Diagnothian Hall was constructed in 1856 and dedicated in 1857 to house Diagnothian Literary Society, a popular college activity of the time. Members would read classic pieces of literature and discuss them, as well as debate and make speeches on important issues of the day. Elected officers conducted meetings with strict procedural and customary rules. Members were not to talk among themselves while another was speaking, and were to remove their shoes at the door and put on slippers to keep the building clean. The "Diags" competed fiercely with the Goethean Literary Society to make both grow and sustain themselves. As fraternities grew in popularity, literary societies lost their fraternal appeal. The literary societies lost their importance as a place to collect books as campuses around the country built central libraries. After the societies became virtually extinct at Franklin and Marshall, Diagnothian housed various other functions, including the College Bookshop from 1926-1959 and the Music Department from 1977-2001. Presently, the Registrar's office uses Diagnothian's first floor and the upper floor is an open large classroom/lecture hall.
A number of years ago, a music professor was working late in his office in first floor Diagnothian. It was around 2:00 in the morning, so no one else was in the building. He was listening to a recording of a Souza duet called "Red Cross Nurse" that he was to later perform with a soprano. The song is about a nurse bandaging soldiers in WWI. As this song played over his stereo, he began hearing sounds apart from the music -- he heard moaning, rattling sounds, and overall, the sounds of a person in intense pain. This came from the other side of his office wall -- the area that is now the main lobby. He turned off the music quickly and ran around the wall to see who was there. The lobby was empty. He later realized the connection between his experience and Diagnothian Hall's history as a Civil War hospital. About 3 or 4 years after his first experience, the same professor was in his office late at night and was playing the piece "Haunted Landscape" by the University of Pennsylvania's George Crumb. Crumb wrote the piece specifically about the battlefield of Gettysburg as it is today and the sense of a "lingering presence" there. The atmosphere of the piece is ambient and quiet. The professor, not realizing at that moment the implications of this piece, played it over his stereo and heard precisely the same sounds as before when he had played "Red Cross Nurse." Reportedly, people who have worked there in a past have heard doors slamming with no one in the building and other strange occurences.
Though Diagnothian seems to be ripe for ghost stories with its rich history, its ghostly occurences have all revolved around its history as a Civil War hospital, and its time as the College Bookshop. Various sources report that Diagnothian was used as hospital for either wounded from the battle of Gettyburg or sick troops from Camp Johnston. Similar ghost stories can be found all over Gettysburg College campus.
Additionally, though it has less actual bearing on the building itself, Edward L. Gibbs, F&M student and convicted murderer of Marion Baker, a secretary in the Treasurer's Office, reportedly worked in the bookstore when it was in Diagnothian in 1950's. After Edward Gibbs murdered Marion Baker in 1950, he was executed in the electric chair at the state prison at Rockview in 1951. (see Stager Hall)
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