Rumors of paranormal activity in dorm linked to a 1970s murder
When he moved into Sackett Hall his freshman year, Andrew Miles had already heard the rumors that a ghost roamed the dorm. He didn’t give much thought to the stories, until late one night when something very strange happened.
“I was laying in bed, and suddenly there was a banging noise that wouldn’t stop,” said Miles, who is now a senior studying agriculture business management.
According to legend, the ghost of Sackett Hall is that of a young woman who was murdered by infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. The ghost is rumored to reside mostly in the basement area of Sackett, but mysteriously rustling curtains and doors that occasionally slam shut of their own accord are cited as evidence that the ghost sometimes wanders the dorm’s halls.
While paranormal activity cannot be proved, there is some truth to the story in that a murder did occur in Sackett Hall.
Roberta Kathleen Parks was 20 years old when she went missing on May 6, 1974. She was originally from Lafayette, California, and was studying world religions. The days leading up to her disappearance had been stressful, as she had recently broken up with her boyfriend and fought with her father, who suffered a massive heart attack on the day she went missing.
Her father survived the heart attack, but Parks was still very upset. Even so, that evening Parks left her dorm room in Sackett around 11 p.m. with plans to meet friends in the Memorial Union.
She never arrived.
Parks’ remains were identified a year later in the Taylor Mountain area east of Seattle, along with the remains of three other young women murdered by Bundy.
The disappearance of Parks remains a mystery. While some rumors among students suggest that the murder took place in Sackett, it is not known exactly where Parks was abducted, and Bundy was never actually seen on campus.
“To our knowledge, Ted Bundy was not identified on campus, and he never admitted to being on campus,” said Steve Clark, OSU’s Vice President for University Relations and Marketing.
A charismatic, handsome, and by all accounts normal-seeming man, Bundy was one of the most notorious serial killers of the twentieth century. Before his death, he admitted to the murders of 30 young women and girls, including Parks, but he is suspected of killing up to 100. He was executed in the electric chair at Starke State prison in Florida on January 4, 1989. Bundy was never charged for Parks’ murder.
Regarding Sackett Hall, the rumor that it is haunted likely stems from a desire to understand the tragedy of Parks’ murder.
“When you hear the story of someone who suffered a tragedy and had a connection to a certain building, I don’t think it’s uncommon to have a fascination with that person’s connection with the building maybe continuing on after death,” said Jennifer Viña, Director of Marketing and Communications for University Housing and Dining.
While Viña has heard anecdotes of ghost sightings in Sackett, nothing has ever been substantiated, and there are no records of any students reporting paranormal encounters to UHDS.
“A lot of what we hear is just rumors and anecdotes from years past,” Viña said. “There’s a lot of fascination with the idea of ghosts or afterlife, especially on a college campus.”
Ghost stories are common on college campuses, with the rumors usually focusing on the oldest buildings. Sackett Hall was built in 1948, and is one of OSU’s oldest residence halls still in service.
The old hardwood floors creak, heaters clang, and the building’s unique eight-pronged layout creates strange echoes.
As for Miles, his ghostly encounter had a decidedly earthly explanation.
“The sound ended up just being from the heaters,” Miles said. “They’re old and make a lot of noise when they’re running.”
The story of Sackett Hall is a part of OSU’s culture and history, but the question of whether or not a ghost exists matters very little in comparison to the fact that a young woman tragically lost her life. As frightening as a ghost story may be, the reality of what happened is far worse. This is one story in which the truth really is scarier than fiction.