Since childhood, Tamela Smith's always been fascinated with ghost stories and "anything out of the ordinary that couldn't be explained."
Smith carried that passion with her through her time as a Western Kentucky University student, then as a campus police officer and now as a campus trustee who shared campus ghost stories with students during a tour Wednesday night.
"When you tell the ghost stories you're also sharing a part of the university's history, its past," said Smith, who represents staff on the WKU Board of Regents. "We're exploring the unknown."
Smith shared stories she's collected over the years with students in WKU's Student Government Association as they stopped at Van Meter Hall, Florence Schneider Hall and other historic buildings. Her job as a campus cop working the graveyard shift left her with many strange stories, such as the night a call came in about a problem in Northeast Hall.
Smith investigated the building's second of three floors and found bulging in a wall that even baffled a masonry man. While checking on students in the building, she discovered a group of girls playing around with a Ouija board looking for a sign from the spirits. Then the whole campus went dark — in a planned power outage.
"It took them a few minutes to remember that was supposed to happen," Smith said, adding the girls were done with the board after that. "As soon as they stopped using the Ouija board was when the wall right outside that door started cracking."
Smith said the cause was never discovered, but the hall director did end up moving residents in six rooms of the wing to a safer place that night.
Smith started her tour by meeting students outside of Van Meter Hall, where she revealed that many of WKU's ghost legends have a historical basis.
"All these stories that I'm going to tell you tonight I've gotten first hand," she said.
One such story was the suicide of a female student who lived in Potter Hall back when it was a residence hall in the late 1970s. Smith told stories of building service attendants who'd finished sweeping floors only to find pennies lying on the floor behind them, prompting them to name a spirit apparently haunting the building "Penny."
But Smith's time as an officer made her a part of those stories. She remembers training another police officer in Potter Hall when she heard banging noises despite the surrounding rooms only being used for storage. While later pulling her key out of door knob it started jiggling on its own, she told students. Smith opened the door again only to find nothing inside the room.
When asked whether she believes in ghosts, Smith is leery either about saying she believes or not.
"I can identify all the things it wasn't, which doesn't leave me with a lot of possibilities for what it actually was," she said of her experience. "It's a mystery."
SGA member Amy Wyre, a sophomore from Clarksville Tenn., was also unsure, describing herself as a "ghost agnostic."
"I definitely think there's something we don't know about," she said.
Wyre said she enjoyed Smith's stories, however.
"It was so interesting," she said. "I love stories like this."
Smith will share paranormal stories during a presentation at the Warren County Public Library Bob Kirby Branch at 6 p.m. Halloween.
As for WKU's ghost stories, Smith hopes students will connect with them and pass them on to keep the legends haunting the hill.
— Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.