Julia Morton, a.k.a Poisonous Plant Lady, has been said to haunt the Media Relations building by Frat Row since her death in 1996.
Formerly, Morton worked in the building as a botanist, and she moved into the building after Hurricane Andrew destroyed her house in 1992.
Morton, one of the world’s leading botanical experts, created the Morton Collectanea in Fairchild Tropical Garden, which has been used as a major source of information by poison control centers throughout the country. In the 60s, she was sent by the National Institute of Health to seek the causes of an epidemic of esophageal cancer in South Carolina. Later, during the Vietnam War, the Department of Defense sent her to Southeast Asia to research and write survival instructions for troops.
Michelle Baro, a student at UM from 1990-1994 and an employee at the Media Relations building since 1991, says that she saw Julia Morton before and after she died.
“I don’t remember the date exactly when I was working in my office upstairs and I saw her walking in the courtyard,” Baro said. “She always wore dresses and some sort of ‘turban’ on her head, and this day that I saw her she was walking as she always did from her office across the courtyard to the front office wearing her fuchsia head piece.”
“I remember stating to my boss very matter-of-factly, ‘Oh, there goes Julia again,'” Baro said.
Baro said that she also saw the ghost of Julia Morton in the office that Morton had occupied before the building was remodeled.
“I know this might sound crazy but I guess I do tend to see ghosts – not often, but I do see them,” Baro said.
Keith Bowermaster, on-line communications manager for the Division of Communications at UM, says he saw Julia during his second week working, before he had heard the stories. He says he saw her on one of the staircases in the courtyard area of the building.
“As I walked through the lobby door into the courtyard, I saw something – or someone – on the stairs to my right out of the corner of my eye. When I turned to look nothing was there,” Bowermaster said. “Later that day I jokingly asked co-workers if the building was haunted because I saw a ghost that morning.”
“Turns out it really is haunted and I really did see a ghost,” Bowermaster said.
Bowermaster went on to say that Morton mostly “shows” herself to males, because mostly men report sightings.
“A former employee claims he saw Julia at the copy machine on the second floor, thought it was another co-worker, said ‘good morning’ to her, and then was surprised to see the co-worker he thought he saw 20 minutes earlier walk through the front door, purse and bags in tow,” Bowermaster said.
Bowermaster also says that several employees who work in the area of the building where Morton resided claim strange things happen to their computers, such as desktop themes switching off. Other workers who have been in the building late claim strange sounds and bumps-in-the-night, but nothing that scary.
“If the Media Relations building is haunted by the ghost of Julia Morton, she’s a friendly ghost,” Bowermaster said. “But it makes you wonder: if she’s here, will she occupy University Village, which will be built on this property, and will she be happy that her ‘home’ was torn down?”
The Miami Hurricane will continue to investigate popular urban legends at UM through the month of February.
For suggestions on urban legends to be researched, please contact Jorge Arauz, News Editor, at email@example.com.