The Elevator Repairman Ghost

Bruce Hall is the oldest dormitory at the University of North Texas. Opened in February 1947 as a residence hall, it has persisted in its original function longer than any other dorm, including numerous ones that were built afterwards. It stands out from many of its neighbors, with its pitched roof, elaborate stonework, and hardwood flooring. And ghosts.

The building houses a small elevator, originally intended for freight but overused and abused as a public lift. The misuse of this elevator caused it to be shut down and sealed in the early 1970s. Its closing spawned one of the hall’s alluring legends — that three students died when the cab plummeted from the top floor into the basement, and that their spirits haunt the basement to this day. Even though the ghost story wasn’t true, it did not stop people from spreading it for many decades to come.

Many years passed, and along came…well, me. And except for a two-semester gap, I spent my entire college life living at Bruce Hall. I began as a resident, soon stumbled into hall association, and was later hired as a resident assistant. Amazingly enough, I tricked them into hiring me as the assistant hall director.

Before each semester, a massive amount of prep work is needed to get Bruce Hall into operational shape. And somehow, even though we had cleaned out the storage rooms just one year earlier, they would swell with the accumulated crap of the past twelve months.

So one fall, I enlisted the help of my resident assistants Tyler, Bill, Keith, and Dustin to clean out the storeroom that used to house the elevator machinery. Much of the day was spent tossing old boxes, sweeping mounds of dust, and (as boys are inclined to do) playing grab-ass.

At one point, I was standing in the doorway when a stocky middle-aged man walked past me. I didn’t see his face, but he was wearing an mechanic’s jumpsuit. Judging by the way he was surveying the area, I could tell he was looking for something.

I offered to assist. “Excuse me, sir? Can I help you?” The man turned to face me, and I immediately notice that his jumpsuit had a patch reading “United Elevator Repair Co.”

“Yes, sir, I got a call to fix an elevator at Bruce Hall,” he said with a chipper tone.

For the briefest of seconds, I was speechless. I was fully aware of the elevator’s past, as I was the amateur historian that researched it. I say, “Sir…the elevator hasn’t been working for nearly 30 years!”

The gentleman revealed only the slightest disappointment, but he politely responded, “Oh. Well, musta’ been a mistake,” turned around, and left down the hallway leading to the back door.

Why was someone here to fix an elevator that had been out of commission for decades?, I asked myself. I followed the man in order to get more information.

The repairman reached the end of the hall and disappeared around the corner. I rounded the same corner myself, went out the back door, and…nothing. He was gone. Now, he couldn’t have gone anywhere else but out that door! Since there’s nothing behind Bruce Hall besides an ocean of parking lots, he could not have been able to disappear anywhere without some sort of evidence.

Keep in mind that no one but me would have called in a work order for Bruce Hall. I walked back inside, went to the front desk, called our maintenance department, and asked our administrative assistant Bonnie about the mystery man. She confirmed that no work order had been called in. Bonnie asked what repair company he was from; I told her, and she exclaimed, “United Elevator Repair Company? The housing department hasn’t used them for nearly 20 years!”

Wanda, the Bruce Hall Ghost

Wanda's AtticIn February 1947, Bruce Hall opened its doors for the first time, becoming the largest female dormitory in the Southwest. It kept that distinction for many years thanks to its eleven wings and over four hundred co-eds. Bruce remained a single-sex facility well into the 1970s, and until that time it was administered by a series of dorm mothers known only by the feared moniker of “Ma Bruce.”

Each incarnation of “Ma Bruce” was there to enforce the strict and sometimes unfair morals which society demanded of women. These included obedience, respect for authority, and above all, no hanky-panky with men anywhere in the building. Violations guaranteed a trip to the dreaded Dean of Women, who legend says was called many things but never merciful. Most people did what they could to avoid and possibility of working up this chain of command.

In these early years, there lived in Bruce a resident named Wanda that ended up getting into significant trouble during the 1950s. She became pregnant during the era when legalized abortion wasn’t an option in Texas. Ashamed of her condition and not wanting anyone (including “Ma Bruce”) to find out, she hid the truth for as long as possible. Soon, she couldn’t get away with simple concealment, so she began hiding out in the A-wing attic.

This attic, perched atop the A300 wing, was accessible via a short steel door barely tall enough for a petite girl to walk through. Wanda practiced her secret routine for months, until finally came her labor. Locking herself inside the attic, she shuffled along a narrow catwalk, through a web of pipes and wires, until she reached the far end of that cavernous space. At the far end of the attic where she stood, a round window let in pale light reflecting off of the nearby chemistry building. And it was there that she died.

How Wanda died is speculation. Some believe that she died during childbirth, while others say that she passed away from despair. Those with a vivid imagination are sure that she suffered from complications from a self-administered abortion. Regardless, her spirit remains in the A-wing attic to this day, and anyone that honestly believes can experience her.

Over the years, students walking along the north side of Bruce Hall could spot that same round window at the eastern end of the A-wing attic. And many of them are sure that someone stood inside that window staring down at them. They remark that although the details are hard to discern, the person’s shilloutte was unmistakable. It was that of a young woman.