The Curious Truth:Ghosts and haunted mysteries of St. Bonaventure
A lounge may end mystery.
By JOYCE PAVIA
They say there’s a ghost on campus. Willie Cooper. His name is engraved on the memorial to alumni veterans who died during World War II. It is between Devereux Hall and the post office. Although the copper name plates of other soldiers have turned green with age. Willie’s has not been marred by the elements. In fact, the copper plate looks brand new.
Some say he is the ghost of De La Roche Hall. But the ghost of Willie, clad in a bloody uniform, was said to have visited another place on campus, Fifth Dev.
Last month, Fifth Dev became a focus on campus when an “explosion” shocked the dorm, forcing its residents to evacuate the building temporarily. The cause remains a mystery, perhaps to turn into another Fifth Dev rumor. If it does it would join those tales of black masses, murders, exorcisms, and Willie Cooper.
While Dev offers one small lounge for more than 500 residents the roof floor of the building, Fifth Dev, remains vacant. But less than 30 years ago, students were housed on the floor’s east wing. And during the last decade, a recreation room and study lounge were available for student use. Now it is possible the floor will be opened as a lounge.
When construction of Dev began in 1926 the building was intended to house a little more than 250 students, under ordinary conditions…”It will be possible to accommodate about 400 if necessary.” (The St. Bona Venture, Nov. 19, 1926)
Students began to live in Dev in 1928. About 150 residents occupied the second, third and fourth floors. Professors and newly ordained priests lived on the first floor. The west wing of Dev was added to the main structure in the summer of 1930.
Dev’s full potential as a dormitory for students was reduced on May 9, 1930 when a fire destroyed the campus church, monastery and seminary. Dev became the temporary quarters for the friars and seminarians until the new friary was dedicated in 1961.
Because friars and seminarians occupied the first floor and half of the second floor, the number of students who could live in Dev was reduced. The roof floor, which was intended for use by students as club rooms, became a temporary residence.
“The floor (Fifth Dev) was never intended for housing, but the fire caused a need for more space,” said the Rev. Daniel Hurley, OFM, coordinator of freshman students and alumni services. Freshman football players were housed on the floor in the late 30’s.
Fr. Dan said students lived on Fifth Dev until the mid 50’s. At that time, rooms were made available for students when seminarians moved off the first and second floors.
“It was like a military barrack,” said Larry Ford, director of personnel. When Ford was an undergraduate (Class of ’62), students were still living on Fifth Dev in the beginning of the semester. “About 25 students lived up there for four to six weeks, or until rooms became available on the residence floors,” he said.
The new friary made more space in Dev available for more students. As the need for the “barracks” diminished, the rooms on the east wing of Fifth Dev were locked. Ford said the west wing still was used for storage and as a study and television lounge. Fraternities began using Fifth Dev for meetings between 1963 and 1964, Ford said.
The closed east wing became the object of many rumors. Stories circulated about an exorcism, a murder and a black mass that supposedly took place in the early ‘60s.
An exorcism did not take place, but a “kind of desecration” did, said the Rev. Alphonse Trabold, OFM, assistant professor of theology. “Some kids stole some unconsecrated hosts from the friary downstairs and got hold of a few books on the subject,” he said. What happened isn’t clear, but Fr. Trabold said on participant “became scared and reported the incident to the University.”
Another gruesome tale depicts a murder on the floor. “I heard the University tried to cover it up,” on University staff member said. The Bona Venture did report a murder in 1938. The headline read “BLOODSHED, BUTCHERY MARK DEV MURDER.” The murderess, a cat named Flavian Muttendagger was found guilty of first degree manslaughter in the death of an innocent mouse.
No evidence of the mysterious rumors was found when the east wing became a recreation area in the early ‘70s. The Devereux Hall Association, which was the forerunner of the dorm councils, initiated the establishment of the recreation room.
“No one was using Fifth Dev,” said William McCarthy, coordinator of alumni services. “The east area was carpeted, and the television was still intact.”
Thomas McElroy, director of public relations and sports information said the DHA and the University funded the recreation room. McElroy (Class of ’74) who as vice president of the DHA said the association installed vending machines and pool ping pong tables.
A typing and study lounge also was set up and student monitors were employed by the council. “It was a good thing to have in the building,” McElroy said. “It offered the students alternatives as a mini-student center. Before the floor was opened the lounge on First West, which was smaller, was the only lounge space for students.”
Former Dev resident Joe Flanagan, Dev residence director said the area was popular as a “good place to study” when he lived in the residence hall.
A few years after the floor was opened, it suddenly was closed. The reason for the disinterest in the recreation area is not clear. Former residents cite numerous factors for the closing of the floor, one being the expansion of the First Dev West lounge. “It was out of the main stream of the building,” McCarthy said. “It was great if you lived on Fourth East.”
McElroy said the turnover in the student development office and the formation of a stronger student government were decisive factors in closing the recreation area. “There’s more to do now than when I was a student,” he said. “The Student Activities Council gave more alternatives to the students.”
Once again all of Fifth Dev became a storage area. Although it is officially closed, many curious students find it a popular place to explore or to study. But the floor’s potential hasn’t been forgotten by many people on campus. This summer Flanagan asked Rober Watrous, coordinator of residence living, about reopening Fifth Dev as a lounge. Flanagan said the space is “potentially available.”
“It would have to be fixed up,” Flanagan said. “There isn’t enough lounge space in the dorm. It would give students a place to study without leaving the building. Meetings could be held up there and students could type without disturbing their roommates.”
The Rev. John McDowell, OFM, vice president for student development, said he agrees that Dev needs more lounge space. “Of all the dorms, Dev bothers me the most,” he said. “It’s the largest dorm on campus, and the lounge is only adequate for about 20 students.”
Although Fr. Jack said he thinks Fifth Dev is the logical place to develop a lounge because the pool and ping pong tables are still there, he is concerned about damage and fire safety.
“When I visited the floor, I saw punched in walls, ripped rugs and broken pieces of furniture,” he said.
IF Fifth Dev were opened as a lounge, some changes would have to be made to avoid its being a fire hazard. Flanagan said fire alarms would have to be installed on the floor. Fr. Jack said smoking and parties would be monitored by students.
The renovation of the floor in to a student area will not guarantee its success. Ford said he doubts Fifth Dev could succeed as a student center again. “The monitors might work at first, but the system will break down somewhere along the line,” he said. “As soon as the damage starts, it will be like a snowball rolling downhill.”
McElroy said the area could succeed “if the kids it.” He sees it “as a way to raise money and put it back into the dorm.”
This year, Dev dorm council is optimistic that the floor could be a success, said Tom Carducci, vice president of the council. “What is the difference between the lounge and Fifth Dev,” he asked. “People wouldn’t destroy it if it were done well. Lounges in other dorms are still in good condition.”
The Office of Student Development is concerned with the use of the floor. “We have to do something for the students of Dev,” Waltrous said. “Student development will be conducting feasibility studies to determine if the floor should be reopened. Fr. Jack said now is the time to act on the area.
Whatever the feasibility study concludes, one Dev resident may always remain on the roof floor. Willie Cooper.
October 12, 1978
Vol. L11 No. 6BACK