The Hartmann Center has worn many hats over the years and some believe that remnants of its history still reside in the building.
It was constructed in 1909 as the Hewitt Gymnasium, with an indoor track, swimming pool and a basketball court that seated 1,200 spectators. During World War I and World War II, it served as an army barracks and an officers’ headquarters. Finally, in 1979, it became the Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts as we know it today.
Through the years, the Hartmann Center has gained a reputation as a haunted theater, and descriptions of the entities that are rumored to wander the building are included in the Department of Theater Arts Student Handbook. Four ghosts supposedly coexist with students and faculty that use the Hartmann Center.
-The Whompus: This is a goblin-like creature who finds it entertaining to mess up the technical equipment in the theater. It is rumored that he was once trapped in a box by students and faculty, but was accidentally released by a student who didn’t know what was in the box.
-The Man in the Brown Suit: This man supposedly died in an accident when the Hartmann Center was still a gym. He resides in the catwalks of the theater. It is very rare that he is ever seen, but if he is, remember that he likes to be left alone. His presence is indicated by chilly drafts and a haze of cigar smoke.
-The Lady in White: She resides in the building’s lower and upper lobbies and, on very rare occasions, on the Meyer Jacobs stage. She often makes herself known to wandering students. It is rumored this ghost was a local performer from long ago. While she is not dangerous, she can become very possessive of certain students she admires. For example, she will make shadows during rehearsals or show run-throughs if she feels technical elements are not safe for people to be around or in.
-The Little Boy in the Pit: This ghost is the hardest one to see, mostly because he only shows up when you are alone. He resides in the orchestra pit, which used to be the swimming pool in Hewitt Hall. It is rumored that he drowned in the pool and his spirit never left. Often seen by crew members manning the trap door or actors who are waiting for their cue, it seems he is just lonely and looking for someone to play with.
Some students say they have experienced the ghosts firsthand.
“I have encountered some of the indications of the presences, like the chilly drafts for no reason, technical equipment failing for no reason, stuff like that,” said senior theater arts major Ariel Hartman. “There were a few times when I was very much alone in the building while stage managing a show and I heard someone sneeze, and I do believe I have seen or seen a sign from the little boy in the pit.”
Hartman said others may think these are just rumors, but not her.
“As for me, personally, I totally believe in these ghosts,” she said. “Call me crazy, but this stuff is real.”