Purdue Airport was built in 1930, and opened in 1934. University president Dr. Edward C. Elliott was justifiably proud: this was the first university-owned airport, and Elliott was particularly interested in aviation.
He was also committed to excellence in higher education for women. Those two passions came together in the fall of 1935, when famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart spoke at Purdue. Dr. Elliott had a brainstorm. Who better to be a career counselor for young women, especially those interested in aviation, than Amelia Earhart? He pitched the idea to her over dinner that night after her talk. He offered her a position at the school, and she accepted. In November 1935, she became the advisor to the aeronautics department, and a visiting faculty member in the women’s careers department.
Earhart spent several weeks each semester on campus, giving lectures and hanging out with the students. She used her popularity to promote progressive causes such as women’s rights, while presenting herself as down-to-earth and approachable. She loved Purdue, and Purdue loved her right back.
Dr. Elliott volunteered to have the university supply Earhart with a “flying laboratory”. He collected $80,000 in donations, and presented Earhart with a Lockheed Electra in July 1936.
The next year, in June, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, attempted to fly around the world. At 10 am on July 2, 1937, Earhart and Noonan left New Guinea on their way to tiny Howland Island. They never arrived. Instead, Earhart flew her Electra into legend.
But Earhart’s spirit remains at Purdue University, a place where she found fulfillment and unwavering support.
While she was at Purdue, Earhart lived in a residence hall, and her ghost still hangs out there. The phantom of a petite women with short hair is seen in the hallway outside her former dorm room. Windows open on their own, and students feel cold drafts. But the most exciting evidence is the clickety-clack of an old-fashioned typewriter that drifts from the empty room late at night. Earhart spent her late-night hours writing. She devoted herself to inspiring others to find their calling in life. It’s said she spent more time writing inspirational pieces about her flights, and about the ways she hoped to encourage others to follow their dreams, than she actually spent in the sky.
Besides the dorm, the other building at Purdue that feels Earhart’s presence is Hangar One. Witnesses have seen a slightly-built woman in pants and an aviator’s jacket, a scarf draped around her neck, in the hangar. It makes sense. Not only did Earhart feel at home in Hangar One, it was also where she made the preparations for her round-the-world flight. She poured a lot of emotion into the Electra as it sat in the hangar.
Hangar One has been renovated since Earhart’s time. It now houses classrooms for Aviation Technology. It’s quite possible that Earhart pops in from time to time to check up on the students.
If you enjoyed this sneak peek from Days of the Dead: A Year of True Ghost Stories, and you like horror fiction, you might want to check out my short story “On Wings of Silver” over at Vocal. Here’s the link: https://vocal.media/horror/on-wings-of-silver . Enjoy!