Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Serah Welborn and Sydney Edwards
CHARLESTON — In the quiet of Pemberton Hall, whispers tell of a resident betwixt worlds.
“For many years, students have spoken of the odd happenings in the building and events that would convince even the most skeptical of residents that perhaps the hall was truly haunted,” said Troy Taylor, author of The Ghost of Mary Hawkins.
The haunting is said to have begun after the murder of Mary Hawkins in December, 1916.
“[A girl] wandered up to the music room of the fourth floor to play the piano late one winter break night,” reported the Daily Eastern News in 1993. “Supposedly a janitor followed [the] girl upstairs and, in a sudden psychotic fury, butchered her with an axe.”
After the attack, the dying piano player dragged herself upstairs, scratching at every door. When help arrived, it was too late.
Many students, including EIU graduate Angi Black, claim connections to the ghost. Though she never experienced the ghost herself, she had heard the stories.
“I didn’t [believe] at first but lots of people told stories that made me wonder if it was true. But then I heard how people would set something down and come back and notice it was missing or in a different spot,” Black said.
Veteran resident Valerie Lynch said students weren’t the only ones who talked about the mystery.
“I wouldn’t say a lot, but I did hear the stories — even teachers talked about it,” Lynch said.
The variety of versions has to led to a confusion regarding who Mary Hawkins actually is. Many think Mary is the girl who was murdered while others believe her to be one of Pemberton’s faculty who found the lacerated body.
“Mary Hawkins, though, who was head of Pemberton Hall, died in the Kankakee State Mental Hospital. She had been a patient for nearly a month and was found dead during the patient-check,” said a report in 1998 from the Daily Eastern News.
Whatever the true identity of Mary Hawkins, she will no doubt continue to inspire terror in those who attribute strange, “unexplained” occurrences to her existence.