The Petty Archives

Legends of noisy ghoul, suicide haunt university residence halls
By Anna Suggs
The Independent Florida Alligator - Friday, October 28, 2005

Rumors about an impossible suicide and a disgruntled cook continue to haunt UF residence life.

Two prevalent ghost stories exist at UF, Housing Department spokeswoman Sharon Blansett said.

The first involves a UF student in the 1970s who allegedly committed suicide by jumping from her dorm room window in Beaty Towers. The towers are located next to 13th street, also called U.S. Highway 441, she said. Many believe this story because of the the song "American Girl" by Gainesville native Tom Petty, which is about a young girl killing herself by jumping from a balcony "out on 441."

Blansett said there are no records of any girl jumping from Beaty Towers, and there are no balconies.

Nick Huber, an 18-year-old digital arts and sciences major, said he has heard of the myth in Beaty Towers, but the possibility of a girl jumping from the towers is slim because the windows are sealed shut.

When asked about ghosts in UF residence hall, Blansett laughed.

"I think that when it gets to this time of year, people seem to seek out Halloween-related thrills," she said. "There is a thrill in being scared and making up these kinds of stories."

The second ghost story involved strange noises in Thomas Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus. Residents claim to hear banging coming from the heating system when it's not being used.

Blasett said according to UF folklore, the noises are caused by the ghost of Old Steve, the head cook on campus in 1906.

Old Steve was disruptive in his lunch preparations, according to "A History of UF Residence Halls." Shouting, cursing, the banging of pots and pans, the hissing of steam and the crackling of fire were familiar sounds of Old Steve.

Blansett said there is no big mystery to the noises heard now. It is just an old heating system.

Andrew Nichols, executive direction of the American Institute of Parapsychology and chairman of the mental health department at City College Gainesville Campus, said the UF ghost stories are very entertaining myths, but there is a big difference between folklore and actual ghost activity.

Ghosts are just projections from people's minds, he said, created by the unconscious mind as a result of trauma, fear or conflict.