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UD ghost materializes in book

1:34 p.m., Sept. 9, 2004--Well-known persons with UD connections often receive media attention, but recently the spotlight focused on UD’s resident ghost, Elmo. He appears in a book entitled Haunted Heritage by Michael Norman, who has taught for 25 years at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls, and the late freelance writer, Beth Scott.

Elmo joins company with other collegiate ghosts, from such schools at the University of Kansas and Rollins College, in a section entitled “Haunts of Ivy.”

The authors learned about Elmo from writer Ed Okonowicz, AS’68, M’84. Okonowicz, former assistant director of alumni relations and editor in the Office of Public Relations who now teaches at UD, has published a series entitled Spirits Between the Bays, as well as other tales of ghosts and legends in the Delmarva region.

According to Okonowicz, a workman by the name of Elmo was working under the dome of Mitchell Hall during its construction in 1924 when the scaffolding supporting him collapsed, and he fell 40 feet to his death. Elmo, according to legend, has been making appearances ever since. He is said to leave a “trail of chilled air” whenever he makes himself known, with lights going on and off, strange voices, asthmatic breathing, unexplained happenings and footsteps, accompanied by snickering laughter. Elmo is not UD’s sole ghost. He is said to have company at Mitchell Hall—two small children who sometimes appear on the balcony.

Other figures unearthed by Okonowicz are featured in Haunted Heritage, including the “most notorious female criminal in Delaware history,” murderer Patty Cannon, who captured and sold slaves back into captivity. Through a series of strange circumstances, Cannon’s skull ended up in the Dover Public Library. According to Okonowicz, the skull is usually displayed at Halloween when “they put it on a table and tell ghost stories,” he said.

Other reputed Delaware ghosts are Charlie Miller, whose head was blown off in the Battle of Cooches Bridge in August 1777, and a number of lost seafarers from the Cape Henlopen area.

According to the authors, “It could be that Delaware is one of the more haunted states on the East Coast,” as Okonowicz “has set out to establish” in his ghost stories and nighttime tours of haunted places.

The Haunted America Series by Norman and Scott has received good notices. The reviewer in The New York Times Book Review wrote “vibrant…entertaining…tales of murder, sex, madness and revenge make Haunted America both intriguing and amusing.” Booklist called it “great reading for a stormy night,” and Library Journal said the books are “mesmerizing, spine-tingling and not to be missed by any folklore collection.”

Okonowicz is scheduled to give a ghost and history of The Green tour, sponsored by University Relations, during Parents Weekend, at 8.p.m., Friday, Oct. 22, beginning inside Old College.

Article by Sue Moncure

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