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HISTORY CORNER: Stanford’s haunted past

Stanford has a darker history that its palm trees and mission-style arcades suggest. From a string of unsolved murders in the 1970s to rumors that the idea for the University came during a séance, the campus has its fair share of encounters with the eerie and the supernatural. In honor of Halloween, The Daily takes a look at some of the spookier, gloomier and scarier moments of Stanford’s history.

Murder in Memorial Church

On Oct. 12, 1974, Steve Crawford of the Stanford Police Department closed and locked all the doors to Memorial Church. But when he returned in the morning, Crawford would discover not only an unlocked door, but also the corpse of Arlis Perry, who lay nude from the waist down, violated with a candlestick, near the altar of the church.

The homicide of Arlis Perry, a 19-year-old from Bismarck, N.D., who had just been married to sophomore premedical student Bruce Perry, has remained one of the most tragic and enduring mysteries of the Stanford campus.

The day after the crime, investigating officers said there was no evidence to link Arlis’s murder with four other slayings that had occurred during the past year and a half (“Police Find No Evidence To Link Campus Killings,” Oct. 14, 1974). One of those murders — the death of physics student David S. Levine, who was stabbed to death between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Sept. 11, 1973, while walking near Meyer Library — was believed to have been the work of a satanic cult called Death Angels.

Two days after the murder, a Santa Clara County spokesperson told The Daily that the case was “definitely a sex crime,” but that there was no evidence of a “ritualistic ‘black mass’ slaying” (“No Suspects Yet in Murder Case,” Oct. 15, 1974).

Husband Bruce Perry emerged as the primary suspect for a short time, but was ruled out, according to a 2004 San Jose Mercury News article. In June 2012, The Great Plains Examiner published an article suggesting that a secret cult called The Process Church may have been responsible.

Ghost in Tresidder Memorial Union

Those who work at Tresidder Memorial Union have long held that the site is haunted, according to Jeanette Smith-Laws, director of operations and student unions.

When opened in 1962, Tresidder was the home of a 14-lane bowling alley, which was located in the southwest corner of the building. While the University eventually closed the alley down in the 1980s when it no longer became profitable, campus legend has it that one of the facility’s maintenance workers continues to haunt the grounds after being mangled by the pin machine.

“People come out of there running sometimes,” said Howard Konrad, who has been a barber at Stanford Hair for the past 28 years. “I’ve seen it happen three or four times.”

According to fellow hair stylist Marjorie Guidry, Jamba Juice workers — along with one of her co-workers’ dog — often refuse to enter a narrow corridor leading to the storage room, which currently occupies the space where the bowling alley once was.

Séances with Jane Stanford

In an 1891 statement, Jane Stanford rejected the notion that the decision to found Stanford came during an séance, according to a Stanford Magazine article published in 2000. Earlier that year, Maud Lord Drake had claimed that she was the medium that brought Jane and Leland Stanford the supernatural revelation that they should establish a university.

Despite her protests, there exists confirmation that the Stanfords attended séances in Paris after the death of their son. They also attended a séance in New York City in 1884 with their friends, former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife.

Death of Mausoleum Watchman

The current site of the Stanford family mausoleum was initially intended as the site of their Palo Alto country home — until the unexpected death of Leland Stanford Jr. in 1884.

Ten years later, a watchman died in the guardhouse overlooking the mausoleum, prompting The Daily Palo Alto (now The Stanford Daily) to run an article stating that the “successor to new guard is superstitious.” Judy Adams, a librarian at the University Archives, told The Daily in 1986 that she “remembered a day when she wanted to have a picnic on the lawn in front of the mausoleum” only to have a friend warn her that there were rumors of a “man who jumped from the bushes near the mausoleum with a knife.” (“Stanford tomb alive with mystery,” Oct. 31, 1986).

  • sonya friedman

    I was a Stanford undergrad when Arlis Perry was murdered. At that time, Santa Clara County had the highest unsolved murder rate in the country. Her murder was thought to be linked to some of the others, but law enforcement never solved the crime.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.moffatt.14 Robert Moffatt

    I think it was A medical student with knowlage of paralizing the victum with the ice pick then made to look like A ritualistic murder pretty sloppy police work how many girls wander out there on saturday nite at that time alone?