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Some say ghost haunts Pearce Auditorium at Brenau University
Revelations of fact and fiction about apparition called Agnes
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A legend exists of a woman who haunts Pearce Auditorium at Brenau University in Gainesville. The ghost is named Agnes, and many students and alumnae have stories about her. - photo by Kristen Oliver

There is a legend of a woman who haunts the historic Pearce Auditorium at Brenau University.

Some say she was a Brenau student. Some say she was heartbroken over an unrequited love of a professor. Some say she hung herself, and that her name was Agnes.

Whether those things are true remains to be proved. But if you ask Kathy Amos, she’ll say one thing is certain: There is a ghost at Brenau.

Amos, the executive director of Brenau’s adult education program BULLI, said the legend of Agnes goes back decades. And Agnes is known to haunt Pearce Auditorium, part of the large, pale-pink building at the heart of the campus.

“There is a ghost in Pearce Auditorium,” Amos said. “There is at least one, but probably two or three.”

THE LEGEND OF AGNES

Amos said several Agnes stories have been passed down through the years.

“The one that we have talked about more than any of them was the fact that she was supposed to be a music student who fell in love with a professor,” Amos said. “She thought she was going to marry him, and he married another woman.”

Another legend states Agnes was a student distraught over not getting into a sorority, Amos said. More legends exist, but one detail has always remained the same.

“The story has always been that she hung herself from the diving board from the pool under the auditorium,” Amos said. “The trouble is, there was never a pool under the auditorium.”

Amos said a pool was in Pearce at one point in the women’s college’s 138-year history. But it was never beneath the stage. And it was much too shallow for a diving board.

Debbie Thompson, director of the Center for Greek Life and Campus Traditions, said the stories of a ghost in Pearce date back to the early 1940s.

“I’ve talked to students, alumnae (who) graduated in the ’40s, and they were experiencing things within the residence halls,” Thompson said. “Gusts of cold air, doors closing or slamming when nobody was around — it was different things like that. Things they couldn’t explain.”

Thompson said one of the most common occurrences was seeing “just a glimpse” of someone walk quickly behind them in the mirror when they did their hair in the morning. But when the students turned around, no one was there.

“These are all just stories, of course,” Thompson said. “They’re just things passed down from alumnae.”

Another eerie story came from a student in the ’40s who had been saving pennies in a jar. She returned from class one day to find the jar had been knocked over and pennies had spilled all across the floor.

“She was upset and kind of angry,” Thompson said. “She got down and started picking them up, when she noticed all the pennies were on their heads.”

More recently, Thompson said she’s heard students complain of computers coming on in the middle of the night after they’d been properly shut down.

The most common complaint in Pearce Auditorium is the lights being turned on after the building is properly shut down and locked each day.

“The theory was that Agnes did not like the dark,” Thompson said. “But it’s easy to say to anything that happens, ‘Blame it on Agnes.’ That’s what ghost stories are about.”

VERIFYING AGNES

Still, Thompson and Amos remain convinced of the ghost’s presence.

Amos said multiple ghost-hunting groups have visited the campus over the years, some to verify Agnes’ existence and others to debunk the theory.

“In each case, we have had evidence that there is something there,” Amos said. “We keep trying to figure out the who or the what.”

Amos said the school has no indication of a student named Agnes attending Brenau, and certainly no record of a student by that name committing suicide in a building.

But when asked if she’s ever had an experience in Pearce, Amos replied, “Oh, yes.”

She said EVP recordings, or electronic voice phenomena, reveal an entity talking. That’s how she’s certain something is there.

Amos said she thinks the story of Agnes has been so popular on campus because people like to believe in proof of “something else, something beyond.”

“We think if we can find something tangible that points to a life after, there’s something comforting about that,” she said.

Thompson agreed.

“I believe in her, and I think she really shows herself when people don’t believe in her,” she said.

Thompson used to do tours, leading groups through Pearce Auditorium and telling the story of Agnes. She was doing this tour one day standing just below the stage when, “all of a sudden,” the tour group started pointing to the stage and exclaiming.

“There was glitter coming down from the catwalk above the stage,” Thompson said. “Almost like it was snowing, coming down big time.”

More than six months earlier, a play in the auditorium had used artificial snow for a winter scene. Thompson said it is reasonable to assume some of it was left on the catwalk and a gust of wind or air conditioning blew it suddenly off.

“That’s the logical explanation,” she said. “But I tend to think Agnes was trying to show the group I was talking to that she was there and listening. And I thanked her for it.”

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