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FLASHBACK: Legend of UTPB's Matilda alive and well - even if she isn't - Odessa American: Celinda Hawkins

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FLASHBACK: Legend of UTPB's Matilda alive and well - even if she isn't

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Posted: Sunday, September 1, 2013 4:00 am

Editor’s Note: This column was originally published Aug. 8, 2012 and was reprised to commemorate the 40th anniversary of UTPB.

I was doing some online perusing recently and came across an Odessa ghost story that I had never heard before involving a haunting in the hallowed halls of UTPB.

In 2009, the good students at the Mesa Journal did some digging and found out that yes, there have been stories about a ghost at UTPB for years and her name is “Matilda.” According to a story penned by Amber Batura, the most common legend claims that Matilda was the wife or girlfriend of a construction worker on campus while the Mesa Building was being built in the early 1970s. Legend has it (remember, this is legend and speculation, not fact) he may have killed her (although the circumstances are vague) and buried her remains somewhere in the building, perhaps somewhere in the foundation of stairwell six.

The legend of Matilda is alive and well — even if she isn’t. The “Matilda” part of the campus lore during orientation is always a favorite of new students. Last week, orientation students could not wait to get to stairwell six.

“They took a photo there and gathered around like they had their arms around Matilda,” said Jessica Zuniga, director of student life. Sadly, Matilda did not appear in the photo. Maybe she was there…in spirit.

Zuniga said there have even been strange orbs that have appeared in photos taken in the Student Union Building.

“If you ask any of the folks that work there or the students — everybody has Matilda stories,” Zuniga told me, especially the security guards who are there late at night. One said Matilda talked to him and may have even forced a soda out of the machine when he was thirsty Zuniga said.

Some folks were talking about the story on Facebook: a woman said she had always heard about the legend of the ghostly apparition of a woman was haunting the hallowed halls of the Mesa Building at UTPB.

Michele Thompson posted that while she was a student at UTPB there were reports that the gal ghost was haunting the student union area and had been spotted on a stairwell in the building. She admitted hearing lots of different versions, but wanted to quash the rumor mill once and for all.

It was obviously no secret since lots of other folks weighed in. Cindy Wagnon Cole recalled in a post the tale of a UTPB officer in 1985 who said he saw the ghost as he was locking up the doors on the stairwell at the Mesa Building

“As he is opening the door he saw a figure of a woman with long hair, arms with no legs, staring right at him and in an instant she moved to her right and disappeared,” Cole posted. “Within 2-3 seconds after that the large metal door to the stairwell where she disappeared SLAMMED open!”

She said the officer recalled feeling a bit like a jittery, bug–eyed Don Knotts because when he ran back to the office, he was shaking so bad he couldn’t get his keys in the door.

“…When the dispatcher came out and she said you look like you’ve just seen a ghost,” she posted. “without knowing he really did.”

According to Batura’s report, Matilda mostly haunts the Student Union women’s restroom, the fourth floor and the sixth stairwell. But the reporter also uncovered stories of hearing the voice of a sad and forlorn female in an eerie whisper beckoning those who could hear to “come here.”

Other former students and employees have heard of the Matilda legend, too.

“I went to school at UTPB and later worked there for five years,” Janice Slaughter Golden posted. “I heard stories from staff members about seeing “Matilda.” One was the chief of campus police at the time, who told a story about doing his security check of the gym building. He said no one was supposed to be in the building and all the lights were out, but he heard noises coming from the weight room. He went to check....no one there. I guess Matilda liked to work out!...”

So if you happen to be at the Mesa Building walking up or down stairwell six and you see an orb, feel a cold chill or see a soda coming flying out of the machine — don’t fret, it’s just Matilda saying hello.

Odessa, TX

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