#ThrowbackThursday: Tale of a haunting

The location where Alice was supposedly burned at the stake and haunts every first full moon of every summer. (Caitlin Williams | Concordiensis)

If you are a Harry Potter fan, you are probably familiar with the character Myrtle Warren, better known as Moaning Myrtle.

For those who don’t know her, she is a ghost who haunts the girls’ first floor lavatory in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Union supposedly has its own “ghost” that haunts Jackson’s Garden, and her name is Alice Van der Veer.

The young Alice supposedly lived in the Schenectady area during the late 17th century.

She was in search of a man to wed even though her father threatened to kill any man who came near her.

In 1672, a young suitor ignored her father’s threats and sought to win her heart, according to Union’s website.

On the first full-moon of the summer of 1672, Alice’s father, who, according to New York Quarterly, was” a quick-tempered old fellow, as irascible an old curmudgeon as ever chased an ardent suitor from the side of an attractive daughter,” found her with the young man and shot him dead.

The town people, unaware of the commotion, supposedly formed a mob and sought to bring peace.

The mob found the father and burned him at the stake and shortly after found Alice hiding where Jackson’s Gardens is today and also burned her.

This “history” manifested itself into a ghost story claiming that the first full moon of every summer Alice haunts the grounds where she was murdered.

According to Union’s website the story has been featured in Life magazine, tabloid magazine The Sun, and several websites dealing with the supernatural.

Yet this ghostly tale has very little factual proof. Wayne Somers, the editor of the “Encyclopedia of Union College History,” dismissed this as a silly story writing. He stated, “the story is probably more correctly classified as modern fiction than as legitimate folklore.”

Phil Wajda, Director of Media and Public Relations, did some research into the story.

He discovered that no such event of Alice’s murder occurred in Schenectady.

Along with Wajda, Kate White, Class of 1972, found very little evidence to back up the story. According to Union’s website, the former editor of Cosmopolitan and best-selling author is still fascinated by the story and legend of Union’s ghost.

In this writer’s opinion, the only ghost Union can boast about is Shayne Gostisbehere.


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