Coe College in Cedar Rapids was founded in 1851. The school has a long and storied history. But perhaps no Coe College story is better known than the story of Helen Roberts. In fact, many say her ghost still haunts the campus to this day.

Helen Roberts arrived at Coe from Strawberry Point, Iowa in 1918. She was at school only two weeks when she fell ill. Roberts was swept up in the Spanish Flu pandemic of that year. She was eventually moved from her 2nd-floor room at Voorhees Hall to the school infirmary, on the 3rd floor of that same building. Sadly, Helen passed away from the flu. To honor their daughter, Helen's parents donated a large grandfather clock to the school. And that is when the hauntings began.

Ryan Brainard

The clock has been housed in numerous buildings on the Coe Campus. First at Voorhees Hall, then moved to Clark Hall during campus renovations, and now back at Voorhees. Students began to report strange happenings. Doors locking themselves. Clothes being thrown across the room. Pictures falling from walls. Some even claim to have seen an apparition of Helen standing at the corner of their bed. Legend even says that Helen appears from the clock on the anniversary of her death.

As I stood in Voorhees Hall staring at Helen's clock, I couldn't help but feel strange. I'm not a firm believer in ghost stories, but I've heard and read enough strange things surrounding this story that I wasn't about to mess with Helen. Kristin Walters is a student at Coe and lives in the room where Helen died. Yes, you read that correctly. The infirmary room where Helen died was turned into student housing during a campus remodel. Kristin said that she wasn't aware of the stories until she got to Coe. But after living in 'Helen's Room', her opinion has changed.

Ryan Brainard

Walters told stories of wall hangings falling to the floor. Clothes placed on top of a wardrobe far from the edge strewn across the floor. Wardrobe doors that were shut would swing wide open. Kristin said that when these strange occurrences happen, they are accompanied by the sound of glass shattering on the floor, even though the entire floor of the building is carpeted.

Kristin Walters and her roommates are believers now. And who am I to doubt them? She told me the day that I visited the campus that when she or her roommates are alone in the room, they will often kindly ask Helen to leave them be since they're alone. Helen obliges. That's the other thing about this ghost story. Despite the scares and the strange noises, Helen has never hurt a student or staff member at Coe. Perhaps Helen Roberts is just trying to live out her college days. A time of her life cut tragically short back in 1918.

Ryan Brainard

A big thank you to Rod Prichard with Coe College and Kristin Walters for showing me Helen's clock and telling me more about her story. If you went to Coe and have stories about Helen, please share in the comments below!


[via Coe College]