Faculty Club: UC Berkeley’s very own haunted landmark

Anna Nolan/Staff

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Do you believe in ghosts?

Because the campus might have its very own.

While at UC Berkeley, Henry Morse Stephens, a history professor, lived in the west wing of the Faculty Club for more than 20 years until his death in 1919. Since then, eyewitnesses have said Stephens’ ghost never left his room and can still be spotted lounging in his favorite chair, reciting poetry. Members of staff have also reported several eerie phenomena, including flickering lights, strange noises and a supernatural chill.

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Room 219 – the Tower Room. Anna Nolan/Staff.

Stephens made it his life’s work to collect archives on California’s history. As a member of the Earthquake History Committee, Stephens collected more than 800 individual accounts of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake as well as numerous newspaper articles and photographs. Unfortunately, Stephens died before he could complete his ambition of submitting this archive to the newly purchased Bancroft Library. On its website, the San Francisco Museum muses, “If Stephens had lived longer he might have completed the promised history of the Earthquake and Fire.” Since Stephens’ death, the meticulously gathered archive has been lost to time, disappearing in the 1920s. Some speculate the archive was destroyed in the 1923 Berkeley fire, while others maintain that it still remains hidden in some forgotten basement within the university, untouched for years. Perhaps it is the archive’s unfortunate fate that caused Stephens’ restless spirit to linger in the physical realm?

In 1974, the Berkeley Daily Gazette ran an article in which Noriyuki Tokuda, a visiting Japanese scholar, reported seeing Stephens’ ghost. After waking from a nap, Tokuda saw a well-dressed gentleman sitting in the chair opposite him. Then, much to Tokuda’s surprise, the man flew across the room and disappeared. The Gazette reported Tokuda as saying, “I opened my eyes then and saw a funny picture — two heads with a body passing out of my sight and disappearing.” Later, when shown a photograph of Stephens, Tokuda confirmed a striking resemblance. A framed copy of the Gazette article can be found hanging in the Faculty Club’s offices.

In 2009, San Francisco psychic Charles Peden took a guided tour of the Faculty Club in an attempt to communicate with Stephens. Though Peden had no luck with Stephens, he did manage to communicate with the captain of Cal’s 1920 football team. (The room was named the “Spirit Room” due to the high spirit of the Cal athletics team.) Peden writes on his blog, “He informed us that he had passed due to pneumonia … Even though he ripped the team a bit, he ended up the interview with a hearty ‘Go Bears!’ ” Peden’s interview with the ghost was broadcasted on KALX a few days later.

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Anna Nolan/Staff

See that wispy white thing emerging from behind the door? That wasn’t there before. Trick of the light or spectral image caught on camera? You decide.

Contact Lilia Vega at [email protected].