Searching for the Grey Lady or Why Ray and I Talked to a Security Light for 1 Hour

By Jessica Teal

In our research of Rutgers history and legends & lore, Co-investigator Ray and I were amused by the very popular legend of the spirit of a Victorian woman or “Grey Lady” supposedly haunting the uppermost reaches of the Old Queens building. As the story goes, a female entity, possibly the mistress of one Alexander Hamilton, haunts the building. Apparently this lady, who is believed to be Catherine Livingston, daughter of William Livingston for which Livingston Campus was named, haunts the top bowers to this very day. To me, this legend begs the question - as the Grey Lady lies in wait, does she haunt the building because of some connection to her love affair with Alexander Hamilton, or is it a worship of the strangely phallus-shaped cornices and priapic roof structures that draws her undivided attention? (Remember, this legend heralds from the very tightly restrained and corseted Victorian age).

Never ones to turn down an investigation in ceramic fetishes, late one evening Ray and I plopped down under one of the stately oaks on the summit of the hill in front of Old queens and patiently staked out the balcony and adjoining cupola for our stone-fox babe. After an hour of staring at the building and getting nothing for our efforts except a few bug bites in definitely un-Victorian unmentionable places, Ray and I decided on a more proactive course of action. Although I strongly voiced the desire for some grappling hooks with which to scale the building, Ray and I managed to find something very interesting from our ground perspective. Apparently there is a sentient security light which works in reverse (it turns off as you approach it) which seems to answer any question you might pose to it in an Ouija-like manner. Ray and I first noticed the light’s strange property of turning off every time we got within several feet of it. Whereas your standard security light turns on as you approach, this one goes out. Well, probably just a reversed sensor you guess, right? Well, wrong answer buddy. This light doesn’t just go out when it senses motion, it goes right back on if you ask it a question. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I first noticed this unusual sentience when Ray and I were staring at the light and I said “well, should we just go?” Immediately, as if in direct response to my question, the light went on then off again. “Heh, heh”, said I, “Is Ray stupid? Go on again if he is” (Note: this is standard scientific procedure - not abuse of my stolid friend and our forthright investigator). Amazingly, (or not so amazingly), the light went on then off again. “Can you really hear me? Are you a sentient spirit? Are you the Gray Lady?” I think I must have rattled off my questions too quickly at that point as the light seemed to pause and digest my requests for a moment and then go on and off again. “Ah ha” said disbeliever Ray, “Let’s walk away from it and come back”, “it’s just a security light that is working erratically”. We then proceeded to walk away from the light which sort of boinked back on again as if making a desperate plea to recall our interest. We went back over to the light which promptly went out at our approach. After another 30 minutes or so of asking the light various questions (Are you a ghost? Is Jess crazy? Where are my socks?) And getting flickering responses, Ray and I decided that Old Queens may very well be haunted, but what the building really needs is good a electrician - not the Ghostbusters. Please feel free to give this a try yourself and make an attempt to gather pearls of wisdom from the wise old reverse security light of Old Queens. Just be prepared for stark, brutally honest answers from a light with blinding clarity, and giggling passerbyers who just don’t understand the ways of a seeker of wisdom & Truth.

©Rutgers Rarities and Unexplained Phenomena, 2005