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: 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.

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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!

Aunt Mae’s Advice

Ransom R. Lewis Jr. was an outstanding member of the Class of 1919. Known to his friends as “Whitey,” the Frederick, Maryland native was active in the Agricultural Club, President of the Frederick County Club, a member of Sigma Phi Sigma fraternity, and had even earned his wings as a pilot in the Navy before graduating. Yes, the future looked bright for the agricultural education major indeed.

But, according to the 1919 yearbook, Whitey had one fault his classmates would never forget. “Whenever anyone touches or tickles Whitey, he always lets forth a turkey gobbler’s gobble mixed with a jackass ‘hee-haw.’”  Young Whitey was incredibly ticklish, much to the chagrin of his classmates and professors who likened his tickle-induced convulsions to a “shimmy dance.” Even worse, his tickling problem was killing his search for love. It was hard for poor Whitey to cuddle up with a lady when even the gentlest touch resulted in gales of laughter. Very unromantic indeed.  But what was he to do?!

Is this the face of a man who wants to be tickled?

Desperate and at the end of his wits, Whitey Lewis wrote to Aunt Mae, an advice columnist who worked for the Reveille, the college’s yearbook. Lucky for us, their interesting exchange has been immortalized in the yearbook for all time:

Dear Aunt Mae:

I have great difficulty with the pretty creatures because I am ticklish. When my lady love tenderly places her biceps around me I jump from her fond embrace, and she thinks I am repellent. What shall I do?

Tickled to death, your,

R.R. Lewis


Dear St. Vitus,

Your trouble is surely a serious one. You should either get a new girl with a tender touch, or wear tickle-proof pads over the parts affected.

Yours amused,

Aunt Mae

Who was the mysterious Aunt Mae? Probably a fellow student and staff writer for the Reveille but we don’t know for sure. “Letters to Aunt Mae” was a segment in the “Wit and Humor” section of the 1919 yearbook and never appeared again in later yearbooks. Aunt Mae wrote humorous advice to dozens of shy, lovelorn, and troubled students all across campus. In all, there are twenty questions and answers that take up seven pages in the yearbook!


Perhaps one of these characters is Aunt Mae…

We don’t know if Whitey’s tickle problem was ever solved, but he did remember his time at UMD fondly enough to become a life-long supporter of his alma mater. He and his wife, Hazel, spent the rest of their lives on a dairy farm in Frederick and were highly active in the alumni association.  After Whitey’s death in 1975, Hazel established a memorial fund in his name that supports Maryland athletics to this day!


All University of Maryland yearbooks are available online via the University Archives website at To see the rest of the “Letters to Aunt Mae” in the 1919 yearbook, click here:

Ghostly Encounters: The marching cadets at Morrill Hall

To celebrate Halloween, the University Archives will be sharing some of the most well-known ghostly legends about our campus. Check back each week during October for new installments of these spooky tales! In addition, we have organized and developed a great mobile ghost tour that will be up and running before Halloween. Keep an eye out for those ghosts!

This first week we want to tell you about Morrill Hall, the oldest academic building at the University of Maryland and the scene for several ghostly legends.  Outside of Morrill Hall – where part of the military drill ground used to be – members of the campus community have reported hearing the sound of marching feet.

-Morrill Hall in 1935. Doesn’t it just look like the setting for a horror film?

Morrill Hall in 1935. Doesn’t it just look like the setting for a horror film?

Beginning in the 1860s, the college was run as a military school, following its designation as Maryland’s land grant institution by the state legislature.  Part of the Morrill Land Grant Act’s requirements was mandatory military training, so the students were organized into a corps of cadets and divided into several companies, each with its own commander.  When you look at 19th- and early 20th-century photographs of the campus in the University Archives, you can see that the parade ground used by the cadets close to Morrill Hall.  This drill field was also the place where punished cadets had to shoulder their rifles and march back and forth for hours to work off the demerits they received.

Here are some cadets in 1914. Do you see Morrill Hall in the background? Just think, those same cadets might still be marching around campus . . .

Here are some cadets in 1914. Do you see Morrill Hall in the background? Just think, those same cadets might still be marching around campus . . .

As if the sound of marching feet wasn’t enough, sometimes the occupants of Morrill Hall smell smoke at odd times (perhaps a holdover from the Great Fire of 1912) or strange odors in the basement.  The building was originally called Science Hall when it was constructed, and some people believe that cadavers were dissected in the bowels of this Victorian structure. Pretty spooky, right?

Check back next week to read all about Miss Marie Mount and her ghostly piano playing!