Facing Henderson Avenue, shrouded in trees, looking away from the proud dome atop Academic is Cheney Hall.

From the time of its construction until its closure, Cheney Hall and its inhabitants have been the subject of several of Southeast’s peculiar pieces of campus lore. Tragedy, hauntings, and an untimely death all surround the campus curiosity that is Cheney Hall. 

1939: A Year of Unrest

The year was 1939 and Cape Girardeau Public Works started a project that included the creation of two new campus buildings. Kent Library and Cheney Hall were constructed simultaneously, making Cheney the oldest residence hall still standing at Southeast. Taking its name from the Southeast Missouri State Normal School’s first President, Lucius Cheney, the rooms were reserved for returning students. 

Students attending Southeast at the time would have been hearing rumblings about WWII. The names Roosevelt, Hitler, and Mussolini would have been top of mind. To drown out the thoughts of impending war, students may have gone to see The Wizard of Oz or Gone with the Wind in theatres or listened to “Moonlight Serenade” by Glenn Miller on the radio.

Patriotism was becoming an important part of life as World War II was on the horizon. This was reflected in popular music at the time, with songs like "God Bless America" and "When the Saints go Marching In" making the top 5 for 1939.
  1. Judy Garland, "Over the Rainbow"
  2. Glenn Miller, "Moonlight Serenade"
  3. Kate Smith, "God Bless America"
  4. Billie Holiday, "Strange Fruit"
  5. Louis Armstrong, "When the Saints Go Marching In"

One of the most popular movies in American history, The Wizard of Oz was released in full technicolor in August of 1939. Although it was not the first full-color movie, it proved to many the value of adding color to movies for storytelling.
  1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  2. The Wizard of Oz
  3. Gone with the Wind
  4. Rules of the Game
  5. Stagecoach

  1. Kent Library was completed. Before Kent, the library was housed in Academic Hall.
  2. Southeast's Alma Mater played for only the second time ever at a commencement ceremony.
  3. The original Houck Field House still stood. The Field House would burn down in 1948 and be rebuilt in 1951.
  4. Walter Winfield Parker was president of the University.
  5. Wildwood was still used as the President of the University's residence. Wildwood now serves as a venue for important functions, and housing for campus guests.
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Lucius H. Cheney

A headshot of Lucius H. Cheney. He looks sternly off to the left side.

Long before the building donned “Cheney” on its concrete marker, the name belonged to a principal. Lucius H. Cheney served as principal, or president as well call them now, for the Third District Normal School as it first opened in 1873. The school opened in the old Lorimier School building with just five faculty members and 57 students.

Cheney graduated from Albany State Normal School in Albany, New York in 1852. He served twice as a principal before coming to Cape Girardeau. Under Cheney, the Normal School saw the construction of its first building, and the creation of a set curriculum for teacher education in a rural district. Cheney administered a written examination to each student to help determine his or her interests and talents in a variety of subjects and both Latin and German were requirements for every student.  By the final year of his administration, it had 229 students.

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The ghost of Cheney

Where does Cheney earn its haunted reputation from? The most popular rumor can be traced back to the 1970s when students began telling stories of a girl with long brown hair in a white nightgown wandering the halls. The story goes the girl tragically died in her dorm's bathtub. When facilities tried to clean the room for the next student, the bloodstains couldn't be removed. They built a cabinet over the tub and eventually turned the entire room into a storage closet.

Investigating Cheney Hall

Learn more about the haunted rumors surrounding Cheney and see what the building looks like today.

Hauntings in the Hall

Hear two haunting tales about Cheney Hall originally shared by students who lived there. Dr. Rhodes reads "The Shadow" from his book, Haunted Cape Girardeau: Where the River Turns a Thousand Chilling Tales.

Unexplainable: A Short Story

It's 1972 and Maria Morales just started her first year at Southeast. She's excited to start her next chapter while living in Cheney Hall, until unexplainable things start happening around her. Stories from real students and Cheney history mix to create a compelling look into being a student living in Cheney during the 70s.

Dear Diary,

Today I moved into my new dorm at Southeast Missouri State College. I am so excited to begin this journey as a new freshman on campus. I am a little nervous being away from home for the first time, but I am excited to experience some independence!

I am living in an all-girls dorm called Cheney Hall. My room is bigger than I had anticipated and I’m really looking forward to meeting the other girls in the hall. I hope I can make some new friends here.

I met my roommate for the first time today. Her name is Jean. I found out that we both really like The Beatles so I think we are going to get along well! Tonight we are going to a Welcome Back dance at the gymnasium. I can’t wait!

I should start getting ready, I don’t want to be late on my first night out as a college student!

Wish me luck!


Dear Diary,

Today was the first day of class! I think my classes are going to be tough but luckily, I met a couple of girls in the dorm who are also studying to become a teacher so I’m sure we’ll have some group study sessions.

In history class today, I learned that our dorm hall is actually named after the first president of the college, Lucius Cheney. How cool is that?

I better get to studying now. Talk soon!


Dear Diary,

I was in the library today and decided to do a little research on Lucius Cheney. This is a crazy story! Mr. Cheney was actually killed in an accident while still president of the college. According to the article I read, in 1876 he was working on an archaeological expedition in the Cumberland Mountains trying to excavate the skeletal remains of a child and an adult from the bottom of a mound. After locating the first skeleton, people from the town began rushing over to the site to see what they had discovered. The land suddenly caved in atop of those working below. Mr. Cheney was completely buried by the fallen group and was crushed to death. Can you imagine? What a tragedy!

The portrait of him hanging in our commons area definitely feels different now. Golly!

Tomorrow is my first day of practice with the girl’s football club. They call themselves the Chickenhawks! I guess my time on the farm playing football with dad is going to come in handy!


Dear Diary,

Something strange happened tonight. It started raining on my walk back to the dorm. Jean had just gotten home from class and we were hanging out, listening to some music, when our lights started flickering on and off. It went on for about 15 minutes. It kind of scared us but it was probably just the storm. 


Dear Diary,

This morning, I was in a study session with a couple other girls in the dorm and mentioned something about the flicking lights last night. The other girls said their lights were normal all evening. I guess Jean and I’s room must have some loose wiring. Maybe I’ll call the janitor to come and look at it. 


Dear Diary,

In the cafeteria this morning, I overheard a couple girls chatting about Cheney Hall and it got my attention. One of them said she didn’t want to live there after what happened last year. I didn’t ask any questions, but I wonder what she was talking about. 


Dear Diary,

Sorry it’s been a few days since I’ve written to you. I have so much homework to do! College is way different than high school. I really need to start focusing more in class so I don’t get behind. 

Jean told me something today, but I think she was pulling my leg. She said that when she came back to the room after class, our door was open. She swears she shut it completely when she left. A little while later, she was reading on her bed with the door open, and said the door slammed shut! She ran into the hall but no one was around. I told her it was probably one of the girls playing a joke on her but she seemed really worried about it.  


Dear Diary,

Ok, I might be going a little nutty after these long nights of studying, but I swear tonight I heard some really strange noises coming from the floor above. Jean was at dinner with some friends so I was alone. I decided to go upstairs and see what the commotion was but the noises stopped when I reached the fourth floor. I asked a couple of girls who were standing in the hall and they said they didn’t hear anything. 

I think I just need to get some sleep – you probably think I’m crazy! 


Dear Diary,

Jean told me that a female student tragically died in one of the bathtubs in Cheney last year! WHAT IN THE WORLD? She didn’t know any of the details but I wonder if that’s what those girls were talking about in the cafeteria. That must have been really unnerving for everyone living there. 


Dear Diary,

Things are starting to get a little strange around here. A girl who lives on the fourth floor was crying tonight because she thought she saw a ghost in her room! She said it was a dark-haired girl in a nightgown standing in the doorway. Maybe she heard about the girl who died last year and thought it would be funny to start a rumor. I don’t know but she seemed genuinely upset. 




What's going on! 

To whoever is reading this… 

Since I moved into Cheney Hall, strange things have been happening. I didn’t want to believe it at first but there is no denying that something is going on here. There are things that I can’t explain and it makes no sense. I am so scared now! 

If something happens to me, please tell my family that I love them very much. 

Maria Morales

Dear Diary,

I just moved into my new dorm and Jean actually came with me! Classes are still hard but I think I am getting a handle on everything. The Chickenhawks won the championship tonight so we’re going to celebrate later! 

I feel pretty silly for everything I told you the past couple of months. I wasn’t getting much sleep so I’m sure I was just imagining things.  

My new dorm is really nice, has big windows, and is really close to the cafeteria! Jean and I have already made some new friends here. 

Anyways, we are about to head to dinner. Talk soon! 


Dear Diary,

Maybe everything I experienced during my time at Cheney wasn’t just my imagination. I heard today that a freshman living on the fourth floor went to sleep with a gold chain necklace on and woke with it on the floor beside her bed. Not too crazy, except, the clasp of the necklace was completely intact! I guess the story continues…


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Lasting Legacies

The last time Cheney Hall was officially used as a dorm was in 2017 when overflow rooms were needed on campus. Alumni remember the dorm fondly as one of their favorite places on campus. Take a look at their posts on the now inactive Cheney Hall Facebook Page

As for Lucius H. Cheney, he met his end on July 14, 1876. Cheney worked on an archaeological expedition in the Cumberland Mountains while attending a summer field camp with Harvard University. His team excavated a large mound of skeletons on the first day of digging. Having some experience in excavation, Cheney was put in charge. As he exclaimed that he might be able to save an entire skeleton, spectators rushed to see his find. This caused the wall around the site to give way and crush those working below. Cheney was the only worker killed in the accident. His wife, Frances, finished out the year as principal at Southeast. Cheney's body is buried in Lorimier Cemetery where his tombstone reads "a teacher."

In 2021, Cheney Hall remains a fixture on campus, although the current Southeast facilities team has labeled the building not structurally sound as a residence hall. Currently, it holds old furniture and lost memories. There are no plans to renovate or demolish Cheney Hall at this time.

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While the building may no longer house students, former residents shared their favorite memories of Cheney Hall.

"We had group dinners, BBQ Bash, built a float for the homecoming parade, hosted thanksgiving with Jim (the custodian) and even set up a Christmas tree we found in the closet. Such a great place!"
-Erin Hagglund

"I moved there in the fall of 1986. I liked how big the rooms were and they had ac. My boyfriends father had lived in them in the 50 I believe. He told me about putting cake in his window sill and that [ants] had gotten in it and he did not know until he ate it! The boyfriend was a sig ep and I was serenaded by the fraternity and when I came down to the front steps he put my lauvalere on my neck. It’s a necklace with a heart and the fraternity letters. I met Julie lambert, who became my sorority sister as we pledged at the same time. We moved the next year into Greek housing. I loved Cheney."
-Pamela Madick Troutwine

"I lived in Cheney in 90-91. One day some workers went through a door in the basement. Turns out it lead into the tunnels. I secretly put a piece of duct tape over the latch and later that night, my friend, Jobin and I and a couple other people explored the tunnels until we were seen by some workers at the power plant! We ran as fast as we could and didn't get caught. What a rush!"
-Ken Sills

"I lived in Cheney Hall my first and second year of college with my best friend. We met so many amazing people during that time and my passion for working with college students was ignited by being on the hall council. Our Haunted Halls events each year were some of my favorite memories!"
-Kevin Cook

"I didn’t get a chance to stay in Cheney cause I had to move into Greek housing but I can say I spent a lot of hours with people there that I still consider friends."
-Michelle Werner

"Cheney was my favorite resident hall on campus. I lived in Cheney three years (2004-2007), and loved the huge rooms! I met some great people who I still call friends today!"
-Sara Parks

"We were displaced by the Great Towers West Renovation of '93, so we knew some folks that were already in Cheney. Spent the remainder of my SEMO career in various basement rooms. We really had a very good community. We participated in Haunted Halls, had BBQ's out at Capaha, even put on a hall prom one year. We even purchased a sound system for events around campus."
-Brian Kinzel

"Cheney was my home for 2.5 years and to this day is my favorite place to have lived (and present in many of my dreams). I met so many people there, and have so many memories but what I remember most fondly are nights, listening to music in my room (decorated the way I wanted since my roommate had moved out) and really just feeling at peace and like I was on the right path. That feeling + those memories and moments = PRICELESS. Every time I'm in the area I try to drive by to see Cheney, and have this sense of seeing an old friend. I truly, truly, truly miss Cheney and am grateful for the time I had there."
-Lindsey Marie

"Had a lot of friends that lived and worked as staff in Cheney as an undergraduate, spent a fair amount of time there. Cool lounge, lots of character in the building, one of the most unique residence halls I have ever seen."
-Dustin Fritsche

"Cheney ended up being my favorite dorm. I was a music major and a business minor so all my classes were nearby in Brandt Music Hall and Dempster. Lots of my friends lived in Cheney and so few people lived in Cheney that it was fairly quiet and the community style bathrooms didn’t bother me since only 6 people shared a bathroom. (...) I loved how unique all the rooms in Cheney were and how it felt like a classic dorm you’d see in the movies. The year I lived there, there was a popular website that listed all of the haunted places in Missouri and gave the ghost stories that went with them...Cheney was close to the top of the list...oh joy. Some ghost hunters investigated various buildings on campus and gave a tour that October I lived there. I went on the tour and they set up their equipment in Cheney and Cheney definitely had the most “activity” out of any of the buildings. The EVP machine definitely picked up a man’s voice saying “Get out, get out now!” while we were in the haunted dorm room...I said “Sir yes sir” and ran out of that room and down the stairs 😜 It was a little freaky to be sleeping a few yards away from the most “haunted” room on campus that night! Ha! But I quickly got over it. But it was still a great place and I was very sad to see Cheney be closed as a residence hall."
-Brooke DeArman

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