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The history behind OU's ghost stories

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From the Bizzell Memorial Library to the Gaylord Stadium, almost every building at OU seems to have a ghost story attached to it.

When freshman programs instructor and author Jeff Provine backpacked through England in 2009, he found that every town had its own ghost tour.

“When I came back, I was like, ‘We might have one or two stories here,’” Provine said. “We’ve got a lot.”

The abundance of tales inspired Provine to write a book called “Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma,” which investigates popular campus tales.

While OU’s many ghost stories are fun to tell, sometimes the truth is even more hair-raising. Here are three popular campus legends from decades past, fact-checked: 

Cate

Cate Restaurants July 29.

Myth: Employees at Cate Restaurants have long reported odd occurrences and strange sounds in the building’s basement, according to Provine’s book. The basement’s creepy atmosphere is attributed to a boy who is said to have died in a dumbwaiter. 

Truth: The dumbwaiter accident actually did happen. In 1986, Jonathon Erick Yost, the teenaged son of a temporary human relations instructor, was playing in the basement. He climbed inside the dumbwaiter right before an unknowing employee called it up to the first floor, according to the Oklahoman.

Jonathon’s neck was caught between the elevator platform and wall of the shaft, killing him. Police reported that someone had tampered with safety devices on the dumbwaiter, but they believed the death was accidental, according to the Oklahoman.

Women's Quad

Women's Quadrangle, April 29, 1950.

The dumbwaiter still exists in Cate’s basement, but it hasn’t been used for a long time and no longer has power connected to it, wrote Amy Buchanan, director of marketing and communications for OU Housing and Food, in an email.

Hygeia Hall

A nurse talks to a student on the lawn of Ellison Hall, 1958.

Myth: People working late in Ellison Hall report strange noises, blurs of motion and lights going on in empty rooms. This hall is the most active supernatural spot on campus, with ghosts haunting from the top floor to the basement and even the stairwell, said Tanya McCoy, the founder of the Oklahoma Paranormal Association and president of the Paranormal Council of Oklahoma.

Hygeia Hall

Beds in Hygeia Hall infirmary (now Ellison Hall).

Many phenomena are attributed to a boy who was rollerskating outside the hall when he either got an asthma attack or was hit by a car.

Truth: While this story cannot be confirmed, many people did die — and got cured — within the walls of Ellison Hall. The building was called Hygeia Hall, after the Greek goddess of health, and served as the campus infirmary in OU’s early days.

Hygeia Hall

Doctors performing an operation at the infirmary, December 1937.

Visitors to Ellison Hall may not find ghosts, but evidence of the building’s history is still in sight. The same check-in windows where patients would check in to the health clinic are now check-in windows for student advising, according to the College of Arts and Sciences website.

Mex the Dog

Mex the Dog was OU's first mascot.

Myth: The tale of Mex the dog is more cute than creepy. Visitors and athletes in the Gaylord Memorial Stadium sometimes report feeling a dog lick their fingers or lean up against their legs — but when they look down, nothing is in sight, Provine said. 

Truth: Long before horses pulled the Sooner Schooner around the stadium, the first OU mascot was a small terrier in a red sweater and cap, according to a book called “Tales from the Sooner Sidelines.” 

Army field medic Mott Keys found Mex while stationed at the Mexican border during the Mexican Civil War in 1914. When Keys attended OU, he took Mex with him, and the dog became the football team’s mascot from 1915-1928, according to Sooner Sports.

OU fans linked Mex’s presence to game day wins, and the “besweatered pup” was buried on or near the football field when he died in the late 20s, according to the Oklahoman.

Owen Field

Band and RUF/NEKS on Owen Field at a football game, Oct. 27, 1928.

Over the years, the football field has gone through many renovations. In 1994, when the field’s turf was replaced with real grass, the Oklahoman speculated that Mex’s casket might be unearthed — but Mex was never found.

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