Video: Cabrini ghosts: Fact or Fiction?

By Jessica Marrella
October 28, 2004

It was a frosty night at Cabrini College in the winter of 1966. Lacking Saturday night dates, a group of girls gathered in a dorm and began to create a chilling story of forbidden love and deathly consequences. Little did they know this legend would still haunt the halls of Cabrini and be retold again and again nearly 40 years later.
The Durrance family, who occupied the mansion near the turn of the 20th century, is the source of the haunting tales. John Durrance forbid his daughter to see Xavier, the families stable boy. Despite her father’s disapproval, the Durrance daughter continued to see Xavier and wound up pregnant with his child.
One version of the story is that after John Durrance found out that his daughter was pregnant, she committed suicide killing both herself and the baby by throwing herself off the balcony inside the mansion. It is said that when the rug is rolled back, blood seeps through the hard wood floor at the sight of her death.
Another version of the story is that under all the stress the girl went into labor early and the baby was stillborn. The baby was then buried in the apple orchard behind what is now Woodcrest. Rumors have it that at night you can see the daughter wearing a blue dress searching for her baby where the apple orchard used to be asking people if they have seen her baby.
A third version of the ghost story is that after John Durrance found out that his daughter was pregnant, he went looking for Xavier. Xavier caught word of this, and before John Durrance reached him, Xavier had already committed suicide by hanging himself in the bell tower of the stable, better known now as Grace Hall.
Apparently, the room where Xavier committed suicide is blocked off and a piece of rope still hangs from the rafters. It is also said that on the first snow fall of every year, one can see John Durrance walking from the mansion to Grace Hall with a rifle in his hands.

At their 35th reunion, the girls of 1966 confessed to Martha Dale, Director of Alumni Affairs, that they completely fabricated all of the ghost stories. They are amazed that nearly forty years later the same stories still circulate around Cabrini’s campus. The ladies take complete credit for the stories, but students today vouch to ghost sightings and encounters and chalk them up to anything but a silly fictional story.
Mary Burgess, freshman Woodcrest resident, admits to having an encounter with a ghost. According to Burgess, she saw a bright light coming from her microwave in the middle of the night. “I saw this blue light with a silver orb in the middle that kept getting brighter and brighter,” Burgess said. After that, Burgess turned away from the light and then heard a pounding on the door, the walls and on the ceiling.
Christina Clark, also a freshman Woodcrest resident, also claims to having ghostly experiences. Clark says that pictures mysteriously turn around and that in the middle of the night her roommates’ desk lamp and hair straightener turns on without anyone touching them.
Dale finds it hard to believe that ghosts would be haunting Woodcrest dormitory because the building didn’t exist at the time that the Durrances’ owned the land, in fact, nothing was in the space that Woodcrest occupies now. According to rumors, though, the ghost is the daughter searching for her baby amongst the dorms.
Some administration members that work in the mansion have admitted to feeling a “ghostly presence,” Dale said. All encounters with the ghost, or ghosts, are friendly ones.

According to Dale, there is no factual basis for the ghost stories. The Durrances’ had two daughters who are both accounted for in records. However, if the stories are true, it would have made for quite a scandal in the early 1900s because of the drastically different social classes that the girl and stable boy belonged to. In that respect, it makes sense that the family would do whatever possible to keep the incident a secret.
Cabrini makes the top ten list for the most haunted colleges. It makes sense for some to be able to disregard these stories completely. For many, it isn’t until they find themselves alone at night walking behind the mansion or in their room that they begin to question the possibility of ghosts on campus.

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Jessica Marrella

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