In one story, the ghost known as the Brown Lady is enrolled at a tiny Baptist college during the Civil War when her promised blue-blood husband commits a pair of unthinkable sins: One, he fights for the Yankees; two, he dies on the battlefield.
So in true heroine style, she jumps to her death from the roof of her dormitory – handkerchief fluttering after. In another, the Brown Lady hails from an aristocratic farm family in Northampton County, and on a summer’s holiday in New York, she accepts the wedding proposal of a young lawyer on a single condition: First, she must finish her college degree.
But before her sophomore year is complete, while her beau pines in the North, she expires of typhoid fever. Or perhaps melancholy. The details vary. For at least 100 years, the Brown Lady has haunted the Murfreesboro school now known as Chowan University – her heart cleft in two, her education incomplete. Her taste in 19th-century gowns ran to the earth tones, hence her name. But she rarely appears on campus, preferring to plague her modern classmates on Halloween – her death date – with the sound of ghostly taffeta shifting up and down the halls.
History disputes even her name.
“Among the many fair-haired and energetic girls that were preparing for college this beautiful September was Eolene Davidson, the beautiful daughter of a well-known farmer,” wrote student Jessie Maie Piland in 1915. “She was a pleasant, sweet-natured girl of nineteen, tall and slender, with wavy black hair, fair complexion and dreamy blue eyes. Much did she enjoy the pleasures of life.”
Claimed photograph of the ghost, taken by Captain Hubert C. Provand. First published in Country Life, 1936