Hauntings of Florida State University
Hundreds of stories have been told, but three have proven to be most commonly experienced.
One of the University’s most well-known haunted sites, Cawthon Hall’s fifth floor dorms have been known to give students reason to suspect supernatural activity.
“Students were most scared from the Cawthon Hall story because […] many students on campus today can attest to unusual things that happened there during their stay,” said Micah Biana, a 2012 Orientation Leader.
According to a 1971 report in The Florida Flambeau, several years before FSU became co-ed in 1949, a female was sunbathing on the balcony of the Gothic building. As typical in Florida, a thunderstorm randomly formed and a lightning bolt struck the girl, killing her instantly.
Since then, students living in the fifth floor room she occupied (the specific room number remains undisclosed by the university) have reported mysterious sounds and an overwhelming sense of another’s presence.
“When I first moved in, we heard voices and footsteps from our suitemates room, but when we would check, no one was in there,” said Michael Arellano, a freshman who lives on Cawthon Hall’s fifth floor.
He also said his door closes without any explanation and that the showers on his floor are known to turn on and off randomly.
It is also said that Sarah Cawthon Edward, the woman whom the building is named after, still roams the hallways. As the dean that counseled the young women of the all-girls university, she was known to approach her job duties with a serious attitude and work attentively with the young women.
However, as the end of the decade passed, the Roaring Twenties brought students new ways of thinking, dress, public drinking and smoking, all of which Cawthon Edward did not approve.
It is believed that she underwent a nervous breakdown and was sent to a sanitarium. Cawthon Edwards never completely recovered from her breakdown or got over the loss of her job at the college in 1925. It is said that after her death, she returned to the halls she once loved so dearly.
Formerly known as “Gallows Hill” in the 1830s, Florida State’s grand entrance to campus has had several reports of paranormal activity.
Gallows Hill was the site for public executions in Tallahassee starting in 1829. The first to be hanged at the location was a woman convicted of murdering her own child.
In the Aug. 1, 1832 edition of the local newspaper, another “prolonged trial,” this one of David S. Rogers, was described but did not indicate the charges for which he was sentenced. The paper stated that “He met his fate with great firmness, and we were glad to observe but few persons were present except the militia who were out to serve as guards.”
While only two reports were given about the hangings at Gallows Hill, there is no lack of ghostly activity here.
It is not uncommon to come across a student who has seen unusual things or heard strange sounds when walking by Westcott Fountain at night.
Perhaps they are hearing the cries of the dead that still haunt the hill.
ROTC parade grounds
It is believed that cadets of the West Florida Cadet Battalion have not stopped their drills on the campus parade ground where part of the Civil War took place.
FSU students and members of ROTC have reported that electricity goes off during showers. When students get out of the shower to investigate, lights and electricity suddenly turn back on. In the fogged up mirror the letters “TB” are drawn out.
Other encounters involve reports of a ‘hairy figure’ on the outskirts of campus. One woman claimed when walking by herself near the parade ground around midnight, the hairy figure appeared in front of her. The woman sprinted away in fear of the creature but when she looked back it was gone.