Saint Mary’s alumnae write book about campus ghosts
Nicole Caratas | Monday, October 31, 2016
Ghosts and spirits have been a staple of life at Saint Mary’s for decades, but it wasn’t until 2002 that the stories of paranormal activity on campus were collected and written in a book titled “Quiet Hours.”
Three College alumnae —Shelly Houser, Veronica Kessenich and Kristen Matha — wrote the book after interviewing hundreds of staff, faculty and local residents.
“We were serving as leadership coaches for the Leadership and Community Development Academy — a program of the College’s Leaders of a New Indiana Project in the summer of 2000,” Matha said. “All of the counselors stayed in Le Mans with the high school students who were participating in the program, and to entertain them and ourselves, we told Saint Mary’s ghost stories. We then had the crazy idea to gather more stories and publish a book. The book then morphed into a combination of ghost stories and Saint Mary’s history.”
Matha said it was exciting to contribute to the folklore of the College.
“We would walk around campus with tape recorders and students would stop us to share a story,” she said. “We also held a ghost story night during what is now known as Heritage Week, and students shared story after story. We met with security guards and cleaning staff who worked the night shift, both at the College and the Convent, to gather their stories.
Houser said writing about Saint Mary’s ghosts interested her because of her love for the College.
“The paranormal has always treaded the fine line of interest while easily crossing the line to spine chilling thrills,” Houser said. “Writing about Saint Mary’s was an honor. The three of our hearts bled blue and white; this was such an enormous privilege allowing such insight into Saint Mary’s as well as her past, I simply was enthralled.”
Matha said her favorite of the ghost stories was one about a poltergeist that supposedly haunts one of the rooms in Le Mans Hall.
“We first heard the story in the Tower Room during the ghost story session,” she said. “It was an amazing evening — students were packed into the room sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with some students sitting in the stairwell trying to hear. A student shared the story and immediately following her another student stood up and said [she] lived there the year before and the same thing happened to [her.] All the air went out of the room as everyone let out a collective gasp.
“But it gets even spookier. Last spring, I was on campus for the alumnae Board of Directors meeting and a member of the Board who recently graduated shared that she had the same experience when she was a student. So we have had three confirmed accounts of that story spanning multiple years.”
According to Houser, many steps were taken in order to publish the book.
“There are quite a few stories that were not allowed to be published,” Houser said. “The final version was sent to numerous persons in high positions throughout Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and St. Joseph’s police. Many do not realize that in order for the three of us to use a story, we confirmed the story with factual, documentation provided via many, many avenues throughout Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and St. Joe’s county officials. Unfortunately, due to family members currently enrolled at Saint Mary’s or Notre Dame or a past correctional history, many stories were cut.”
The book’s publishing garnered a lot of attention, according to Matha. She said South Bend ghost hunters even came to campus inquiring about the book.
Matha said she never had an encounter herself, though she lived in Le Mans for two and a half years.
“I’m a true believer though,” she said.
Houser said the book was received with nothing but positivity while they were still students, and she has since run in to people who had read it.
“I have met my fair share of fellow ‘Quiet Hours’ lovers,” she said. “It always makes my day a bit brighter when someone asks about the book or the three of us. The book was such a huge part of my time at Saint Mary’s. It helped to solidify we truly have no glass ceiling if we push ourselves to the maximum.”