Vera legends lack concrete evidence

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Rumors swirl around campus each year about the ghost in Knight Hall that people refer to simply as “Vera.” With each generation of students passing through Pacific, Vera’s story gets alterations and additions. A few things are generally accepted as the truth. First, her name is Vera. Second, she haunts Knight Hall and third, she is associated with the music department.

Beyond that there is little agreement. How did she die?

Vera’s story becomes more convoluted when speaking of her cause of death. Possible suicide, a fatal fall down the steps of Knight Hall, where her neck was broken as she tried to get to her lover whom she had seen standing outside, an Indian massacre or murder by gunshot. It depends on who is telling the story.

Over the years, Vera has garnered much coverage because of her “hauntings.”

According to a report published in the spring 1981 issue of “Pacific Today,” a seance was held with a Ouija board in 1969 at which a spirit said her name was “Vera Herrick” and she had been an Indian student at the university from 1883 to 1887, during the same period when her alleged father, the Reverend John Herrick, was president of Pacific.

Another seance, mentioned in an Index article, suggested that she was 18 years old when she died and that her death was the result of a gunshot wound.

Using these “facts” from the seances, researchers in the library archive department have attempted to locate a woman with the name of Vera in Pacific records. The only Vera that was ever found was Vera Carolyn Jackson from Hood River, Ore. who was a music student, but who attended the university in 1902 to 1904.

Research was also done on the Rev. Herrick and his family tree. He never had a daughter named Vera, though he was president during the time the spirit gave as dates of attendance in the 1969 seance.
The other issue with the current perception of “Vera” is that she haunts Knight Hall because she was a music student. Based upon the timeline of Knight Hall itself, there is no way either Vera, Herrick or Jackson, would have been a participant in the music program in Knight Hall. The building did not become home to the music department until 1959, long after either would have left the university.

In addition, accounts of the apparent hauntings in Knight Hall date back to 1949, a full 10 years before the building had anything to do with the music department. During the late 1940s, the building was instead a women’s dormitory.

When the university tried to move Vera to the new music facility, Taylor Meade, in 1993, they took a stained glass window from the upper floor of Knight Hall and held a processional in which they carried the window to the new building. However, the pane was later replaced in Knight Hall because Vera wouldn’t move.

Based upon the discrepancy between when either Vera could have attended Pacific, it seems unlikely that her connection to the university is music. It seems far more likely that she is connected to Knight Hall itself for one reason or another.

It also seems unlikely that either “Vera” Herrick or Jackson is the spirit of the hall, because that would have meant the spirit had waited quite a long time to come back to Knight Hall and begin making herself known, assuming either died during their time at Pacific.

Because of a lack of being able to connect the dots between the timeline of the building and the “facts” given during the two seances, it appears the story we tell and retell and change and add to is far from a plausible description of the spirit who resides on campus.

Perhaps it is time to give up the stories we currently tell and consider that our friendly spirit may not be named Vera at all and that she is likely so connected with Knight Hall for some other reason than that of being a dedicated music student. It sounds like it is time for another seance.


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