MAC to Millenium – The University of Maryland from A to Z


More than eighty years ago, as part of Alumni Day, campus officials held an ivy-planting ceremony on the shady hill near Morrill Hall during which class traditions were formally transferred from the graduating seniors to the juniors. Many of the traditions that existed in 1920s — freshman-sophomore tug-of-war, May Day, all-class proms, rat caps — have disappeared, but the new ones, like rubbing Testudo’s nose for good luck and firing off a cannon every time the football team scores, have taken their place.

MAC to Millennium brings together these traditions and many other fun and unusual tales about our campus, from its founding in 1856 as the Maryland Agricultural College (MAC) to the twenty-first century. We hope you enjoy this compilation and that you rub Testudo’s nose every chance you get!

Start learning fun and interesting UMD facts:

Relive Campus History with University AlbUM


Did you know that you can browse historic University of Maryland photographs online anytime you want? Just check out University AlbUM! The site hosts a wide variety of photos ranging from athletics to campus life. Feel free to browse by decade using the drop-down box, or search for subjects and keywords using the search box.

You can even search for and watch historic University of Maryland football games!

Ghostly Encounters: A night at the Rossborough

In honor of Halloween, we saved the spookiest story for last.  Take a look back at the previous weeks for more ghostly tales: week 1week 2week 3, and week 4.  We hope you have enjoyed our paranormal accounts over the last four weeks.  Make sure to stop by some of them tonight!

We finish our ghost tour at the Rossborough Inn, one of the best UMD sites to experience unexplained paranormal occurrences.  The Rossborough, built between 1804 and 1812, was named for its builder John Ross, a tavern keeper and local landowner, and was one of the original college buildings.  Many travelers and stagecoaches used the inn as a way-station to break their journey between Baltimore and Washington, because it was situated on the main route between the two cities.  The building has also served as the headquarters for the Agricultural Experiment Station, housing for faculty and students, a faculty-staff club, and office space for University Relations staff.

Rossborough Inn, 1901

Although many members of the campus community have passed through its doors, the Inn’s most famous resident is a ghost named Miss Bettie. She is the specter of the woman who managed the Inn during the Civil War.  Her ghost, clad in a long yellow gown in the style of the period, has been sighted several times walking the halls of the Inn.  In 1981, Larry Donnelly, a dining services employee, spotted a female ghost in the Inn during renovations to the building.  Several weeks later, a waiter at the Inn saw the same woman, attired in a long yellow dress just as Donnelly had described.  Perhaps Miss Bettie is also responsible for other unexplained occurrences at the Inn such as a vase of flowers appearing on its own; doors opening and lights turning off on their own accord; footsteps sounding overhead when no one is there; and a strange face appearing in mirrors and windows.  Have you met Miss Bettie yet?

Undergraduate Admissions staff who work in the building today are convinced that Miss Bettie, and perhaps other spirits, inhabit the Inn, and now we have even more proof.  In May 2012, a team from Maryland Paranormal Research spent some late night hours in the Inn and gathered a number of recordings of otherworldly voices.  Check out the results of the investigation here! You might want to leave the lights on . . .

We wish you all a spooky Halloween!

Ghostly Encounters: Haunted Hornbake

Hornbake Library at night

Over the past month we’ve been telling you about some of the haunted places on campus. But did we mention we have a ghost of our own? That’s right, a ghost in Hornbake Library. We know what you’re thinking, and no, she’s not a cranky librarian shushing people from beyond the grave (although that would be pretty scary!). She’s not some poor freshman forever studying for finals either (that would be even scarier!). We’re not sure exactly who she is – only that she likes to come out after most people have left for the night. But we’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Here are a few stories from those who were lucky (or unlucky?) enough to meet her.

Kenny, University Archives student assistant

It was a Wednesday night, and I was re-shelving books and materials in the first floor stacks. It was really quiet and I was the only person in that area of the building at the time. I was almost finished and was pushing the cart along when I happened to turn my head and look down one of the stacks. When I turned my head, I saw something that caught my eye for just a second and then it was gone. At the end of the stack I saw what looked like a woman in a dark dress round the corner quickly. I didn’t stop to look or go back to see if someone was actually there. I knew I was alone. Instantly I thought my mind was playing tricks on me and I had just seen something that wasn’t actually there. That night the same image kept running through my mind and I was convinced that I knew what I saw. The next time I came into the archives to work I learned that I wasn’t the only one who has reported strange sightings and sounds in the archives. Whatever or whoever it was I saw, I would really like it if they would at least say hello next time. It really creeped me out.

Anne Turkos, University Archivist

Well, Kenny saw her, but I have only heard her–high heels tapping on the linoleum floor, moving papers around, shifting boxes in the stacks.  But I know she is here!

Jason Speck, Assistant University Archivist

I have had some strange experiences here as well.  One weekend I was in the building alone, to the point that I had to shut off the lobby alarm to leave.  As I got to the lobby doors, a loud creaking sound came from somewhere behind me, literally like an old wooden door.  I waited for several minutes, even looked for the source, but I found nothing.  All the lobby doors were locked.

Another night I went back into the far areas of the 2nd floor stacks, and as I rounded a corner I saw a woman leaning with her arms folded up against the shelves.  I actually walked a few steps past before I realized that there shouldn’t be anyone there.  I stopped and turned around, and the woman (or whatever it was) was gone.

So what do you think? Have you met the Dark Lady of Hornbake? Check back on Halloween for our final ghost post!

Ghostly Encounters: What (or who) is hiding in H.J. Patterson Hall?

H.J. Patterson Hall was constructed in 1931 and named for Harry Jacob Patterson, director of the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station from 1898 to 1937 and president of the university from 1913 to 1917. The building is one of the oldest on campus, and apparently one of the creepiest according to some accounts.

One evening, a campus employee entered H. J. Patterson to complete some routine maintenance work. He made his way up to the attic and began his labors. As he was working, he felt an eerie presence enter the room. The feeling of the presence got so uncomfortable that he had to stop what he was doing. When he looked around, he spotted a strange, misshapen shadow dart across the wall. The worker insists that he was alone and that the shadow could not have been another maintenance worker. Have you experienced any unexplained events in this old campus building?

Ghostly Encounters: Ghosts in the Greek houses

Now that you’ve had time to make a midnight trip to the McNamee cemetery, let’s move on to something that might hit a little closer to home.  Our haunting tales this week arise from the homes of a number of our Greek chapters at UMD.

Let’s start with the victim of a grisly murder.  Kappa Delta house is allegedly haunted by the spirit of Alma Preinkert.  Miss Preinkert was a beloved figure at the university and the founder of the Kappa Delta sorority.  She is also the namesake for Preinkert Field House on the south side of the campus.

Poor Alma Preinkert – she didn’t even see her death coming. We wonder if she even realizes what happened. She still seems to visit her sorority house often enough . . .

Poor Alma Preinkert – she didn’t even see her death coming. We wonder if she even realizes what happened. She still seems to visit her sorority house often enough . . .

Miss Preinkert served as campus registrar from 1919 until she met her untimely end in 1954.  One night she was at home in Washington, DC, asleep in her bed, when she awoke to find an intruder in her house.  She apparently tried to stop the man from ransacking her home, but the struggle led to bloodshed.  The intruder stabbed Miss Preinkert multiple times, and she eventually succumbed to her wounds.  Police were never able to find the murderer, so Miss Preinkert’s case is still unsolved.  Perhaps that’s why she visits the sisters of Kappa Delta so often.  Maybe she just wants someone to listen to her story.

But that’s not all.  The Kappa Delta house is full of spirit activity.  Sisters have also observed mysterious girls in white dresses dancing on the sundeck of the house during the summer months.  Are these ghosts former sorority sisters?  Or something older?

Maybe these May Day dancers are still dancing across the deck at the Kappa Delta house.

Maybe these May Day dancers are still dancing across the deck at the Kappa Delta house.

The sisters of Alpha Omicron Pi have ghosts of their own.  In their house there are tales of music playing without warning and computers operating on their own.  Racks of accessories have fallen over unaided, and at least one sister has seen a set of red eyes staring at her.  Could they have a poltergeist in the house?

But the sororities are not the only groups with ghostly frights.  The brothers living in Delta Tau Delta believe the ghost of a dead fraternity brother haunts their house.  The spectral student was killed in an automobile accident in 1955.  Shortly after the accident, the brothers witnessed furniture moving around in the house on its own accord.  Strangely enough, a cabinet belonging to the deceased was always warmer on the inside than the rest of the room.  The brothers have even reported seeing reflections of a person’s face on a blank television screen when no one else was around.  Is this ghoulish brother still living in the house?

We’re nearing the end of our month-long ghost tour of campus. Only one more week to go! While you’re eagerly awaiting the next post (or hiding in your closet), take a look back at the ghosts from week 1week 2, and week 3.

Where was Rachel Carson?

From 1931 to 1936, famed zoologist Rachel Carson taught classes on a Maryland campus.  Many people believe, and it has been widely reported, that she taught in College Park, and, as such, is one of this university’s most notable faculty members.  But is that in fact the case?

Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson headshot, U.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Service.

Continue reading

Ghostly Encounters: Eerie happenings at the Diamondback

In honor of Halloween, we welcome a new ghost to campus.  Earlier last year, reports of paranormal activity emerged from the Diamondback offices in South Campus Dining Hall. Editors noticed that books in their bookcases have been re-arranged, but only titles from the 1980s, even though the books are very hard to pry off the shelves.  In another instance, the papers and clutter in the managing editor’s office were cleaned up, likely the first time since the paper moved its headquarters to the Dining Hall.  Only a few people on the newspaper staff have keys to that office, and none of them were present during the time when this occurred.  Could this be the spirit of a tireless Diamondback employee from the past just trying to keep the staff on their toes?

South Campus Dining Hall1

Ghostly Encounters: Have you met the McNamees?

Are you following our spooky posts about campus ghosts?  Creeped out yet by the spectral spirits of Morrill Hall and Marie Mount Hall?  Keep reading – the best is yet to come!

This week finds us at the McNamee Cemetery behind the Stadium Drive Garage.  Not many people know about this spot, which looks pretty innocuous to the innocent passerby. While there is no record or rumor of paranormal encounters occurring here, who knows what the McNamee family gets up to when there’s no one around?

We took a hike over to McNamee Cemetery earlier this year. It was so peaceful and sunny. This place couldn’t possibly be haunted, right?

The cemetery contains the remains of several members of the McNamee family, who sold this part of campus to the university in 1938.  We are pretty sure we know at least two of the people buried there.  One of the deceased was a child named Albert McNamee.  He was the son of Charles and Elizabeth McNamee. Albert was born in 1904 and unfortunately burned to death in a family barn at the age of four.  Martha Bryant McNamee is supposedly buried there as well.  Her date of death is unknown, but we know she died sometime before 1900.  Unfortunately since the graves are now covered, we don’t know who else might be buried there.

The university had the cemetery bricked over, supposedly to prevent anyone from disturbing the graves. But what about keeping whoever is buried in the graves from disturbing us?

Those of you who haven’t been to Morrill Hall, Marie Mount Hall, and the McNamee Cemetery might think you’re safe. Ha! Just wait until we tell you who’s lurking in the Greek houses . . .

Ghostly Encounters: What’s that bouncing in Washington Hall?

The next stop in our Ghostly Encounters series is Washington Hall on South Campus, constructed in 1940 and named for Washington County, Maryland. Len Bias, one of the university’s most promising basketball stars, died of a cocaine overdose at a dorm room party with his teammates while celebrating his selection by the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA draft. The campus community still mourns the loss of this great athlete, and some think his ghostly presence still lingers on campus. Occupants of the dorm room in Washington Hall where Bias died have reported hearing sounds of a bouncing basketball in the middle of the night.

Have you heard the bouncing in Washington Hall? Check back all his month for even more campus ghost legends!

Did you know you can take a University of Maryland ghost tour yourself? Just pull up our mobile ghost tour on your laptop or smartphone and read the stories as you walk around campus! That is, if you’re not too scared…

Ghostly Encounters: Who’s playing the piano in Marie Mount Hall?

Here’s the second in our weekly October series of posts about ghosts at UMD.  We hope you had a chance to check out Morrill Hall, last week’s spooky site.  Visit Terrapin Tales again throughout the rest of the month for more paranormal postings.

This week the spotlight shines on Marie Mount Hall, named for M. Marie Mount, who came to campus in 1919 as the head of the Department of Home and Institution Management and served as the dean of the College of Home Economics from 1927 until her death in 1957.  The building was constructed in 1940 and originally named Margaret Brent Hall after the colonial Marylander who was the first American woman to request  the right to vote. But in 1967, the Board of Regents voted to change the name to Marie Mount Hall.

This student draws a skeleton on the steps of Marie Mount Hall. Doesn’t that sound like an invitation for a haunting experience? We know we wouldn’t be caught dead there!

This student draws a skeleton on the steps of Marie Mount Hall. Doesn’t that sound like an invitation for a haunting experience? We know we wouldn’t be caught dead there!

At one time, Miss Mount supposedly lived in the building in a special dean’s apartment there.  She was much loved by her students, and University President Wilson Elkins declared in a 1957 memorial to the dean that “The character of Marie Mount will live forever.”


Marie Mount, c. 1940-1950. Don’t you think she looks a bit . . . spectral?

Dean Marie Mount does just that.  Night watchmen and building inhabitants in the late 1970s reported sensing other-worldly presences, doors opening and shutting on their own, toilets flushing when no one was there, and matches blowing out when all the doors and windows were closed.  Could these activities be Dean Mount reminding us of her everlasting presence? It’s said that on dark and stormy nights, as the wind blows through the building, and the rain pounds on the window panes, she can be heard vigorously playing a piano. Next big thunderstorm, Marie Mount Hall is the place to be!

Scared yet? Just wait until you hear about the secret cemetery on campus next week. We’re getting goosebumps just thinking about it!