(Rock Hill, S.C.) — To celebrate Halloween, the Winthrop University Student Alumni Council hosted the 13th annual ghost tour of Tillman Hall, which has long been rumored to be haunted.
The group started the tours in 2005 to give students and members of the community an opportunity to see the dark, secret depths of the historic building, which dates to 1894.
Organizers say the 25-minute tour, which took place Oct. 30, combines historical narratives, spine-chilling scenes and stories about Winthrop’s ghostly legends.
The highlight of the tour is the fourth-floor attic of Tillman, which has been closed since the 1930s, and the only time the public is granted access is during the ghost tours.
“The fourth floor is this serious forbidden place and it is kind of a treat that we give our guests,” said Danielle McCaw, traditions chair for the Student Alumni Council.
The fourth-floor was closed because it isn’t handicap accessible and doesn’t have air conditioning, but the campus urban myth has become that the attic is locked to keep spirits away.
However, some people, including those giving the tours, have reported alarming encounters in the attic.
“Danielle and I we are up on the fourth floor preparing for the tours; just doing a walk through. I was locking the door and we heard girls giggling and it sounded very creepy. We got to the third floor looking around and no one was there,” said Shayna Foxworth, a coordinator with the Student Alumni Council.
“These are some experiences that people working here get,” she said.
Thus, for many Winthrop students, visiting the attic is a like a rite of passage.
“I thought it was very cool, especially being able to see the fourth floor of Tillman. I’m glad that I came because I think it would have been very unfortunate to have graduated and not seen the fourth floor,” said Destiny Tyrone, a senior musical theater major who took the tour.
“I feel as though I have heard people speculate about ghosts in the buildings, but now coming (on the tour), I feel like it’s truer and I feel like faculty and staff have actually heard things. I feel like everyone should get this experience,” said Tyrone.
While the tour, which starts in the basement and works its way up to the fourth floor, is intended to be scary, it also presents guests with a history of the campus.
“Many historical figures are presented throughout the tour like D.B. Johnson, who was the first (Winthrop) president,” said McCaw. “It’s more about the history of Tillman with a few creepy moments along the way.”
“We want it to be historical, because we are giving out all the facts and information, but it’s definitely still a creepy experience,” said Foxworth.
The Student Alumni Council also works closely with the university’s archive center to plan the tours.
“We work close with archives just to make sure that everything we are talking about and telling everyone is factual,” said Foxworth.
One spooky reenactment scene occurs in the basement, where guests are shown beaten down convicts locked in stocks.
The scene is based on a dark part of Tillman’s past, because the hall was built with the help of convict labor and the stocks, which held the convicts who misbehaved, still exists today.
Legend has it that the spirits of those convicts can still be heard at night calling for help.
“Letting (guests) know that (Tillman) is haunted, you can really feel the presence and you can be scared while still learning a lot more about Winthrop,” said Foxworth.
Each year the ghost tours are based on the same stories and legends, but the Student Alumni Council continues to make adjustments to the tours to make them as captivating and spooky as possible.
“Planning actually starts the minute after this ghost tour ends. We really look at what worked this year and what didn’t, what can we change, what can we improve and how can we grow for next year’s ghost tours,” said McCaw.
The proceeds from the tours help the Student Alumni Council give back to future students.
“Every dollar that we make goes to student scholarships, so it’s kind of the gift that keeps on giving,” said Foxworth.