One of the most widely-circulated stories about the CWU campus is the claim that Kamola Hall, the university’s oldest residence hall (built in 1911 and restored in 2004), is home to a mischievous ghost named Lola.
According to most of the published accounts, Lola apparently was a student who lived in the all-female Kamola Hall in the 1940s. It’s said her fiancé was drafted into the military and killed in combat. Distraught, Lola, wearing her wedding dress, then hung herself from the rafters in the attic.
“Lola’s been haunting the 90-year-old building—mostly on the upper floors and south end—ever since. Or so the local lore goes,” noted the Yakima Herald-Republic in October 2001.
Former CWU photographer Rich Villacres told a campus publication in 2002 that he believes in Lola.
“Lola exists, and she is a photography critic,” Villacres said in the Fall 2012 ResLife publication. Villacres set out to shoot a re-creation of Lola in the attic, using a model in a wedding dress.
“Our shoot began two hours before dark. I wanted to use natural light since we were going for a lonely, restless kind of look rather than a scary ghost,” he recounted. “The next day I processed [the] film. This is where it gets strange. Of the four rolls shot inside Kamola, only the 120 roll came out normal. Two of the three 35mm rolls came out black. That is, NO exposure. The only way this can happen is if you shoot with the lens cap on, the camera has a mechanical problem, or the film is defective. It is impossible to shoot a 35mm SLR with the lens cap on and still see what you’re doing, so that wasn’t it.
“While it is not impossible for a single roll of professional film to be bad the odds are way up there. In our case, we had two rolls from different emulsions (manufacturer batches) that did not expose. The odds of that happening are astronomical.”
Over the years, numerous newspaper articles and web stories have recounted similar unusual events attributed to Lola. Some, like one posted on Yahoo Answers, go so far as to claim Lola’s ghost is responsible for four deaths. Others, such as a Washington ghost story website, www.pastandpresent.com, say students over the years have reported spectral sightings, cold gusts of wind, and noises.
One website, wikimapia.org, even claims that Lola’s real name is Lola Wintergrund and she was a student who leapt to her death from one of the upper floors of Courson or Muzzall Halls, located across the street from Kamola. After both of those halls were demolished in 2007, she supposedly moved into Kamola (which doesn’t explain how she was allegedly in Kamola prior to 2007).
So, is there any substance to any of this?
In October 2003, the CWU Observer student newspaper, quoted an alumnus, Evan Sylvanus, who said the entire Lola ghost story was “made up in 1982 to go along with a fundraising haunted house in Kamola.”
Additionally, while nearly all of the Lola stories mention that Kamola was a women’s dormitory, which it was for much of its history, during World War II, some 400 male U.S. Air Force cadets lived in the hall. It wasn’t until after the war ended that it returned to being a women’s dorm (since 1974 it has been co-ed).
There is also no record of any student named Lola dying in Kamola Hall, by suicide or any other means, during that time.
Yet despite such evidence, many still claim Lola is real. “She screwed with my film and, honestly, I have no explanation for it,” Villacres said. “Something weird happened.”