Death and doorways: the story behind the “Dorm of Doom”

Anna Muckenfuss, Appalachian Weekly News Producer

On Sept. 29, 1977, a student was found dead in East Hall. Several years passed and stories of the paranormal activity in the residence hall spread. These stories amassed into a myth passed down to incoming freshmen and even became a Dorm of Doom Halloween attraction. Many know about the hauntings in East Hall, but few know the story of Lacey Dean Everitte.

Everitte came to App State from Greensboro in the fall of 1977. He ran and was elected as a senator in the Student Government Association. Hugh McCullen, the student body president in 1977, said Everitte was an “unassuming, quiet and conscientious young man.”

The week prior to Everitte’s death, McCullen said Everitte attended a retreat with SGA.

“Everyone became fond of him because he wanted to be a contributor, but he also wanted to be someone who could be mentored,” McCullen said.

The Appalachian reported on Oct. 4, 1977, that Everitte suffered “a fatal .22 caliber gunshot blast to the temple.” The newspaper also reported the Watauga County Medical Examiner said the incident had “all the earmarks of a suicide.”

Barry Shoaf, a residential assistant in East in 1977, said Everitte’s roommate came out into the lounge area asking for help in his room.

“I went over to Dean and checked to see, and he didn’t have a pulse,” Shoaf said. “The RD was called in, and I told him he was dead.”

Prior to the State Bureau of Investigations’ arrival, Shoaf found a pistol lying beside Everitte’s hand, which he moved away.

The Appalachian reported there was never an incident of suicide by a student on campus. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 1977, there was a decline in the age-adjusted suicide rate for males by 24 percent. 

After hearing of his death, McCullen wrote an article for the Appalachian so that Everitte wouldn’t just be a “footnote.”

“His days among us were brief, and briefer still were the words he spoke,” McCullen wrote. “I now realize I will never have the opportunity again to meet with him and discuss his goals and reasons for involvement.”

Michael Renegar, a former App State student has always been interested in the paranormal. He began to research the life of Everitte after discovering the truth behind an encounter Renegar had in the fall of 1989 when he worked as a night assistant in East. It was between midnight and 3 a.m. when he found a girl in the lobby while he was doing his rounds.

“I just lost all will to scold her when I saw her face. She looked scared to death,” Renegar said. “I said, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ She said, ‘There’s a creepy guy on the stairs.’”

Renegar said he looked and saw a man with sandy blond hair going up the stairs.

“I said, ‘Hey,’ and I took off after him,” Renegar said. “By the time he turned onto the first floor, I was like two steps behind him, and when I came out on the first floor, he was gone.”

Twenty years later, Renegar said he found out about Everitte’s death. He researched the high school Everitte attended and called the school for a yearbook photo.

“As the picture is forming on my computer, I about fall out of my chair because I recognize instantly the guy that I saw that night in 1989 on the stairwell,” Renegar said. “I will never forget it because I saw his face.”

Renegar said the hauntings in East may have influenced why the Dorm of Doom, a spook trail hosted in East Hall, that started in 1985.

“People would bring their kids from the town and come for it,” Renegar said. “It was a pretty big deal.”

The Office of Sustainability took over the event from the ‘90s until 2017, but the event was canceled due to high attendance the previous year. Leila Jackson, the communications specialist for the Office of Sustainability, said the event was meant to bring awareness to where the office was located.

Jackson said she did not think the Dorm of Doom was considered insensitive due to hearsay surrounding the ghost stories of the dorm.

“All of the ghost stories and all that stuff aren’t really based on anybody,” Jackson said. “Everybody plays along with it because it’s pretty fun. We’ve never found any actual hard evidence of it.”

Despite the stories surrounding East, McCullen says that they are not Everitte’s legacy.

“I think what is more important is the experiences you have. That’s the legacy,” McCullen said. “The legacy is not a ghost and what he did while he was here.”

In a memo found among his belongings by his family, according to an article in The Appalachian, Everitte wrote out instructions for his funeral, but also asked: “If you remember me, and have thought to please my ghost, pet a stray dog, or wink at a homely girl.”