Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 (Fordham), iStock (Ghost)
Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 (Fordham), iStock (Ghost)

Ghosts Might Attend These 7 Supposedly Haunted Colleges and Universities

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 (Fordham), iStock (Ghost)
Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 (Fordham), iStock (Ghost)

Universities aren’t just for higher learning—some are reportedly the locations of pretty freaky paranormal activity. Whether or not there's any real evidence behind them, these stories are more than just a little goosebump-inducing.


If you need any context for the rumored hauntings at Fordham University, note that some scenes of The Exorcist were filmed on its campus. Elizabeth Tucker recalled one of the school’s most popular legends in her book Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses. According to Tucker, one night in the summer of 2003, a resident assistant was filling out a damage report when he noticed mattresses that should have been flat on the floor standing upright against the walls. Around 2:30 the next morning, a Jesuit priest knocked on the R.A.’s door to explain he’d “taken care of” the evil spirit responsible for messing with the mattresses. Fordham University’s library website reports that the R.A. later tried to track down the Jesuit and eventually learned that the likeness he saw was that of a man who died 10 years prior.


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Tales of the supernatural don’t faze the University of Toronto. In fact, the school embraces the lore, giving haunted tours of the campus. Multiple specters are rumored to linger on U of T’s grounds, but perhaps the creepiest story of all is that of Russian stonemason Ivan Reznikoff. U of T Magazine recounts the tale of the builder, who was working on the University College building in 1856. The project’s foreman, Paul Diablos, played a joke by carving one of the building’s gargoyles in Reznikoff’s likeness. One night Reznikoff returned to the site to alter a gargoyle in Diablos’ image—and vanished.

A student journalist quoted by the U of T Magazine reported that in 1889 Reznikoff’s ghost came back to visit one of the university's students, in the form of a mysterious long-haired figure. The figure explained that while he had been carving the gargoyle, he spotted Diablos with his fiancée, Susan. Reznikoff tried to attack Diablos with an axe, missing the man and hitting a door instead. Diablos retaliated by stabbing the Russian with a knife, killing him and hiding the body in a ventilation shaft. U of T Magazine says the mark from the axe can still be seen in University College’s southwest corner, and workers later found the skeleton of a man wearing a belt buckle with a stonemason’s emblem in a ventilation shaft.


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Some insist Ohio University is one of the most haunted campuses in the country. While ghost stories abound, one bone-chilling feature is the location of the school’s Wilson Hall. According to Haunted Athens Ohio, the building is surrounded by five cemeteries. When viewed on a map, and with an especially active imagination, Wilson Hall and the graveyards supposedly form the shape of a pentagram.

Naturally, Wilson Hall is rumored to be haunted. As the story goes, in the 1970s a female student died a violent death in Room 428 after performing some kind of an occult ritual. In the following years, students residing in the room claimed to hear strange noises and saw objects moving on their own. The room is now said to be permanently sealed.


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The name “Faceless Nun” is enough to send goose bumps skittering up your arms. The story behind the specter is no less chilling. In her book Storytelling: An Encyclopedia of Mythology and Folklore, Josepha Sherman explains that the ghost, who still wears her habit, floats through Foley Hall, where she once taught art. The Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods website further details the legend in a 1974 interview with Sister Esther Newport, who also taught in the art department from 1931 to 1964. Newport recalled numerous instances in which an art department worker named Isabel interacted with the Faceless Nun. In one of many incidents, Isabel complained to Newport of a nun who constantly came around, standing between her and the light. “She leaves when I speak to her,” Isabel explained, “and I never see her face.”


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One of the University of Illinois’ hauntings dates back to the reported death of a student in the 1900s. In his book Haunting the Prairie: A Tourist's Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of Illinois, Michael Kleen writes that the student either drowned or committed suicide in the campus’ English Building, originally known as the Women's Building. At the time, it was a female dormitory, but had a swimming pool on its lower level. ExploreCU elaborates on this story, explaining that the woman’s ghost is rumored to roam the halls of the building, flickering lights and slamming doors. While the building did formerly have a swimming pool, there is no evidence of the student’s death.


Ghost stories are common at PSU, especially in relation to Old Botany, one of the campus’ oldest buildings. Penn State’s official website details the lore surrounding the cottage, explaining that “In one legend, [the deceased] Frances Atherton, the wife of [former PSU president] George Atherton, uses the windows in the top floor of Old Botany to keep an eye on her husband’s grave, which rests across the street from Old Botany. As students trudge along Pollock Road—one of the busiest walkways through campus—they cast an eye on the upper-floor windows, half-expecting to see the worried gaze of Frances looking back at them.” Creepy, right? 

In a 2003 article in the Daily Collegian, one of the building’s staff members, Karen Snare, recalled a particularly eerie instance she experienced in Old Botany. "I came to work one day and put the key in the door and they both flew open," Snare said, after explaining that usually only one of the doors opens. "You have to physically pull a chain and lift the bolt from the floor [to open the other door]." She noted that there were other creepy abnormalities that day, such as a roll of carpeting changing location and what sounded like books hitting the floor of an empty room.


Notre Dame has been described as a “breeding ground” for ghosts—and for good reason. In Matthew Swayne's book America’s Haunted Universities: Ghosts that Roam Hallowed Halls, he writes of numerous reports of paranormal activity in the South Dining Hall. Workers reportedly heard claps and moans, saw weird flashes, and one person even claimed to see a white figure floating by the entrance—only to later recognize him in a campus portrait. The figure was reportedly Father Sorin, the founder of Notre Dame. As Notre Dame Magazine notes, Sorin died on Halloween in 1893, which only adds to the creepiness of the story.

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6 Historical Methods for Contacting the Dead (and Their Drawbacks)
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

'Tis the season for getting in touch with the spirit realm. (This applies no matter what month we're in right now; 'tis always high time to get your séance on.) But there are several different ways you can go about it. Do you Ouija? Should you go wandering around a haunted house? No, you should probably pick up the psychic telephone.

Lapham's Quarterly helpfully charted out some of historical ways you could (supposedly) go about contacting the dead, from Chinese Fuji writing—a method that's kind of like a Ouija board, but using a stylus to make letters in sand instead of a board—to past-life regression via hypnosis. The chart lays out how each ghost-whispering concept works, and its theoretical drawbacks. Because there are always drawbacks.

Transfiguration, for instance, lets you see a spirit's face through the body of a medium, but that's a whole lot of hard work for your medium. You can listen for electronic voice phenomena via a recorder, but you have to buy the recorder first. F. R. Melton's 1921 invention, the balloon-powered psychic telephone, was a great option—except when his son George wasn't around to work it. And past-life regression, as you might imagine, holds “potential for new levels of self-hatred." No one wants to find out that their past self was a total jerk.

There are plenty of scientific and cultural explanations for seeing ghosts that don't involve the actual spirits of the dead returning to the Earthly plane, but if you're into the history of the occult, this is a great primer on spirit-conjuring traditions.

[h/t Lapham's Quarterly]

Michael Tackett - © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.
9 Horror Movies Inspired by Real-Life Events
Michael Tackett - © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.
Michael Tackett - © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.

While most horror movies are complete works of fiction, the genre occasionally offers up stories that are based on terrifying and jaw-dropping real-life events, like the nine collected here.


Premise: A supernatural killer stalks his prey while they dream during deep sleep. 

Real-Life Inspiration: Wes Craven based A Nightmare on Elm Street on a series of newspaper articles from the Los Angeles Times about a strange phenomenon where young Asian refugees would mysteriously die in their sleep. It was reported that many would refuse to sleep, citing terrifying nightmares that they feared would lead to death.

According to Craven, the paper "never correlated [the three articles], never said, ‘Hey, we’ve had another story like this'":

The third one was the son of a physician. He was about twenty-one; I’ve subsequently found out this is a phenomenon in Laos, Cambodia. Everybody in his family said almost exactly these lines: "You must sleep." He said, "No, you don’t understand; I’ve had nightmares before—this is different." He was given sleeping pills and told to take them and supposedly did, but he stayed up. I forget what the total days he stayed up was, but it was a phenomenal amount—something like six, seven days. Finally, he was watching television with the family, fell asleep on the couch, and everybody said, "Thank god." They literally carried him upstairs to bed; he was completely exhausted. Everybody went to bed, thinking it was all over. In the middle of the night, they heard screams and crashing. They ran into the room, and by the time they got to him he was dead. They had an autopsy performed, and there was no heart attack; he just had died for unexplained reasons. They found in his closet a Mr. Coffee maker, full of hot coffee that he had used to keep awake, and they also found all his sleeping pills that they thought he had taken; he had spit them back out and hidden them. It struck me as such an incredibly dramatic story that I was intrigued by it for a year, at least, before I finally thought I should write something about this kind of situation.

2. CHILD'S PLAY (1988)

Premise: A serial killer's soul possesses a toy doll and wreaks havoc.

Real-Life Inspiration: In 1909, Key West painter and author Robert Eugene Otto claimed that one of his family's servants placed a voodoo curse on his childhood toy, Robert the Doll. Supposedly, the doll would mysteriously move from room to room, knock furniture over, and conduct conversations with Otto. Robert the Doll was left in the attic until Otto's death in 1974, when new owners moved into his Florida home. The new family also claimed mysterious activities would happen in the house connected to the doll. Today, Robert the Doll is on display at the Custom House and Old Post Office in Key West, Florida.


Premise: A young family moves into a house where a murder was committed, and experiences strange and terrifying occurrences.

Real-Life Inspiration: Based on the book of the same name, The Amityville Horror follows the paranormal events that terrorized the Lutz family. In 1975, the family moved into 112 Ocean Avenue where, unbeknownst to them, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. had brutally murdered his family 13 months before they arrived. While in their new home, the family claimed that they saw green slime on the walls and red-eyed pigs staring into their kitchen and living room. After less than a month, the Lutz family moved out of the small town of Amityville, New York.

4. PSYCHO (1960)

Premise: A secretary goes on the run after she steals $40,000, only to wind up in a motel where the innkeeper and his mother are more than they appear to be.

Real-Life Inspiration: Psycho's Norman Bates is loosely based on convicted murderer and grave robber Ed Gein, who, during the late 1950s, killed women and unearthed corpses in Wisconsin. He also fashioned human skin into tiny keepsakes and knickknacks, such as face masks, belts, and chair coverings. Psycho's novelist Robert Bloch based Bates on Gein, but changed the character from a grave robber and murderer into a serial killer who dressed like his mother. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Silence of the Lambs also based their serial killers—Leatherface and Buffalo Bill, respectively—on Gein.

5. THE EXORCIST (1973)

Premise: Two Catholic priests perform an exorcism on a young girl who is possessed by the devil.

Real-Life Inspiration: The Exorcist's author and screenwriter William Peter Blatty based the novel and film on a Washington Post article from 1949 headlined, "Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held in Devil's Grip." The article followed Jesuit priests William S. Bowdern, Edward Hughes, Raymond J. Bishop, and Walter H. Halloran participating in the rite of exorcism on a boy with the pseudonym "Roland Doe" in Maryland. According to the priests, they allegedly experienced the boy speaking in tongues, the bed shaking and hovering, and objects flying around during the ordeal. The exorcism was one of three official Catholic Church-sanctioned exorcisms in the United States at the time.

"Maybe one day they’ll discover the cause of what happened to that young man, but back then, it was only curable by an exorcism," William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist, told Time Out. "His family weren’t even Catholics, they were Lutheran. They started with doctors and then psychiatrists and then psychologists and then they went to their minister who couldn’t help them. And they wound up with the Catholic church. The Washington Post article says that the boy was possessed and exorcised. That’s pretty out on a limb for a national newspaper to put on its front page ... But you’re not going to see that on the front page of an intelligent newspaper unless there’s something there."


Premise: An aunt tortures and abuses her niece, and a neighborhood boy fails to alert the authorities.

Real-Life Inspiration: Based on Jack Ketchum's novel of the same name, The Girl Next Door is based on the murder of Sylvia Likens, a 16-year-old girl from Indiana in 1965. Sylvia and her sister Jenny were left in the care of Gertrude Baniszewski, a family friend, when their parents left town as traveling carnival workers. Baniszewski, along with her children and a few neighborhood kids, locked Sylvia in the basement, where they tortured and abused her until she died of a brain hemorrhage and malnutrition.


Premise: Two paranormal investigators help a family who move into a secluded home plagued by weird events.

Real-Life Inspiration: The Conjuring is based on real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and their experience with the Perrons, a family who moved into a Rhode Island farmhouse and experienced ghostly and terrifying occurrences in 1971.

"When Insidious came out and was successful the story about the Warrens came to me and I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, this is really cool,'” director James Wan told Entertainment Weekly in 2013. "But I didn’t just want to make another ghost story or another supernatural film. One thing I had never explored was the chance to tell a story that’s based on real-life characters, real-life people. So those were the things that led me to The Conjuring."

The Warrens also had a possessed Raggedy Ann doll that was the inspiration for the spin-off film Annabelle. Allegedly, a demon spirit possessed the Raggedy Ann doll, which is currently on display and under lock and key at the Warrens' Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut.

8. OPEN WATER (2003)

Premise: Two scuba divers become stranded in shark-infested waters after their tour group accidentally leaves them behind.

Real-Life Inspiration: Open Water is based on American tourists Tom and Eileen Lonergan, a couple who were lost at sea when their tour group left them behind while scuba diving near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in 1998. When the diving company realized the mistake two days later, they organized a search party, but the Lonergans were never found. The only thing that was found was a diver's slate (an underwater communication device) with a S.O.S. message on it that read, "[Mo]nday Jan 26; 1998 08am. To anyone [who] can help us: We have been abandoned on A[gin]court Reef by MV Outer Edge 25 Jan 98 3pm. Please help us [come] to rescue us before we die. Help!!!"

9. THE BLOB (1958)

Premise: A mysterious alien life-form terrorizes a small town and consumes everything in its path as it grows bigger and bigger.

Real-Life Inspiration: Believe it or not, The Blob is based on a New York Times article from 1950 titled, "A ‘Saucer’ Floats to Earth And a Theory Is Dished Up." The story followed four Philadelphia police officers who came into contact with a strange gooey material, which is now believed to be "Star Jelly," a transparent gelatinous substance. When one of the officers tried to move the goo, it started to dissolve and evaporate, so there was nothing to show the FBI when they arrived on the scene except a spot on the ground.


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