Choosing to stay
Grace Zbiegien has had some seemingly spooky encounters since moving into her studio apartment in Morgens Hall and taking up residence with what she can only explain as a ghost.
But the scariest thing to this student this Halloween season may actually be losing the apartment she loves rather than encountering the ghost again.
Once a rather average dorm from the 1960s, the University of Cincinnati’s Morgens Hall — at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Jefferson Avenue — reopened in 2013 after a total makeover both inside and out that included enveloping the 14-story high-rise in gleaming glass.
So when Zbiegien, a junior early childhood education major, had a chance to become a resident advisor in the newly renovated facility with apartment-style comfort, she jumped at it.
As an RA, Grace lives alone in a studio apartment for two on the 7th floor of Morgens, and she isn’t about to let a few unexplained phenomena drive her out.
Zbiegien’s ghost story starts in September of 2013, a few weeks after she moved into Room 705, a spacious flat on the back side of the building that overlooks Jefferson Avenue and floods with natural light even on cloudy days.
“The first thing that happened — I'll never forget it – I was laying in my bed and trying to go to sleep,” she says. “I had turned off my lights, and I heard what I thought was a gasping sound come from my closet.
|Death in Morgens
After more than a year of witnessing the unexplained sights and sounds inside her apartment, Zbiegien has wondered if the history of the building might reveal answers to the mysteries of her apartment. Though few concrete details have surfaced, former UC Police Chief Ed Bridgeman reports there was a deadly fall from a Morgens Hall balcony a couple of decades ago.
As the story goes, a pair of roommates who were originally from sub-Saharan Africa, were interested in the same girl. While one was dating her, the other invited her into their room, and things progressed. When her boyfriend reportedly returned unexpectedly, his friend hid in a closet, then leapt onto the balcony, when he misjudged and fell over the side and was killed.
“That really freaked me out at first. It was pretty loud and sounded like someone had told a shocking joke or something scandalous had happened.”
In the beginning, Grace wrote it off. She figured it must be the the vent pipes or some other easily explained noise that was likely common, especially in a newly renovated facility. She was, after all, the room’s first inhabitant after the building had sat dormant since 2008.
But according to Grace, what or whomever wanted her attention soon took things to the next level. Not only did the gasping sound from her walk-in (which leads to her bathroom) become more regular, she heard an unexplained rustling noise that sounded like grocery bags being moved one day and something far more eerie and overt on another.
“I was sitting on my bed watching Netflix on my computer, and I happened to look up and across the room to my kitchen table where I had left a glass of water, and I just watched it fall over all by itself,” she explains, slapping the table demonstrating the motion of the glass. “I’ve tested my kitchen table. It is not wobbly, and there was no outside force that I could observe that would do that to a glass of water.”
Grace was alarmed, but she didn’t feel threatened.
“I’m Catholic, so I believe in angels and demons, but this didn’t feel like either one,” she says. “If I felt like it was malicious or demonic, I would either leave or bring in a priest to be like, ‘Get this thing out of here.’ It just feels like he (she and other RAs nicknamed the presence Frederick) is just saying, ‘I’m here.’ I hesitate to even say the word ‘haunted’ because haunted means it is scaring me or being mean. Any more it is only every once in a while, and it is not anything terrifying.”
Only once has she been scared enough to run out of her room. That was the night, she says, when she heard the gasp from the closet and, annoyed since she was trying to sleep, stood up and shouted, “What?”
“As soon as I said it, my lamp started flickering,” she says, snapping her fingers to illustrate the immediacy. “I actually had to leave my room. I shouldn’t have said anything. I regret doing it. I’ve since replaced the lamp, because I was really freaked out.”
Conjuring the dead?
Getting “freaked out” on campus has been popular of late considering UC’s Program and Activities Council (PAC) brought national ghost hunter Chris Fleming to campus on Oct. 27. Fleming, “a seasoned veteran in the paranormal” and a former television host on shows such as “Dead Famous,” spoke to a couple of hundred students who gathered in 525 Old Chem to hear him detail his experiences during Halloween week.
Afterward, a few dozen students accompanied Fleming on a ghost tour of campus, says Savannah Glen, a junior biology major, who booked the event.
“On our way across campus, he (Fleming) saw an old man standing and looking out from the top of McMicken Hall,” Glen says. She explained that Fleming used what he calls a “Spirit Box” to communicate with the ghosts and hear their voices.
“He was asking about the McMicken building, and the spirits said ‘animals protect us,’ then you hear the words ‘Mick and Mack’ (the names of the stone lions at the front of the building), so that was very creepy.”
In search of locations on campus to ghost hunt before Fleming’s arrival, the organizers of the event attempted to reach out to Zbiegien in Morgens Hall, but she wanted nothing to do with communicating with her ghost.
“I don’t believe in conjuring the dead,” Zbiegien said later. “Nothing good can come from that. They get to leave, but I have to live here.”
Despite those concerns, she has no plans to give up her apartment.
“This is a great place to live,” says Zbiegien. “If someone were to ask me if they should move into 705 after I leave, I’d say, ‘Yeah, sure, why not?’”