Haunted Campus Tours delivers historical significance

Elenie Gonzalez, Staff Reporter

The Student Alumni Association celebrated their 11th-annual Haunted Campus Tours on campus last weekend, which is an event that traditionally takes place the weekend before Halloween.

The SAA has a motto, “Keepers of Tradition,” and it is one they take seriously. They take it upon themselves to maintain UTEP’s traditions along with creating their own.

The Haunted Tours is a tradition dating back to 2007, when the UTEP Student Alumni Association at the time decided to create a fundraiser for the organization. It began as a small tour of the campus, with a group of about 20 people, and made stops at several of the university’s buildings with a history of reported ghost sightings.

Today, the tradition stays alive as the SAA sees an attendance of up to 300 guests.

As the tours continue to evolve every year, so has the event. With the school’s 103-year history, they believe there are many stories to be told. Buildings visited on the tour change every year, but those with the longest history remain the same.

Diana Khalik, the event coordinator for the SAA, was in charge of planning this year’s Haunted Campus Tours. She says that the organization plans the event a bit differently each year in regard to which buildings will be on the tour and what activities will take place while guests wait.

She said the SAA has created haunted houses in the past, along with the tours, but time constraints don’t always make it possible. Other activities this year included pumpkin painting, bobbing for apples and Halloween movies. Guests were able to have treats and hot chocolate while they waited for their turn to take a tour.

“We try and change up the buildings that we visit. Last year we visited eight and this year we are visiting six,” Khalik said. “But the stories I believe are a lot stronger and scarier.”

This year’s tour visited the Centennial Museum, Fox Fine Arts, Quinn Hall, Old Main, Psychology and Magoffin Auditorium.

Each stop includes a storyteller, dressed in costume and waiting in the dark for the next group to arrive hoping to scare them.

Old Main was one of the last buildings to be visited on the tour, but is known as one of the creepiest stops. Built in 1917, it is the oldest building on campus. There have been several reports over the years of strange occurrences including rattling doors and the sounds of lectures by professors late at night when the building is empty.

The tour guides told a tale that in 2002 a group of students attempted to stay overnight to investigate the reported hauntings, but left in a hurry due to ghostly activity.

Fox Fine Arts, named after Josephine Clardy Fox who was a donor with love for the arts, was built in 1974. The SAA said it houses the “Lavender Lady,” a ghostly figure whose apparition appears in the form of a lavender scent. The tale derives from a young woman who fell to her death outside the building.

Magoffin Auditorium, the last stop on the tour, is also said to be one of the most active sights for paranormal activity. The building is said to house a ghost by the name of “Jose,” a stagehand who fell to his death from the catwalks. Reports of unexplained noises and lights have been made over the years. Though the catwalks do not exist anymore, it is said he still roams the building scaring people.

Though the event was created as a fundraiser for the organization, it has also become a staple tradition for the group. The tours are meant to be entertaining, but they believe it is also important to preserve the campus’ history through storytelling.

Allan Martinez, a member of the SAA, says that the organization receives its information for the tours from different resources on campus. Since they work with the Alumni Association, they are able to get in contact with former students, who were around at the time of the reported incidents.

“The Alumni Relations Office get us in touch with those who were around when these events happened, especially in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s,” Martinez said. “The Paso del Norte Paranormal Society helps us out a lot too with the stories, especially in scene writing.”

Elisa Sosa-Salgado, a junior computer science major, said she enjoyed the tour and learned more than just the chilling stories that were told.

Her favorite stop was the Psychology Building, which was built in 1951. It was once the Science Building with a laboratory that was said to have conducted disturbing experiments on people and primates, an ordinary practice at the time. Though the labs closed years ago, they still remain in the building, but are sealed off to anyone who wants to go inside.

“I hadn’t really explored the campus that much, so I thought it was pretty cool to do that,” Sosa said. “I hadn’t been inside of most of these buildings before and that was cool too, especially to learn the history behind them.”

The SAA has closed its doors for the Haunted Campus Tours for now and will be back next year. For more information, visit their website at www.alumni.utep.edu.

Follow Elenie Gonzalez on Twitter @eleniegonz