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Helen Peabody

When I was a student at Miami University of Ohio, everyone knew about the ghost of Helen Peabody. Helen Peabody was graduate of Mount Holyoke and a teacher there before she moved westward and became the first principal of Western Female Seminary (once Western College for Women, now preserved as Western Campus of the University). By all accounts, she loved her school and her students, although she did not love the proximity of the male students at the University. By all accounts, she did not believe in coeducation After thirty-five years of service, she left her name on Peabody Hall, a stately dormitory and classroom building, and, some say, her spirit inside. (The existing Peabody Hall was built on the foundations of previous seminary buildings that burned down.) Even though she died in California in retirement, her body was brought back to local cemetery in Oxford for burial. The stories about Peabody Hall and President Peabody are multiple.

The simplest is that she still roams the halls, and students see her apparition walk by, which they recognize by the portrait of her on the first floor. Vigilant in the protection of her legacy, she supposedly shook awake the student that raised the alarm the last time Peabody Hall had a serious fire. The most sinister versions of the Helen Peabody ghost stories have her as a fierce protector of female students, engaging in a sort of psychological warfare against male students who mistreat them. A friend of mine swore up and down that a male student experienced unexplained and untraceable calls to his answering machine where a low female voice threatened him and ordered him to get out of her hall. This story sounds similar.

Whatever your belief about her spirit, the earthly remains of Helen Peabody rest in Oxford Cemetery, just a hill or two over from her beloved academic home. Her grave is flanked by other colleagues who shared her dedication to higher education for women.

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