The University of Montana Haunted Events
At 128, it’s no surprise that the University of Montana campus is home to many ghosts and spooky stories.
The older historic buildings have had many identities over the years, serving as dormitories, then university spaces and later as offices. Tens of thousands of students, employees and faculty passed through the campus.
Some seem never to have left.
The most prominent figures in university lore roam the corridors of Brantly and Main halls and lurk in the corners of the campus’ underbelly – the storied steam tunnels that connect each building underground.
Two longtime UM employees, Cary Shimek and now-retired Jed Liston, took a particular interest in recounting these supernatural circumstances and even participated in haunted tours on campus.
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Although Liston and Shimek claim to be skeptical, they have both been through things they can’t explain.
Built as a girls’ dormitory in 1922, Brantly Hall now functions as an administrative office building for employees working for the alumni association and the communications department.
“I think people will say Jeanette Rankin (Hall) and Main Hall are super haunted, but I think we have the best stories here,” Shimek, who has an office in Brantly, said while touring Wednesday.
“This one seems to be the most haunted and cited as the most haunted on campus,” added Liston, whose office was also in the building.
Rumor has it that one of the most common ghosts at Brantly is a student who committed suicide in 1929, but Shimek and Liston have found no record of the tragic event.
Shimek used to help organize Family Weekend on campus in the fall, and almost 10 years ago he led Haunted UM tours. The tours were hugely popular, but ended abruptly after “something happened” in the basement on what would become the last tour in history.
Down the steep stairs is a long dark hallway that’s lit only by the red glow of exit signs or a single light bulb triggered by motion sensors. This is where the tours would reach their climax.
The hallway would be filled with smoke from a smoke machine, and an actor dressed as the ghost of Brantly would run towards tour groups shouting “get out” before disappearing into one of the basement rooms.
On this particular tour, smoke set off the fire alarm and Shimek had to escort families outside as firefighters made their way to campus.
“I’m trying to entertain these parents and then all of a sudden one of these windows just goes ‘pshhh’ and shatters outward,” Shimek said, mimicking the sound of breaking glass.
“To this day I’m skeptical, I have to believe he was an overzealous theater student, but at the same time we had blaring alarms and so much smoke in the air, maybe there was a bit of stress on the building,” he continued. “I don’t know, but it just freaks you out.”
Shimek wondered if perhaps the ghost of Brantly Hall had smashed the window out of frustration at the tour’s portrayal of her.
Liston also has a story about the ghost of Brantly Hall.
When Liston’s office moved from Brantly’s third floor to the first, he met the building’s superintendent for the first time, who asked him if he wanted the lights on or off. Liston responded by turning off the light and joked that he didn’t want to attract the ghosts from the basement.
“And he said, ‘oh, you don’t have to worry about that, your new office is in the most haunted hallway here,'” Liston said.
The janitor told Liston that the ghost always enters the building through the hallway where her office is and that she announces her presence by knocking on an old radiator.
At first, the hit will start slowly.
But then it speeds up…
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
“And then it’s quiet – that’s when she told you she was there,” Liston said.
Although the famous ghost of Brantly Hall has made people’s hair stand on end, those who work in the building say it’s not a malevolent spirit. In fact, she seems to be moving objects around as if she were kidding.
One night, a janitor was finishing his evening shift alone, vacuuming a corner room in Brantly, when he realized he had forgotten to lock some interior doors. He turned off the vacuum cleaner and left the room. By the time he returned, the vacuum cleaner was nowhere to be found.
Suddenly, the vacuum cleaner turned on in a nearby office.
The door was locked, so he tried to knock several times to no avail. Eventually he unlocked the door and found her operating with no one inside the office.
“Sometimes she moves stuff around in the big room. She’ll take a piece of jewelry or something and move it around and I’ll just know it’s somewhere else,” Liston said.
But this ghost isn’t the only one haunting Brantly Hall. There’s also a ghost German Shepherd roaming the halls.
But the dog is anything but horrible. In fact, he’s been known to run up to people and wag his tail, but suddenly disappears when they lean in to pet him.
The main hall is also a paranormal hotspot on campus, but most of the action takes place in the basement.
Many characters were spotted there, including a man wearing a red flannel shirt, a woman in a Victorian outfit, and another woman wearing frilly lace. The German Shepherd was also reportedly seen.
The man in the red flannel is most often seen walking through the locked vault in the basement, crossing the hallway into the men’s bathroom, and then disappearing after entering a cabin.
A building janitor was cleaning the men’s bathroom one evening when a woman in Victorian attire entered. He turned around and informed her that it wasn’t the women’s room before she disappeared into a supply closet.
Another janitor met another woman dressed in frilly lace, who was walking down the hall with her. She could only see her in her peripheral vision.
The janitor told Liston that the unfamiliar figure drove her so mad that she started shouting down the hall, “You’re not walking with me tonight!” Despite her efforts to push the spirit away, he still accompanied her almost every night she worked.
The university campus consists of seemingly independent buildings, but the reality is that they are all connected underground by a sprawling tunnel system that transfers heat from steam to every corner of the campus.
The tunnels have been part of the university tradition for years and some students have managed to access them. Since the university tightened security to keep students from wandering around the basement, it’s largely just maintenance workers who roam the bowels of campus.
“What we always heard from the maintenance people was that they were walking around here and they saw the guy in the red flannel shirt turning around a corner,” Liston said.
When the workers turned the corner to see where he could hide, he disappeared without a trace.
The German Shepherd is also a common sighting in the tunnels.