Saint Bonaventure University

A Brief History of Saint Bonaventure University

It would seem that stories persist on every University campus across the world of ghosts roaming the halls haunting students from generation to generation. It is hard to decipher if these stories are just urban legend masquerading as fact or if a reality exists of spectral presences terrorizing the student body.

Saint Bonaventure University began its distinguished life through the dedication of Nicholas Devereux and Bishop Timon, a Franciscan monk. Together with the donation of $5000 and some land by Devereux, the Franciscan order made a home in Western New York. Shortly after the death of Nicholas Devereux the cornerstone, of what would become Saint Bonaventure University, was placed on August 20, 1856. It was not until 1859 that Saint Bonaventure opened to a small class of just over a dozen students and three Friars to teach. With the University on the path to become larger, many tragedies struck the campus itself. On June 30, 1908, the College building was severely damaged by fire and subsequently rebuilt as Lynch Hall. Over the next few decades, the campus began to grow even larger and on May 5, 1930, another fire broke out decimating a large portion of the campus. Plans were enacted to create an addition to the sill standing Devereux Hall for temporary housing until the campus could be rebuilt. Fire struck again in 1933 damaging Lynch Hall. When it was rebuilt it was again renamed, De La Roche Hall. In 1942, a flood hit campus inundating the buildings and surrounding land. However, over the years, the campus has grown even larger and now almost 150 years old it has stretched far beyond its humble beginnings. Located on 500 acres and having an undergraduate enrollment of two thousand Saint Bonaventure has become the largest institution of higher learning of the Franciscan order in the English-speaking world.

However, are there really spirits that reside within the brick and timber walls of Devereux Hall? Is the spirit of a long departed student still trying to write a paper in De La Roche Hall unaware that he has passed beyond the earthly plane? What exactly was discovered in a locked storage space in 1996?

Recommended Reading

Haunted Halls of Ivy

P.T. Barnum’s “Genuine Fake”

Around 1822-famed master of the “Humbug” P.T. Barnum acquired and object of much intrigue from his friend Moses Kimball, then proprietor of the Boston Museum. The object was to be Barnum’s greatest known “Genuine Fake” called the FeJee Mermaid.  This curiosity was purported to be actual proof incarnate of the existence of mermaids captured by Japanese fishermen off the coast of Fiji.  The hype generated by Barnum created a media sensation for his American Museum.  However, as many came to see the mermaid they began to wonder if it was the real deal.  In reality, the famed FeJee Mermaid was nothing more than a fish’s body and tail, the breast of an orangutan, and the head of a baboon.  This “genuine fake” as it soon became known still generated a stir among Barnum’s patrons and granted him the notoriety as one of the greatest entertainers of the day. Skating very close to out an out fraud Barnum displayed many more Humbugs throughout his life but none would be more notorious than the so-called FeJee Mermaid would.

Now on display in the first floor atrium of the Quick Center at Saint Bonaventure is a FeJee Mermaid, Assumed to have come from Barnum’s collection it was discovered in a locked storage space in 1996.  Resembling the actual FeJee Mermaid there is no real proof it is the one thought to have been destroyed when Barnum’s American Museum caught fire in 1865.  Where it came from originally could be anyone’s guess but since its discovery, it has generated as many questions of its authenticity as Barnum’s original “genuine fake.”

Recommended Reading

P.T. Barnum