The Old Kenyon Fire of 1949

Old Kenyon burned to the ground in the early morning of February 27, 1949, and despite the heroic efforts of many, nine students were killed in the blaze, and two were killed jumping from the third story. After the fire, Old Kenyon was rebuilt on a new foundation, which was three feet higher and which used many of the same stones from the original building. However, because the stones were not all put back in their original places, some floor pieces became part of the ceilings and some ceiling pieces became part of the floor.

Many students have reported seeing legless torsos “walking” down the halls of the first floor. Lights turn on and off inexplicably. Students who live in the rooms previously occupied by the victims of the fire have reported strange happenings. One student who lives in a room where a victim was trapped reported hearing pounding noises on his door and cries of “get me out!” Another student had an unpleasant encounter with his room’s possessive former occupant: he was studying at his desk when someone tapped his shoulder from behind and screamed, “What are you doing in my room?” When the student turned around, no one was there. Another student claims that he was awoken one night by someone shaking him and screaming of “Ed, wake up, fire!” One of the victims that died in the fire was Edward Brout. In 1979, a student reported waking to the feeling of a hand sliding across his pillow, but when he opened his eyes, no one was there.

On the anniversary of the fire, a student was said to have entered his room (or the storage room) in the tower and found a candle smoldering on his desk and a 1949 yearbook flipped to the page on which the names of the fire victims are located. It looked as though someone had just left the room, but the student did not meet anyone in the hall.

Even Safety and Security has had run-ins with the ghosts of Old Kenyon. During the summer one year, some security officers were inspecting the rooms in the dorm. They would unlock, inspect, and relock each door. They heard a door behind them unlock and open and, upon investigation, found that one of the doors they had just locked had been opened. Then they heard the shower turn on in the bathroom. They went to check out the source, but as soon as they entered the bathroom, the shower turned off. No one was there. The only thing they found was a pair of wet footprints leading straight into a wall.

Some claim that the ghosts are actually nine women who died in the fire while staying over at Old Kenyon with their boyfriends after the Sophomore Dance in Rosse Hall Annex on the evening of February 26. However, the administration will not concede that women were in the all-male dorm, and the women were not remembered during the memorial service. It is said that at night you can hear a group of women singing around Old Kenyon.

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