The Haunting of Jeannette Rankin Hall
Some phenomena defy scientific explanation, and that is where we must diverge into the spiritual. For decades, rumors have swirled that UM is home to a number of unspeakable specters that haunt its oldest buildings. As the spookiest night of the year approaches, the Kaimin called up its most seasoned ghostbuster, Editor-in-Chief Addie Slanger, for one more night of phantom examination in UM's own Jeannette Rankin Hall. But this time, she enlisted help from a true paranormal investigator, Jenn Keintz. Addie sat down with "Kreepy" Cast host Austin Amestoy to chronicle the haunting of Jeannette Rankin Hall. What follows is a true account of the night's events. Listen on, if you dare.

Austin Amestoy: From the Montana Kaimin, University of Montana's independent, student-run newspaper, this is the Kreepy Cast for the week of Oct. 25.

I'm Austin Amestoy. Some phenomena defy scientific explanation, and that is where we must diverge into the spiritual. For decades, rumors have swirled that UM is home to a number of unspeakable specters that haunt its oldest buildings. As the spookiest night of the year approaches, the Kaimin called up its most seasoned ghostbuster, Editor-in-Chief Addie Slanger, for one more night of phantom examination in UM's own Jeannette Rankin Hall. But this time, she enlisted help from a true paranormal investigator, Jenn Keintz. What follows is a true account of the night's events. Listen on, if you dare.

Addie Slanger: "I think it's gonna happen. I feel like if anyone can, kind of, 'cultivate' the spirits and make them feel comfortable, it's going to be her."

Amestoy: "That's good to hear."

Slanger: "Hold on."

"Hi — this is Austin. Austin, this is Jenn."

Amestoy: "Nice to meet you." 

Slanger: "This is Hollin."

Amestoy: "Hello, Hollin. Nice to meet you both." 

On the night of Thursday, Oct. 14, a team of intrepid climate investigators led by our Editor-in-Chief Addie Slanger met Jenn Keintz and her daughter, Hollin, at the front entrance to Don Anderson Hall.

Slanger: "Well if you guys want to go pop up to the Kaimin for a sec — I know I had us come a little early, but I was just thinking you could show some of the gear, and maybe I could chat with Hollin and a little bit too."

Amestoy: Keintz, a high school teacher by day and a paranormal investigator by night, brought along a backpack and a tote bag packed with equipment for the night's scheduled hunt in Jeannette Rankin Hall. Keintz unpacked her bag upstairs in the Kaimin office to clue us in on the tools we would use to make contact with any talkative spirits. 

Jenn Keintz: "Oh, thank you. I think I put them in here. So much stuff — I need a better bag."

Slanger: "You need an official ghost-hunting bag." 

Keintz: "I do."

Amestoy: Dowsing rods would help channel our energy to communicate with the dead.

Slanger: "Are they, like, electromagnetic?"

Keintz: "No, what they do is, they're basically a conduit for you. So, it's really you — you're the one who's actually making it work. You just don't really know that you're making it work."

Amestoy: The "phasmabox," an app on a Windows tablet Keintz had brought, would serve as a mouthpiece for the spirits to talk to us.

Keintz: "So that's this one."

Slanger: "And what's it called?"

Keintz: "So, this is just a spirit box. There's different brands, and there's different frequencies of it. So you can play it, you can go forward, you can go backward."

Amestoy: One of them inside the J-School had evidently already met our sports editor.

Slanger: "Can you walk us through how it's working right now?"

Phasmabox: "Jack."

Keintz: "It's just — it just said a name, I think."

Slanger: "I heard it say ‘Jack.’"

Jack Marshall: "Stop it, no."

Keintz: "No, it did, didn't it?"

Marshall: "No, we're not gaslighting the ghost."

Amestoy: But the tool seemingly purpose-built to scare the daylights out of all of us was the motion-activated music box. With our gear charged and bells on, we set off to Jeannette Rankin Hall, which sits directly beside the much newer journalism building.

Slanger: "So, the good news is it's just a short little walk over here."

Amestoy: Our team ascended the stone steps between the imposing columns that support the hall's roof. As the wooden door shut behind us, the hunt began.

"It is 8:45 on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. We are inside Jeannette Rankin Hall in the foyer, I believe you would call this. I've got with me Jack Marshall." 

Marshall: "It's kind of spooky in here, Austin."

Amestoy: "And Kennedy Delap."

Kennedy Delap: "It is a little spooky, but we're ready for a good night."

Amestoy: "Addie is upstairs turning off the lights." 

Joining me now in the studio to help chronicle the night's events is the fearless leader of the Kaimin and its paranormal investigation team, Addie Slanger. Welcome, Addie.

Slanger: Hey, Austin, thanks for having me.

Amestoy: Addie, let's not waste any time. I was there alongside you for the ghost hunt in Rankin Hall. Our band of six entered the building just before nine. Set the scene for us, please." 

Marshall: "Let's vibe-check the hall."

Slanger: Okay, so for anyone who hasn't been into Rankin Hall, you walk in and it's sort of already foreboding. There's this giant portrait of Jeannette Rankin; I would describe it as one of those that are in a Scooby Doo movie where the eyes follow you. I didn't see that happen, but I was nervous about it. So you go in and there's an upper floor and there's a basement. The first floor kind of has this funky little split level with a wooden deck, if you will. And then the top floor has four classrooms. It's really creaky. All the floors creak all the time, especially the floors as you go up to the second level. So then the basement downstairs — super warm. The boiler room, for some reason, was just leaking heat all up in there. That's where the haunted bathroom is, I would say. 

"Yeah, how would you describe it, Austin?"

Amestoy: "The vibe in this bathroom is-"

Slanger: "Oh, you just turned on the 'audio voice.'"

Amestoy: "Immaculate. It's an immaculate restroom."

Addie, we opted to start our hunt together on the second floor in one of the supposedly haunted classrooms. What were you hoping to find in this adventure?

Slanger: So for anyone with institutional Kaimin knowledge, two years ago, when we first set off on our endeavor to hunt ghosts, we created the Kaimin Paranormal Investigation Team — the K-PIT. One of the buildings the K-PIT investigated was Jeannette Rankin Hall. And it was pretty low-key for most of the time until we went up to this specific second floor classroom where we had something just absolutely horrendously scary happen. 

We set up a salt pentagram, which I think that might be your first red flag.

Amestoy: Jenn would be appalled.

Slanger: Jenn would be and was appalled to hear this story. We set up the pentagram to commune with the spirits. I think we may have communed a little too well, because one of our members, Hunter Wiggins, he started complaining about his back hurting and he turned around; lifted up his shirt. Wouldn't you know it, there's two horizontal scratches, claw marks scratches on his back, which was just so terrifying. We think we might have awoken some sort of a spirit. And so, keeping that in mind, we went into that second floor classroom, hoping to either reintroduce ourselves to that spirit or — personally, I was just kind of hoping to scare Austin and Kennedy and Jack with him.

Keintz: "Alright, so how do you guys want to do it? You want to start all together?"

Slanger: "Yeah, maybe we start all together-"

Keintz: "And then we can split some people up?"

Slanger: "Yeah."

Amestoy: So we're in this second floor room, and we're ready to go. How did Jenn propose that we start the hunt?

Slanger: One of the things that has lended Jenn a lot of appreciation in the ghost hunting world and a lot of respect is the way that she treats the spirits. She's always very respectful toward them, and she starts every hunt by establishing why we're here; introducing us to the spirits.

Keintz: "Spirits, my name is Jenn, and my friends and I are here. We're all going to go around and introduce ourselves. We have a lot of toys in here for you. If you are so inclined to come out and communicate, we have some things out in the hallway and in the other room, if you're a little bit shy to come in."

Slanger: And asking them to come out in just a very cordial way. She always asked questions with "please" and when we got responses, she always said "thank you."

Keintz: "Okay spirits, come on out. We'd like to chat with you and see who's here. Alright, let's go get our toys."

Amestoy: "It is now 9:12. We're on the second floor of Jeanette Rankin in the classroom. We've got our traps laid and our intention set on goodness and purity and wholesome things." 

Slanger: "Mine are set on darkness." 

Amestoy: "Addie's intentions are set on darkness. But we're ready to commune with the other side. Isn't that right?"

Slanger: "That is correct Austin. I cannot wait." 

Amestoy: "Neither can I." 

Addie, nothing particularly exciting happened in that first classroom. If I recall, we sat in silence for a few minutes. But the next room we went into, Jenn broke out the spirit box and we "communed" with a spirit. Isn't that right?

Slanger: That is right, Austin. So the phasmabox, which you guys have heard introduced in this podcast already, basically will cycle through radio frequencies at a supersonic speed, assuming that spirits are communicating on one of these radio waves. So we sat around that phasmabox in the other classroom — it's directly adjacent to the classroom we started in — and we're asking questions, saying "hi," saying, "How many people are there? What's your name?" 

"Tell us your name."

Phasmabox: *Gibberish*

Keintz: "I don't know what that was. Can you say that again, please?"

Slanger: And so strange, but clear as day, you can hear after I asked, "What's your name?" 

Phasmabox: "Jeannette."

Slanger: You can hear the phasmabox answer "Jeannette." 

"Did you guys hear her say Jeanette? "Holy f***."

Keintz: "That's awesome. Thank you!"

Slanger: And that would be in relation to Jeannette Rankin, whose spirit supposedly haunts the building, as Jenn told us.

Amestoy: That was definitely a highlight of our ghost hunt for me. And that room continued to be a hotbed of activity, particularly in the doorway, if I remember correctly.

Slanger: There was another piece of equipment, the music box, which has a motion sensor. So anything that walked in front of it at a particularly close distance would play this, frankly, horror-movie-like music on repeat, if there was motion right in front of it. So Jenn set that in the doorway with the terrifying bit of information that "they like to hang out in the doorways," which spooked me. But then it kept going off. It would go off — it was pretty quiet before we put it in the doorway. And then, I would say, with frequency of every 10 or 15 seconds, it would go off.

Keintz: "But the sensor's on the other side."

Delap: "Oh f***."

Slanger: She also had this bit of technology on her phone that was kind of like a thermal camera. So while Austin was sitting over by the phasmabox, and Jenn's daughter Hollin was in another classroom, Jenn and I looked through her phone at this thermal camera and, swear to God, you can see just a figure standing in the hallway, actually right by our sports editor, Jack. Obviously he couldn't see anyone, but they were standing right in the adjacent doorway. 

Delap: "Oh my God, that's a person. That's a person!" 

Slanger: So the second floor obviously wasn't quite as much activity as the K-PIT had had in years past, but it was still early, and we had had some activity on the motion sensor, we'd seen a figure in a doorway. We decided that maybe we'd try our luck downstairs with the same technology that had been working for us.

Amestoy: "The time is 10:06. It's Thursday, Oct. 14, and we're headed to the basement of Jeannette Rankin Hall after a little bit of spiritual activity in the doorway upstairs. Jack's thing is going off."

Marshall: "There's one in you, Austin."

Amestoy: "Apparently when you press the button, it kind of goes off." 

So we headed back downstairs, and on the way to the basement, we pit-stopped in a lounge area Addie was describing earlier, with a fairly creepy second floor suspended by wooden beams overtop this space with tables and chairs and some countertops with, like, a coffee maker and stuff. And here we tried a new tactic on Jenn's advice to commune with Jeannette, isn't that right?

Slanger: Yes. For any Kaimin Cast listener who doesn't know, Austin has quite the set of pipes on him. And one of Jenn's go-to techniques is to sing to the spirits to kind of convince them to come out and be with us. So, ever the gentlemen;  ever ready to show off his skills, Austin began singing.

Amestoy: "By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes, where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond." 

Slanger: And it appeared that the music box was playing along with the singing.

Amestoy: Definitely a weird highlight for me. I don't know how much Jeannette liked old Scottish folk songs, I mean, that's the best that we had in the moment.

Slanger: It's such an interesting go-to.

Amestoy: "It is now 10:26 p.m. We have left the first floor of Jeannette Rankin Hall. We're headed to the basement where we're going to be silent, and we're going to listen and watch for activity."

Marshall: "One last ride in the basement." 

Amestoy: "One last ride in the basement."

But how about when we finally got down to the basement, Addie? Are there any highlights from down there you can remember?

Slanger: Yeah, so I think the general feeling of the group was that we were really close to making a breakthrough, and Jen herself even said we had been there with the spirits — been respectful with the spirits for long enough that they were maybe feeling comfortable enough to come out.

Keintz: "I feel like they're just one step away."

Slanger: But we just never got the chance to really make it happen. The janitorial staff came at that moment, and they had to start cleaning up, so the building got loud, lights turned on — things that are really good for fostering spirit activity kind of disappeared. We still did have some success down there in that aforementioned creepy-ass bathroom. We shut the door, locked ourselves in and began talking with any spirits.

Amestoy: Right, and even then, we didn't get much of a response, but at the very least, the spirit in the bathroom — the "spirit" in the bathroom — seemed to like the REM pod that Keintz brought along. It's a small red cylinder with lights on top that flashes different shades and makes noise when it senses motion above it to varying degrees of proximity; the closer it gets, or the closer the "spirit" or the unknown entity gets, the more the REM pod makes noise and flashes.

Keintz: "Do you like the students who are here? Do you like the students in this building?" 

REM Pod: *Frantic beeping*

Amestoy: And I guess the spirit in the bathroom didn't mind us being there, at the very least. 

"It is now 10:47 p.m. The custodians have arrived. We concluded our ghost hunt and I came upstairs to find that someone's Red Bull had spilled on top of my coat and soaked my coat through. So, lesson be learned: Don't tempt the ghosts in Jeannette Rankin Hall. End up with a soggy coat."

So it may not have been the spookiest of nights hunting for ghosts but we did experience some pretty unusual activity. But, Addie, it sounds like a night like that one was pretty standard fare for Jenn Keintz, the paranormal investigator you invited along.

Slanger: Right, pretty standard or or maybe even pretty minimal for Jenn. I actually met her when she was giving a haunted tour at the Deer Lodge Prison, which she does in October and even in the summer as her second job.

Keintz: "I've always been interested in it. I've always been interested in the paranormal. I was the kid who read all the Stephen King books when I was little and like all the horror movies and my husband thinks I'm crazy, but I just love it. Love it. And this time of year is my favorite."

Slanger: Her first job actually is a high school teacher at Big Sky. She teaches journalism and TV and yearbook.

Amestoy: So Addie, the K-PIT hunt in Jeannette Rankin Hall didn't really make me any more of a believer in the spirit world. How does Jenn respond to non-believers or people cynical of her work?

Slanger: It's kind of water off her back.

Keintz: "I just feel like most of the time skeptics are just scared. Like, they might say, 'Oh, I don't believe in that stuff that's just a bunch of hooey, blah, blah, blah.' But I think most the time, they're just scared because either something has happened to them, or they're afraid something will happen to them. And so they just are like, 'Oh, I can't go there,' and they just kind of block it out of their mind. And it's easier to say that that doesn't exist than to actually be afraid of something. And so it doesn't bother me at all."

Amestoy: Addie, we survived our night in Jeannette Rankin Hall. All of us came out in one piece — Jenn, Hollin, you and I, Jack and Kennedy. So with the haunting of Jeannette Rankin Hall behind us, the most important question I have for you now is: Do you believe in ghosts, Addie? 

Slanger: What a question. I am going to say that there is so much out there. I would never say I don't believe in the "spirit world" or the occult. Did this experience at Jeannette Rankin make me a believer or more of a believer? No, I always say I'm a "skeptical believer," and if you show me evidence, and if I can feel the spirits or hear them or see them, then yeah, sign me up.

Amestoy: Well, it's been a pleasure ghostbusting with you for one last ride.

Slanger: Thanks, Austin. It was been a pleasure ghostbusting with you and being on the Kaimin Cast.

Amestoy: After Jenn and her daughter left for the evening, Addie and I returned to Jeannette Rankin Hall on Jenn's advice. The custodial staff had left and the hall was empty. We wondered if the spirits would find the two of us more welcoming than a crowd. 

"So we're gonna sit in some classrooms and see what we can feel. We will report back."

Slanger: "Oh, Jesus Christ!"

Amestoy: "Nope. What? Addie!" 

Slanger: "Why was your first reaction to run?" 

Amestoy: "Stop! Addie, you touched a chair!" *Incoherent screaming*

"Wait, you did that! You did that! Yes. Yes, this fell apart so fast!"

Slanger: "Why did you look at me with such fear in your eyes?"

Amestoy: "Because you looked at me with such fear in your eyes! We need to regroup. We need to regroup." 

Turns out the living are much better at accidentally scaring each other than the dead.

You can read a story on Jenn Keintz and the haunting of Jeannette Rankin Hall in this week's paper, hitting newsstands and our website on Thursday, Oct. 28. The Kaimin Cast is produced and edited by me, Austin Amestoy, with reporting from me and Addie Slanger.

That's it for this week's episode. Next time, the Kaimin delves deeper into allegations that leaders at UM's school of law ignored students who brought forward claims of sexual assault. I'll see you there.