GAMBIER — Lights flickering, furniture moving, windows opening and closing, and the sound of splashing water sound like Halloween pranks, but are actually just some of the routine spectral events at Kenyon College. Add a rich baritone voice, hanging disembodied at the height of a tale, and you might have a true haunting — except the voice belongs to a man of flesh and bone.
His name is Tim Shutt and he’s a professor of Humanities at Kenyon College. Founded in 1824, Kenyon is the oldest private institution of higher education in Ohio, so it’s easy to imagine it is host to a few ghosts.
There are at least a dozen ghost stories at Kenyon. Any of the tales could open with the Gates of Hell, the stone pillars at the beginning of Middle Path or the trail leading through the heart of the campus. But no one seems to know how the posts got that name and Professor Shutt has some almost true stories to tell.
Almost true? Well, at a liberal arts college, truth can be relative, especially in philosophy class. But as the professor explains, the most popular stories are based on real events — deaths, that is. After all, a ghost is a disembodied soul.
Before sharing one of his stories, though, Shutt explained how he became the storyteller.
Over 25 years ago, the president of the college held a cocktail party and the guests enjoyed it so much they stayed for hours. The president decided he needed entertainment to persuade guests to leave his home for another attraction.
The development office came up with the idea of telling ghost stories. A student knew the professor had done some acting, so he was asked. He agreed, and was a huge success. Originally, he dressed up and pretended to be a ghost.
But, he emphasized, there are “real” ghosts, at least stories of them.
“I did it again and again, but it got out of hand,” Shutt said. He was asked to do too many engagements. So he reduced it to four events a year: Twice at Halloween, once during Alumni Weekend and then for graduation. That’s enough, he says.
Fortunately, the good professor agreed to tell a tale, just the outline of events, in the spirit of Halloween.
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