Welcome back to Meredith’s Haunted Mansion. Buckle in, kids, because today, we’re hearing from two expert sources about their thoughts concerning campus safety and the ghost of Pickitt Hall.
Remember where we last left off. In the early 2000s, a rumor surfaced on the forums of paranormal activity websites that a ghost haunted the front doors of Cornerstone University’s Pickitt Residence Hall. In the late 1970s, campus was rocked by the aftermath of a violent crime committed nearby at Calvin College. How are these two timelines connected, and can any credence be given to these urban legends?
First, I interviewed someone who was on campus during the 1970s, someone with a particularly scientific mind. Professor Raymond “Gator” Gates started working at Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College as a biology professor when he was only 25. Once a park ranger in Montana, Gates stunned students and faculty whenever he would choose to take classes outside to learn, instead of lecturing in a stuffy classroom.
“I was just happy to have a job,” Gates said.
Gates didn’t remember any buzz around campus back then about security issues in particular, or in the Grand Rapids area in general.
“I wasn’t familiar with the safety issues of the other campuses,” Gates said.
Part of this Gates seemed to attribute to the location of Cornerstone’s campus in relation to the rest of the city.
“We were away from downtown, in kind of more of a secluded atmosphere,” Gates said. “I think that helped with the overall safety issues. But things can change.”
Gates agreed that campus seems so safe in comparison in part due to the advances in technology. These are no longer the days of lone security guards. Now we have motion-activated sensors, video cameras – no need to reach out to the switchboard via radio-waves, either.
“Everything is beefed up, even the security now,” Gates said. “I look around: we’ve got lights, we’ve got telephones.”
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like Gates could remember much about campus life at that time, which makes sense. There’s always been a little disconnect between faculty and students, at least as far as campus culture in concerned, and these events took place over 35 years ago.
I’m 22, and I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast last week.
Next, I contacted Pickitt’s Resident Director of nine years, Kimberly Bytwerk. Bytwerk, who also lived in Pickitt as an undergraduate, is more than familiar with what students call “the ghost of Pickitt Hall.”
“It’s just what students joke about a lot,” Bytwerk said.
Bytwerk has never seen the “ghost” in question, nor heard of any student who claims to have seen her, either.
“I don’t know that anybody takes it seriously as a real ghost,” Bytwerk said.
Bytwerk does not know where the legend originated from, even though she was living on campus at that point.
“I was a student living there at that time, actually,” Bytwerk said. “I have no idea where that’s from. Just a goofy college idea that’s somehow carried on, not intentionally.”
Bytwerk mentioned that campus safety today is also far more reliable compared to what it would have been at that time, and for good reason.
“We were actually ranked the number one safest school in Michigan, and the 24th in the country, so I’d say we’re doing pretty doggone good,” Bytwerk said.
So here, at least, there is a disconnect. There are no witnesses of this ghost, no memories among the faculty of any suspicious events in the past; there are, it seems, only stories.
But there is something still to be said for the longevity of stories. Perhaps they last longer than the rest of us may think.