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June 25, 2012
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:

Boo! SRU makes SyFy’s ‘School Spirits’ ghost series

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Slippery Rock University is haunted. The culprit is the spirit of a man hanged near the former Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity house on Kiester Road more than 100 years ago. The phantom has caused “several violent things inside the fraternity.”

That is, if you believe in ghost stories.

A dramatization of the haunting, which is not as widely known as SRU’s “Emma, The Ghost” legend, will be broadcast as part of the nationally televised “School Spirits” series. The SyFy Channel’s new docudrama, which explores ghost legends at six universities, premiered at 10 p.m. June 20 with a sorority house haunting at the University of Michigan.

“Frat House Phantom,” the SRU haunting, is the fifth episode and will be broadcast July 25 [UPDATE: The episode has been rescheduled for Aug. 1, as part of the series finale.], said Bill Brennan, SyFy vice president for publicity. The logline for the SRU episode is, “Fraternity brothers share their house with the spirit of a local Native American who was hanged after a murderous rampage a century ago.”

Brennan said SyFy crews interviewed former fraternity brothers, but used actors for the dramatization. He said the name of the fraternity has been changed in the broadcast for privacy. The fraternity house, at 133 Kiester Road, is currently a private residence.

“School Spirits” features ghost stories presented through first-person accounts by students, alumni, faculty and historians. Produced by the New York City-based Jarrett Creative Group, the interviews are paired with re-enactments.

Daniel Hooven, a 2006 SRU graduate and Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity brother, said he was interviewed in New York City.

“The story revolves around us moving in an off-campus house that had signs of paranormal activity,” Hooven said. “We jokingly call the ghost ‘Ted’ and were OK with everything. Random sounds and large wooden paddles being thrown across the room were standard events.”

Hooven said fraternity brothers nicknamed the house “Thunderdome.” “Every night something odd would happen in the house,” he said. “Things would turn up missing; our wiring would short circuit; and footsteps could be heard on the third floor.”

Hooven said he was the only resident of the third floor, which included his bedroom, an old bathroom and a larger room the fraternity converted into its Chapter Room. This is where brothers hung fraternity paddles.

“Over the next few months, we became used to our paranormal roommate and even nicknamed him ‘Ted,’ apparently that was not a name he liked because things started getting more aggressive after that,” Hooven said. “The footsteps turned into heavy pacing, doors slamming, paddles being thrown off walls. You have to understand these paddles were solid oak and hung on a wall and a thick and long nail.”

Nine brothers held an Ouija board session in the chapter room. “We addressed ‘Ted’ and the board spelled out cryptic words: “Stab,” “Kill,” “Stab,” “God” and then “Bye,” Hooven said. “There were nine brothers participating, and when we asked how many people were in the room, it said ‘Nine.’”

Seth Jarrett, owner and executive producer of Jarrett Creative Group, said the segments present strong narratives and include many different sources, mainly students.

“What sets this apart from other paranormal shows is we set out to find multiple voices for telling stories,” Jarrett said. “We have corroborating sources. Many paranormal shows rely on one voice, but much of our information is from multiple sources such as a roommate in a dorm and a historian who could corroborate the historicity of the story.”

Jarrett, who began his career as a producer and director at MTV and currently produces “Celebrity Ghost Stories” for the BIO Channel, said he realizes many people are skeptical about the validity of poltergeists. Still, he said those who appear in the segments are “amazing and pretty fascinating to listen to.”

Aside from SRU and Michigan, “School Spirits” visited the State University of New York/Geneseo, Lebanon Valley College, Sweet Briar College and Eastern Kentucky University.

Jarrett said a common thread – tragedy – links the ghost stories.

“Many of the hauntings appear to be connected to some sort of tragedy in an unexpected or violent way,” he said. “The way that people describe their experience is similar – coldness in the air or fingers on their shoulders like they’re being touched by a spirit. It is hard to deny when you hear people describe these stories.”

Jarrett said the stories are based on grass-roots research, including local newspapers and alumni newsletters from the institutions.

“We want to find answers and explore,” he said. “That is what keeps driving us to do these stories. I liked our witnesses. I found them to be credible. People are really genuinely affected by these experiences.”

Jarrett said the SRU segment is like a bookend for the Michigan episode, which explores a sorority haunting. “Several violent things happen inside the fraternity,” he said of the Slippery Rock haunting.

Most of the ghost legends at SRU focus on Miller Auditorium and North Hall and involve a reported apparition dubbed “Emma the Ghost.” “Emma” is thought by many to be a spirit embodying Emma Guffey Miller, a prominent political figure, SRU trustee and University supporter who died in 1950.

Over the years, SRU students have reported seeing a woman’s figure out of the corner of their eye, or hearing pounding noises from a cove, but finding nothing when they check on the disturbance. Other stories tell of lights flickering during rehearsals.

They speculate that Emma, described as friendly, haunts Miller because the building was named after her, and she loved theatre. Students use many of her old clothes as costumes and store them in “Emma’s Closet” inside Miller.

In 2009, SRU allowed Baelfire Paranormal Investigation to spend the night in Miller Auditorium searching for Emma. Owner John Lewis claimed his team captured pictures of primordial mists and electronic voice phenomena. He also said he felt pressure against his knee, and a K2 electromagnetic detector flashed on command, indicating the presence of spirits. Baelfire presented the University with a certificate officially designating Miller as being haunted.

The lineup for “School Spirits” includes:

June 27: Episode 102 "Dorm Room Nightmare" (SUNY Geneseo). Logline: In the fall of 1985, a college sophomore and talented athlete with Olympic dreams begins the school year at SUNY Geneseo. He soon finds himself battling for his life and sanity when a horrifying apparition with a broken neck begins stalking him. (SyFy, 10 p.m.)

July 11: Episode 103 "Collision Curse/Deadly Dorm Games" (Lebanon Valley College) Logline: A woman is haunted by the victim of a deadly car crash that occurred near her Alma Mater. Two college roommates pull pranks in their dorm, but the spirit of a little girl hit by a train near their dorm gets the last laugh. (SyFy, 10 p.m.)

July 18: Episode 104 "Ghostly Girls' School" (Sweet Briar College). Logline: A shadowy figure terrifies four friends at this idyllic campus, but is helped by the ghost of a mischievous little girl. Could the paranormal activity stem from a century old feud involving the college's founding family? (SyFy, 10 p.m.)

July 25: Episode 105 "Frat House Phantom" (Slippery Rock University). Logline: Fraternity brothers share their house with the spirit of a local Native American hanged after a murderous rampage a century ago. (SyFy, 10 p.m.)

Aug. 1: Episode 106 "Campus Warning Signs" (Eastern Kentucky University) Logline: A ghostly visitor sends a warning to a pair of best friends, saving their lives. (SyFy, 10 p.m.)

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.