Death of a St. Mary's University ghost story

I’ve been set to post a Huffington Post list of haunted campuses, which included St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and its Heffron Hall. (Still on that Halloween groove.)

The Post makes it sound juicy:

In 1915, Bishop Patrick Heffron was shot to death in a chapel on St. Mary’s campus by a bitter Father Lesches, who was later institutionalized at the Minnesota State Hospital for the Dangerously Insane. St. Mary’s students believe that Heffron hall has been haunted by its slain namesake since it was built in 1921 — they say the ghost of Bishop Heffron has been spotted on the third and fourth floors of the residence hall and that he is responsible for unexplained drafts.

But spokeswoman Deb Nahrgang set me straight:

Officially, there isn’t a ghost. It was made up as hype for the college paper back in the ‘60s. That doesn’t, unfortunately, stop the story from spreading. Everybody loves a good ghost story.


For one thing, Heffron didn’t die from his gunshot wounds. But Nahrgang continued:

Truthfully, the story “behind” the ghost is very interesting. Patrick Marek, an alum who works at a the Winona Post, has investigated the story of the ghost at length.

Check out the paper’s archives, and among others, you should find this piece. It provides background and a description of the attempted assassination.

An odd element:

The tale officially came of age, and transformed into: “The Ghost of Heffron Hall” when Father Edward W. Lynch’s charred body was found in his bed on the third floor of St. Mary’s Hall Friday morning, May 15th, 1931.

So much for spooking the freshmen.

  • Guest

    The heffron hall ghost is very real and not the only ghost at smu. There are in fact several ghosts throughout this school. This is coming from a student who has actually LIVED in heffron hall. This is a Cover-up.

    • John

      As a student at Saint Mary’s, these may be the famous stories but are not the ones you would hear if you came asking students and campus safety especially. I cannot say if I believe one way or another, but there is much they are not allowed to talk about anymore that happens with the night crew. Saint Mary’s wanted to distance themselves as far as possible from ghost stories when they attained whatever number one spot they were rewarded. The school does want to cover up anything like that.

  • Cocochanel123

    its VERY REAL…. light a match on the third floor stand perfectly still and watch it sligthtly slant meaning someone is walking by….

  • Bill’64

    I lived on 3rd Heffron during the 60-61 school year and on 2nd Heffron
    during the 61-62 school year and absolutely nothing happened in those
    years.  The ghost stories were around, but we knew little about the
    Priest who tried to kill Bishop Heffron or the priest who did it nor the
    priest who died of electric shock.  The tales in those days involved
    the young Navy men who were on campus during WWII.


    As a Saint Mary’s student to a writer of an article who probably did not attend SMU, I can tell you that there were very bizarre incidents throughout my four year career there–from an oven turning on by itself to full apparitions. Also, the story never went that Bishop Heffron was shot was killed. He survived the shooting. I’ve never heard the story told otherwise. The haunting part of the story has to do with the person who committed the shooting. 

  • arshagarbon

    I graduated in 2010 and yes that place is haunted. While specifically I never saw anything at Heffron myself I always had that feeling to run out of the building around 2am and not go back until the sun was up.

    Additionally I did see the spirit of a small girl out by Yons field and many others have reported seeing her both there and in the lobby by Campus safety, including Campus safety themselves. This article is a fallacy produce by someone who clearly hasn’t spent more than 5 minutes probably before 10pm at campus.