The crypt that is Wittenberg’s archive houses some eerie stories, from Hilda Sipes perishing in the Woodlawn Hall fire of 1928, to the spirit of a Civil War horse trotting through Myers’ fifth floor. But where did the puzzle piecing of these legends begin?
The Society for Extraordinary Phenomena (SEP) was founded by Richard Gordon III, Wittenberg class of 2007, during his sophomore year. The society gathered students and faculty to discuss and analyze an array of supernatural topics; former Professor of Psychology Josephine Wilson (now retired from Wittenberg) and Gordon would often discuss “Extra Sensory Perception in neuropsychology research.” Studying UFO cases and examining evidence of unsolved cases also became part of their discourse.
Gordon was part of the Dayton Ghost Hunters Society in high school, where he said they “used EMF/infrared and EVP (electronic voice phenomena) and other video recording measures.” He continued by saying, “We didn’t do any of that “talking to spirits” stuff. I got out of it because I felt it was not scientific enough.”
Upon coming to Wittenberg, Gordon “knew there was an interest for real knowledge and discussion about a plethora of issues related to the scientific investigation of so called paranormal phenomena.” With experience from the Dayton Ghost Hunters Society and the help of faculty minds, Gordon was able to “introduce a more critical thinking and scientific approach to things and events outside of the mainstream.”
As part of the SEP, Gordon “personally investigated any reported hauntings and there was one time in Woodlawn where I witnessed something strange, but I didn’t report it as it could have been a hallucination.” Gordon had seen <<waiting for info>>
However, Gordon did add, “a number of students admitted to me that they did indeed see a “woman in white” that fitted the description of Hilda [Sipes].” The Springfield Fire Journal discloses how Sipes was found by firefighters “clad in a nightgown, in a bathroom “stretched flat on the floor between the bathtub and the wall,” said Fire Captain Ed Garrity of the Central Engine House, quoted by the Springfield Daily News.” The most common reports of slamming bathroom stalls and a lingering white figure suit the report’s, and Gordon’s, findings.
The SEP made headway in figuring out what started the fire that May 15, going so far as reaching the police officers and firefighters who were at the scene. By his investigations, Gordon concluded a cigarette started the fire; curiously, none of the girls in the hall smoked, but it happened to be the night of fraternity serenades. A member of one of the fraternities was seen smoking that night, but tossed his cigarette to serenade the now haunted house. Little concrete evidence is available to empirically put the story to rest, but the SEP’s efforts managed to reveal truth in the tale.
But it seems the fall of the SEP is as mysterious as the cases it pursued. When the organization disbanded, and when their efforts to make the clairvoyant tangible ceased are details unknown. While the ghastly subjects of their investigations continue to resurface each year, perhaps the SEP will also resurrect.