In honor of this spooky time of year, enjoys these three mysterious stories of John Brown University and the surrounding area. While not all creepy or ghostly, coming upon or discovering one of these should make your heart race in excitement.
Steam Tunnels and Caverns
From the beginning of Siloam Springs, there have been rumors of caverns and tunnels crisscrossing the area, leading to springs or other places. While no one has ever documented an underground tunnel, there are plenty of stories around town of people falling into one, accidentally discovering one, or making their way underground and winding up on the other side of town.
Don Warden, the director of the Siloam Springs museum, said he met a man about 20 years ago who said as a boy he found a tunnel from a building on Broadway Street that led all the way to Sager Creek. For any adventurous spelunkers looking for a fun weekend activity, hunting for a cavern could be the answer.
Rumors also swirl on campus about some steam tunnels, allegedly located under the Quad. Steve Brankle, director of facilities services and sustainability, said there are indeed several steam tunnels crossing the quad.
Of course, these are off limits to students. Firstly, Brankle said, the government defines those tunnels as a confined space, so whoever goes in must have a permit. Secondly, the pipes are very hot and it is easy to burn yourself on them. This has not stopped students in the past.
These tunnels were a part of the old power plant, which the current prayer garden by J. Alvin replaced. The original tunnel entrance was there, but the University filled it over at the construction of the prayer garden. The tunnel goes across the quad, roughly following sidewalks, and branches off at the Cathedral trio, with entrances in the basements of the Cathedral and the two art buildings. Another branch runs toward the flag poles and connects to the cemetery-side of the Learning Resource Center. The sidewalks in the Quad have padlocked vault entrances.
A few years ago a mower broke the lock of the LRC entrance. Before the lock could be repaired, some J. Alvin students sneaked in. They followed the path all the way to the Cathedral when a facilities services worker found them.
About 20 years ago, Brankle said he found an old mattress down in a corner of the tunnels. A student had sneaked in and was sleeping down there—he even carved his name in the wall.
“Frankly, I don’t understand why the tunnels are so interesting here,” Brankle said. “I went to school at Calvin College and grad school at St Mary the Woods. Now those were some tunnels. Some of the tunnels at St. Mary’s were even a part of the Underground Railroad.”
The owners of the English Tea Room, which is now closed, believed the house to be haunted by a previous owner. They lived upstairs while operating a restaurant downstairs.
Cynthia Lee, community outreach coordinator of the Siloam Springs museum, said owner Rob Cork was passing through a hallway and thought he saw his wife wearing a robe walk downstairs. He called out, and realized it was not his wife. Dawn Cork, his wife, was in their bedroom taking a nap.
This began the occurrence of several strange sightings or movements. The windows above doors and other household utensils would move for no apparent reason. Lee said even some customers of the restaurant said they saw strange things.
The owners even brought a northwest Arkansas paranormal group that investigated with their equipment, Lee said. While nothing could be decided conclusively, the group told the Corks that there did seem to be some sort of activity in the house.
Lee and Warden helped the Corks looks through old genealogical records to find what woman the ghost could be.
Flora Ewing, the wife of John Ewing who built the original house and the annex, which is the only part left standing, died in 1889 at 40 years old. She is the most plausible identity for the ghost wandering the old house.
The Corks closed shop shortly afterward, though for other reasons, and the house now stands on University Street, waiting for the next buyer.
Spooklight of Hornet
Just before the Trail of Tears there was a beautiful Quapaw maiden who fell in love with a brave. He loved her back, and they asked her father for permission to marry. But her father did not approve, and told them to break it off, for she was to marry someone else.
Distraught, the Indian couple eloped and ran into the woods.
It did not take long for her father to notice them missing, and the Quapaws sent a search party to find them. As the search party grew nearer and nearer, the young couple raced through the woods until they found themselves cornered at a cliff overlooking the Spring River. Not knowing what else to do, they decided that death together was better than life apart. So they took one another’s hands and leapt over the cliff just as the search party came upon them. They fell into the river and died in one another’s arms.
Now their souls look for one another, desperate to be reunited. They have been searching for one another for almost two hundred years now. At night, near midnight, sometimes travelers have seen one of their souls—a bright light floating through the trees, looking for the other.
This spooklight of Hornet, Miss. has been seen since the Trail of Tears, though there are still no explanations for it. Other legends, such as a murdered Osage chief looking for his lost head, abound. Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and several scientists have studied it during the 20th century, no one can say for sure whether it’s gases in the atmosphere or anything else.
David Cox, a JBU alum of ’07, went to see the ghost light with some friends as a part of a MICE event around Halloween his sophomore year.
“I did not actually see the light,” he said. “When we went, the entire area around Hornet was covered with people. Being Halloween, everyone wanted to see the light. We waited for a while, but in the end it got dark and cold enough we opted to leave so we could get back to campus by a reasonable hour.”
These stories are not the only urban legends in the area. There are old stories of a University professor hanging himself in the Cathedral while it was under construction. The story of how graduation used to take place on the Hundred Steps until someone fell and died. Those stories will have to wait for another time.