Following a student's prolonged scream which echoed out over the quad at 3:13 AM, April 1st, Willamette Campus Safety launched an investigation into the urban legend that there is a fourth floor to Eaton Hall.
The student in question—Emily Hargroves '26—was seen running out of Eaton's front doors, still screaming. Concerned night owls from Doney and Lausanne approached but kept their distance on the grass. There on the concrete, Hargroves was a small thing in front of Eaton's colossal, shadowed silhouette. It was as if strange scissors had cut her shape out of that vast and unreal void.
"There were so many stairs," Hargroves said over cricket songs, "I felt like I'd never reach the ground."
With their characteristic amount of empathy, a number of STEM students in the gathering crowd used the moment to resurrect an old argument that the stairs really couldn't be as bad as those in Olin. There were, after all, only three floors in Eaton. Certain they were being gaslit, English majors insisted there were four. Campus Safety arrived at the scene and began an investigation soon afterward.
Eaton appeared friendlier by daylight, less voidlike. Two Campus Safety officers accompanied Hargroves to the front of the building. Hargroves claimed to have been pulling an all nighter on the fourth floor on the night she feared she would never reach the first. She pointed at the three uppermost windows facing the quad. There was no light in them.
The officers entered the building. Hargroves refused to join, which left no one there to interpret her directions to go to either end of the third floor and open doors which the officers did not see. The two officers promised to investigate further and left their positions without notice on April 1st. Colleagues described seeing both of their offices covered in sticky notes reading "You are on floor 3.1" or with various other numbers following the decimal after 3, never reaching 4.
An additional pair of officers interviewed Tufton Beamish '61, a member of Willamette's cleaning staff. Beamish cleans Eaton Hall every night. He said, however, that he rarely gets the chance to clean the elevator.
"Lots of the kids just stand in there," Beamish said. "They'll say they're about to go pull an all nighter on the fourth floor but then just stand. Some press a spot on the wall like there's some kinda button there. They'll stand there all night until Goudy opens. I always thought it was some weird joke." Beamish held onto a broom during this interview, looking at the elevator entrance on Eaton's third floor. "Pretty strange though, being here in the middle of the night, and that elevator opens with a ding and you just see a crowd of kids, staring at you with sorta blank eyes."
The elevator dinged and Beamish held the broom a little tighter.
Beamish had retired the broom in question sometime in the Carter Administration. Its purpose now was not cleaning but dislodging a square of the third floor ceiling from the sealed holdfasts of time. A couple hits of the broom and the attic door threw open. The two Campus Safety officers ascended via ladder and searched the attic to find only an empty room full of dust and boxes of waterlogged books. Some of these books have been recovered and are now available on the second floor of the library.
"We thought it was a metaphorical fourth floor," newly appointed Dean of Existential Wellness Katherine Cooper said. "You know how English types are. Students registered for classes that they claim are on the fourth floor have never raised any academic concerns, anyways. They attend classes in the proper locations. They're usually just quiet."
When asked if the recent creation of her position was related to the ongoing investigation, Cooper said "No. The administration just thought it would be wise, legally." During her interview, Cooper was flanked by thirteen silent lawyers who all declined to comment.
The administration has also released a warning to halt attempts at reaching the fourth floor, even if it means missing class. According to a group of students studying in the Humanities Lounge, Cooper told them that this warning extended until at least the morning of April 7.
"We can't figure out why it's that day specifically," one of the students present said, "and she walked away with those creepy lawyers before we could ask. The only thing we could find is that on the night of April 6, the moon will be full. Whatever that means."
The investigation into this collective hallucination continues but has gone quiet. The only recent pieces of evidence have been reports of the lights in the library malfunctioning, blinking on and off directly above the shelf where books recovered from Eaton's attic have been placed. Willamette University administration is searching for someone versed in morse code.