Wilson Hall stands in the quiet corner of East Quad, set back behind giant trees that make the building’s stone face almost impossible to spot from afar. The hall has a quiet eeriness about it, as it has not hosted students under its red tile roof for the last two years. It’s not just the lack of residents, however, that contributes to the Wilson’s eerie feel.
Wilson Hall, originally called “The Pines,” served as a mental asylum for women with mental health and addiction problems before being purchased by the university in 1936. The building has been used for many other purposes, but is still said to be haunted by the ghosts of the patients who occupied it less than a century ago. When the stories of Wilson’s hauntings are told, there is little certainty of what is fact and what is fiction.
Myth #1: The Secret Tunnel
To the right of Wilson Hall is Cook Place, a white stucco home with a red tile roof that used to house Dr. Robert Harvey Cook and his wife, Bessie. Dr. Cook ran the asylum with his father, Dr. Harvey Cook, which would appear to be a convenient morning commute.
However, it is alleged that Dr. Cook had an underground tunnel built between his home and Wilson Hall so that he could go to work without being seen by his patients.
An article on Reddit written in 2011 claims that when the women saw Cook coming, they would be sent into an emotional frenzy out of fear of being treated by the doctor.
The article, which claims to be written by a former Wilson resident who decided to dig deep into Wilson’s history, says women would barricade themselves in their rooms or try to jump out of a window upon seeing Cook coming over from his home.
Now, let’s keep in mind that the article comes from Reddit, the last source someone should go to for trustworthy information, but there may be some validity to the author’s claims.
Bianca Oviedo, a current junior who lived in Wilson Hall the last year before it was closed, said the entrance to the infamous tunnel was in Wilson’s basement. Much of the basement was blocked off to residents, but Oviedo said the entrance was behind a locked door that students do not have access to.
“I heard about a few students going back behind Cook Place to find the [other] opening,” said Oviedo. “They said there was a little opening in the ground, but you couldn’t go through it because it was locked.”
Though we do not know exactly why Cook had a tunnel built in-between his residence and place of work, there seems to be enough evidence that one does exist. If you want to investigate the legend yourself, there is a way. In the winter, you can supposedly trace the path of the tunnel based off where the snow melts, however we were not able to test this theory in time for the article.
The myth of Dr. Cook’s secret tunnel: Confirmed.
Myth #2: The Bathtub in the Basement
The same 2011 Reddit article claims in a study room in the basement of Wilson there is a large wooden box with a massive bathtub inside. The author speculated that Dr. Cook used the bathtub for shock therapy.
There are several holes in this theory.
First, Wilson underwent a $20,000 renovation after it was purchased by Miami. It would be shocking if during that renovation, they did not take out all reminders that it once was a hospital. If they did leave it there, it is hard to believe that Miami would hide a shock-therapy bathtub in a spot that students could so easily access.
Second, Oviedo said that in the year she spent living at Wilson she never even saw a bathtub. Remember, most of the basement was blocked off to students.
It is quite possible that Cook performed shock therapy on his patients, as it was a common treatment for mental illness at the time. If he did use shock therapy, it could explain why patients became so frantic when they saw him, and why he needed to build a tunnel. However, it is doubtful that anything Cook used to practice shock therapy remains in Wilson, let alone be so easily accessible to students.
The Bathtub in the Basement Myth: Busted
Myth #3: The Chained Patients
The most horrifying claim made by the 2011 Reddit article had to do with Wilson’s third floor. The author claims that the third floor could only be accessed by one staircase that led to a locked door. The author describes how, after given access by one of the cleaning staff, he found a room with a stone floor, makeshift wooden stalls and old pieces of paper that read the names of different women, supposedly the patients who lived there.
The author also found bolts in the center of each “stall,” and made the conclusion that women used to be chained to the floor.
Similar to the bathtub, it is difficult to believe that after 80 years and several renovations these haunting reminders of would have been left on the third floor. Additionally, while Oviedo lived in Wilson there was no known access to the third floor.
Even though she knew nothing of chained patients, the third floor was still shrouded in mystery for Oviedo.
“One of the weird parts is that sometimes you would come home and there was a light on in the attic area,” said Oviedo. “But none of us knew where the stairs were to even get there, so it was kind of a mystery.”
It wasn’t just lights on in the attic that made her so curious about the third floor. Despite there being no known entrance, residence were always reminded that there was something on the floor above them.
“There was always noise and we didn’t know why there was noise,” said Oviedo.
The bizarre noises could have come from several sources — small animals living in the walls, or heating and plumbing. With no known entrance, it is difficult to believe that any student could have recently gained access to see the third floor, and even less likely that the University would have kept wooden stalls and bolts in the floor.
The Chained Patients Myth: Busted.
Myth #4: The Haunting Patients
While she didn’t experience any translucent women in hospital gowns wandering the halls late at night, Oviedo did have some encounters she found to paranormal.
In Oviedo’s room, there was a large walk in closet that she and her roommate shared. Oviedo says that the closet door wouldn’t stay closed, no matter what she and her roommate did. Normally, a person may not think twice about this, but something about it struck Oviedo as odd.
“During the morning, if we wanted to close the closet, it would stay closed and we would come home and it would be open,” said Oviedo. “At nighttime, if you tried to close it, it would open immediately.”
Oviedo and her roommate also avoided going into the basement to do laundry at night, as the lights would always flicker while they were down there. The lights never did this during the day, which made the roommates uneasy.
“The general feel of the dorm was creepy and I think people kind of played into the creepiness more than it was there,” said Oviedo. “But it was apparent if you really took the time to think about it.”
There is a presence to the building that will send a chill down your spine. There is a stillness to it that no other hall has and the area around the building seems to be surrounded by a deeper darkness. When trying to look through the massive trees that guard it, the only thing you can really make out is bright orange glow coming from the third-floor window.
The Haunting Patients Myth: Inconclusive