by Anna Kate McWhorter, Staff Writer
Any school I have ever attended had a good ghost story, so you can imagine my surprise when some of my fellow students told me that there are no ghosts reportedly roaming around Wingate Hall. Our building—with its tower, hidden staircases, and labyrinthine hallways—is ripe for a good haunting, so in the spirit of Halloween, I present to you the story of Wailing Wendy May of Wingate Hall…
Wendy May came to Wake Forest School of Divinity as bubbly and fresh-faced as a budding young theologian or minister could be. Her eyes were bright and the dark circles that would later encircle them had not yet developed. She wore brightly colored dresses to class every day, a far cry from the sweatpants that she would don later that same semester. She had waited a long time for this; it was her next step in the pursuit of her call.
At the beginning of her first semester, Wendy May was told to be wary of taking on too much during her time in school. “Don’t overload on classes,” said the second-years. “Don’t be too hard on yourself about doing every single page of reading; it can’t be done,” the third-years advised. “Be sure not to commit to too many extracurricular activities; you’ll spread yourself too thin,” warned the faculty and staff. But Wendy May was a perfectionist. She did everything and she aimed to do it well. As the weeks went on, her coursework proved challenging, sure, but she was convinced that if she just buckled down and stayed diligent, she would be able to do it all.
Because of her strict study schedule, the friendships Wendy May had formed during orientation started to dwindle. Invitations to dinners and coffee kept coming, but she always had more to read for History of Christianity, or needed to revise that Art of Ministry paper one last time, or felt like the hours she had already spent studying for that Ethics exam just weren’t quite enough. She stopped spending time outdoors. There was no more reading just for fun. She no longer went to Community Lunch. Even her phone calls back home were brief and eventually stopped.
By the time the end of that first semester rolled around, Wendy May was spending almost all her time in Wingate Hall or the library—no one was sure if she ever actually went home at all. Her eyes were consistently bloodshot and her hands had a near-constant tremor from all the coffee she consumed on a daily basis.
It was the week before finals. She was looking for a quiet place to study alone when it happened. She had heard that there were unused rooms up in the tower and thought that maybe she could get work done up there, in that isolated space. On her way to the fourth floor though, the elevator suddenly stopped. Wendy May pushed the button for the fourth floor again; nothing happened. When she pushed it again, the doors to the elevator opened up to show an unfinished area with brick walls and exposed wiring. After a few more attempts to get the elevator moving, she decided to search for a staircase. Immediately after stepping off the elevator, the doors shut behind her. She walked around through a maze of rooms and doorways, unable to find another exit. Her immense stress over her responsibilities combined with the realization that she was very, very lost finally pushed her past the limits of her sanity. She would cry and scream, then laugh hysterically, and yell some more, all the while wandering around this unknown space in the tower of Wait Chapel.
No one is quite sure how exactly she died. Perhaps her madness alone was enough; maybe lack of food and water led to her demise. But she was never able to find her way back out of that strange, poorly lit floor of the tower.
Her cries can still sometimes be heard. In the early morning, before sunrise, her voice permeates the air of Wait Chapel. In the elevator on the way up to the fourth-floor offices in the tower, she will occasionally shake the elevator walls as it passes her domain. If you listen very closely, you can sometimes hear her singing along to the chiming of the carillon as it rings across campus.