It’s most likely only a few of our current UMPI students know about our haunted campus. Where the University of Presque Isle now stands was once known as St. John’s Episcopal Secondary School for Boys. It was established in 1884 and consisted of three buildings: the chapel, gymnasium and drill hall. It was created for preparation for college or scientific school or to study any profession or business life. When it opened its doors, it had about 80 students and closed in 1896.
In 1902 the town of Presque Isle purchased the St. John’s Episcopal Secondary School along with five acres of land. The building and land was then offered to the state if it was to build a normal school. With the campaigning efforts of Reverend George M. Park, the Maine State Legislature passed a bill to establish a normal school in Presque Isle. The Aroostook State Normal School opened on Sept. 15, 1903, and offered a two-year program for teaching. Seventeen students and three faculty members began the first semester.
In 1921 and 1922 ASNS use to hold a Winter Carnival where student competed against one another in several events. It was usually seniors against juniors, and it was during one of the events, the snowshoe dash, that a senior injured her leg. Thinking it was just a bad sprain, she wrapped her leg and took it easy the remainder of the weekend in her dormitory, which is now known as Normal Hall. According to historical records, her name was Joanna Parks and she was known to her friends as Jo.
Jo didn’t show for her classes on Monday and her friends figured she just wanted to take an extra day to tend to her injured leg. Monday night came. Not seeing her come out of her room to attend dinner, one of her friends went to her room. She found Jo unconscious and not responding. She was taken to the local hospital where she died several hours later. It appeared that she had a small fracture and an infection set in which was the cause of her demise.
Not long after her death, the students use to complain about being uneasy in that building. They had a feeling of being watched or feeling a sudden chill running down their spines. One student who used to leave her bedroom door open for a faint light from the hall claimed to have seen an outline of a silhouette just standing and staring at the foot of her bed.
Through the years, other stories have surfaced but have subsided slightly since the use of the building has changed. Normal Hall is the oldest building on campus today and has been through a few renovations since it was built in 1905.
A current student who only wants to be addressed as Sarah has experienced some suspicious activity prior to the last renovation. “I was working late one night on a presentation for a class. Another student was supposed to meet me and we were going to complete the assignment together. I remember it was snowing outside and figured this was the reason for her delay. All of a sudden, the lights flickered. Thinking it was due to the storm, I didn’t give it much thought, plus my computer battery was full. If the light did go out my computer would stay on. Next thing I remember is everything went black. My computer lost power and I was left sitting in the dark. I went to reach for my phone in my purse and when I did, I felt a hand on my arm. The lights immediately came back on and I quickly hurried out of there! I’ve never gone back in that building alone.”
Another student who wants to remain anonymous shared the story of a late-night stroll on campus alone. “I was coming from town one night, picking up a few items from the grocery store, and I decided to take a shortcut by Normal Hall. The outside was brightly lit and I was passing by the side of the building and just happened to look up at one of the windows and saw someone staring at me. I remember she looked as if in a trance and her faced glowed. I started running and never looked back, and I was still shaking when I got to my dorm.”
So, during a late-night stroll, if you’re curious and courageous, stop by Normal Hall and see if Jo’s anywhere to be seen. Or if you’re brave enough take a walk inside and sit alone in the dark, see if she’ll pay you a brief and sweet visit. Better yet, ask Dr. J. about her and Saint’s own encounters in Normal Hall.