The Jennings Mansion in its heyday
As Halloween draws near, students at Bennington College think of the places on campus that are speculated to be haunted. Of course, there is the Jennings music building, once the Jennings Mansion, which was donated to the College by the Jennings family in 1939. The story goes that Mrs. Jennings, the matriarch, was confined to a wheelchair for the last years of her life, and she died under mysterious circumstances when her wheelchair rolled off the balcony. “To this day,” the Tapped In admissions blog reports, “music students claim they hear weird noises at all times of night–moans and crashes. Late at night, if you go downstairs to the basement cages, there is a wheelchair banging endlessly against the metal bars.” Jennings is often mentioned on websites devoted to hauntings in the area and mysterious phenomena like the Bennington Triangle.
Thankfully, Jennings is somewhat removed from main campus (this is unfortunate, though, for the music students who brave the eight-minute walk in the winter in sub-zero temperatures). There are also other buildings on campus that have eerie auras about them. Booth House, home to some thirty students, is one such building. There are stories about Black Masses, animal sacrifice, and maybe even murder. Underneath the rug in the common room is a Pentagram carved into the wood floor. The Pentagram was originally created in the 80s, at the height of the alleged Satanic activity. Though Booth is populated by mild-mannered students today, the Pentagram has become a somewhat ironic symbol of house community.
Even so, in the late hours of the night, especially this time of year, the Pentagram makes some people in Booth feel uneasy.
The Pentagram in Booth house at night
In searching through the digital archive we found this curious “Letter to the Community” in The Bennington Weekly from November 2, 1951. Apparently the residents of Swan House had staged a Black Mass of their own on “Hallowe’en” or, as it was more commonly called then, “All Hallow’s Eve.” They take great pains to explain the Druidic roots of the holiday and cite the forced conversion of Pagan worshippers under Pope Gregory the Great (circa 540-604 C.E.). “[O]us presentation of the black mass,” the letter claims, “was intended to cause no more than an awareness of the primitive spirit and origin of our celebrated holiday.” That might be true, or it could be that Black Mass has a longer history at Bennington than anyone realizes.
Happy Halloween from all of us at Literary Bennington!