The ghost of Sanford
By Holly Phelps
When the sun goes down, Sanford Hall awakes. Noise creaks from the ceilings, footsteps are heard from an inaccessible floor, and residents say doors often lock by themselves. Freshmen, prepare to learn what’s not mentioned at orientation.
On the night of the senior dance in 1952, student Betty Jean Cook, nicknamed “Cookie,” committed suicide on the third floor of Sanford Hall. A Colonnade article from 2010 described the scene.
“What was supposed to be a time of celebration turned into (a night) of confusion and shock when they found Cookie’s body sprawled across a bed in a third floor room,” wrote reporter Katelyn Hebert.
This year is the 60th anniversary of the suicide that took place in Sanford Hall at GCSU, then a women’s college. Cookie’s spirit still wanders the floors of Sanford Hall. Don’t believe it, freshmen? Keep reading.
Bob Wilson, history professor and university historian, had his own experience in Sanford. Twelve years ago, Wilson decided to spend the night on the third floor to see if he could sense Cookie’s presence in any way.
“I hadn’t heard or felt anything all night, but then morning came around. I suddenly felt an electric shock go through my entire body,” Wilson said. “The shock wasn’t painful; the feeling was more of a tingling sensation.”
Wilson isn’t the only one who has interacted with Cookie. About 20 years ago, a student named Brandi Tatum told Wilson that she saw a ghost outside the window of Sanford Hall.
“I remember she told me she went to visit her boyfriend, and they were on the main level when she looked out the window and said she saw a ghost of a girl floating around,” Wilson said. “I also remember her telling me that she could see this ‘ghost’ extremely well, and the girl’s face was photographed in her mind.”
About a week later, Wilson called Tatum into his office and showed her the yearbook from 1952.
“I opened to Cookie’s senior page of about 20 girls and asked,
‘Can you identify or recognize her in any of these pictures?’” Wilson said. “Brandi said, ‘Yes, that’s the girl I saw.’ I said, ‘Wow, that’s her.’”
Now that’s old news.
Sanford resident David Wicker, sophomore mass communication major, struggled moving in this semester for summer school.
“The day after I moved in on July 2, I somehow got locked out of my closet,” Wicker said. “Also, on July 14, I came home and tried to use my bathroom, and the door locked all by itself. My roommates were both gone for the weekend.”
Matt Cobb, resident advisor of Sanford Hall, lives under the inaccessible room where Cookie committed suicide. Cobb says he experienced the poltergeist as well.
“Once it starts to be later in the night, I hear noises above my head and occasionally very strange bumps,” said Cobb.
Cobb added he’s not the only one who’s interacted with Cookie.
“One of my staff members who lives on the opposite side of the building hears more activity than I do,” Cobb said.
Cobb says another one of his staff members hears “walking” and “footsteps” above her room as well.
It only gets stranger.
“But none of those examples beats what I’m about to tell you,” Cobb said.
Cobb recalled a hall director for Sanford and Adams, who spent the night in the Sanford Hall director’s apartment due to the construction at Adams Hall.
“She is very big about making sure doors are closed and ceiling fans are off. It’s like her routine before bed,” Cobb said. “She woke the next morning to her ceiling fan running, and all of the doors in the room were open.”
“After that, she jokingly said she slept with her Bible every night,” Cobb said.
In a town as old as Milledgeville, Sanford isn’t the only haunted place.
Linda Bailey, tour coordinator at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, invites everyone to try the Haunted Trolley Tour in October while walking the gloomy streets of downtown through haunted buildings like Episcopal Church, Old State Capitol, and Lockerly Hall.