From the Archives: Creepy tales and cultural traditions

With this week’s edition falling on October 31, we felt obligated to write about Halloween. For those currently imbued with the holiday spirit, the following stories about campus ghosts, ouija sessions and seances will not disappoint.

But we also wanted to look beyond “spooky season” stereotypes. The blurbs below consider the transformation of Halloween from its pagan origins, pondering the lost significance of the original “All Hallows Eve.” We also feature some other holidays occurring in late October. Diwali and Dia de los Muertos represent important ethnic traditions whose cultural depth contrasts with the seemingly-frivolous nature of modern Halloween. While costume parties and ghost stories are always entertaining, it is important to consider the deeper meaning of this season for certain people in the tri-campus community and around the world.

Campus lore and the ghost of Washington Hall

Oct. 31, 1988 | Julie Ryan | Oct. 31, 2006 | Joe Piarulli | Researched by Cade Czarnecki

Over time, there have been many eerie reports of paranormal activity at the building situated between the Dome and LaFortune Student Center. Doors slamming, lights turning off and transparent silhouettes entering the building comprise only a few of the spooky tales about Washington Hall’s ghost.

Campus lore contains numerous possible identities for the supernatural being that haunts Washington Hall. One tale tells of a steeplejack who fell to his death from the roof while helping to construct the hall. Another tells of a cavalry soldier that was killed by Native Americans and buried on the sacred native land that the Notre Dame campus now stands upon.

The most prominent and widely accepted attribution of the haunting of Washington Hall, though, is to the ghost of George Gipp, a football player in the early 1900s under then-head coach Knute Rockne.

The origin of Ghost of the Gipper stems from a commonly echoed story that Gipp would often sneak into Washington Hall when he had missed curfew and could not return to his residence.

On one such night, Gipp could not get inside Washington Hall and resorted to sleeping on its steps. He contracted pneumonia as a result of the harsh conditions of South Bend, Indiana and later succumbed to the disease.

The first reported sighting of the Ghost of the Gipper was in 1925, five years after Gipp’s death. Many more stories followed in subsequent years.

Tom Barkes, Washington Hall’s manager in 1988, saw the stories as both fun and natural to the hall’s lifespan: “No self-respecting 107 year old theater should be without its ghost stories. Theater is magic to begin with, so it is a natural place for stories.”

An illustration depicts students interacting with a ouija board inside Washington Hall, hoping to contact the legendary Ghost of the Gipper. Observer archives, Oct. 31, 1988.

Others take them far more seriously, such as the group of four students who snuck into Washington Hall with an ouija board in 1985. They attempted to contact the Ghost of the Gipper only to have the board spell out “S…G” and then slide the planchette to “Goodbye.” After a second attempt that garnered the same result, the students hurried out of the hall. A security guard (SG) was seen making his rounds as they snuck out.

Such Notre Dame lore has persisted for hundreds of years and is sure to continue into the future. The question now is simply when, not if, the ghost of George “The Gipper” Gipp will next be seen in his old sanctuary, Washington Hall.

Halloween: horrifying or hilarious?

Oct. 31, 1988 | Mark Ridgeway | Oct. 31, 1991 | Paige SmoronOct. 30, 1996 | Dan Cichalski | Researched by Lilyann Gardner

Even as the Ghost of the Gipper captured the imaginations of some students, the spirit of Halloween and its holiday traditions were a topic of debate at Notre Dame throughout the late 1980s and well into the 90s. 

Dan Cichalski (‘98), Assistant Accent Editor, took a strong stance in favor of making Halloween an official national holiday, arguing that it would establish a day in which everyone would be able to celebrate those who have passed away while also allowing themselves to be someone or something else for a short while.  

“With Halloween officially recognized by the government though, people in such positions would be able to let their fun side go wild,” wrote Cichalski. 

Conversely, Mark Ridgeway (‘89), Systems Manager, argued that the meaning of Halloween had been lost. Ridgeway claimed that the celebration of the deceased surrounding All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints Day had been overrun by a dark side of violence, gore and evil. 

Morbid curiosity and the thrill of adrenaline that stemmed from watching horror films and attempting to commune with ghosts have cast the origins of Halloween into the shadows, according to Ridgeway. 

“As an adult, looking at the way Halloween is today, I feel the true meaning of the night has been lost, but that the fun of the celebration has not been lost,” Ridgeway wrote.

Mark Ridgeway’s column criticized the evolution of Halloween from its roots as “All Hallows Eve,” a pagan celebration of the deceased. Observer archives, Oct. 31, 1988.

The Observer and the University of Notre Dame were sure to maintain the playful nature of Halloween with dorm decorations, pumpkin carving competitions and hypothetical seances. 

Paige Smoron (‘92), Assistant Accent Writer, interviewed students and faculty in 1991 to see which famous spirits should be conjured up at a Halloween seance.

Elvis was at the top of the list, and other notable figures included Marilyn Monroe, Knute Rockne, Nikola Tesla, Caspar the friendly ghost and Jesus Christ. However, some students refused to entertain the notion of a seance at all due to its pagan origins. 

The moral meaning behind these Halloween traditions at Notre Dame may still be up in the air, but there is no denying that remembering the dead plays a role in more ways than one. 

 Beyond Halloween: Diwali and Dia De Los Muertos at Notre Dame

 Oct. 30, 1997 | Bernadette Pampuch | Nov. 10, 2014 | Paul Stevenson | Researched by Thomas Dobbs

Halloween may garner the most on-campus attention this season, but autumn also marks a time to consider celebrations that hold deeper spiritual and religious significance.

In order to emphasize global religious events on campus, in 2004 Campus Ministry began the Prayer from Around the World series to offer “the opportunity for various faith traditions to share their forms of praying with the campus communities.”

One such holiday, Diwali, is a major five-day Hindu festival occurring in October or November that celebrates the “triumph of good over evil, light over dark and knowledge over darkness.”

Nishant Singh (‘17) recalled eating candies and sweets during the Diwali festival as a child but emphasized that “Diwali is much bigger than Halloween. It is like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years combined into one.”

As evidence of Diwali’s broad significance, Priscilla Wong, senior advisor at the graduate and multicultural student ministry, shared that she felt connected to Diwali despite not practicing Hinduism. Wong described celebrations of Diwali at friends’ houses and with her daughter’s Hindu spouse.

A member of the Indian Association of Notre Dame celebrates Diwali, an ancient Hindu festival “like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years combined into one.” Observer archives, Nov. 10, 2014.

While the sense of community is clear in Diwali celebrations, familial connections form the foundation of another autumnal holiday: Dia de los Muertos. Celebrated on the first and second of November, Dia de los Muertos may at first resemble Halloween with its elaborate displays of skulls or candy offerings.

But unlike Halloween, Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday centered on reflection and the remembrance of “departed ancestors whose spirits visit the earth once each year.” Some celebrate by setting up altars in their homes to welcome their ancestors, while entire families can “spend the day cleaning and repainting graves, decorating tombstones with flowers.”

Although fire precautions, untrustworthy roommates or engineering shortcomings may limit the construction of an altar here on campus, one can celebrate Dia de los Muertos with a simple “prayer [or moment of remembrance] for a deceased family member.”

While Halloween parties and costume contests provide for an uncomplicated and amusing holiday, the concurrent celebrations of Diwali and Dia de los Muertos elicit meaningful celebrations of family and renewal that are closely connected to the rituals themselves.

Contact Spencer Kelly at

Cade Czarnecki at

Lilyann Gardner at

Thomas Dobbs at


Spooky Scene Selections

Halloween is just around the corner, and Scene has chosen its favorite songs, films and haunting reflections to celebrate!

“Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge”

Rose Androwich, Scene Writer

The sequel to “Halloweentown” is better than the original. The first film relies too heavily on sheer shock factor. “Halloweentown II” broaches the idea of good versus evil. The 2000s nostalgia factor of “Halloweentown” makes it easy to return to every single year. Besides, who doesn’t love a good witch story? The good witch takes on the bad warlock, and it’s a Halloween must-have. Disney isn’t interested in scaring you, but their Halloween films are still great! 

Make Halloween ugly again

Gracie Eppler, Scene Writer

Perhaps the scariest thing about Halloween, to me, was when I discovered that costumes were meant to be cute. In Halloweens past, I have been a kayaker lugging around an orange boat made of cardboard strapped around my waist. I’ve become a glimmering silver robot with arms made out of dryer vent tubes. I have been transformed into (my personal favorite): Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous masterpiece herself, the Mona Lisa, by sticking my face through a hole my dad carved in a large cardboard cut-out. I strongly believe that in lieu of dressing up as glamorized pirates, angels or bunnies, it’s time to bring back ugly costumes. This Halloween, I’m looking forward to seeing more Minions, Pitbull impersonators and Mona Lisas. 

The magnificent camp of “The Lost Boys”

Annie Brown, Scene Writer

As far as late ‘80s cult classics go, there’s no shortage of marginally terrible, very campy movies to choose from: “Cocktail,” “Spaceballs” and “Weird Science” come to mind. However, you’ve never seen a movie quite like 1987’s ”The Lost Boys.” From mullet-clad vampire gangs to saxophone raves to young Corey Feldman’s uncannily Rambo-esque vocal fry, it’s a sexy, dark and vaguely homoerotic delight that’s sure to change the way you think about both comedy and horror. After all, what could be a better activity on Halloween than watching some undead angst and incredibly corny one-liners? That’s easy: death by stereo.

“Skeletons” by Aja Volkman, “Breakfast” by Dove Cameron, “Heads Will Roll” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Maggie Eastland, Assistant Managing Editor

These three songs escalate in vibe.

The first is a chill, folksy number perfect for walking to class or around the lake during spooky season. It’s raw and emotional and reminds me of the Sunday scaries. “I make choices that I’m going to have to live with. I’ve been places that I shouldn’t have gone. And I know that you’ve got some skeletons, too.” Keep this one in your back pocket for the impending Halloweekend x Hangxiety crossover.

Next on the list, “Breakfast” by Dove Cameron, is best blasted in your dorm room under purple LED lights while applying your (sultry) vampire makeup before the Halloween festivities. Call it cringe if you want, this is the prime opportunity to play the siren you’ve always dreamed of becoming.

Finally, turn up the energy with “Heads Will Roll.” Again, Halloween only comes around once a year. Do not miss this opportunity to experience mid-2000s blockbuster euphoria. “Dance ’til you’re dead.”

An ode to the American Halloween 

Abigail Keaney, Scene Writer

Embarking on a transatlantic move at the tender age of nine was difficult for many reasons. But perhaps one of the most significant tragedies for my fourth grade self was the harsh realization that the Halloween I had celebrated in years past would not be matched by the holiday in my new home. Armed with hopes of trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving and costume contests, I was devastated to learn that the English, at least back in 2010, didn’t celebrate Halloween — or certainly not any version of it that I recognized. The vision of myself waiting at the door for the trick-or-treaters that would never come haunts me even now, my childhood delight crumbling in tandem with my love for Halloween. With that being said, I would like to proclaim an ode to the American Halloween. With its gaudy decorations, sickly sweet candy corn and general sense of indescribable madness, there really is nothing like the 31st of October in the good ole USA. For my nine-year-old self, I’m making this one count. 

Spooky, not scary

Andy Ottone, Scene Writer

Some horror movies are just a little too intense. That is why the difference between spooky and scary is so important. “Spooky” is plastic skeletons and paper ghosts. “Scary” is the ghosts you see in “The Omen” or “Paranormal Activity.” If you want something spooky, not scary, to watch this Halloween, here are some quick recommendations: “Over The Garden Wall” (streaming on HBO Max) is a miniseries about two brothers getting lost in a fantasy world, and “Gravity Falls” (on Disney+) has a fun mystery vibe while remaining goofy. Lastly, the “Goosebumps” movie (VOD) is a fun callback to the spooky book series by R.L. Stine and is a great Halloween flick for all audiences.

Better to be scared with others than by yourself

Gabriel Zarazua, Scene Writer

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re all watching classic movies with friends such as “Monster House,” “Frankenweenie” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” but we need a good scare once in a while, especially now, to release tension in the middle of the semester. I would recommend the second movie by Jordan Peele, “Us,” in which a family tries to escape from getting killed by clones of themselves. It’s a fun watch and starts great conversations with friends on how they would try and fight a better version of themselves. Me personally? I would just have my clone do my art homework for me — if he’s so much better at it.


Students visit Riedinger House for Saint Mary’s Ghost Stories

With Halloween approaching, the Class Gift Campaign and Office of Residence Life sponsored the annual Saint Mary’s Ghost Stories event Wednesday night.

Students gathered at the Riedinger House, a house on campus originally designed for home economics courses that are no longer offered. The scarcely used Riedinger House is rarely made available to students. As a result, this event was heavily attended as students took advantage of the chance to see inside the house.

Attendees came to drink apple cider and listen to resident assistants (RAs) read ghost stories from former Saint Mary’s students and employees. The RAs were reading excerpts from “Quiet Hours,” a collection of alleged supernatural encounters which occurred on campus written by Shelly Houser, Veronica Kessenich and Kristen Matha.

For two hours, ghost stories were read every thirty minutes throughout four different rooms of the house. Students gathered around on couches, wooden chairs, the floor and even beds in the second-floor guest bedrooms to hear Halloween-themed tales ahead of the weekend.

Tess Hayes, a McCandless Hall RA, read an excerpt about an older man who has been spotted several times in LeMans Hall after parietals.

“It is believed to be the maintenance man who worked here during the 1920s,” Hayes said. “He appears sporadically on the first and second floors to keep an eye on the women of LeMans.” 

The decades-old stories sparked conversations around experiences students have had in recent years. 

Katelyn Sizemore, a sophomore RA in McCandless Hall, said she encountered what she believes to be a Saint Mary’s ghost during RA training over the summer.

“I was going to bed and my window was open,” she said. “I heard someone saying my name over and over.”

Sizemore added that she asked several of her friends who were on campus at the time and they all denied calling out her name.

Junior RA Lizzie Conklin told the group about an occurrence last year in LeMans Hall. A priest came to bless the Queen’s Court hallway which is located directly beneath the third-floor chapel.

“All the girls were complaining about hearing activity in the chapel at night. They heard stomping and running and even heard their names being called out,” she said.

For some students, attending the event was a way to get involved on campus. Lupita Delgado, a sophomore student said she attended Ghost Stories to get more involved with campus life.

“I have a couple friends who are RAs and they encouraged me to come,” Delgado said. “This is my first year coming to this even though I’m a second year, so I’m trying to branch out to more events.”

Contact Cathy Doherty at


Animation Nation: ‘Seoul Station’

Halloween is upon us! While there are plenty of great animated Halloween movies like “Monster House” and “ A Nightmare before Christmas,” I wanted to find one that wasn’t entirely meant for kids. I wanted to try something new and see if there were any adult animated horror movies. However, it’s surprising to see that there aren’t that many adult animated horror movies out there in the world, which is pretty sad, since I’m sure there are plenty of stories to tell that would scare some people with the power animation holds. Then, I randomly saw one movie called “Seoul Station,” an animated zombie movie. Now, I am a gigantic sucker for zombie movies, though finding a good zombie these days is few and far between. I came to realize that it is an official prequel to the hit South Korean zombie movie “A Train to Busan.” (While it’s not animated, I still highly recommend it!) So, I decided to give this small budget animated film a shot. Here’s my review of “Seoul Station.”

The film serves as a prequel to the live-action film “Train to Busan,” depicting the very beginnings of the zombie apocalypse in South Korea. The film focuses on three characters. Hye-sun is a runaway, but her father Suk-gyu and her boyfriend Ki-woong try to find her around the area of Seoul Station. The film seems to be trying to build on the father-daughter relationship that we see prominently in “Train to Busan.” However, that is the only theme that is remotely close to the previous film and saying that is still a bit of a stretch. The film has an overall nihilistic view on the world. While we hear it in horror movies all the time, the amount of phrases like “It’s meaningless!” and “It doesn’t matter!” I heard in this film was honestly a little overwhelming. We see it with Hye-sun, a woman who ran away from a brothel and thinks everyone only sees her as a disposable object. We also see it with a homeless man whose acts of kindness ultimately meant nothing in the end, when it would usually stand for redemption.

It’s hard to not compare this film to the masterpiece that came before it. “Train to Busan” is one of the best horror zombie movies of all time. The movie tells a redemption story about a father and his daughter, while showing that while there are selfish and terrible people in this world, acts of kindness and selflessness by others aren’t pointless or a waste of time. However, perhaps that is what director Yeon Sang-ho wanted to show “Seoul Station.” He wanted to show us both sides of the coin in a zombie apocalypse. While there are those stories that give people hope, there are those that aren’t so lucky and don’t receive a “happy ending.”

The animation itself is pretty fluid for being completely CGI. While the film does start slow in actually showing the zombies, the animation keeps up with the fast pace once the apocalypse comes in full force. Hye-sun, while no saint, is still a good character who, despite having a bad view on the world around her, still tries her best to be a good person. It was also interesting to see the forgotten and overlooked people in Seoul’s society.

By itself, “Seoul Station” is a decent zombie film with some interesting characters and social commentary on how those who seem worthless are treated in Seoul. While the story started slow, it picked up in the second act and some last minute twists near the end of the film genuinely caught me off guard. It’s not “Train to Busan” by any means, but it does its best to stand on its own.

Title: Seoul Station

Directors: Yeon Sang-ho

Starring: Shim Eun-kyung Ryu Seung-ryong Lee Joon

Streaming: Amazon Prime

Shamrocks: 3 out of 5


Book Nook: ‘Witchcraft’ as self-care

To set the mood for Halloween, I read Patti Wigington’s “Witchcraft for Healing: Radical Self-care for your Mind, Body, and Spirit.” I have no experience with witchcraft and didn’t know what to expect. I failed to connect well with the spookier aspects of the book, but its emphasis on self-care resonated with me. Its focus on the transformative power of self-care is applicable to all readers, regardless of the reader’s interest in witchcraft.

Wigington has been a practicing witch and pagan since 1987. In addition to writing books and columns, she reads tarot and is the founder and high priestess of a local gathering of witches called a coven. On top of this, she balances a full-time job. She has a remarkable dedication to many different interests, which aids in her ability to communicate knowledgeably about a wide range of topics.

What is Witchcraft?

The opening chapter of the book explains that the folklore image of a witch — someone hunched over a cauldron, amassing great magical power to do evil — is inaccurate.

Modern witchcraft traces back to healing magic. Wigington asserts that witchcraft developed from animism, a belief system that associates spirits with specific living things. This evolved into shamanism, which involves the spirit world and using supernatural forces to heal communities. Ancient healers used herbs to treat ailments, forming the basis of witchcraft today.

Modern magic focuses on bringing about positive change in the practitioner’s life, such as healing, protection and growth. It’s grounded in the will and intent of the practitioner. In short, performing magic is more like the TikTok “manifesting” trend than the kind of spells Harry Potter would cast for instant results.  


This book heavily emphasizes radical self-care — the responsibility to take care of your needs before responding to the needs of others. Each chapter focuses on different forms of self-care. For example, one chapter focuses on self-care for the body, while another discusses self-care for the mind. The end of the book speaks about using witchcraft to serve the community, but it heavily emphasizes serving yourself first and foremost.

I found Wigington’s methods of self-care transformative and insightful. She discusses toxic mindsets that affect our self-talk and self-perceptions. She offers a variety of different techniques to increase self-esteem like changing the way we think about ourselves or exercising regularly.

This book serves as an excellent introduction to different forms of radical self-care. Though it doesn’t go particularly in depth with any of the methods it introduces, they’re all superb practices for caring for the body, mind and spirit.


Many of the spells in this book blend well known forms of self-care with witchcraft tools. They combine the idea of using will and intent to do magic with common self-care practices. These spells are accessible to beginners and don’t require many resources. The few it does are readily available. Drawing from natural forces, like the phases of the moon and crystals, is also explored.

Overall, this book provides a good beginner-friendly overview of both witchcraft and self-care. This read was certainly eye-opening and changed my perspective on what witchcraft actually is. Though I don’t plan on practicing witchcraft, the self-care routines discussed are very insightful. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about self-care or get into the spirit of Halloween.