oddities.
For myself, the stacks of Preston Hall were too much. I was assigned a carrel there during Rat year and I used it three or four times. After midnight the library takes on a very different nature. I spent the rest of cadetship studying either in Shipp Hall or in the barracks. Nothing against the library, but it still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
What sealed the deal for me was an incident that occurred during Second Class Year, when 90 allowed 89 to believe it ruled barracks. My four roomies and I were studying in the room. We were in winter uniform and it was a clear, not too cold night. Jim had his back to the door and his earphones on, but we could still hear Metallica in spite of that. So, Charles (his Christian name, not what we called him) had his bluegrass music turned up in obstinate competition. Bull from Bayonne (he looked like Bull from Night Court) was caught in the middle, as was usual, and going bald from rubbing his scalp. Jeff was talking to the air about becoming a marine (which he did) and I was doing my usual attempt to study.
Not that I’d certify that last statement. Honest.
The stick hadn’t run and it was one of the few nights I didn’t get into trouble. Cursed, demonic stick!
It was over in a second. A grey figure moved across our door. Four of us, except Jim, saw it. “Did you see that?” Four people, except Jim, rushed the door. No one on the stoop(we lived in Gold Coast). No one on the stairs above or below. No one on the stoop above or below us. Nothing on the ceiling of our stoop. No one and nothing.
What got the four of us going was just how smooth the whatever it was moved. Humans bounce, even the Marines at 8th & I have some movement as they walk. Same with the Old Guard, same with anything on wheels. This was flat, smooth and consistent.
Practical joke? If so it was a damned good one. The five of us packed up our books and Jim went off to wherever EE majors study, and the rest of us headed to Shipp Hall, where civilized folk study. Well, except for English majors. The Daniels Den regularly filled with cigarette smoke and BS as English majors discussed the presuppositionalist themes of “The Farmer’s Daughter.” The Daniels Den was known for the Demon of Incoherency possessing its denizens.
VMI is a place where alumni return for any number of reasons. Some never leave. There have been fatal accidents in VMI’s past. There was even a murder. In 1854, Cadet Thomas Blackburn pushed one button too many. Scion of one of Virginia’s top 10 families, Blackburn has crossed a young professor Thomas J. Jackson and had been kicked out of school. Blackburn’s family got him reinstated so Blackburn felt obligated to act the ass. Until he was murdered in the churchyard in downtown Lexington.
Blackburn’s murder, and Major Jackson’s subsequent investigation have all the hallmarks of a fine gothic tale: a castle-like barracks, an old churchyard, indolence and privilege, money, political power as a favorite son oppressed an orphan, and the eternal snit between VMI and Washington & Lee, Virginia’s Masonic Master Lodge, even what became known at VWIL . And, a woman. Read all about it! Or you can ask Blackburn himself