Friday, February 10, 2017

HGB Ep. 182 - Denton, Texas Universities - UNT and TWU

Moment in Oddity - Hobo Marks

Hobos first appeared in America after the end of the Civil War. Young people may not know what or who a hobo is, but for many of us older people, the hobo was a favorite Halloween costume. It may have been a politically incorrect costume, but it was a throwback to a time when homeless men followed the train tracks across America, looking for work. Many wore ragged clothes and slung a pack over their shoulder with all their earthly belongings. It is said, "A hobo wanders and works, a tramp wanders and dreams and a bum neither wanders or works." By 1911, it was estimated there were 700,000 hobos in America. Many Americans took pity on these men and helped them along the way. One of those people was my very own great-grandmother. She participated in a network that used Hobo Marks. Hobo Marks were symbols made on homes in either charcoal or chalk to indicate that this home was welcoming. Different symbols would relate that this place will give food for work, or there is a doctor here, or there is a kind woman living here, or you can sleep in the barn here, or there is a good chance of getting money here. Some marks signaled negative experiences as well such as, this man is dishonest or nothing doing here. Most homeowners probably had no idea what the symbol on their home meant, but it is a unique piece in America's history and certainly is odd!

This Month in History - FDR Assassination Attempt

In the month of February, on the 15th day in 1933, an assassination attempt on newly elected U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was thwarted, but the mayor of Chicago was killed. The assassination attempt occurred in Miami, Florida. The gunman was Italian immigrant Giuseppe Zangara. President Roosevelt was giving an impromptu speech that night from the back of an open car at the Bayfront Park area. Zangara was armed with a .32-caliber US Revolver Company pistol. He fired off a shot, grabbing the attention of the crowd gathered for the speech. Several people grabbed him as he fired off four more shots. Five people were hit, including Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who was standing next to FDR. Roosevelt cradled the mortally wounded mayor as the car sped to the hospital. He told the President, "I'm glad it was me instead of you." That statement was engraved on Cermak's tombstone. Zangara was arrested and he confessed. He plead guilty to four counts of attempted murder. After Cermak died, he pleaded guilty of murder. He was sentenced to death and met that fate in the electric chair on March 20, 1933.

Denton, Texas Universities - University of North Texas and Texas Woman's University (Suggested by and research assistance from listener Ellen Girdwood)

Denton, Texas is home to two universities that date back for decades. Both universities have undergone several name changes over the years. Today, they are known as the University of North Texas and Texas Woman's University. The former had its start as a private teacher's college and the latter as a girls industrial school. Over the years, suicides and tragic circumstances have led to hauntings in several buildings on both campuses. Join us and our listener Ellen Girdwood as we share the history and hauntings of UNT and TWU!

A man from Kentucky named William S. Peters came to the area of modern day Denton in Northern Texas and he obtained a land grant from the Texas Congress in the mid 1800s. He called the plot of land Peters Colony after himself. The Texas Legislature later voted in 1846 to form Denton County where Peters Colony had been. The county and town were named Denton after a preacher and lawyer named John B. Denton who was killed in 1841 during a skirmish with the Kichai people. The city was laid out in 1857 and it was incorporated in 1866. The city became an agricultural center and the Texas and Pacific Railway arrived in 1881. This brought an influx of people to the area and with that came the need for centers of education. In 1890, the North Texas Normal College was established. It would later become the University of North Texas. In 1903, the Girls' Industrial College was founded. It is now Texas Woman's University.

The establishment of a girls industrial school took several years before the Texas legislature approved it in 1901. The original name was Texas Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls of the State of Texas in the Arts and Sciences, which, thankfully, changed two years later to the Girls' Industrial College. Seventy acres of land in Denton were bought for $16,050. Early classes that were offered consisted of traditional courses like English and Science, but also many domestic classes like housekeeping, sewing and cooking. Other interesting areas of study included poultry keeping, telegraphy, political economy, stenography, beekeeping, Industrial Arts like illustrating, design, modeling, carving, and engraving. The University changed its name in 1934 to Texas State College for Women to reflect higher education for women in the state. Today, it is known as Texas Woman's University and that name came in 1957. The nursing program also became the first nationally accredited program in the state of Texas in the 1950s. Men were welcomed into the health sciences graduate school starting in 1972. In 1994, all programs were opened to qualified men, but 90% of the student population remains female.

One of the interesting buildings on the campus is the Little Chapel-in-the-Woods. It was built in 1939 and dedicated by Eleanor Roosevelt. Students designed and created the artwork in the building, which includes the woodwork, the lighting, flooring and stained glass windows. Scenes depicted in the windows feature women teaching, nursing, speaking, writing and dancing. The Little Chapel-in-the-Woods was named one of Texas’ most outstanding architectural achievements. The chapel hosted many weddings and the TWU original bridal book contains thousands of names of couples who were married here. This building plays host to one of our Women in White. A legend claims that a bride was jilted on her wedding day and in her grief, she killed herself in the chapel. People claim to see her wandering the clump of woods near the chapel. 

Guinn Hall is a residence hall and is the tallest building in the city of Denton. The name Guinn comes from the 6th President of TWU. Stark Hall is another towering residence hall and it was the tallest building until Guinn Hall was built. It was from a ninth story balcony at Guinn Hall that a female student jumped in 2000. She is said to haunt that floor and the Guinn Hall balconies are closed off. Stoddard Hall used to be a residence hall and it is said that a student committed suicide in her room. People claim to feel cold spots and the floors creak as though something unseen is walking on them. People claim to have seen a face in one of the windows of the Art Building, which was built in 1996, when it is supposed to be empty and the Smith-Carroll Building has lights that turn off and on when nobody is inside.

Some of the stranger stories about this campus involve the Blagg-Huey Library and the oldest building on campus, Old Main. In the library, it is said that a student disappeared and it is believed that somehow he was buried in one of the white columns in the 1990s. A professor killed himself in Old Main. Apparently, some other professors arrived at the building to tell him that he was receiving a reward. They had to search for him and when they found him, he was dressed in a way that did not meet approvalin the 1950s. He was wearing a dancing gown that was pink, pink pumps and clutching a pink purse. The group left horrified and the cross-dressing professor hanged himself from the third story railing. There is also an unsolved crime involving a woman named Virginia Carpenter who disappeared in 1948 outside of Brackenridge Hall.

On Sept. 16, 1890, Joshua C. Chilton established the Texas Normal College and Teacher Training Institute with 70 students and he said of the school, “It will be our aim to become leaders in the education of the young men and women of Texas, fitting them to creditably fill the most important positions in business and professional circles. We desire the cooperation of all who believe in higher education and who want to see our state in the very front of intellectual as well as material progress.” The school was opened in a rented space above a hardware store. The first building was finished in 1891 and was called the Normal Building. A fence encircled it to keep out livestock, so that is how rural the location was at the time. Boarding houses around the college were used to house students.

The university was founded as a nonsectarian, coeducational, private teachers college. In 1901, it began to receive funding from the state and was no longer private. The University of North Texas has undergone six name changes before becoming UNT in 1988. Those names were Texas Normal College and Teacher Training Institute (1890-1894), North Texas Normal College (1894-1901), North Texas State Normal College  (1901-1923), North Texas State Teachers College (1923-1949), North Texas State College (1949-1961), North Texas State University (1961-1988).

UNT has been known for its diversity. It broke down barriers by admitting women from day one. It was also one of the first universities to desegregate. The school established the first jazz studies program. In the 1920s, Saturday Night Stage Shows debuted. These were directed by ’Fessor Floyd Graham and featured his Aces of Collegeland band. The music program became quite famous at this time due to those shows and radio broadcasts. UNT also became one of the first universities to offer adult education programs and these master's programs helped push forward faculty research. During World War II, the campus served as a place for the military to conduct exercises. The 1950s would see the first African-American students enroll and doctorate programs were begun. The University has continued to expand and grow through the years.

Several locations are haunted at UNT. Bruce Hall was first opened in 1949 as an all-female dorm. It is the oldest residence hall and is now coed. It mainly houses music and art students, hippies and other strange people (wiki’s words not mine). It's close to the music building, which is probably why. People who live here are called "brucelings." Celebrities Norah Jones and Meat Loaf were rumored to have lived in Bruce hall when they went to UNT. A ghost named Wanda is said to haunt the building. She particularly likes the Pool Hall, attic and 4th floor D hall. The story goes that she attended school in the 1950’s and got pregnant and that she died in the attic, either from a botched abortion or suicide. She pulls pranks and seems to be friendly. She slams doors and turns the showers off and on.

An elevator in the hall is said to be haunted by the apparition of an elderly elevator repairman. Someone encountered him outside the elevator and he said he was going to fix it. This person told him that it hadn't worked for 30 years and the repairman said it was a mistake. He walked away and the student followed him. Once the man turned the corner, he disappeared. Perhaps this repairman met his end in the Boiler Room , which is reputed to be haunted. No one knows who this is but “he” stays in the basement and opens the rooms heavy metal industrial doors after they are closed.

Chilton Hall has a statue of a guy from that is just a torso and it is called "The Student." It was found in the foundation and they put it on display. Hauntings started after that and activity increases in October. Chilton Hall had been an all men’s dorm. Today it is an administration building. The story goes that a guy jumped out of one of the windows and killed himself. Caitlin Edgar, who works in the building, had an experience. Her job was to check the security cameras and last year when this article was written, she saw a student walking down the aisles in one of the classrooms. There was not a class scheduled that day and it was after hours. The door has alarms and locks that open when an employee punches in the disarming codes. When she opened the door, the student was not there. How could he have gotten inside and where did he go?

The Health Center is haunted. Campus police are constantly called to the building in regards to sightings of a young man with blonde hair who wears blue jeans and no shirt. Some people link this to the unearthing of the “The Student” statue for some reason. Sycamore Hall is said to be the most haunted buildings in America. Investigator Zach Prader said that paranormal activity in this building is worse than Alcatraz, Area 51, and the Lizzie Borden house. His team looked into the history and possible reason for the hauntings. They concluded that the library was buried on Romanian Gypsy burial ground, which is traditionally 23x more spiritually active than Native American burial ground. One administrator was quoted as saying, “If you ever need to check out a book at the Sycamore Hall library, bring a friend. We don’t want to mop up any more pee stains from terrified students.”

Maple Street Hall is the second oldest dorm on campus and there is a ghost named Brenda who has manifested herself many times. There are two different stories told about her. The first is that she is a young girl who died of a violent crime not far from her on-campus home at Maple Hall and her spirit has chosen to stay here. The other is about a woman similar to Wanda at Bruce Hall. She discovers that she is pregnant and tries to hide her condition. She then died when giving birth in a hidden part of Maple Hall. One resident advisor was checking the dorm rooms. After she checked a room, she would turn off the lights and shut the door. She finished up and was doing something else when a telephone began to ring from one of the rooms. She found the room where the phone was ringing and the door was wide open and the light was on. When she stepped in the room, the phone stopped ringing. She had another experience on that floor months later. Two students came to her asking who was living in the suite next to theirs. After the advisor told them that that particular suite was empty, the girls then told her that every morning they would hear the shower going.

Do the spirits of former students and professors still haunt the campuses of UNT and TWU? Are these universities in Denton haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
Martin, K. (2015, October 29). A Campus Haunting. Retrieved from North Texas Daily:
Matthew. (2011, July 13). The elevator Repairman Ghost of UNT's Bruce Hall. Retrieved from McGarityDotme:
McCormack, J. (n.d.). Campus haunts. Retrieved from North Texans Online:
Swoops, T. (2014, June 26). The Most Haunted Building at UNT. Retrieved from North Texas Pigeon:
Texas Woman's University. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:
Thurman, N. (2013). Texas Woman's University. Retrieved from Denton History:
Whitington, M. (n.d.). Ghosts of North Texas. In M. Whitington, Ghosts of North Texas (pp. 93-94). Landam: An imprint of the Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.


  1. The story about Brenda at Maple Hall is based on a young woman who was murdered. They believe she was abducted when she left a party at Kerr hall next door to return to her dorm (Maple). I've seen the news clippings. I also lived in Maple hall when it was made coed. Some strange things do happen on A100 (supposedly her wing).

  2. my pantsing of their character arc. I often can't start writing until I have a clear picture of their themes, even though by that time I might know all the scenes of the first act.  Mclimen Alma

  3. So I actually live in Guinn hall on the 10th floor and I've been having paranormal expiriences. I think it is the girl who jumped off the 9th floor are there any records or news articles of what happened and who she was? I don't mean to be insensitive, I am just curious and I want to know more about her.

    1. I was friends with her. She was my best friends roommate at the time she jumped. She was super sweet, kinda shy. Her name was Brenda and she was a hairstylist. I was thinking about her today and that's how I stumbled across this page. It's my understanding that the story of her visiting a friend at the dorm is incorrect. She told her roommate she was going to her sister's house which was outside of Denton. She grabbed a couple of movies to bring with her to her sister's. She left seemingly fine. Not upset, not in distress. Were cellphones a thing then? If the bit about her mother is true, she either got the news on her cell (I don't think cellphones were a thing then tho, or at least very very few people had them), or on their home phone as she was walking out. I don't think that part is true tho. This is the first I'm hearing of that she just found out her mother died. None of us had any idea that she was suicidal or had any suicidal thoughts. She started to drive to her sister's (it was fairly late) and passed TWU on the way. She either had her intentions well kept and went straight there, or glanced at the building and made the choice then. Their house was only like 5 minutes away (as everything was then).