Dean of Haunting: Students recount spooks in Dutcher Hall

Dutcher Hall is said to be haunted by none other than Dr. Dean Dutcher himself. Students report multiple supernatural incidents happening during theater rehearsals. Julia Walters/Snapper.

Julia Walters
Associate News Editor

Millersville University has been established as a public university for over 150 long years. In those 150+ years, thousands upon thousands of people have crossed this campus and created their own lives and their own stories. While many have graduated and left, it is impossible to believe that all of these people have completely left this campus entirely. With such a rich and long history, it is not surprising that there are rumors of spirits still milling around their beloved alma mater.

Dutcher Hall, the university’s theater building, has been under intense speculation of ghostly activity. It was built in 1890, making it the oldest building on campus, which makes it most susceptible to the supernatural. The memories that once inhabited Dutcher are embedded in its very essence. Originally the school’s gymnasium, it was renamed in 1978 after Dr. Dean Dutcher, a professor of history at Millersville for over 25 years.

In the 1950s and 60s, Dutcher moved on from being a gym to a student center. Currently, it serves as an academic building for theater classes and a performance center for various smaller shows on campus.


Dr. Dean Dutcher’s portrait hangs in Dutcher Hall. Julia Walters/Snapper

Although Dr. Dutcher died back in 1974, some swear his spirit still wanders the decrepit halls. While talking with theater students, it is clear that this rumor has some solid belief behind it. Jacob Dickens, a sophomore, “very much” believes Dr. Dutcher’s spirit lives in the building. Dickens continued to tell a creepy occurrence that happened during this semester’s Short Plays show, which showed this past Saturday evening. “During Short Plays, [another theater student] knocked over a cup and it landed upright. So I blame Dr. Dutcher. That was Dutcher.”

Another student, Emily Myers, a junior, fervently believes in the ghost as well. When asked if she believes the building could even potentially be haunted, she took no hesitation in her response: “Oh yeah, all theaters are haunted. All theaters have at least one.” She attributes this to the fact that many theater buildings happen to be in older buildings, just like Dutcher Hall.

“There have just been times backstage where it felt like I was being watched and I was alone. I’d be waiting and I’d just feel eyes on me.”

Other testimonies include hearing footsteps and loud, rickety noises while no one else is supposed to be in Dutcher. Carolyn McGough, a senior, had an experience as recently as this past weekend. “I heard footsteps when I was here [Sunday] night.” She claims only one friend was in the room with her. “I definitely thought that there was someone else in the building.”

In recent months, not as much spooky activity has occurred in Dutcher, but McGough gave a theory on why that could be. “We had him pissed for awhile because we thought Dean was his title.” He prefers that we call him Dr. Dean Dutcher because that’s the correct title. He’s friendly unless you just call him Dean Dutcher. If you talk to or about him, you have to refer to him as Dr.”

It can be a confusing situation because Dean is a title at universities, referring to the head of a university department. However, in the case of Dr. Dutcher, his first name is actually Dean; he was never a department head. Students often mix this up when mentioning him because they mistakenly refer to him as simply Dean Dutcher, believing this is his title, rather than calling him Dr. Dutcher which is his official title because of his doctorate degree in philosophy.

Lisa Shaffer, a senior, explains this further, saying “When we were still calling him Dean Dutcher, the elevator would move on its own and we’d hear a lot of unexplained noises like footsteps in the next room when there wasn’t anyone there. We were reading some documents and realized that his full title was Dr. Dutcher and when we started calling him that instead, the weird spooky stuff stopped.”

Through all the random noises and footsteps, one specific situation truly solidified the existence of some sort of ghost lurking around Dutcher Hall. Taylor Onkst, senior and president of Citamard, relays this story which happened about three years ago during a production rehearsal. “Two guys were upstairs in Rafters [Theater] and talking about sending an empty elevator down as a joke to scare the people backstage.

They decided against it because that would be rude [to the people downstairs] since they were in a rehearsal. Meanwhile, downstairs, the elevator doors opened when no one had pressed the buttons. Later, when the two guys came down, they were automatically blamed for disrupting rehearsal. When they found out the elevator had opened, they freaked out because they had talked about doing it, but didn’t.”

While Dr. Dutcher doesn’t seem malicious in any way (though if students keep continually referring to him as Dean Dutcher, this characteristic may change), he does seem responsible for many mildly creepy incidences in the building, such as the slightly chilling elevator story. Dr. Dutcher seems content to simply creep out the students while probably engaging in a nice laugh over it somewhere in the afterlife. Onkst jokes, “Basically, Dean thinks he’s a comedy guru.”

However, not everyone believes in the reality of Dr. Dutcher’s spirit inhabiting Dutcher. Tina Stout, secretary for the building, is still a skeptic despite the testimonies. She claims that, while she has seen ghosts in the past, she has never seen one in Dutcher. “It’s fun for people to believe, but I don’t believe in a ghost here.”

Though she did disclose that in 2009, ghost hunters came to Millersville specifically to investigate Dutcher and confirmed that there was indeed ghost activity in the building. While Tina has yet to believe that any ghost, Dr. Dutcher or otherwise, haunts the hallowed halls of Dutcher, she and other non-believers must be awfully careful. Denying a spirit’s existence could be cause for feeling disrespected, which, in turn, can make them angry. If they disrespect Dr. Dutcher’s existence too much, he may prove his existence in a much more terrifying way than just footsteps and mysterious elevator rides.

Despite the skeptics, the students are the ones who know the truth. Jacob Dickens fervently believes: “You can’t have a theater without a ghost. I think that’s part of the requirement.” This doesn’t have to be a negative part of theater, however. After all, according to Dickens, “the darker the ghost, the better the shows.”