The Ghost of Old Main Past

Before The Nittany Lion, Old Coaly was the G.O.A.T.

If you’ve scrolled through College Town Culture’s collection, you may have paused on a hairy jackass sporting a coat and tails and thought, “Who is this dapper gentleman?” That stately orange Solo Cup-sporting icon is a mule named Old Coaly, Penn State’s OG mascot. 

Brought from Kentucky to State College in 1857 by Piersol Lytle, Old Coaly was a mule who rose to Penn State fame in the late 1800’s for his role in completing historic Old Main. Old Coaly was recruited by Piersol’s son Andy, who was one of about 200 workers hired to build the five-story building, to haul blocks of limestone from a nearby quarry up to the construction site. Today on the Old Main Lawn, a plaque marks the location of where that quarry once stood, near Pugh & College.


After Old Main was completed in 1863, Penn State wanted VIP Old Coaly to stay, and purchased him for a whopping $190, about $4,500 today. Old Coaly earned that price tag, though, spending the next 30 years in the university’s service, assisting with landscaping and farming on campus. Back in the day, Penn Stater’s were required to do manual labor as part of their tuition, and many students struck up a bond with the steadfast mule. 


So beloved was Old Coaly that, after his natural death on Jan 1, 1893, the students preserved his bones in the wildlife museum of Old Main before being moved to the basement of Watts Hall. That’s when the sightings started happening. Students reported seeing the black mule wandering the basement near his resting place. When he was moved to the attic of the old Penn State veterinary hospital, faculty heard braying and the sound of hoofbeats through the hallways. 

On Penn State’s 150th anniversary, Old Coaly was dusted off and moved out from the Agricultural Building to a glass case currently on display in the Hub-Robeson Center near the entrance to the Freeman Auditorium. Though his bones are encased, his spirit roams the campus, making a home for himself in the chill that casts over Old Main in the early hours of the morning.

Whether you’ve seen or heard Old Coaly trailing around his old haunts, you’ll certainly be hearing his name a lot more in the coming years. His legacy is making a comeback in the hearts of students, alumni, and our offices over here at CTC. We’re proud to preserve Old Coaly’s tenacity and spirit as our official College Town Culture mascot. 

Show your die-hard fandom for PSU & the G.O.A.T. Old Coaly HERE

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