Did you hear that? Waco, Baylor’s top haunts

Dr. Beth Barr and Dr. Cindy Little talk Baylor and Waco ghost stories. Photo illustration by Grace Everett

By Sophia Tejeda | Staff Writer

Given the history and age of the two, walking through Waco or across Baylor’s campus almost comes with a guarantee of passing by the site of a supernatural occurrence. Whether based in fact or fiction, these stories have lived on for generations.

Armstrong Browning Library

The first stop on the Baylor ghost tour is Armstrong Browning Library, which is said to be haunted by three ghosts: the statue out front, a bi-vocational electrician/preacher and the library’s namesake, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Dr. Beth Barr, professor of history and associate dean of graduate studies, said Browning’s ghost now haunts the Armstrong Browning Library since a number of her personal possessions reside there.

There have been several reported sightings of her on the second floor or through the windows. The Armstrong Browning Library Instagram has even capitalized on these stories, moving a cardboard cutout of Browning throughout the library. To see where the cutout has gone, go to the “Live with Liz” highlight on the @browning.library Instagram.

During the library’s construction in the early 1950s, a bi-vocational preacher and electrician was working on the elevator. While he worked in the elevator shaft on the first floor, the elevator plunged from an upper level, crushing him beneath it.

Today, the elevator is said to often stop working because of his death. Dr. Cindy Little, parapsychological researcher, said the construction worker’s “presence” has been reported to be felt in the basement. She said the Armstrong Browning Library staff have even experienced “poltergeist activity” in the basement.

“The big metal gate that closed off the gift shop would open up or become unlocked on its own, [and] the electronics would go crazy, like the cash register,” Little said.

Ghost hunters have also flocked to the library in hopes of catching movement of Pippa, the statue that stands in front of the library. The statue comes from one of Browning’s verse dramas, “Pippa Passes,” which contains the quote, “God’s in his heaven — all’s right with the world.”

At night, Pippa’s arms, which are set by her side, are seen in her shadow raised above her head, but Barr said this might be due to the lighting.

Brooks Residence Hall

Samuel Palmer Brooks constructed Brooks Residence Hall as an upgrade from the male dorms previously located by First Baptist Church in order to attract male students. During the early 20th century, a student frequently played violin on the fifth floor; though the cause of his death is unclear, some believe he contracted the flu and returned home, where he died. After the student’s death, students consistently reported hearing violin music. One night, during a severe storm, students followed the music and claimed to see a mysterious figure on the fifth floor.

“Down the hallway, students saw a man wearing a top hat and a cape and holding a candle,” Barr said. “They could still hear the violin music. Then, [during a large] thunderclap, the window shattered that the man was standing next to. So they ran away afraid, [yet] when they came back the next morning, there was no shattered window.”

During the 1980s, the use of the fifth floor dwindled, and eventually, the reconstruction made the building contain only four floors. Since the reconstruction, there have yet to be any reports of the Brooks phantom.

Carroll Science Hall

During his time as president, Rufus C. Burleson oversaw the building of Carroll Science Hall, but the construction did not finish until after his death. The original building contained a large staircase connected to the front of the building. When his wife Georgia visited after the completion of the building, she claimed she saw the ghost of her husband.

“It upset her so much, she refused to ever go back inside Carroll Science again,” Barr said.

Texas Ranger Museum

The Texas Ranger museum contains Bonnie and Clyde’s guns, and Barr said at night, individuals have claimed to hear the sound of firearms clicking. In the morning, workers reportedly find Bonnie and Clyde’s guns, as well as the gun of the Texas Ranger who caught them, all cocked.

Dr Pepper Museum

During the tornado of 1953, a Dr Pepper museum employee named Shorty volunteered to move trucks in the plaza while the other employees were sheltered. As he was moving the trucks, part of the building collapsed, crushing him under the rubble.

Little said museum tours often use dowsing rods to communicate with Shorty, and people have reported feeling pressure in their chest or a bloody taste in their mouth in the area where Shorty died.

Cameron Park

In today’s Cameron Park, there were once reports that the local Lindsey brothers stole cattle from ranchers on Lindsey Hollow Road. In response to the thievery, the ranchers hanged the two.

Little said that ghostly figures hang from a tree at night and that surrounding residents have said they often hear the sound of boot spurs and screaming. Additionally, Little said women often report being grabbed and pushed at Jacob’s Ladder, possibly inferring the presence of a male ghost.

Oakwood Cemetery

Oakwood Cemetery has been the location of sightings of several ghosts, including a young man wearing a tuxedo who died in a car crash in the early 20th century.

Little also said W.C. Brann, who wrote “The Iconoclast” — a controversial newspaper that criticized Waco elite and Baylor students — has been spotted leaning against a tree near his grave. Brann died in a gun duel with a Baylor parent. An unknown individual vandalized his tombstone by shooting the profile etched onto his grave.