Haunts of Aquinas College

Written by Jens

Let me start off by saying that I love Aquinas College. I’ve been there for almost two years, and it has this amazing atmosphere to it. You don’t feel like you’re anywhere near a large city. Minus the rabid, fat, mutant squirrels that size you up and then hunt you down, Aquinas College is pretty friendly and unique. You can tell most of the buildings are older. I feel comfortable there most of the time. However, there have been some really bizarre, off-putting occurrences.

Aquinas College was founded by the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids in 1886. It is located on 107 acres of land, where every tree known to exist in Michigan is located right on campus! It is a liberal arts college, one of the best in the Midwestern region, with close to sixty majors for bachelor’s and master’s programs.

In 1922, the Dominican Sisters merged with a new college for women and received a charter from the state to hand out degrees in 1923. In 1931, it became the first Catholic college in the USA to go coed, becoming the Catholic Junior College.

In 1941, the school became Aquinas College and operated as a four-year institute. The name Aquinas comes from the Catholic saint, St. Thomas Aquinas. He was a 13th-century educator and scholar and was considered a great thinker of his time. He stressed open-mindedness and keeping an open heart. He also stressed learning from life experiences.

Holmdene Hall, rumored to be haunted. 

Photograph by Michigan’s Otherside

In 2005, demonologist and paranormal investigator John Zaffis visited Aquinas to lecture and tour the campus and see what he could pick up on.  In the Holmdene building, he claims to have felt the presence of a number of spirits, including one white woman who was so strong-willed in life, that in death, even her African-American servant remains trapped with her.

Holmdene is full of rumors. One pertains to murder, and I could find virtually no details on it. Another rumor is about a little boy who drowned on the property and supposedly haunts the building. He is said to be the son of a wealthy family, the Loews, who owned the home a long time ago. Nighttime security often report locking the entire place up and turning off the lights, only to have them turn back on by themselves. Faucets turn on and off by themselves. Zaffis said there is also a spirit in the attic of Holmdene, but he didn’t want to discuss it. “I’m leaving that one alone,” he said.

Campus Security officer Thomas Shearer has spent the last decade of his life working at Aquinas and has covered the entire property. He knows every inch of it. He says that sometimes children can be heard laughing in the Browne building (mostly used for campus security offices) when it’s otherwise unoccupied. The front hallway of Browne also has an interesting swastika-like floor pattern, which leads some people to believe the building is connected to Nazism (possibly even Satanism). Could it be a central locale for spirits?

The Bukowski Chapel (named for the first administrator, Monsignor Bukowski) is said to have housed and cremated bodies during its “funeral era”. It is a rather small building that is open to all.
In the Hruby Hall computer lab, Zaffis sensed a seemingly harmless spirit. (This area was once a chapel for the resident nuns.) Employee Katherine Heinrich says she felt suffocating pressure while in the room. Now that I’ve been there, I have a lot to add.

These are all second-hand accounts my friends relayed to me. I trust their word, though I want to be a little skeptical sometimes. One friend of mine was driving through at night and saw a horse and rider. As he got closer, he noticed they were transparent. He thought maybe he was tired and seeing things, but he kept looking and they were still there.

Another friend of mine is rather prone to this kind of thing. She has seen a little girl’s ghost who acts rather friendly. My friend also saw green lights coming from the third level of Holmdene one night when the building was supposed to be empty.

Personally, I’ve heard voices and seen shadows on the third floor of the Academic Building. It’s nothing that makes me feel threatened — just watched. So, if anybody has any more info on Aquinas College or has had an experience, I’d love to know! AQ is such a fascinating place with a lot of history.


I went to AQ and stayed in Regina East and Hruby during my time there. In Hruby, I kept hearing Latin whispers: “Pater Noster”, and the Apostle’s Creed were the most common. I once spent a decent chunk of the night in the computer lab because mine was on the fritz and I had a paper due the next day. It was about 3 am. when I stood up to leave and I felt a very soft hand touch my cheek and felt something “bless” me (not the actual action, just the peace). The lowest entrance into the Hruby dorms makes many people uneasy – most tend to avoid it.
I remember that while in Regina, I had weird dreams of a woman/girl/thing, but I never dreamt of her outside of that room. I had been woken up multiple times by many hands/fingers touching me and screams in my ear, but my roommate was dead-asleep. I also remember sitting alone in my room, feeling like someone was watching me, so I turned to look – only to watch my roomie’s mini-Christmas tree fly as far away from the wall as the cord would let it and then drop straight down. She thought I did it out of anger or something until she had her own experience.
She and her boyfriend were in our suite’s bathroom, continuing a conversation from the room (so she was looking at him directly, or in the giant mirror). She had the faucet on, so she turned it off and turned to her towel, then turned back around and turned the water off again. After a moment, she asked him if she was going crazy, or…”No,” he replied, as nonchalant as can be. “I watched it turn itself back on.” – K (2013)

Hello! I’m writing to you because I was quite intrigued by your article on my alma mater Aquinas College. I graduated back in 2001, but I do remember the stories! I also remember seeing that green light at night and just feeling very uncomfortable while going to Holmdene for meetings with my Professors. I had a history professor who told me that she quit going to her office in Holmdene during the weekends because she was freaked out by hearing a young woman’s voice and children voices outside her window.  When she would look outside nobody was there. While a freshman there, I was on a tour in Holmdene and heard a woman’s laughter in an area where there wasn’t anyone there. To say I actually saw a ghost, I never did.  But that house is totally creepy! – Lupita (2009)

As a freshman this Fall 2008 Semester, I changed my outlook on the paranormal. My roommate and I found your website and decided to investigate ourselves. Aquinas College’s Holmdene building is right next to my residence hall Regina West. On the first week of actually living on campus, we went investigating very late at night. We walked around the building around 1:00 a.m. and didn’t see much but got very uncomfortable. The next day we took a tour and found out some valuable information about the history and other random facts of the campus. After taking our tour we went out later that night. As we went around the building we all heard a child laughing in the nearby woods. As we all looked around for answers, we looked into the windows of the building. The lights that were on a second ago, were now off and others were on. As we started to walk away we felt like someone was following us. As days went on, we stopped going over to the building. My best friend came over one night and I told him all of the things that have gone on.

Of course, he thought I was joking but he could tell I wasn’t! We walked over to the building and saw lights flicker on and off randomly. My friend looked at me suddenly and grabbed my arm and pointed. He was so scared I could see it in his eyes he saw something. He stuttered and finally said to me, “Dude, I just saw a full body figure walk across the lit room and go in front of the side door.” I looked at him and I knew he was scared. My friend is a big guy and he doesn’t believe in ghosts or anything paranormal, but now after his Holmdene experience, he will never forget it. This is just one of many things I’ve heard and seen while at AQ. – Brent (2008)

I couldn’t help but laugh at this funny email sent to us by Ellen, a student at Aquinas – Michigan’s Otherside

Hello, my name is Ellen, and I have seen a ghost! I was using the facilities in The Moose one night (and by facilities, I mean bathroom. It just so happened to be the Rock for Barack night. Although I am not handicapped, I emerged from the handicap stall after doing my business. As I did so, I heard a strange, unearthly noise. Soon after that, the non-handicapped stall door creaked open. I was so frightened that I left the bathroom without washing my hands and went back to rocking for Barack and touching my friends in appropriate ways with my unwashed hands. (2008)

 I worked for Campus Safety in the ’80s at Aquinas.  I used to walk through all of the buildings in the middle of the night.  Every time I went into Holmdene, I was very uncomfortable.  I would leave my radio up high so I could hear other officers talking and not hear the noises in the house.  Every time I would walk past the door to the attic, I would get goosebumps.  I was very interested to read that others have experienced the same things. 

As for Hruby Hall, one night I was walking through and one of the nuns had recently died.  Her body was laid out in one of the rooms.  When our main office for Campus Safety moved over to Hruby Hall in the late 80’s I would sometimes work dispatch through the night and when all of the officers were out in the field, you would hear footsteps in the main part of the building.  Or, sometimes there was a piano that would start playing.  

And, lastly, the Carriage House (not sure if it still there or not).  At certain times, you could see the face of a young girl in one of the top windows.  I had heard rumors that a little girl had died in there but never was able to confirm it.  But, still, you could sometimes see a face. Nancy (2009)




Have you experienced something strange at Aquinas?

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