Ghost Stories of St Andrews’ Halls of Residence

By Stella Haffner   |   November 5, 2020

Dear Montecito,

Stella Pierce, disguised as Hellboy on Halloween in 2008, back when Ghost Village Road wasn’t cancelled

It is around this time every year that a very particular group of people begins to make themselves known to the world. A strange class of individuals who, in response to the first chills of mid-autumn, adopt an insultingly festive attitude, sprout twinkle lights from their ears, and pull out all their best excuses to wear any number of horrifying reindeer sweaters. I am of course referring to the premature-Christmas folks. I find it disrespectful – no – wounding that such an obscene genre of people could annually anticipate Christmas in favor of the mother of all commercial American holidays: Halloween.

What you must know is that I was disabused of several core beliefs concerning the supernatural very late into my childhood. I suspect some of this was a purposeful effort on my parents’ part. (The subject with vampires was taken in particular reverence to explain why “Momma has garlic breath.”) One might suspect that this would discourage my zeal for All Hallow’s Eve, the 31st of October, Hallowe’en, but no. It has only intensified my love for the holiday. Indeed, I think the first time I was featured in this Journal was almost certainly for a second prize win in the Scoops costume contest. As you can see, my relationship with this holiday was, in some measures, inevitable. So move over premature-Christmas folks! Put away the twinkle lights and that extension cord, shelve your cinnamon candles, and freeze that cookie dough for later because as long as I’m around, it’s Ghost Village Road or bust.

Now Twix, Snickers, and the one day a year your parents make you promise not to eat a piece of fruit is all well and good, but what keeps us coming back for more once we’ve outgrown the Halloween attractions of late childhood? Why the ghost stories, of course. An attentive reader will have perhaps flagged this as the part of my letter where we shift our focus to my current country of residence, and since I’m certain many of my friends may now believe I have no personality divorced of my relocation to Scotland, it’s as good a place to start as any.

Stella Pierce outside of St Regulus Hall on move-in day at the University of St Andrews in Scotland

I was excited as any person can be at the prospect of being assigned a dormitory in my first year at university. There were four main options for a fresher moving into “halls of residence,” and given that every hall was about as old as the state of California, I would’ve been delighted by any and all options. Being assigned to St Regulus Hall was the cherry on top. Built in the 1880s, St Regulus was originally a hotel and may’ve remained one longer had it not become something of a hub for local prostitutes. This delightful kernel of knowledge combined with the shrieking noise the building’s water pipes made at about 3 am was more than sufficient inspiration for me to start telling ghost stories. Many a full-mooned night I did spend torturing my friends with tales of old in a fine-tuned, if poorly executed, Scottish brogue.

But the bizarre tales from my small town don’t end there, folks. Let me give you a taste of Andrew Melville Hall. You may find it somewhat impressive to know that despite living, eating, and sleeping at St Regulus, I spent a comparable amount of time in Andrew Melville. Known primarily for being designed in the “New Brutalist” style – and for the being hall of residence of my lovely research partner from my last letter, Kaja – Andrew Melville Hall actually had a short-lived career in the film industry. It played the part of a prison in a movie starring Keira Knightley. And I can confirm that spending several consecutive hours in Andrew Melville will give you exactly that impression.

Finally on our ghost tour of St Andrews’ halls of residence, we arrive at the famed St Salvator’s Hall (affectionately known as “Sallies”) where the body count has nothing to do with axe murders and everything to do with Hugh Grant’s charisma. Oh yes. I have it on good authority that during his visit to St Andrews, Mr. Hugh Grant was disappointed to learn that he was about a century too late to catch one of the sex workers outside St Regulus and so spent the night at Sallies instead. And if you think that’s scary, let me remind you that St Salvator’s is best known for being the hall of residence occupied by future monarch of Great Britain and big brother to one of our newest neighbors, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. Here, I will leave it to your pleasure to enjoy all manner of ghastly tales involving a future world leader and a deadly habit of procrastination on his geography homework. Happy Halloween.



P.S. Parents of Montecito children, if you have recommendations on people to feature in “Dear Montecito” please contact me,


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