In the summer of 1987, the College ordered renovations to be done on first-year brick Appleton Hall. Restorations to the dorm were fairly routine until a crew of workers entered the basement and arrived at a horrifying scene: “an array of skulls and skeletons, arranged in fantastic disorder,” as the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph described in an article published that year.

The story quickly spread throughout the country—in a matter of months, newspapers as far as Chicago, Ill. and Topeka, Kansas reported on the scandalous finding. Some went as far as to say that there were several sets of human remains, a coffin and torture instruments present in the basement, all believed to be left over from old hazing rituals at the College. Others claimed the story was overhyped and that no human remains were ever found. The truth remains unclear.

The story of Appleton’s “Chamber of Horrors” is one of several included in Haunted Bowdoin College, a book by Senior Interactive Developer David Francis that was published this September. Other tales in the text involve supernatural encounters in Adams Hall—the former Medical School of Maine, where cadavers were stored in the basement and dissected on the upper-level floors—and other campus buildings, like 111 year-old Hubbard Hall.
Francis’ interest in Bowdoin’s supernatural past started when he moved to Brunswick nine years ago. As a person with a longstanding interest in local history, he quickly began assembling a plan to give ghost tours of the College.

“It had gotten to be around Halloween time and I just started thinking to myself, we’re on this 200-plus year-old campus in New England—there ought to be some ghost stories,” Francis said. “So I started asking a lot of people who had worked here for a long time and they didn’t really have much to give me, but I kept digging and doing more research and eventually started hearing some good stories.”

After an article was published about Francis in a January 2014 issue of the Orient, a publisher reached out to him, wanting more.

“The History Press just called me up and said, ‘We think there could be a book in this if you’re interested in doing it,’” Francis said. “And I certainly was.”

Though Haunted Bowdoin College is available for purchase at the Bowdoin Bookstore and other booksellers, Francis continues to give tours by request. He has also created a mobile version of the tour, available online. Francis will be leading two tours this weekend for Family Weekend—one on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and one on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

On tours, certain buildings like Adams are known to “perform,” according to Francis.
“If you go down to the basement [of Adams], you can still see the areas where they stuffed the bodies into the walls,” said Francis. “I’ve gone down there and there have been strange sort of knocking sounds that have creeped people out. They think that I’m doing it but I’m not.”