The story of “The Lady in Black” is widely known across central Arkansas as one of the most romantic, yet disturbing, ghost stories. The story of “The Lady in Black” has multiple variations, but there are consistencies that are very apparent. It is said that it is based on a true story. The ghost of “The Lady in Black” wears a long, black dress and black veil. Sightings are sporadic but common during the week of Henderson State University’s homecoming.
“I heard the story at orientation, but I don’t think there’s really a ghost,” said John Laubacher, a sophomore political science major at Henderson.
Many students hear the ghost story every fall during freshman orientation. The debate over whether or not “The Lady in Black” is real is ongoing.
“We’ve all heard the story, but we tell it different at Henderson. It’s the boy from OBU that broke a girl’s heart,” said Dan Mabery, Henderson’s assistant vice president for student services. “It just shows the rivalries.”
Even in 1920, the rivalry between Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist University was undeniable. A Henderson football player, Joshua, was dating a freshman at Ouachita, Jane. Jane was a very committed biology student and devout Baptist. When Joshua’s friends began to mock him for dating a “science nerd” from their rival school, he ended his relationship with Jane and started dating another girl from Henderson. When Jane heard the news of his new girlfriend, she clothed herself in a long, black dress and a black veil as if she was in mourning and committed suicide by jumping off a cliff into the Ouachita River.
“I think she’s real. I’ve never seen her or heard her myself, but I’ve talked to students who have,” said Allan Ford, Henderson’s assistant director of residence life and an alumni of the university.
Today, 80 years later, Jane is said to haunt Henderson’s campus as “The Lady in Black.” Students have seen her roaming the campus, wearing full dress and veil, “looking for her lost love.” She usually comes on campus during the week of Homecoming. She has been seen walking in and out of Smith Hall, the freshman women’s residence hall and around the center of campus, terrorizing the girls who took her romance away.
“Some people say they hear moaning and stuff in the halls,” said Maggie French, a freshman accounting major at Henderson. “I think the story of the people and the events is real, but I don’t really think she still haunts us.”