Stephens College sorority preps for 11th annual Haunted Tour

Some locations on the Stephens campus are rumored to be haunted.

Every time Halloween season rolls around, haunted houses open their doors for fear-seekers to explore their elaborately scary environments. But here in Columbia, fans of ghost stories can visit locations that are actually rumored to be haunted.

The Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority at Stephens College hosts their Haunted Tour every October, taking anyone willing to face their fears to spots on campus where hauntings supposedly occurred. The college is one of the oldest places in Columbia, and its history includes a psychiatric ward and interactions with Civil War soldiers, so there is a strong foundation for spooky stories.

This is the tour’s 11th year, and Stephens junior Alexa Ochoa has been a tour guide for all three years she’s attended the school. There are about nine other tour guides who work in groups of two to lead small groups of people, as well as sorority members who get in costume and play roles to add to the fear factor of the tour.

“Even having to go through it for two years, I still get scared,” Ochoa said. “It’s still scary, I still jump. So it’s definitely worth going to. We actually had last year a couple people who were almost in tears and we had to walk them back to the beginning.”

The stories are based on real ghost stories passed down by people who have attended or worked at Stephens.

“There’s some professors that have been there for quite a while that will say ‘I’ve heard things, I’ve seen things,’ and every year we try to add our own touch,” Ochoa said. “Like stories that we’ve heard we’ll tell throughout the tour, that are not really set in stone, but we do like to make it personal. So, as many stories as we get, we tell.”

Ochoa’s had her own experiences with the eerie on campus.

“My freshman year, I was on the fourth floor [of my residence hall], and there were five floors in the hall that I was at, but the fifth floor wasn’t open,” she said. “And me and my roommate would constantly hear like, not necessarily walking, but noises upstairs that would kind of scare us, but I never thought anything of it.”

Later, she said she heard more from one of her professors. He worked in the basement of one of the buildings on campus, and found that doors that he had closed earlier that night were mysteriously open.

“He’s like, ‘I don’t believe in Paranormal Activity type stuff,’ but he was like, ‘That had me scared,’” Ochoa said. “And he’s said he’s heard doors slam before down there, and he knows he’s the only one down there because it’s only him and another professor that had their offices down there, so that’s scary. It’s just kind of like that weird, creepy vibe that you get. Especially late at night, which is why we try to do it at night … It definitely gets really eerie.”

After her experiences at Stephens, Ochoa believes there’s some truth to the rumors of haunting.

“I have heard things, and I mean, if you’re there at night, you get the feeling that it’s very eerie and haunted-feeling,” Ochoa said. “But I don’t know, I’d say yes, [Stephens is haunted]. Just because all the stories I’ve heard, and I’ve heard little things here and there myself, but I’ve never seen a ghost or anything like that.”

Preparation for the tour began last year, with early efforts including asking businesses for donations and booking locations on campus for the event. Tour guides receive their stories to practice about a week in advance. The day of, Tri Sigma members begin prep three hours before the tour begins.

The Haunted Tour is the sorority’s philanthropy event, so all proceeds raised go to Tri Sigma’s two philanthropies, the Robbie Paige Memorial Fund and March of Dimes.

“I like it because it’s so unique,” Ochoa said. “I know a lot of sorority philanthropies are midnight dinners, midnight breakfasts and kindergarten dinners. But ours is very homey to us, because it’s something that not a lot of other campuses can do, just because our school comes with so much history it’s easy to kind of build off of that, and it’s a fun time for us. It’s just really fun, it’s really close to Halloween, and just to get dressed up and scare people with a bunch of your closest friends is super fun.”

The Tri Sigma 11th annual Haunted Tour starts in the basement of Roblee Hall and goes all around the Stephens campus. Tickets can be bought in advance on the Stephens campus, from a member of Tri Sigma for $5 or at the door for $7.

The event is on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

Edited by Katie Rosso | krosso@themaneater.com

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