‘We saw a shadow walk by’: The Haunting of Southern Utah University

Firefighter battling the blaze of Old Main on the SUU campus, Cedar City, Utah, 1948 | Photo courtesy Southern Utah University, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Piano music playing in the night with no one at the keys, disembodied voices speaking in the Randall L. Jones Theatre, shadow figures drifting down the hallways of underground dressing rooms. These are just a few of the strange hauntings incidents on the campus of Southern Utah University. These sites have been investigated by the Southern Utah Paranormal Society which has confirmed some stories and myth busted others.

Firefighters battling the blaze at Old Main on the SUU campus, Cedar City, Utah, 1948 | Photo courtesy Southern Utah University, St. George News

The haunting of Old Main

Cedar City residents banded together to construct Old Main, the first building on what would become the SUU campus in 1898. It was a glorious building even by today’s standards, marred only by a ghost story connected to a terrible murder.

A young woman named Virginia Loomis was reportedly killed by her boyfriend, Steven Farr, in a quarry east of Cedar City. Her bloody body was found on a large boulder, which was then used for making bricks in the construction of Old Main. Farr was never convicted for the murder and left town. Fifty years later, Farr returned to Cedar City to work as a janitor at Old Main.

On his first day of work, he was lighting the coal furnace in the basement when the door slammed on his arm. Unable to wiggle free, Farr became a human torch, which resulted in Old Main being burned to the ground. Some people alleged they saw images of Loomis laughing as she exacted revenge on her killer.

Are the stories about the hauntings of Old Main true? That depends on who you ask and which story you are talking about. In 1948, Dr. Jeorde Speare, a professor of parapsychology at the University of Utah, was brought in to investigate poltergeist activities associated with Old Main. Speare’s conclusions seemed to bolster the Loomis retribution theory.

Susie Prince during the investigation of Old Main on SUU campus, Cedar City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah Paranormal Society, St. George News

In more recent times, Old Main has been investigated by the Southern Utah Paranormal Society. Co-founder Joshua Stewart said his findings indicate Old Main is haunted, but not by Virginia Loomis. In the 1930s, a young woman identified as Miss Little died at the piano on the third floor of Old Main.

Miss little had been practicing the song, “Deep Purple,” for an upcoming recital. Stewart said piano music was picked up on a digital recorder used during the investigation.

“None of us heard the piano music with our own ears but when we went to our recordings with EVP, which is an electronic voice phenomena, it came back with three notes of piano music,” Stewart said.

That wasn’t the only supernatural experience Stewart had in Old Main. An uncanny event occurred in the stairway of the building. Stewart said when a spirit touches you, it feels like a cobweb.

“We were climbing from the second floor to the third floor,” Stewart said. “I had my hand on the railing and it felt like I’d walked through a cobweb.”

Stewart notes there weren’t any cobwebs in the stairwell at that time. While many people would have found this unsettling, Stewart said he was intrigued by the encounter.

Haunted theaters

Legends about ghosts in the Adam’s Memorial Theatre, the tunnel that connects the costume shop to the dressing rooms and the auditorium, have circulated for decades. Charlisa McConnell-Robertson, a senior investigator with Southern Utah Paranormal Society, had a number of supernatural experiences during the ten seasons she worked for the Utah Shakespeare Festival. One incident happened during a live performance when she was alone moving through the tunnel.

“I felt someone push me in the small of the back,” McConnell Robertson said. Rather than getting freaked out, McConnell Robertson opted instead to assure the spirit she was just doing her job and not there to harm anyone.

Adams Memorial Theatre on the SUU campus, Cedar City, Utah, October 2021 | Photo by Adele Park, St. George News

Another encounter happened during a nighttime investigation by Southern Utah Paranormal when they were alone in the Randall L. Jones Theatre. The group was in a downstairs dressing room with the lights off.

“We saw what looked like somebody walking outside the door,” McConnell Robertson said. “We saw a shadow walk by.”

Ghost hunters and theater patrons alike have reported hearing voices in several of the theaters on campus. Tina Lloyd heads up the Cedar City chapter of Southern Utah Paranormal and said the Randall L. Jones Theatre was one of the neatest places she’s ever investigated.

“We had actual responses to our questions,” Lloyd said. “We heard voices replying up in the balcony.” Some members of the team even saw shadow figures.

Lloyd said they also heard voices in the auditorium and detected supernatural energies with their electronic equipment. Lloyd believes spirits have personal connections to the theaters, which is why they hang around.

Hollywood hype

In the movies, ghosts are presented as scary figures out to harm individuals or seek revenge. This isn’t the take most ghost hunters with Southern Utah Paranormal have. Todd Prince, who heads up the Washington County chapter for the group, doesn’t believe most spirits are malevolent, even when words like “go away” are picked up on their digital recording devices.

Todd Prince of Southern Utah Paranormal Society during an investigation, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah Paranormal Society, St. George News

“They’re not evil. They’re not demonic,” Prince said. “We’re hanging out in their space and they want us to leave.”

Prince notes that even if a spirit had ill intentions, it really can’t harm humans.

“They are limited because they don’t have a physical body like we do,” Prince said. “I think it’s more of an energy realm than a physical realm.”

When a nefarious spirit is detected, there are ways to “clear” the space using prayers and burning sage. Prince said with other ghosts, passing along messages to loved ones or assuring them it’s okay to move on is all it takes to remove a spirit.

Happy haunting!

Knowing spirits likely can’t harm humans, it’s open season for ghosts. Whether it’s getting a good scare by walking by Old Main at midnight or listening for disembodied voices in the theaters on campus, there are plenty of thrills to be had this Halloween season.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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