I’m in love with a podcast called My Favorite Murder – perhaps you’ve heard of it? If not, it’s a true crime comedy show hosted by two hilariously deranged women, Karen and Georgia. As a true crime fanatic, I was ecstatic when it was introduced to me by a friend about two years ago. One of the best things they do is called “hometown murders”, where they read fan-submitted stories about their experiences with the macabre. These submissions have expanded to include ghost stories, sinkholes, things found in walls, etc. This morning I submitted my own ghost story, and after writing it all out, thought it might be a fun read for others.
Please, pardon the language, it’s part of the humor.
While my sleepy hometown remains uncommonly murder-free, I do have a great, Catholic ghost story that I thought you all might enjoy.
I attended college at an incredibly small, private Catholic school for women (yep, only women), because I am both a feminist and filled with unmitigated guilt. There was a single dorm which housed our roughly 350 students, and we shared the gorgeous, wooded campus with a convent of the order of Sisters who founded the school back in the late 1830s. Since none of the buildings had been updated since around 1930, creaking floors, rattling pipes, unexpected drafts, and slamming doors were common occurrences. Add the cemetery, home to every Sister who had died since 1840, and we were basically living on 62 acres of prime haunted real estate.
The Sisters had a huge influence over the school, and any sort of haunting rumors were discouraged. Demons were another story – we had a bathroom which had been exorcised – but ghosts weren’t real. The only story they entertained and truly believed in, was that of the Faceless Nun. As the story went, a young nun belonging to the convent was a savant of oil portraits. She did these for the community elite, and her practice was to always paint the details of the face last. After some recognition and success in the community, she decided that she would try her hand at a self portrait. However, before she could complete the work and add her facial features, she died of whatever illness was frequently killing off otherwise healthy young people at the time (tuberculosis, maybe?). A few days after her funeral, another nun was in the chapel for her evening prayers, when she noticed a fellow sister in the corner – her head bowed, hands covering her face, and crying. The nun went to her to comfort her, but when she placed her hand on the crying-sister’s shoulder, the sister raised her head to reveal skin stretched over bones – no eyes, no nose, no mouth. The nun who saw this apparently passed out from fright and had to be kept in the hospital for the rest of her life. The Sisters purport that the nun in question committed the sin of vanity with her self-portrait and is now trapped in purgatory (sans face).
I’ve always loved ghost stories, so I ate this shit up. Fast forward a few years and I’m serving as an RA. With the position comes a set of master keys that accessed the dorms and academic building. I, being incredibly responsible, obviously abused this power in search of adventure on boring Saturday nights. My friends and I would enter the academic building, and then use the interconnecting underground tunnels (hell yeah, abandoned underground tunnels!) to access the other facilities. One night we managed to get into the basement of the administrative building, which gives unique access to a service elevator that can take you to the attic. The joyride to the top level was frightful in and of itself because the elevator was never serviced (as it wasn’t supposed to be used) but we carpe diem’d it anyways. The attic probably hadn’t been accessed in over a decade, and was filled with broken religious relics, like statues of Jesus with rebar sticking out of his hands like a fucked-up reverse stigmata. I wandered over to some old paintings in gorgeous turn-of-the-century frames and started sifting through them.
I swear to God I almost threw up in fear when I pulled back one of the frames to find AN OIL PAINTING OF A NUN WITH NO FACE. I started crying for some reason and yelled for my friend to come over so that I could confirm I wasn’t haven’t a stroke and seeing things. The painting was incredibly old, ripped in places, covered in dust, and had burn marks around the edges of the frame. My friend starts freaking out as well, screaming “THEY SAID IT WAS IN THE ATTIC OF FOLEY!”. I too, then, suddenly remembered all of the stories saying that they nuns had kept the original portrait in the attic of Foley Hall, which was the original dorm/academic building in the 1800s. It had been destroyed in a fire in 1990. Suddenly we realize that most of the things in the attic had signs of fire damage – concluding these must have been the surviving artifacts from the building. My friend couldn’t handle it and begged me to leave, so we took off.
A few nights later, I was walking around campus around 2:00 AM thanks to my anxiety-insomnia. I did this often and it was never a cause for concern. As I was walking alongside the Motherhouse, I noticed a nun walking toward me. I didn’t think too much off it at first, but then realized she was wearing a full habit. Our order no longer wore habits – the nuns wore pastel, conservative, but otherwise normal clothes. I stopped and stood there for a second, thinking “maybe she’s wearing it for fun?“. But then she raised her head, and even though it was dark, there was enough light to notice the absence of shadows across her perfectly smooth, NON EXISTENT FACE.
I noped it out of there faster than I have ever noped it in my life. When I got back to my dorm room, I stuck my rosary in my bra (closest to my stampeding heart) and said every prayer I have ever remembered and made up a few new ones to be safe. I don’t think the Almighty minded the few “fucks” I peppered into my Hail Marys. I saw the Faceless Nun one other time while I was a student there, and it was less shocking, but still unbelievably creepy