The St. John’s legend that begins in the late-1960s with two students betting one another they could not stay all night in the Stella Maris Chapel is false. I do not have permission to disclose the actual names of the actors, but here follows what really happened. In late April or early May of 1967, two Johnnies I will call Mike and Ike bet one another they could not stay all night in Stella Maris Chapel. The bet followed a conversation Mike and Ike and several other Johnnies had about haunting, the paranormal and St. John’s. As the conversation ensued, I was hoping to instigate such a bet and to compel at least two men to stay the night at the chapel. Both my father, SJU, ’38, and my grandfather, ’09, had regaled me with legends of St. John’s as I was growing up. Their tales and stories made me want to witness the birth of a new St. John’s legend. Mike and Ike’s bet promised to be such an opportunity.
Stated simply, Mike and Ike bet one another they did not have the courage to stay in the chapel all night. The first man to get scared and to head back to the residence hall would owe the other five bucks. It was a warm night and a drizzling mist hung in the air, but the two Johnnies left the rest of us. At about 2:15 a.m., both Mike and Ike thought the whole idea was stupid and they decided to return. However, Mike reasoned, they would look like two fools if they got back to campus without reporting any spectral sightings. Ike agreed and agreed also that they would only report having seen “something that shouldn’t be messed with,” namely, the figure of a monk approaching the chapel’s gate. The figure never touched the ground but floated noiselessly. After agreeing to the story, they set out for the residence hall and broke into a sprint the last 100 yards so they would be out of breath upon arrival. The two ghostbusters did arrive breathless.
They trampled up the stairs, burst into the hallway and went to their respective rooms and then re-met in Mike’s. The trampling, panting and door slamming did arouse the interest of some of the rest of us who had stayed behind. I went to Mike’s room and gathered with a few other Johnnies outside the door. We knocked several times but no one answered. Muted sounds came from behind the door which could have been the panting of a frightened person who had just run all the way from the chapel, or muffled laughter. I opted for the latter. Sometime later, Mike came into the hallway and retreated again to his room. A number of us followed him, asking what had happened. “There’s something there that shouldn’t be messed with,” Mike said between gasps. Ike nodded his head. “We need some sleep,” Mike said and closed his door. The rest of us left. Ike headed toward his room. “What did you see, Ike?” I asked. “We heard a loud whistling sound. It was eerie. A hooded figure came toward the gate, as though it was watching us. Then it drifted silently away.” “Anything else?” “No, that’s it. Don’t go out there.” Having received as much news as I could, I went back to my room, noting Mike said the specter had made no sound while Ike said there had been a loud, eerie whistle.
The next day, the campus buzzed with the news of the sighting. I spread the story as widely as I could. I even called several Johnnies I knew had an interest in the paranormal. I shared the news with faculty. Mid-week, one student came to my room to ask what I knew about the ghost sighting. He said he was an expert and a paranormal investigator. I referred him to Mike or Ike, who both stonewalled and did not say a thing more. As Mike moved from his room, I asked to keep contact with him. “Bill, that’s not my way,” he said. I thought he was too young to have a way of life yet, but he insisted on no contact with any of us. The next year, Mike was gone. When Ike returned, he had nothing to say about the supernatural to anyone.
Years passed, and Mike’s whereabouts remained obscure. But occasionally I ran into a Johnny and sometimes the Stella Maris story was re-told. Morphing from Mike’s simple report to Ike’s eerie whistle, the tale accumulated detail. Mike, whom I finally located after more than 40 years of searching, heard an account of the monk hovering at ceiling level and splitting into many howling faces. “All I ever said,” Mike allowed, “was a hooded figure came to the gate and then drifted away, silently over the forest floor.” There was even a television documentary crew that stopped by the Stella Maris chapel. I told Mike that Ike had reported a loud, eerie whistle and he assured me that he, Mike, had never included a whistle in his account. He agreed he and Ike birthed a St. John’s legend and I promulgated it. I confess I was even an instigator who may have gotten the whole chapel visit and story started. Now St. John’s knows the rest of the story.