You have to admit UR can be a frightening college campus. We’re surrounded on one side by a dark, gloomy, north-flowing river – which is quite rare – and an equally dark, eerie and overwhelmingly massive cemetery on the other side.
To better visualize the spooky image UR can have, simply take a look at River Campus’ central library, Rush Rhees, at 1 a.m. What better a haunted setting fit for a ghost? There are rarely-used passageways, countless dark corners and a daunting, yet intriguing history.
For several generations of university students, the legend of Pete Nicosia has lived on. Back in 1929, when Rush Rhees Library was being built, a young Sicilian migr and mason’s helper fell 150 feet to his death during the construction of the central library tower. His job foreman, James Conroy, signed Nicosia’s death certificate and made the burial arrangements.
As years passed, The Campus – the men’s college newspaper and the Campus Times predecessor – reported several alleged sightings of someone who claimed to be Nicosia. In the 15-year period of 1933-48, students as well as professors described encounters with the ghost of Nicosia in the library tower and the stacks, respectively. They all depict a similar story of a man dressed in an old sweater and workman’s overalls, introducing himself as Pete Nicosia and making remarks about his need to speak to James Conroy about some unpaid time, his seemingly “painless death” after falling from the library tower or his desire to be on the front page of the paper.
Although it has been well over 50 years since the last reporting of Nicosia’s ghost, many students, faculty and staff will be actively celebrating Halloween at the site of his death. Each year, Rush Rhees Library is decked out in pure Halloween dcor. Head of reference Vicki Burns started the Scare Fair six years ago as a fun way of getting to know our central library.
“[The Scare Fair] gets students into the library, gives them a gentle introduction to the stacks – which many find scary, not to mention confusing – and helps them know that librarians are fun, approachable people,” economics and data librarian Suzanne Bell said. “The whole library staff is involved, one way or another.”
Through the generous funding of the Dean of River Campus Libraries Ron Dow, Scare Fair is an afternoon that is jam-packed with traditional events. Each year has a theme – past ones including haunted cinema, the Wizard of Oz and a scary forest.
“This year has a really nifty theme,” Bell said. “But you have to attend to find out what it is.”
Different forms of entertainment, ranging from music, dancing and readings, will be taking place alongside the annual costume contest, led by Vice President and General Secretary Paul Burgett with faculty judges. Plenty of food will also be available. Anyone can participate – however, this year the librarians are inviting student groups to attend with group-themed costumes.
In order to introduce students to the stacks, the librarians have created the “Stack Stalk,” in which students are given a list of three books to find in the library.
“At each destination, they will be given candy or a novelty item,” Bell said. “And as a reward for all the running around, they get to go up to the tower where you can actually go outside and walk around.”
Every student should experience the sheer spectacular view from this unique location on campus.
The Scare Fair this year will be from 2:30 to 5 p.m on Oct. 28.
Everyone is encouraged to attend. Who knows, perhaps Pete Nicosia will make a cameo appearance after a nearly 55-year hiatus.
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