For Shryock Auditorium’s 100th birthday, a look at its most famous ghosts


(Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

The SIU Wind Ensemble waits to perform Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, during the Shryock 100th anniversary concert in Shryock Auditorium. The ensemble performed pieces from various eras to commemorate the time Shryock Auditorium has been open. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Gabby Pettyjohn

One of SIU’s most recognizable campus buildings is celebrating a milestone this year: Shryock Auditorium is turning 100.

Though today the building hosts a rotating cast of actors, musicians and other performers throughout the year, many believe it is the permanent home to a different figure: Henry, the ghost of Shryock.

Henry William Shryock served as the university’s fifth president from 1913 to 1935, according to the book “History, Mystery and Hauntings of Southern Illinois” by Bruce Cline. His office was in the auditorium, and right before a convocation in the building in 1935, he suffered a massive heart attack and died at his desk.


Though Shryock wanted to go home, Cline says in the book he didn’t want an ambulance to be called “for fear of the excitement it might cause as some 1,400 students and faculty members had already gathered in the auditorium.”

“But what’s uncertain is whether President Shryock ever left, as since his death there have been reports of supernatural activity in the auditorium,” Cline says in the book.

The entrance of Shryock Auditorium is pictured Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, at Shryock Auditorium in Carbondale. The auditorium’s namesake, Henry William Shryock, died inside the building just before a student convocation on April 13, 1935. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Students have reportedly heard footsteps coming from nowhere and seen doors open and close and items go missing with no explanation, Cline said.

There is also a “ghost light” in the center of the auditorium stage nicknamed Henry that is continuously lit despite numerous attempts over the years to switch it off.

Though Henry Shryock is the most notable ghost rumored to inhabit the building, Cline said he isn’t the only one.

Cline, also a member of the Little Egypt Ghost Society, said Henry is only one of three.

The “Phantom of the Opera,” is usually seen by the pipe organ on stage and is believed to be the professor who designed the organ, Cline said.


Cline said another unnamed ghost has been known to mess with the audience and their seats during performances.

The Little Egypt Ghost Society was invited to host a “ghost hunting” event for local Girl Scouts a few years ago, during which Cline said he witnessed firsthand the supernatural occurrences that take place in the auditorium.

“We were showing the Girl Scouts how our equipment worked when we heard a loud bang,” Cline said. “We went to investigate but could not find anything that could have made a noise like that. We tried all of the doors, but they all had dampers on them to prevent them from banging shut or were locked. We found one door that we could replicate the noise we heard with, however it was blocked to make sure that no one would use it.”

Patrons chat before the Shryock 100th anniversary concert Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, outside of Shryock Auditorium in Carbondale. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Shryock Auditorium was designed in 1916 by architect James Dibelka, of Chicago.  Construction was then led by general contractor A.W Stoolman, of Champaign.

The 49th General Assembly of Illinois awarded SIU $135,000 for the project in 1915, and the design of the auditorium was inspired by Roman architectural influences in neoclassicism, according to Cline’s book.

During a 1970 remodel, new theater lights were added, the lobby was updated and a pipe organ was installed in the upper balcony. The massive 3,312 Reuter pipe organ, named Opus 1741, was designed by an SIU professor at the time by the name of Marianne Webb.

Shryock Auditorium has hosted some notable guests over the years, including President William Taft in 1918 and Vice President Richard Nixon in 1956.  

After Henry William Shryock died in his office, his funeral was held there in 1935.

Staff writer Gabby Pettyjohn can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @gpettyjohn98.

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