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'Ghost file' documents unexplained phenomena on campus

By Jake Erickson '06
October 21, 2003

In the fall of 1991, two student women came to St. Olaf Director of Housing Greg Kneser. They demanded to see what they called the "ghost file." Kneser, never having heard of such a thing, went to the Dean of Students Office to look into this bizarre inquiry. That's where he learned the great St. Olaf legend of the "ghost file."

First, Kneser found out there was no file. Second, even if there was, the legend would, of course, require the college to deny its existence. When Kneser told them this, the two students elaborated on one of St. Olaf's most well-known ghost stories: the red cap boy story.

Haunted Thorson
Thorson Hall is where the "red cap boy" has been seen over the years. Details about this and other ghostly sightings around campus are found in St. Olaf's "ghost file."
The two sophomore students who came to Kneser were roommates, they explained. At a bonfire kick-off for their dormitory, Thorson Hall, at the beginning of the year, the students had glanced up from the fire only to see a figure wearing a red baseball cap standing in their window. The figure made them uneasy, yet they dismissed it, assuming they had been looking at the wrong window.

But stranger things began to happen. Noises and appearances began to unnerve the students. Among the stranger included the students' stereo stopping and starting during certain songs. Regardless of whether a tape or CD, the stereo would always mysteriously stop when the students attempted to play D'yer Mak'er by Led Zeppelin, and would start up whenever a CD with Pachabel's Canon in D was in the disc player.

Apparitions included seeing two young men sitting in the middle of the night at the end of their loft.

Events culminated one night when one of the students woke up to find her roommate crying. Initially, the disturbed roommate refused to tell what had happened. But she calmed down and explained that she had seen the two young men playing cards on the floor.

The students felt more at ease after telling the story to Kneser, and made it through the rest of the year without any more major scares. But the story was a phenomenal one, to say the least.

Inspired by the story, Kneser started collecting more tales from across campus into his own "ghost file." It's orange, and he does not deny its existence. If you don't believe this article, just ask him.

"I like folklore, storytelling," says Kneser, who is now dean of students. "It's a way to captivate and connect with people all over campus." Kneser visits first-year dorms every fall, telling some of the stories he has collected over the years.

A man who bills himself as a "professional ghost hunter," Richard S. Hagen, visited St. Olaf this fall on an expedition to research ghosts in Minnesota. The hunter's theory, according to Kneser, is that ghosts tend to avoid places they hated or despised in life. "More likely," said the ghost hunter, "people haunt places they came to love in life."

So maybe it's a good thing St. Olaf has the "ghost file."

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-646-3315 or