Godden Hall, where the ghost legend started.
n any given day, the campus of Harding University in Searcy bustles with the quick pace of busy students. Puffs of wind scatter the autumn-painted leaves on crisp fall afternoons. Only occasionally do the students stop dead in their tracks, chills running up and down their spines at the sight of a young woman, dressed in white lace, sweeping by them, following the path of old bricks leading to the music building.
According to Arthur Shearin, Harding University music professor, a campus legend is that the young woman, lovingly nicknamed “Gertie Sue” by former students, wanders the campus.
“Gertie Sue” supposedly was a student attending Galloway Women’s College, which occupied the grounds where Harding University is now. Apparently one night she wandered out of her room, accidentally fell into an elevator shaft in Godden Hall, and died.
Galloway merged with Hendrix College in Conway; Harding College, then in Morrilton, bought the Galloway campus and buildings, and the old Godden Hall was torn down. Bricks from the old building were used in the construction of the new music building, which was built some 300 yards from the old hall’s site. Some of the bricks were also used to make a brick pathway from the old site to the new one.
A former student, whom we’ll call “Thomas,” said that people still see her today. When he was attending Harding, Thomas and some of his audio-engineering friends locked themselves into the recording booth of the music room to “see what would happen.” He said all was quiet until around 1 a.m.
“Then some strange things started happening. We heard footsteps in the room,” he said. “We recorded the sounds. Now I’m not one who believes in ghosts, but I can’t say what that was.” They played the tape for friends, he said; some who heard it said they could’ve made those sounds themselves.
Thomas says the woman can be seen walking on the path back and forth between the new building and the old site and can also be seen inside the buildings.
This is one account of ghostly happenings at Harding. Richard Young, author of the compilation Ghost Stories from the Southwest, tells of another.
The story, “The Ghost on the Third Floor,” tells of a tradition at Harding University in which a “ghostly piano player practices by night.” According to the story, people on the second floor of the music building can hear a piano being played on the floor above them. But there is no third floor…
The music’s source, according to the campus legend, is this. A young woman and man who were in love came from the same town to attend Harding. Both were majoring in music. Soon after school began, the story goes, the young man died in a car accident. The young woman could not be consoled, and many times climbed to the third floor of the old music building to play the piano, sing and grieve.
Soon afterward, she died, apparently from loneliness and brief, before the semester was over. Though years have passed, and the old music building has been torn down and a new one built in its place, people say they still hear her playing above them.
Though the stories are different, the immortal presence of the woman still wanders mysteriously on the campus throughout the years.