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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Creepin’ on Campbell Hall

Pumpkins grow outside of Campbell Hall.

Campbell Hall has been eerily silent this fall. Rarely do you see anyone walking in or out of Campbell Hall. The trees and bushes have come to take over the landscape of the building, along with somewhat overgrown grass. Concrete stairs have started to fall apart and break on the edges. Some light posts are shifted, with a daunting orange light beaming in any darkness. The outside of the building looks moderately disheveled, with a layer of earth continuing to darken over time. The closed signs on the door almost make it appear as if nobody ever lived there, as if there was no community built in the rooms that reside there. The building remains.. But what are the remains?

According to UNI’s Special Collections, Campbell Hall was constructed in 1950 due to demands for higher education after World War II. The original name of Campbell was North Hall, and the construction of the building was not finished until 1952 due to lack of materials. In 1952 the dorm was renamed Campbell Hall in honor of Sadie B. Campbell, who was the Dean of Women for twenty-three years. Campbell Hall had its own cafeteria, which closed even with adamant student protests in 2000. The building has provided a home to thousands of students over the years. 

In December of 2021, Executive Editor Caroline Christensen wrote about the future of Campbell Hall. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Campbell Hall was used as quarantine spaces for students who were diagnosed with the virus. But as the pandemic slowed down, Campbell remained empty. Christensen’s article stated “With the end of first semester approaching, a small percentage of students have needed to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19.”

Though the COVID-19 pandemic is not completely over, students have not needed to quarantine for extended periods of time and have found other housing accommodations instead of being placed in Campbell Hall. 

The Campbell Hall courtyard remains studentless. (ESTELLE JOHNSON)

The general nature of Campbell Hall is not necessarily unnerving, but something about seeing a campus building without people in it is intimidating. There appears to be nothing structurally wrong with the building, nor does it appear to be a hazard. It looks like any other campus building with typical brick designs and windows. The most notable characteristic of Campbell Hall is that it is marginally unkempt, compared to the rest of UNI campus. 

The truth about Campbell Hall is that it is inhabited by miscellaneous campus supplies. Michael Zwanziger, director of facilities management shared,“The building is currently being used for storage and as shop space for building mechanics.”

Northern Iowan News Editor Mallory Schmitz was part of the last group of Campbell Hall residents. She shared many of her experiences in the bizarre building, which includes a peculiar architectural detail. “There’s one staircase in the northeast-most corner that goes all the way down to a dead end. When I was living there, the RAs referred to it as being “spooky or haunted.” Schmitz said, “Basically the stairs keep going down for a bit after you hit the bottom floor and there’s nothing down there.”

While the haunted stairway is conspicuous, the defining factor is the desertedness of Campbell Hall. To go along with the odd nature of the building, Schmitz also recalls the haunting articles of Campbell Hall even before it was completely shut down for student living. “When I was living there (2020-2021) they also didn’t have hardly anyone living in the northern wing. That was very odd to walk through and the lights were all off and it was totally vacant. My friends and I would go there for a little spook here and there.”

All students can get a glimpse into Campbell Hall in the evening or early morning. The halls and stairways are lit up, but there is nobody inside. It appears from the outside that some room doors are closed, but some are mysteriously kept open. To get a better look into the building, I walked into the open courtyard. While most of the windows are covered with gnarled blinds, there are a few rooms that are visible if you approach them close enough. If you look into the windows of Campbell, you can view these empty rooms that were once occupied by hundreds of past students. These rooms are unique, unlike the Towers or Quads. There are no longer classic lofted beds, desks or wooden rocking chairs. The only features that remain are the built-in closets, shelves and a small sink. There is one old luggage cart that is viewable and it wistfully sits to collect dust in the hallway. 

One room which appeared to be a lounge, has a cracked broken air conditioner on the ground. It still has a couple of chairs similar to the ones in any other dorm lounge. The carpeted floor looked as if it had water damage with miscellaneous stains. It was spine-chilling to look into these uninhabited rooms, and to see new footprints in the dust that has collected on the floor. There was what appeared to be a thick, old wooden door that had found its final resting place. Everything looked misplaced, as if maybe something had tampered with it over the cold dark nights. Though Campbell has only been empty for a couple years, the dust and dirt that is seen is layered. The inside of the building is ghostly and lifeless compared to the rest of campus. 

A glimpse into an abandoned dorm room in Campbell Hall. (ESTELLE JOHNSON)

The outside of Campbell from the courtyard is a completely different and more ravaged perspective. The grass is more overgrown than the front, and the flowerbeds are barren. The metal tables and chairs have lost some of their color and they remain student-less. On the inside of the building facing the courtyard, there is dark green ivy crawling along the brick. It continues to take over as the building continues to deteriorate. Though there is one unique plant that managed to flourish, even with scarce natural resources. A beautiful yet mysterious pumpkin plant thrives as it is untouched by students or landscaping crews. These pumpkins have a distinguished look, with a white base and dark green details in the lines of the produce. Though pumpkin season has passed and the frostbite has taken over, the plant still had few pumpkins to pick. As the nights get colder the plant will perish. In a courtyard full of nothingness, the ominous pumpkins will prevail. 

Unfortunately the idea of supernatural beings in Campbell Hall may not be completely realistic. With the way that Campbell appears from the outside, any imagination can run wild about what is really going on within the walls of the building. The straight truth is that the building is storage, and nothing really goes on inside of the locked doors. Campbell Hall was once a residence hall where students built a community and cared for one another. The last class to ever live in Campbell Hall will be graduating this academic year. History of the building as a residence is popularly unknown. So for now, Campbell Hall sits collecting dust and assorted mechanical equipment. The future of the building is unknown.

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  • D

    David SchickJan 27, 2024 at 5:52 pm

    I got to UNI in the fall of 2000. I knew people who lived in Campbell, males and females. I remember eating there at least once, even though I didn’t live there. I don’t think the dining hall there closed in 2000.

  • D

    DeniseNov 15, 2023 at 9:15 pm

    I lived in Campbell (Skybird house, renamed Jasmine) and worked as a supervisor in the dining center (1992-96). Sad to hear that the building I called home during college has met this fate. I loved my time in this dorm.

  • S

    Stacey WardNov 2, 2023 at 9:39 am

    I lived on the first floor facing 23rd Street on the Edelweiss wing. Enjoyed dorm life in the all female dorm at the time (1990-1994). Fond memories of Russ Rollinger managing the dining hall. Hope they can find better use of the building besides a storage space.

  • E

    Elaine S HooNov 1, 2023 at 12:34 pm

    I lived all four years in Sadie B (aka the Nunnery) in the late 1970s. Loved it. Perhaps the university could rent it to a rehab/shelter program that needs housing.

    • D

      David SchickJan 27, 2024 at 5:50 pm

      That’s an excellent idea. There are so many struggling people who could do so much with just a little assistance.

  • K

    KimOct 28, 2023 at 9:20 pm

    I lived here my first year at UNI (class of 96). Sad to hear of its fate. So many great memories with great people.