In the University of Saskatchewan’s 106-year history, there have been thousands of students and faculty members that have walked the grounds, studied in the lecture halls and enjoyed one another’s company in the residences. But beneath the carefree exterior lies tragic stories of hopes gone awry and lives lost. As a result, the campus is a veritable graveyard of ghastly ghouls and unexplainable mysteries.
With it’s eerie top floor leading to the tower and it’s chilling basement, Saskatchewan Hall is known for its history with the supernatural. There have been sightings of a chalky human figure in the residence. The figure watches students in their dorms, but upon being noticed floats into empty corners and dissipates. Despite its curious interest in students, the figure is not known to be malevolent.
Often mistaken for a cool breeze, the ghost of a deceased engineering student roams the tunnels beneath the university. Legend has it when the student dropped out due to his excessive partying, he took to living in the tunnels in shame of his failure and bankruptcy. He survived by stealing money and food from passersby. Years later, university staff are said to have found his decomposing body in the tunnels.
A deceased student by the name of Hank supposedly haunts the drama department. He has been seen by audience members during a production of Hamlet and, to this day, he is still seen looming about the rafters and sets of the department. Before each opening performance, the cast and crew give him a peace offering of marshmallows.
Students working late at night in the Law Library have claimed to have seen a robed figure wandering around silently. The figure supposedly collects old pieces of rebar to build a sculpture in an unknown location.
A dark apparition that is believed to be male has been sighted in the upstairs lounge. Unexplainable occurrences with electronics are associated with the lounge, such as radio stations switching from classical music to hip hop.
Thorberger Thorvaldson, the chemist who spearheaded research in concrete durability at the U of S, is said to haunt the building which bears his name. Longing for recognition of his work, Thorvaldson is rumoured to have requested to be entombed in the large concrete block on the building’s front steps. Legend has it this final wish was fulfilled.
This morbid tale originates from the mystery of why the shelves of the Murray Library’s upper floors are never full. The engineer who designed the library did not take into account the weight of books and as a result the building would supposedly collapse if the shelves were filled to capacity. The head librarian, who acted as a liaison with the engineer, was so ashamed of her lapse that she jumped from the library’s roof. Her ghost now haunts the library, removing books from the upper floors and is rumoured to be the cause of the library’s many missing books.
As the story goes, room 271 in the Thorvaldson Building was used as a flight-training room during the Second World War. Students would write their name on paper airplanes and throw them into the porous ceiling. Wives and girlfriends of students gone off to fight would check the room daily to see if their loved one’s paper airplane had fallen, signifying that he had been shot down in the war. Now room 271 is said to be haunted by the spirits of the fallen soldiers.
Home of the School for the Deaf until 1990, the R.J.D. Williams Building is a recent addition to the university. In those 20-some years, ghostly figures have been seen in the south end of the third-floor corridor and disappearing through the wall. Employees working on the main floor have heard sounds of children playing and running along the second-floor hallway. However, when they went up to investigate, the floor was deserted. The interior fire alarms have also been heard ringing by passing campus security officers who found nothing to have caused the alarms when they scouted the premise.
Arthur Silver Morton came to the U of S in 1914. As a historian, he served as head of the history department and university librarian until his sudden death in the Peter MacKinnon Building. Earlier that evening, Morton had an argument with then-university president J. S. Thomson. Known for his interest in preserving historic sites, Morton’s ghost was said to have appeared during the building’s restorations in 2004-5. Members of the Amati Quartet have reported feeling Morton’s presence in Convocation Hall as well.
Students in the upper-level study carrels have often heard the sounds of a rocking chair and the smell of burning pipe tobacco.
Many are surprised to hear that the late Prime Minister John. G. Diefenbaker and his wife, Olive, are buried on campus. However, visitors and staff of the Diefenbaker Canada Centre are even more taken aback when they see a ghastly figure walking through the exhibit, clad in a suit-and-tie — believed to be Diefenbaker himself.
Stories of graduate students returning to the building late at night to gather personal belongings have only added to the mystery of the old building. Upon leaving the empty building, taking care to turn off all the lights, students have seen a light that was somehow left on in a third-floor room. After returning to the floor, turning off the light and finally leaving the building, the light has unexplainably remained on.
Other stories involving the third floor include accounts of disembodied voices that argue loudly, along with the mysterious wafting scent of a woman’s perfume through the area.
Not to out do any other building on campus, the Archaeology Building has long been rumoured to be the home of the department head’s secret laboratory for research, outfitted with old equipment from Saskatoon City Hospital.
Photo: University of Saskatchewan/University Archives & Special Collection