The hooves gently pounded on the stoned pathway of Main Street of Keystone Normal School in Kutztown. The hooves echoed as students settled down in their rooms. While the moon seemed to brighten the night sky, it only added to the darkness of the night. Passing by an enormous building with two white clock towers. One clock tower placed directly in the middle of the building, while the second was farther down above the D wing. When facing the enormous building, the grand entrance is left to the clock towers in wing A. However, directly below the middle clock tower lies the fifth-floor housing seniors unable to close their tired eyes for the following morning’s commencement. Nevertheless, no one could sleep that night. Well, only one student fell asleep that night of June 26, 1895. But Mary would never wake up.
Mary Snyder, the alleged ghost Old Main of Kutztown University, died on June 26, 1895. The following day as her fellow students, faculty, and family mourned her death no one knew Mary Snyder would be still known today. Yet, not as the woman her classmates knew, but as the ghost that haunts the oldest building on campus: Old Main. Mary was top of her class and a part of the Philomathean Literary Society that ended in the year that is unknown. However, rumors spread like all rumors spread especially in old buildings like Old Main. It’s like whisper down the lane.
Today, Kutztown University students, staff, and faculty are filled with curiosity of who the woman is that might be haunting Old Main. I asked one student Bryoanna, a sophomore, about Mary. She says, “Is that the girl that hung herself on the fifth floor of Old Main?”
“Allegedly,” I say.
Then, I ask another student who remains anonymous, “What rumors have you heard about Mary?”
“I heard she got pregnant and then committed suicide on the fifth floor,” she says. However, she has heard more rumors, but she couldn’t recall them.
When talking to one of my friends about Mary, he mentioned how his girlfriend heard that Mary tried to have the baby aborted by using a hanger. Also, hearing that Mary got pregnant by a professor or a janitor and then committed suicide either in the clock tower or the fifth floor of Old Main. There was another version where the professor murdered her since he had to hide the fact the baby growing in her stomach was his as well.
Not only students have heard about the famous Mary, but professors as well. There is one psychology professor named Dr. Robinson who believes Mary haunts him. He has heard from students that Mary walks the halls of Old Main with her child, and she was buried in the cemetery near Old Main with her child. However, he did tell me when he first believed Mary haunted him. He said, “I was standing in the urinal on the third floor minding my own business. When all of a sudden, the lights went out. I stood there and was like Mary can you not while a brother is trying to take a piss? Then, the lights came back on, and told her thank you.”
Ever since that day Dr. Robinson believes Mary haunts him at least the third floor and his office as well. He also mentioned that one student a few years ago was very sensitive sensory and told him that Mary is there with them. The student senses a child’s presence as well as an old man’s presence. He also told me that Gena, an old Philippian woman, who works as a janitor told him she was mopping the floors when she found footsteps in the water. Creepy.
It might be creepy, however, there are students that don’t believe Mary haunts the halls of Old Main. Yet, engage themselves in their curiosity with Mary. For instance, a student named Debbie who once lived in Old Main when students could live there. I asked her, “Did you experience anything when you there?”
“Not personally, but other people claimed things moved in their rooms and the lights flickered in the bathrooms,” she said.
“So, do you believe Mary haunts Old Main?” I asked.
“Honestly, I would love to believe the story and I’m lucky enough to have lived in Old Main and investigated the stories, but sadly no I do not believe Mary haunts Old Main,” she told me.
Even though Debbie does not believe in the haunting of Old Main, she is a part of a group called The Snyder Society. The members consist of professional writing and English students: Debbie Dougherty, Tyler McMaster, Steve Hajcak, Cameron Wertz, Storm Wright, and me. The group of six formed last semester for a project in their Writing for the Workplace class with Dr. Kathleen Hartman to write a formal report bringing something from Kutztown’s past back and change it a bit. We based the society off of the Philomathean Literary Society where students once engaged themselves in readings, concerts, plays, and so on. We decided to name the society after Mary since she was once a part of it. After discovering the truth of her death, the group present their work on April 18, 2018 at the KU Composition Conference.
Whether or not Mary Snyder haunts the halls of Old Main or any ghost activity, Mary is popular today. Or whether or not ghosts are real in general. People still engage themselves in the mystery behind our friends that have passed away. People engage themselves in gossip which lead to rumors. Of course, there’s always a religious aspect of ghost activity. Believing when the souls of the deceased are climbing the steps to heaven or down to hell. Then, there are the lost souls who have been wondering in our world. Sometimes the living see them and sometimes the living don’t. Also, the matter of exorcism. A demon or dark entity talking control of the living can either be our friend, lover, mom, dad, or anyone. This dark entity can only be released by the matters of religion. However, it’s only a matter of perspective and belief.
Then, there are the shows and movies shown on television of unexplained activity. Some believe and some believe it’s fake. Maybe the human world is looking for a connection with the loved ones that have slipped from our grasps by trying to contact death. Maybe that’s how Mary became a rumor. Looking for a connection with Kutztown’s history that has been forgotten, yet history is in front of humans every day.
It’s now two in the morning, her roommate ran for some help. A doctor who quickly came to check on this young woman, examined her. The patient’s father, a middle age man, full with worry and concern stood nearby helpless as well as her sister. Soon enough, in an hour, Mary was gone. So close to have a diploma in her hand and start another part of life. As her classmates received their diplomas with tears of joy and sadness, the papers wrote about the mourning, the sorrow, the happiness, and the cause of death. She died of too much study, the Allentown Times wrote due to swelling in the brain. Or died from sudden illness of swelling in the brain. While the papers wrote and her classmates and faculty mourned, Mary was home in Jacksonwald, Berks County.