Colleges are natural repositories for ghost lore. They’re old. The collegiate Gothic buildings that permeate American campuses look pretty much like where you’d expect ghosts to live. And, of course, a continuously changing population of older students likes to mess with mushy-headed freshmen.
The typical ghost stories on college campuses tend to be thematically similar. Campus theaters are commonly possessed by friendly phantoms. Dormitories are absolutely replete with ghosts, usually of the scarier and more dangerous variety. Dorm apparitions are frequently the spirits of students who met untimely ends, often by suicide or by venturing too far into study of the occult.
Most every college has its ghost story, but these 13 schools in the slideshow below are clearly the most haunted in all the land.
1. Ohio University
Ohio U. is purportedly among the earth’s most haunted places. Part of the campus is a repurposed lunatic asylum where primitive treatments were once commonplace. Wilson Hall, a dormitory with a vaguely “Amityville Horror”-esque look, appears to be ground zero for spookiness. The door to Room 428 is reportedly sealed shut because of a rowdy apparition. At another dorm, a young Bob Marley fan allegedly fell to her death and now floats the halls. She reportedly doesn’t like the obscure (possibly nonexistent) Marley song, “Laura.” Still another dorm may be haunted by the specter of an entire basketball team.
2. Fordham University
Allegedly, Keating Hall, the Gothic centerpiece of Jesuit-affiliated Fordham University’s Bronx campus, and Finlay Hall, a dorm, were constructed over a morgue. As if that isn’t pretext enough for haunting, parts of “The Exorcist” were filmed on campus. Sleeping residents in Finlay have allegedly been awoken by frigid, unseen hands grabbing their throats. A story about the Queen’s Court dorm complex is classic: late at night, a ghost priest informs a resident assistant that he had performed an exorcism to rid the building of a demonic spirit. Also, in a freshman dorm, a blond-haired girl reportedly plagues the showers. (No word, sadly, on how this ghost looks in the buff.)
3. Gettysburg College
During the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg, both Confederate and Union troops held and used Pennsylvania Hall at Gettysburg College as a hospital and a signal post. Today, the building has its share of great ghost stories. The basement may be haunted by blood-drenched Civil War-era doctors. Also, students have allegedly reported seeing a phantom, gun-toting soldier — the Lone Sentinel — atop Penn Hall. Residents of nearby Stevens Hall report seeing “the Blue Boy,” a young boy — an orphan — who is blue in the face as if frozen. Another Stevens Hall apparition is a female who loves the fashionable clothes of current students.
4. Wells College
Ghost stories are chronic at women’s colleges, but Wells College in the Finger Lakes region of New York is apparently crawling with paranormal activity. Epidemics play a big role in the lore. A campus-wide flu epidemic was so bad that a floor of the main building had to be used as an infirmary. The building is a dorm today, and residents report ghostly nurses tending their bedsides in the middle of the night. Other haunted locales include Morgan Hall, vexed by an overzealous, dead security guard. Really angry hosts are said to haunt Zabriskie Hall and a residence hall called Glen Park Mansion. Both have tangible knives, so watch out.
5. Penn State University
Everybody knows the basement stacks of one of Penn State’s main libraries are haunted by the spirit of Betsy Aardsma, a student who was stabbed to death there in 1969. Her murder was never solved. Students have reported hearing screams, seeing red eyes, and being grabbed by some mysterious presence in the library. Other ghosts allegedly run rampant on campus, too. Old Botany Building is reportedly home to a shrub-loving poltergeist who wreaks havoc if the plants aren’t receiving proper care. There’s a ghost mule (“Old Coaly”). Penn State also boasts a supernatural ax murderer, in Brumbaugh Hall, but thankfully only on Halloween.
6. Kenyon College
Small Kenyon College is a Gothic wonderland that boasts ethereal spirits galore. The very campus gates may (or may not) stand atop gates to hell itself. Old Kenyon, where nine students died in a tragic fire in 1949, is now a dormitory allegedly haunted by those nine souls. Sometimes, they flush toilets and make the lights flicker. Other times, they cry out in bloodcurdling panic. Bolton Dance Studio, which once housed a swimming pool, is reportedly spooked by a ghost who likes to leave random wet footprints and turn on the showers. Another ghost is said to bedevil women at Caples Hall, a coed dorm, by jamming furniture against dorm room doors, and worse.
7. East Tennessee State University
East Tennessee State University in Johnson City is brimming with things that go bump in the night. According to legend, the ghost of Sidney Gilbreath, the first president of ETSU, turns lights on and off and slams doors and windows shut in Gilbreath Hall. He also likes to observe rehearsals in the building’s theater. Sink Girl and Marble Boy lurk in Clement Hall, a dormitory. Also, a bygone female student who jumped to her death reportedly frequents Yoakley Hall. Sightings tend to be of a shadowy figure leaning out a window.
8. Huntingdon College
Any ghost with her own Wikipedia page has to be legit, right? Such is the case with the Red Lady of Huntingdon College in Alabama. The Red Lady is said to be a suicide victim who appears in hallways and sends blasts of eerie red light from Pratt Hall. Huntingdon’s Ghost of the Green also allegedly committed suicide. He now prowls the college green late at night, disheveling well-coifed hair and pulling at clothes. There’s also a titillating female ghost who runs around in just a towel and, in the stacks, Frank the Library Ghost.
9. New York University.
New York City’s West Village wasn’t always exclusively the domain of hipsters and trustafarians run amok. In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, occurred there. The building that housed the factory is now NYU’s Brown Building of Science, home to biology and chemistry labs. The ninth floor is said to be infested with ghosts, despite two gut renovations. Brittany Residence Hall (closed for renovation right now, ostensibly) is also allegedly haunted, possibly by a young girl who fell down an elevator shaft.
10. Hollins University
Students reportedly find themselves temporarily locked in practice rooms in Presser Hall, home to the Hollins music department. Chairs supposedly roll themselves violently across the floor, too. And late at night, when no one is inside, music is said to emanate from the building. Legend blames a long-dead girl with an unconsummated crush on her piano teacher. The Hollins Theatre also has a ghost, “Elizabeth.” And a spectral nurse was said to check the foreheads of students at Swannanoa Hall when it was a dorm. The building houses the English department now, though. So, it’s hard to know what that ghost is doing now.
11. United States Military Academy
The lore of the United States Military Academy includes at least one exorcism and an Irish cook named Miss Molly who likes to make bread in the superintendent’s house. The most notorious spirit at West Point is said to reside in Room 4714, where in 1972 a handful of cadets swore they saw the ghost of a shimmering, white-eyed, 19th-century soldier with a handlebar mustache. Cadets also reported that the room became strikingly cold. About a decade later, a West Point professor theorized that the apparition was merely the product of sleep-related hallucinations. Maybe, but doesn’t that sound suspiciously like a massive government cover-up?
12. University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame is said to be haunted, naturally, by gridiron legend George Gipp. The story goes that The Gipper, who frequently partied past curfew, was locked out of his dorm. He slept on the steps of Washington Hall through a blustery Indiana winter night, caught pneumonia and died. The building could also be vexed by a fallen construction worker or a dedicated music student who met an untimely end. Whatever the case, unexplained events proliferate and strange sounds echo through Washington Hall. Other campus ghosts include Father Sorin, Notre Dame’s founder, and Canute Lardner, a ghost with an Irish brogue.
13. California State University Channel Islands
If you’ve seen the opening sequence of the movie “Halloween,” you know how frightening insane asylums can be. They are very dark, the weather is terrible and deranged people wander the grounds. Repurposed insane asylums are even scarier, though, because they are filled with the ghosts of those deranged people. California’s newest public university opened in 2002, in a location that had been a mental hospital until 1997. Reports of creepy occurrences are already rife. Lights flicker, mysterious voices cry out and strange rustling sounds abound all over campus.