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Betsy Ruth Aardsma (July 11, 1947November 28, 1969) was a 22-year-old graduate English major from Holland, Michiganmarker who was stabbed to death in the Pattee Libraryat the Pennsylvania State Universitymarker in State College, PAmarker in 1969.Betsy Aardsma originally attended Hope Collegemarker in Michigan, a private liberal-arts college. She majored in medicine, but in 1967 she transferred to University of Michiganmarker, Ann Arbor, and changed her major to English. In 1969, she transferred to Pennsylvania State Universitymarker in University Park, PA, in order to be closer to her boyfriend David Wright, who attended Penn State Hershey Medical Schoolmarker in Hershey, PAmarker.

She began her first semester at Penn Statemarker in the fall of 1969. Her courseload included Harrison Meserole's English 501, an Introduction to Research, which was being co-taught with Nicholas Joukovsky, a young professor.

Betsy had no known enemies, no involvement in drugs, alcohol, or any other unusual or risky behaviors. She was in a committed relationship and spent most of her evenings in her dorm, writing one letter a day to her boyfriend.

The culminating project for English 501 was a large research paper. Betsy and many of her classmates were struggling to produce this paper. After spending Thanksgiving with her boyfriend in Hershey, Betsy decided late that evening to take a bus back to State College so she could work on her research and meet with her professor during office hours the next day.

After heading to the Pattee Library with her roommate, Betsy visited with her professor, then checked the card catalog for some books. She had promised to find a book she had used in an earlier project and give it to Prof. Joukovsky. She headed down into the Level 2 Core stacks of Pattee around 4:30-4:40 PM.
The Stacks

At some point between 4:45 PM and 4:55 PM, Betsy was stabbed a single time through the heart with a single-edged knife, approximately 3.25 inches long. She fell, and a minute or so later, one or two men exited the Core and told a desk clerk that "Somebody better help that girl." A call was placed to the Ritenour Health Center at 5:01 PM, and by 5:19 PM she was at the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was wearing a red dress and the wound produced only a small amount of visible blood. Until she was examined at the medical center, no one had realized she'd been stabbed, and first responders thought perhaps she had a seizure or medical ailment. The identity of the man/men who spoke to the desk clerk has never been determined.

The murder of Betsy Aardsma quickly became legendary among students at Penn State. Today, it is widely regarded as an urban legend -- something that is told to incoming freshmen which has no basis in fact. Sadly, the story is true—and it has endured. Murderers ranging from serial killer Ted Bundy to a distraught college professor have been suggested, but most can be quickly ruled out based on the facts.

Usually the story is told around Halloween, because rumors exist that Betsy's ghost, or perhaps other spirits, haunt the stacks of Pattee Library to this day. One student even claims to have seen Betsy's ghost, complete with her red dress.

Betsy's sister, Carole Aardsma, a minister, went on to serve as a prison chaplain in Michigan. Betsy's brother-in-law, Carole's husband at the time, sent a letter to the Supreme Courtmarker in the 1970s when the constitutionality of the death penalty was being debated which argued against the death penalty, writing that "Betsy would not have wanted her killer punished by death."

In 1990, an author who had researched the case in the 1980s named Pamela West wrote a book called "20/20 Vision," which was a science-fiction story based on the details of the case. West stated that she had originally intended to write a true crime story, but was concerned with libel issues related to the fact that so many people involved were still alive at the time.

Current students at Penn State who are Facebook members may even be "Friends" with Betsy, as someone had created a Betsy Aardsma Facebook account. This account has since been suspended/deleted by Facebook.

The television show Paranormal State featured a small segment on Betsy's murder in their first season. Penn State Paranormal Research Society head Ryan Buell wanted to conduct a paranormal investigation in the library's stacks, but college officials would not allow it, claiming that they were hesitant to bring more publicity/attention to the allegation.

Her murder is unsolved after 39 years and the Pennsylvania State Police are still actively seeking information on the case.

Recent news stories focusing on the 39th and upcoming 40th anniversary have brought more information to light, based on new interviews with members of her family and friends. Recent articles include November '08 and January '09, and an upcoming article in The Penn Stater in November 2009.


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