Oregon State University is full of ghost stories. The archivists of the Valley Library are charged with collecting stories and legends of hauntings. They even have their own ghost, Stanley Swanson, the retired head of the acquisitions department. Some library staff members report hearing Stanley’s ghost turning the pages of uncataloged books late at night.
But the archivists have discovered a theme among the spirits who haunt these hallowed halls: a love for Oregon State, a desire to be close to the students and to keep an eye on them during their short time here.
No one loved the university as much as a woman known as Mother Kidder — and no one has haunted Oregon State as long or as relentlessly.
Ida Kidder’s life
Ida Kidder came to what was then Oregon Agricultural College in 1908 to serve as the school’s first librarian. She grew the one-room library in Benton Hall exponentially until it was moved to a new space in what is now Fairbanks Hall. Though she had strict rules inside the library, Kidder was also a favorite among students. She served as an advisor to the freshman and even danced with students at parties.
When an illness rendered her immobile, engineering students built an electric wicker cart for her, which she used to travel between her home in Waldo Hall and the library. The cart was nicknamed the “wickermobile,” and became famous statewide.
The Oregon State Alma Mater, “Carry Me Back,” was even dedicated to her.
Kidder died in her bed in Waldo Hall in 1920. Her casket was laid in the library so the campus community could pay their respects. However, it is rumored that her spirit never left its home in Waldo.
Campus security receives persistent reports of an old woman staring out of a fourth floor window at night. The fourth floor of Waldo Hall was closed in the 1960s.
After the closure, former editor of the Oregon Stater George Edmonston reported hearing a noise coming from the fourth floor that sounded like someone moving furniture around.
The fourth floor has since reopened and now houses the School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences, but archivists speculate Mother Kidder is still somewhere in Waldo Hall, keeping watch over the students she loved so much.
A letter from a friend upon Kidder’s death confirms her love for her work at Oregon State:
My Dear Library Staff,
Mrs. Kidder’s death was a shock to us — we didn’t realize from letters that she was so seriously ill. It must have been hard for her to give up when she wanted so much to live and carry out her plans and dreams…
Occupational safety and health Professor Anthony Veltri taught graduate students and occupied an office in Waldo Hall for 25 years. After his 7 to 10 p.m. class finished each evening, he made his way to his office and routinely worked until 11:30 p.m.
At first he dismissed the claims of fellow professors and janitorial staff that the building was haunted.
But one night, he heard it: “The sounds that building made were different than any other building I’ve ever been in. It made you wonder what was going on in there,” he says.
Veltri insists he doesn’t believe in ghosts. However, “All I know is that I can’t account for the noises scientifically,” he says. “The noises that happened there late at night are extraordinary.”
Unfinished business and a strong love for Oregon State is a recipe for a haunting. Maybe this Halloween, you’ll see Mother Kidder staring down at you from a dark window on the fourth floor of old Waldo Hall.