It was half past 2 a.m. when the ringing began. Emanating through the tenth floor hall of Curry Residence Hall, the chiming was no louder than a whisper yet carried a hollow tone, an echo before the sound. Rhythmically, the sound continued, never growing louder yet somehow seeming to fill the empty void from which it came. He was back.
While it may seem like the opening credits of a Martin Scorsese film, the ominous anecdote follows from one of professor of anthrolopology Dr. James Jordan’s famous ghost stories, woven annually before a large crowd of students, faculty and community members eager for a scare with the approach of Halloween.
Hooded in a cloak and taking advantage of the shadowy stage, Jordan always captivates the audience as he shares his ghost stories. One of the more popular tales is about a young child who has been riding his tricycle on the tenth floor of Curry and tragically falls down the elevator shaft.
Jordan has a passion for history that he brings to his stories in order to entice large crowds to gather for this annual event. While most enjoy a good scare to accompany the waning daylight and eerie atmosphere of late October, Jordan’s ability to seamlessly incorporate fact with the macabre invites the question: who really is the man behind the stories?
Jordan is well-known to the student body. From his scary Halloween tales to his spring bonfires, his active interaction with students outside of the classroom is both admired and appreciated by the students themselves.
"Dr. Jordan is the man," one student remarked as the professor told the ghost stories last October, "He helped me out with my paper and actually made it interesting."
What many students don't know, however, is that Jordan has an impressive résumé outside of the academic environment. In addition to serving as the Chief Faculty Marshal of Longwood University and leading all academic ceremonies, Jordan's outside pursuits include serving 12 years as a Naturalist for Virginia State Parks, three years as Executive Director of the Nature Camp of Virginia and lending his expertise as a technical consultant for the Fox Television Network series “Bones.”
His many accomplishments include being recognized as Virginia Professor of the Year in 1995, a prestigious honor in which recipients are selected on "[the] basis of their extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching, determined by excellence in the following four areas: impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former undergraduate students," according to the U.S. Professors of the Year Award Program.
Such commitment to helping students succeed was evident even in the authoring of this article, as Jordan took a great deal of his personal time to provide interviews, research materials and expertise.
It is safe to say most would wholeheartedly agree that Jordan demonstrates these qualities, best illustrated by his renown in the community of Farmville itself. While many college towns across the U.S. grow familiar with the faculty of their respective universities, Jordan's impact on the communities serves as both a token to the close-knit ties the university has with the residents of Farmville as well as Jordan's attention to reaching out to spread his knowledge and passion for history. Perhaps the best testament to this outreach is a program presented by CBS News, in which Jordan conducted a haunted tour of Longwood's campus for the public to enjoy.
Without spoiling the suspense (and creep factor) of Jordan's ghost stories, one can expect tales including a professor who threw herself onto a fire to save her students and now haunts Stevens Hall, the appearance of a Confederate solider in the flames of Longwood's Great Fire in 2001 and the infamous story of the girl crushed by the Greenwood Library bell, all, of course, accompanied by pictures of the haunted structures of a large screen throughout the lecture.
In his own words, Jordan had this to say of his annual ghost stories lecture: “Whether people enjoy these ghost [stories] for the chills or the history of our university, I think it’s valuable to remember that we modern folks are part of a legion of Longwood students who go back to 1839. Seeing and hearing how they all lived and died makes the olden days seem much more alive.”