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Yerkes House

         

Yerkes House, a female dorm on the campus of Centre College, was erected in 1893 for incoming freshmen. However, the dorm was also a popular place for older sorority sisters to hang out and recruit younger girls.

On a particular night in November of 1973, three freshmen girls stood in the lobby of Yerkes House with 12 juniors and seniors, waiting for their initiation to begin. The three girls, nervous and excited, were blindfolded and led upstairs to the second floor. Once there, they were escorted into a room, which had a window directly above the porch roof of Yerkes House.

“Okay,” the leader of the older girls said, “just do as you are instructed, and there will be nothing to worry about. You’ll be in our group by morning.”

The three younger girls agreed. One of the older girls opened the window and shoved the smallest of the freshmen towards the window. “Climb out,” she said. Once the freshman was on the roof, the older girl said, “Now, take off your blindfold, count to ten, and come back in without saying a word.” The girl took off her blindfold, looked down, and panicked. She accomplished her feat, however, and made her way back in to the safety of the building and her new sorority sisters.

Another one of the older girls took the next freshman by the hand, led her to the window, and said, “Climb out, take off your blindfold, jump up and down three times, and come back in.” The girl walked out, took off her blindfold, and froze. She clung fearfully to the roof and crept back in the window, refusing to complete her task.

The leader of the older girls was furious. She grabbed the remaining freshman girl and threw her towards the window, determined to complete another initiation. “Climb out, do not take off your blindfold, and walk slowly backwards until you think you can go no farther. If you are more than two inches away from the edge, you don’t make it in.”

The girl was quiet as she climbed out the window. Putting her arms out to her sides for balance, she slowly walked backwards, one foot directly behind the other, wobbling slightly from time to time. She was almost to the edge when her foot slipped. Clawing at anything she could hold on to, she ripped off her fingernails as she slid down the roof of the porch and plunged to her death on the cold concrete steps below.

The girls inside stared with horror. The sorority sisters had never meant for anyone to be harmed, and the freshmen had no idea that something like this could happen. Rushing down to the body, they realized that there was nothing they could do. Afraid of being arrested, they ran from the scene, vowing to never speak of it again. The next morning when the police came, all the girls feigned ignorance, and her death was chronicled as an accident of a foolish college student who thought she would live forever.

The only girl who was greatly disturbed by this event was the one who had refused to complete her initiation task. She knew it was her fault that her friend’s task had been so preposterous: she had angered the older girls. She could not sleep at night because she continued to hear the sound of her friend’s fingernails snapping off as she desperately clawed for her life.

Two days after the tragic accident, the surviving freshmen returned to the same room she had occupied during her friend’s plummet; she began to chop off the fingers on her right hand right below the nail. She screamed in pain, unable to complete her suicide mission. Hearing her, other girls ran down the hall but could not force the door open. The girl cowered in shocked terror as the image of her dead friend appeared before her, picked up the knife, and finished the job that had been started. The next morning, the door opened and the bodies of both girls were found, even though the first to die had already been buried. One was missing her fingernails; the other was missing her fingers.

For one week every year, the same week the two girls died, Centre College closes down that particular room in Yerkes House. This is because during that week, bloodstains can be found on the walls with fingerprints in them that exactly match those of the deceased pair. It is said that they fight each other for the fingers of the decapitated girl. One wants them as a souvenir of her revenge, the other in order to make her hands complete. When the fingerless girl loses the battle, the room is closed down for the rest of the year. It is said that in her anger, the fingerless girl will amputate the fingers of a girl sleeping in the fated room in order to complete her hand. The room is not deemed safe again until the girl wins back her fingers. Even ghosts regret their decisions and want to make their bodies whole once again.

 

Joy Beth Woods

Oneida Baptist