For Binghamton University’s Libby Tucker, an English professor and faculty master, a preoccupation with ghosts and horror isn’t just for the Halloween season, although it is her favorite holiday.
The paranormal has been a part of Tucker’s life from an early age. According to Tucker, her house in Maine was allegedly haunted by the spirit of her paralyzed great-uncle. Plus, stories about haunted houses circulated in the part of Washington, D.C. where she grew up.
Tucker first started working with supernatural legends as a doctoral student at Indiana University.
“I did some fieldwork with a local exorcist, a kind middle-aged woman who wanted to send troubled souls to heaven,” she said. “Her belief in spirits was so sincere that I wanted to learn more about ghost stories and related beliefs and practices.”
Tucker does most of her research by talking to people and recording their legends, either on tape or through email.
“It is always a great privilege to be given a story,” Tucker said. “Some of my own students have shared some wonderful stories with me. I have also gathered narratives by visiting archives where it is possible to copy collections made by folklore scholars and students.”
What intrigues Tucker most, however, is the enigma of the supernatural.
“A ghost’s activity after death seems mysterious and hard to understand,” Tucker said.
While it’s common these days for ghost hunters to go out at night with cameras, energy-measuring machines and other equipment, Tucker says she works solely with stories, records of supernatural traditions that have been important to people for years. She believes the media doesn’t do the supernatural world justice.
“Many TV shows sensationalize the supernatural, portraying it as one shocking event after another,” Tucker noted. “While that degree of excitement is extreme, I understand that the media need to sell their shows, and viewers tend to enjoy the surprise and stimulation.”
While she enjoys shows like “Medium” and “The X-Files,” she loves “The Twilight Zone” — created by Rod Serling, arguably Binghamton Central High School’s most famous alum.
“His TZ episode ‘Walking Distance’ is about the carousel in Recreation Park,” Tucker said. “Some folks say that Serling’s ghost haunts that carousel.”
Tucker said that there are several residence halls on our campus that have a substantial history of haunting.
O’Connor Hall in Dickinson Community is now used as an office building, but in years past was home to many Dickinson students. It houses the sub-basement where a student died, according to Tucker.
In Hinman College’s Cleveland Hall, a little girl named Lily supposedly runs through the floors giggling and playing tricks on students. Though now demolished, the old Broome Hall in Newing College was known to be home to a ghost that apparently got the attention of a student by writing “Em Pleh” on her computer screen.
After the publication of her first book, “Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses and Campus Legends,” she has gone on to publish her newest novel about the ghost and supernatural legends that have circulated amidst the Southern Tier.
“My latest book, ‘Haunted Southern Tier,’ includes three BU ghost stories,” Tucker said. “One about Dickinson, one about Susquehanna and one about WHRW.”
The new book can be purchased at the BU bookstore.