notre dame university

Since we’re all in quarantine, I thought I’d share a few more places from my youth that really had an impact on me and led to my now adult obsession with history and urban exploration. I’ll start with one of my hometown haunts.

I did not attend Notre Dame University as a student, but my mom worked there in administration for basically the first 20 years of my life, so the campus in some ways became a second home for me throughout my childhood. I remember spending quite a few weekends there wandering the halls of the main building while she would put in extra hours in her office. I even got to do an interview for a high school history project with Father Theodore M. Hesburgh on his work with the Civil Rights Movement before he passed away. Looking back, I totally did not appreciate all the history I had at my fingertips back then!

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One of my favorite memories and first urban explorations, although I guess I’d consider this a little bit more just plain old snooping, happened right after the big renovations of the main building were wrapping up and people were just starting to move their offices back in. On this particular weekend, my dad and I were waiting around on my mom to finish something in her new office which happened to be on one of the upper floors. Typical of my dad (I think I must get the trespassing gene from him), he found the door that leads up into the inside of the dome left ajar by some of the remaining workmen. I’ll never forget how cool I felt climbing those winding stairs with my dad, seeing all the signatures on the wall by fellow mischief makers who had gone before and signing my name there right with them. Being the late 90s, we had no cell phone pics to document our little discovery so I’ll steal a couple off the internet to show you what it looked like. I’d have to say after that day, the urge to see inside locked doors definitely grew stronger within me haha.

These next few photos, one of the outside of the dome, and 3 of the beautiful interior artwork, I took myself when I visited last spring. Honestly, this is such a photogenic campus.

As far as hauntings go, there are 3 main campus ghost stories that have survived the tests of time and are generally agreed upon(by those who believe anyways). First, is the legend of “The Gipper”, the star football player who stayed out too late past curfew and was locked out of his dorm. When he couldn’t find a way in, he spent the night outside in the cold on the stairs of Washington Hall and contracted pneumonia from which he eventually died in 1920. Although he’s the most famous ghost of Washington Hall, there have been other deaths- including a steeplejack who is said to have fallen to his death and a student professor who died there. Many students and faculty claim to have seen & heard odd, unexplainable visions and noises throughout the performance hall especially on overnight investigations.

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Along with The Gipper, many claim that the founder of Notre Dame himself, Father Edward Sorin still wanders the campus, south dining hall and the main administration building frequently. Father Sorin passed away on the Halloween of 1893.

GCSC 4/30: Portrait of Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC, c1880s. Photo by McDonald Studio.

Now, I personally can attest to the feeling of being watched in the halls of the main building, but that may have something to do with the giant portraits of priests that literally do glare down at you, or the obnoxious murals of Christopher Columbus (which are either already taken down by now or in the works to be removed last time I heard, due to their distasteful portrayal of historical events).

And lastly, and honestly probably the most likely contributor of all campus paranormal activity, is the fact that some of the campus buildings are believed to be built on top of Potawatomi Indian burial grounds- and we all know how well it works to build things on top of sacred burial grounds.

In conclusion, a university as old and steeped in spirituality and history as Notre Dame is, is bound to have some lingering energies. What exactly they are, we have yet to pin point. I personally love this campus and if you have the chance to visit, I highly reccommend- especially as a photographer. Happy Wandering!