Local ghost enthusiasts discuss Corvallis’s most hair-raising haunts


Jacob Le, Photographer

Jen Waters, the executive director of the Whiteside Theatre, located at 361 SW Madison Ave., holding a picture frame of Lillian McElroy, a vaudeville star who is rumored to haunt the organ in the theater. McElroy is only one of a few ghosts that are said to linger around the Whiteside.

Adam Figgins, News Contributor

Rumors say that Corvallis, Ore.’s Whiteside Theatre is home to two commonly-seen ghosts—but the historic theater is not the city’s only haunted place.

Over the years, many rumors have spread about ghosts in Corvallis. What is sometimes not understood by ghost skeptics and non-believers is what makes people believe in these ghost stories. 

Executive Director of the Whiteside Jen Waters said some employees have seen ghosts in the past lurking around the theater.

The first is said to be the ghost of Lillian McElroy, who served as an organist at the Whiteside up until silent films transitioned to films with sound sometime in the 1920s; these were known as talkies. 

“She had to be let go because she was no longer needed as an organ player,” Waters said. “In the meantime she found out that her husband had been cheating on her so she went home and shot him and herself.”

Waters said people have claimed to see McElroy in the dressing room in the back of the theater.

“Our other ghost is Charles Whiteside, who was the younger brother of the two Whitesides that built the theater,” said Waters.

Whiteside died of a heart attack while walking to lunch and according to some, there is a seat up in the balcony of the theater where he liked to sit, and every now and then some say they have seen him.

Corvallis resident William McCoy is a sergeant in the Oregon National Guard and also a believer in ghosts. McCoy has only lived in Corvallis for two months and has not seen much in the way of paranormal activity in town, but keeps an open mind. McCoy said with how many stories and sightings have been reported he refuses to believe some of them are not real.

“I am curious about what is out there,” McCoy said. “Things I don’t know or can’t see I am naturally interested in. I believe in ghosts. I also believe that the human mind is a powerful thing. People have been known to manifest visions, hallucinations and hear things without inhibitors.”

With October upon Corvallis, some ghost believers may make their way to the Melon Shack, which offers typical fall festivities, and find themselves among the corn maze and people dressed as zombies, vampires and other Halloween creatures.

Jeremy Jahn has been overseeing a lot of the decoration at the Melon Shack, and he believes in ghosts as well. Jahn has had some negative experiences with ghosts in the past, and said his experiences and beliefs arose from his uncle who performed witchcraft in their home.

As far as the maze goes at the Melon Shack, Jahn said, “I haven’t had any [supernatural] feelings in the maze… [The maze] is decorated pretty good this year, it’ll definitely be scary.” 

Despite there not being any ghost sightings at the maze, people can come out to simulate such a feeling every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m, including on Halloween night. 

The Corvallis campus of Oregon State University, like the city itself, is not without stories of ghosts. Waldo and Sackett Hall are both places where people have claimed to have had paranormal experiences and sightings of ghosts. 

Waldo Hall is said to be haunted by the ghost of Ida Kidder who served as OSU’s librarian. Kidder lived in Waldo starting in 1908 leading up to her death in 1920. A year before Kidder died, she suffered a heart attack that took away her mobility. Following this, OSU engineering students made an electric wicker mobile that allowed her to traverse the campus.

Sackett Hall carries a darker history than that of Waldo Hall. Stories about Ted Bundy are associated with many of the ghost stories there.

In 1974, Roberta Kathleen Parks disappeared following her kidnapping by serial killer Ted Bundy. She was studying at OSU at the time. Since her murder, stories about Ted Bundy being on campus have circulated. 47 years later it has never been confirmed that Bundy actually ever set foot on campus before, however stories still circulate. 

Inez Werdel is a senior at OSU studying environmental policy, and during her freshman year she lived in Sackett Hall. While her experiences do not relate to Bundy or Parks, Werdel had a few experiences in the residence hall that led her to believe in paranormal activity within Sackett.

The radiator sounded like someone took a steel rod and was banging on a metal pipe, really aggressively,” Werdel said. “[The radiator] would start and stop every few minutes without any warning or pattern.”

Werdel also spoke to the random opening and closing of doors in the building despite there not being wind. Werdel also believes that skeptics of ghosts may jump to conclusions too fast or not have as open of a mind as they could.

“I think people put too much stake in western science,” Werdel said. “That’s not to say that science doesn’t have a lot of validity in a lot of areas, but not everything can be measured empirically. There will always be things that humans can only understand intuitively. Things we can know but not prove.”

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