The Haunting of Argonne Barracks?

Jeff Kenney
Citizen editor

Editor's note: this article first appeared in the Oct. 30, 2014 edition of The Culver Citizen.

If Washington Irving's fictional hamlet of Sleepy Hollow "abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight supersti­tions," as the text of the famous tale of the headless horseman suggests, we in Culver must admit, each Halloween that that's not so much the case here.

Our most famous (and historic) ghost story, of course, is that of Potawatomi Chief Pau-Koo-Shuck, whose ghostly form many early settlers swore haunted the Long Point area and sur­rounding shores.

In 2007, your editor reported on the alleged ghost of a young boy supposedly killed in the old Medbourn ice house at the site of today's Culver Cove (where his phantom was said to have been seen, according to a handful of staff there; historical information, however, suggests no such child death took place at the site).

Last year, the Culver Citizen published Culver Academies fine arts instructor Bob Nowalk's chilling tale of an invisible guest noisily crossing the stage of Eppley Audito­rium late one night. Similarly, a story recounting claims of ghosts at a favorite "parking" spot for Culver High School students in the 1960s, also hit the Citizen's pages (though some CHS alums got in touch explaining that the "spooks" were as much the product of teenage pranks as anything supernatural).

Besides the interesting existence of the remnants of Dead Man's College public school in Fulton County (around seven miles southeast of Culver, so less directly claim-able by the community itself), that pretty much exhausts our local ghost tales.

One exception unearthed this year appeared in the March 6, 1926 edition of Culver Military Academy's weekly "Vedette" newspaper, under the headline, "'Phantom' Dis­turbs Peace in Barracks."

The spectre in question, said the article, was "the cause of...concern among the boys who live on the third floor of Argonne Barrack."

Argonne, named for a World War I battle, was one of the newest barracks on the campus, having been built the year after the war ended, 1919. It's a joint building with Chateau-Thierry barracks, also named for a WWI conflict, and the entire structure has long been home to students in Culver Girls Academy, rather than male cadets. Perhaps the shift to female students accounts for the lack of any recurrance of the circumstances surrounding the 1926 "haunting," somehow, but it seems more likely that the "ghost" was the work of a cadet or two with too much time on their hands.

Be that as it may, the Vedette reports that, "For the past few nights, the occupants of the rooms on the third floor of the "Haunted Barracks" have been awakened in the early hours of the morning by a hideous scream that trails off into weird shudders and moans. Some of the more merry cadets on the hall have, upon more than one occasion, rushed out of their rooms to see what was going on. There In the hall is to be seen only several other terror-stricken cadets and nothing more. Other odd occurances reported in the article include cadets hearing the water foun­tains running and footsteps near them in the hallway, only to find the fountains dry and unused.

"The question that is confronting the terror-stricken cadets on the third floor of Ar­gonne Barracks is, who or what is the "Phantom of Argonne," and why does 'it' desire to terrorize only the occupants or the third floor of that building?"

The answer to that question, if there ever was one, is lost to history, but at least there's another footnote, anyway, to Culver's small pantheon of eerie tales to bring out each Halloween.