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Volume 79

The ghost of Clement Hall: is she real or just a myth?

Published (Volume 79, No. 9)

Credit: KATIE MERCURI/The Pacer

The ghost of a student who comitted suicide is said to still roam the corridors of Clement Hall.

Credit: KATIE MERCURI/The Pacer

The ghost of a suicidal former student haunts Clement Hall’s fourth floor and sometimes appears in a white dress to those who dare trespass.

That is, if the story about UTM’s oldest dormitory is true.  So far, no one has been able to validate the tale, which remains one of the most popular ghost stories of West Tennessee. 

According to legend, a female student committed suicide on the fourth floor years ago and now haunts the floor, especially the community bathroom. Both students and faculty have reported strange occurences on the floor, including seeing an apparition clothed in white.

“They (eye witnesses) are very specific about the white dress,” says Tim Barrington, technical director for the Department of Theatre and Visual Arts. 

While no one has been able to validate the story, the idea that a student committed suicide on Clement’s top floor is false, according to Director of Housing Earl Wright. 

Wright says the ghost story began after an incident in the early 1970s in which his sister and her roommate left an art project in the community bathroom to dry.  A fellow student was frightened when she saw the life-sized figures standing in a shower stall and reported the incident to the dean of Women’s Offices, whom Wright declined to identify. 

The dean threatened to expel the offending students, but the guilty parties were never discovered.

“It was presented as something someone did for a prank, but it wasn’t a prank,” Wright says.

While Wright says he believes the figures had a Halloween-based theme, they were not grotesque.

“If you slowly go through the details of the [ghost] stories, it all stems from that incident,” Wright says.

While Wright’s explication may help explain the origin of the Clement ghost story, the causes of other incidents remain mysteries.

David Belote, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, is still unsure of what, or who, he saw in Clement’s attic during an incident in the early 1980s.  Belote, who at that time was the assistant director of Housing, was searching through the attic when he saw something move very quickly between two stacks of boxes.

“Something was up there and it wasn’t quite right,” he says.  “It was scary enough to make your heart beat fast.”

However, Belote isn’t convinced he encountered the Clement ghost.  According to Belote, the movement could have been caused by a number of things, including a cat, birds or another person.

“Whether there’s anything up there is debatable.  It could have been my imagination,” he says.

Belote admits to embellishing on the account when telling it to students over the years.

Tomi McCutchen Parrish, a Communications professor and adviser to The Pacer, says she heard a door slam on the fourth floor when WMC-TV, better known as Channel 5 based in Memphis, was filming a documentary on the supposed haunting in 2003.

Parrish says she and Director of University Relations Bud Grimes heard a door slam loudly on the floor, which they thought was unoccupied.  Although Parrish and Grimes were the only ones in the vicinity, neither claims responsibility for the slamming door.

Grimes says he remembers the filming of the documentary, but doesn’t recall a door slamming.

“It’s quiet and unusual and you hear noises and that kind of thing.  It’s an old building and there’s things there that make for a good Halloween story,” Grimes says.

The Memphis Mid-South Ghost Hunters, a paranormal research group formerly known as the Ghost Stalkers of West Tennessee, sought to conduct a formal investigation later that year but were denied permission by UTM’s administration.

Clement Hall, which was originally named the “Woman’s Residence Hall” when it opened in the fall of 1957, was built on the site previously occupied by the “Wooden Box,” a temporary men’s dorm.

The building has been used as a dorm since it opened, but has also housed various university departments and offices when needed.  Currently, 27 men reside on the fourth floor because of a housing shortage.

One of those residents, Timmie Edmond, says several of his roommate’s DVDs unexpectedly fell to the floor about 1 a.m. one morning.  Edmond, who was alone at the time, says the DVDs were placed squarely on top of a desk and could not have fallen on their own.

“Naturally, I thought it was a mouse, but I haven’t seen any mice in this hall,” Edmond says. 

Edmond fled to a friend’s room on the same floor after the incident.
“I told him (his roommate) about that and he just thought it was real funny,” Edmond says.

So the ghost clothed in white lives on: if not on Clement’s fourth floor, then at least in the stories and tales that haunt UTM.