MANSFIELD — Dr. Steve Siconolfi, past provost at Mansfield University, walked up to the elevator doors in the North Hall library on campus.
“Sarah, get the elevator for me,” he announced. Moments later, the elevator door opened with a ding. There were no buttons pressed, and no one else was present on the elevator.
Who is Sarah? Her exact origins are contested among the people who believe in her. Some say she was a woman who jumped from the sixth floor atrium of the building after a failed romance. Others say she was sitting on the railing and singing, but lost her seating and fell six floors down. Still others claim she is the ghost of Sarah Woodruff, who fell ill at the university and passed away shortly after graduation.
Despite this, one thing is certain: she is Mansfield University’s resident spectre. People visiting the library often hear footsteps or see something out of the corner of their eyes. Scott DiMarco, dean of academic affairs, is one such person.
“I have heard the sound of someone walking on the floor above me, with no explanation as to who,” said DiMarco.
Mansfield alum Jenn Magnussen, who lives in Athens, has also heard those footsteps on the floor above, as well as stories from others.
“I had a friend tell me they were on the same floor as me and books flew off the shelves,” she said.
Other people have also experienced more than just noises. David Guinn, who works in the archives and information resources, reported seeing a body part behind a book stack.
“I was working and looked up to see a heavily skirted leg, stuck out like someone was walking,” he said. “It had a black boot and it blocked my vision of the desk behind it. When I looked at it again, it was gone.”
However, Guinn refutes that a ghost named Sarah lives in North Hall: “I don’t believe in Sarah necessarily.”
Guinn noted a lack of evidence in Sarah’s tale in his disbelief, but quickly added that he does believe the building is haunted.
“I don’t want this to sound like I don’t believe. I definitely believe this building is haunted, but by several ghosts,” he said.
“We do have one ghost named Harold here. He’s been here for several years ever since the Soul Searchers paranormal group was in here. One of the guys claimed a spirit was following him from a previous house he investigated,” Guinn added. “We picked up the name Harold during that investigation on an audio recording.”
Guinn was present for several of the investigations different groups have put on through the years. During one, they were in the archives performing a simple test using a flashlight to contact spirits. One flash of the light would mean “yes,” two would mean “no.” When asked the question, “Is your name Harold?” the flashlight blinked once. When asked if his last name was “Strait,” the flashlight blinked once again. After that, a dark apparition appeared in the east side of the archives, in front of the window. All who were present saw it and, according to Guinn, it has been captured on camera before.
Harold Strait was a prominent member of the Mansfield community. He ran Strait’s Hardware in the town for 80 years before he retired, and he passed away in 1983.The presence of his spirit at the university was a mystery until Guinn realized the library held several of his records in the archives.
Whether Sarah is truly a spirit in Mansfield University or a symbol for its haunting in general, there are plenty of stories surrounding the old North Hall building. Sarah’s story continues to be a favorite to tell freshman students.