A real haunted house: the spirits of Lothlorien

IMG_5568
Anya Schultz/Senior Staff

Lothlorien sits near the corner of Channing and Prospect, removed from the street by a series of unlit cement steps obscured by tangled tree branches. Inside the student cooperative, dozens of students and two ghosts make their home.

The co-op is made up of two large houses separated by a small courtyard. Loth’s North House — an aging mansion — is alive with color in the daytime. The home’s interior walls are awash with bright murals, and its high ceilings are inviting and stately. Classic window panes frame an idyllic view of the residence’s natural surroundings.

At night, this scene turns eerie. A dusty narrow staircase winding through Loth’s three stories is pitch black, so dark that the cold, wooden stairs are nearly impossible to make out. Daytime’s cheery trees turn menacing as the nighttime hours inch toward morning, scratching at the windows and appearing to grasp for the residents within.

Lothlorien harbors secrets. Ghosts of past residents haunt the hallways, known to bang on walls, rearrange furniture and make trouble, particularly for the men living in the house. Two female spirits haunt the co-op — both victims of domestic violence and fraught passion who died while living at Lothlorien years ago.

According to residents, their spirits continue to seek vengeance.

The story is as old as the house itself, according to Loth’s house coordinator Mark Lipkin. The mansion originally perched on Piedmont Circle, the property of an affluent couple with plenty of servants and money to spare. When students began pouring into the area in the early 1900s, the couple had their house hauled up the hill on logs to its current location. They chose the new spot, a bit removed from the student body down the hill, for its peace and seclusion.

Despite getting away from the hum of Berkeley’s busy streets, the couple was unhappy. The man of the house, legend has it, was having an affair with a servant who lived on the mansion’s third floor.

One night, the lovers were quarrelling. Tempers flared, and the man flung his mistress down the servant staircase. She landed hard between the second and third floors.

She never recovered, dying from the force of the throw. A painting at the co-op commemorates the nameless servant’s life — a black and white woman’s body imprinted at a corner of the narrow stairwell.

Her spirit never left the staircase. A resident who used to live on Loth’s second floor reported hearing banging noises on his door, which sits directly across from the servant staircase. But when he opened the door, no one was there.

The unnamed spirit isn’t alone. She’s joined by the ghost of Roberta “Bibi” Lee, who also haunts the co-op’s third floor.

Bibi was an undergraduate living at Lothlorien in 1984. She was dating another undergraduate named Bradley Nelson Page, but their relationship was strained. One brisk November day, the couple went on a run with another friend. But Bibi got separated from the men. Page went to look for her, but came back from his search alone. He claimed he couldn’t find her anywhere.

Bibi never returned from their jog through the Oakland Hills. Repeated searches for the undergraduate were unsuccessful.

A month later, her body was found in the hills near where the group had gone jogging. After hours of questioning, Page admitted to killing Bibi in the woods. He told officers he had returned to the scene to have sex with the her corpse.

Bibi didn’t make it back to her bedroom at Loth, a narrow space on the co-op’s top floor. Residents have since dubbed the space “The Spirit Room.”

It’s said her spirit still haunts in the third floor perch, in search of revenge for a life unlived. She’s been known to turn up resident’s music and slam doors. The ghost is particularly attentive to men in Loth — especially ones who are aggravated or angry.

The two men living in Bibi’s old room this fall haven’t encountered her ghost yet, but they’ll be ready for her if she comes. The door has a painting of two unicorns kissing. Junior Murari Cramer, who lives in Bibi’s old room, says they’re keeping the room cheerful to keep the spirit at bay.

His tactic has been working. Thus far this year, these ghosts have been friendly. But there’s no telling what Halloween night will bring.

The co-op’s residents will climb the staircase that Bibi and the house servant walked so many years ago, on their way to rest their heads. Hopefully on this Halloween, they’ll find the ghosts in good spirits.