Today's Paper News Sports Features Business Opinion LEARNS Guide Newsletters Obits Games Archive Notices Core Values

'Lady in Black' still said to haunt halls at HSU

by Tyler Wann | November 1, 2021 at 3:24 a.m.
Legend has it "The Lady in Black" haunts Henderson State University's campus. - Photo by Tyler Wann of The Sentinel-Record

ARKADELPHIA ­-- As Halloween celebrations died down around Henderson State University on Sunday night, students would have headed back to their dorms -- but legend has it, there's a chance they wouldn't be alone.

"The Lady in Black" supposedly haunts the halls of Henderson; specifically, the women's dorms.

According to university historian David Sesser, legend has it that a Henderson girl was dating an older boy from Ouachita Baptist University, the college's rival school across the highway. When the new class of freshmen came in, the Ouachita man left her for a new, younger girl, crushing the Henderson student, who later plunged to her death from what is now DeSoto Bluff.

She now returns to haunt the Henderson female dorms every year either at Halloween or during the week of the Battle of the Ravine, the annual football game between HSU and OBU, Sesser said, adding that she's looking for the freshman who stole her beau.

The Lady began making regular appearances around 1929, when Henderson first became a state institution, Sesser said.

"She's been known to walk the halls with a candle, rattling chains. The girls would usually just run into one room and huddle together until they stopped hearing her," he said.

Paranormal hot spots include Womack Hall, in which Sesser said she would chase freshmen around the halls back when it was used as a dorm.

However, Sesser said that Smith Hall, which has been used exclusively for female students since the 1970s, is her favorite haunt.

"You can always hear the screams and see the flickering light and hear the chains around homecoming or the battle," he said.

However, not everyone's convinced. Nikki Laird, director of housing at HSU, said she's had a lot of students say they believe she resides on the eighth floor in Smith, but no real evidence has come about.

"I've certainly not witnessed anything, and of course some students say that they have," she said.

The school embraces the story and according to Sesser, every freshman learns about the Lady in Black at the annual "Pine Tree Speech," typically given every fall semester on the first day of class.

"But don't be afraid just because you hear chains rattling slowly and see a candle flickering faintly and glimpse a shadowy figure dressed in black roaming your dorm," former Alumni Director Mary Jo Mann says in a video of the 2014 Pine Tree Speech found at "If you did not steal this poor soul's love, you have nothing to fear. The cold clammy hand simply looks. Perhaps, she'll never find."

Like many legends, different versions have evolved throughout the years. For instance, a version from a blog post on Ouachita Baptist University's website,, reverses the roles, with a Henderson boy, Joshua, breaking the heart of a Ouachita girl, Jane.

"As they began, Jane and Joshua didn't think much of their controversial relationship until Henderson's homecoming game approached. With the rivalry in mind, Henderson students pressured Joshua to break up with Jane," the post reads.

In this telling, he ended things on the day of homecoming, opting to take a Henderson girl instead. The heartbroken girl donned a black dress and veil, then threw herself down the elevator shaft of Cone-Bottoms Hall. Legend has it she still haunts the hall, "moaning and sobbing, a warning against dating a Henderson boy." During Henderson's homecoming, she also purportedly leaves her room to search Henderson's campus for the one who stole her love.

Sesser said there is some truth to the legend. It most likely came from a student named Nell Page, who attended back when the college was still a Methodist institution around 1910 or so, he said. The night before they typically played OBU in football, Sesser said she would walk up and down the halls, wearing either a white or black robe. A white robe signified that HSU would lose, while a black robe predicted a victory.

"And so students would hope to see that she was wearing a black robe," said Sesser.

At that time, only female students lived on campus, he said, which is where the aspect of her only haunting female students likely comes from.

Though she did die tragically at a young age, she did not take her own life, but rather died of tuberculosis around the age of 27.

They have had research done to see if there was any truth to a Henderson student taking their own life at DeSoto Bluff, but have yet to find anything. "Good news," Sesser said.

Though not every aspect of it may be true, the story has become a tradition among the community.

"I think it's a great story and tradition," Sesser said. "It quickly builds community spirit within the dorms when everybody is scared and huddled together, I can tell you that."

Womack Hall is said to have been the site of paranormal activity. - Photo by Tyler Wann of The Sentinel-Record
Womack Hall is said to have been the site of paranormal activity. - Photo by Tyler Wann of The Sentinel-Record
"The Lady in Black" has become a a tradition at HSU, with freshman students being told about her on the first day of class. - Photo by Tyler Wann of The Sentinel-Record
"The Lady in Black" has become a a tradition at HSU, with freshman students being told about her on the first day of class. - Photo by Tyler Wann of The Sentinel-Record

Print Headline: 'Lady in Black' still said to haunt halls at HSU


Sponsor Content