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Dr. Kat’s List: Five Colleges for a Good Haunting

October brings the smells of pumpkins and apples, the sound of crunching leaves, and spookiness galore! For students who love a good scare, there are many schools that combine a great educational and social experience, and also have a haunting history. Whether you’re just in the Halloween spirit or want to study among the spirits, here are five schools for a good haunting from the expert counselors at IvyWise:

University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
“Win one for the Gipper!” is a famous phrase in college football referring to legendary Notre Dame football player George Gipp. After a late night celebrating his final game against Northwestern University, Gipp missed curfew and found that the door to Washington Hall, home to the school’s auditorium, was locked. He was forced to sleep outside, contracted pneumonia, and eventually died from a related infection. Since then, students have repeatedly reported inexplicable sounds coming from the building, including late-night music, slamming doors, and phantom footsteps. Considered a friendly ghost, Gipp is often noticed hovering over students’ shoulders, giving them an encouraging pat, only to vanish when they turn around.

There are several other spirits allegedly keeping Gipp and the student population at UND company. Students believe that the Pawatami tribe still roams the ground by Columbus Hall, which is thought to be built on one of the tribe’s ancient burial grounds. Patawatami warriors on horseback have supposedly been seen riding up and down the hall’s front steps. Father Robert Austgen (CSC, ’55) has a 33-page binder of campus ghost sightings and the Student Activity Office and University Archive have collaborated to sponsor a campus ghost tour on Halloween.

Located in Notre Dame, Indiana, The University of Notre Dame’s 8,442 living undergraduates can choose from 65 degree-programs in eight schools and 340 student organizations from the bagpipe band to the Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company. Ninety percent of students partake in community service, a reflection of Notre Dame’s efforts to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good. These contributions have earned Notre Dame recognition on the 2010 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. In addition to dedicating time to the outside community, students at Notre Dame are avid fans of Gipp’s beloved “Fighting Irish” who compete on more than 25 Varsity NCAA Division I athletic teams, including a consistently strong football program.

Ohio University, Athens, OH
Founded in 1804, Ohio University is one of the oldest public universities in the United States. The school’s campus includes the former site of the Athens Lunatic Asylum, which was shut down and acquired by the university in 1993. Since then, the school has renovated many of the hospital’s buildings into museum, office, and classroom space, and there have been accounts of paranormal activities surrounding several of the school’s buildings. Supposedly living among OU’s 20,994 undergraduate students is Margaret Schilling, a former patient at the Athens mental institution who disappeared in December 1978. Her body was discovered one month later on the top floor of a ward that had been closed off for several years. A stain with the outline of her body still remains on the floor and Margaret is said to wander the floors of the old ward at night.

Wilson Hall, a residential hall on campus, was built on the site of the former mental health cemetery and was even featured on FOX’s Scariest Places on Earth. Rumor has it that if you draw lines connecting the five cemeteries in Athens, it forms a pentagon with Wilson Hall in the exact center. Room 428 in Wilson Hall was closed and sealed, deemed uninhabitable by the university after students reported consistent sightings of a former female student who had passed away in the room.

For those who are not scared easily and choose to enroll at “OU,” there are more than 300 majors and 350 clubs of which to take advantage, from the Anglers (a fishing club) to the synchronized skating team. The university, located in Athens, OH (75 miles from the state capital), is part of a thriving community that is home to the annual Blackout Fest, which features up-and-coming national underground rock acts, and the annual Literary Festival where writers Billy Collins and Tobias Wolff have recently lectured.

Fordham University, New York, NY
Fordham University dates back to 1841. However, this private university in the Bronx was built on top of much older buildings, including a hospital and the Rose Hill Manor House, which formerly served as a farm, a Jesuit novitiate, and an infirmary (including a morgue and crematorium). Current buildings, including the Finlay Hall residences and Keating Hall, home to offices, the auditorium, the chapel, the campus radio station, classrooms, and labs, are rumored to have a few extra inhabitants from bygone days.

Actors on stage at Keating Hall have reportedly heard chairs crash down flights of stairs, seen unidentifiable visitors watching from the balcony, and felt inexplicable cold spots throughout the area. Perhaps, most unsettling is the basement of Keating Hall, which is believed to be on the site of the former hospital building’s morgue. A security guard claims to have witnessed doors slamming and chairs banging into walls of their own accord. The school’s spooky campus even inspired Edgar Allan Poe to write “The Bells” which reads: What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!/ In the startled ear of night/How they scream out their affright!/ Too much horrified to speak,/ They can only shriek, shriek.

With a total undergraduate enrollment of 8,220 and a student-faculty ratio of 13 to one, Fordham University students encounter more than just ghosts, they also gain a tight-knit community and personalized attention from professors. Students are required to complete a Core Curriculum, and can choose from 50 majors and 41 minors across four undergraduate schools. The school also offers a diverse array of student activities from the Gaelic Society to Progressive Students for Justice. The school’s Rose Hill campus is within walking distance to the Bronx Zoo, New York Botanical Gardens, and Little Italy.

University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
It’s not quite Romeo and Juliet, but the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona has a tragic love story of its own. While versions of the story vary, many agree that the daughter of a former university president haunts the Maricopa Residence Hall. The young woman took her own life upon discovery of her fiancés infidelity. Residents of the hall and maintenance staff have reported seeing clocks fall off of walls, hearing water fountains in use when alone in the building, and hearing knocks from behind locked storage doors in the basement.

Marroney Theatre’s Gene the Ghost takes a quieter approach to his haunting. A former associate professor at UA, Gene frequently returns to the theatre to watch students perform in this 324-seat auditorium. Another friendly ghost inhabits room 480 of the Navajo-Pinal Stadium residence halls. Some of the school’s 30,000 students claim that the residence hall, an addition to the Arizona Football Stadium, gives an overall eerie feeling due to empty elevator shafts and unexplainable drafts and noises. Students have dedicated the unfinished room to “Harry the Ghost.

Students at this public research institution can have their pick of 334 programs of study, including everything from astronomy to entrepreneurship. They can also take part in nearly 900 student organizations, from Adrenaline Sport Bikes to the Zombie Invasion Preparation Club (a good option if you are concerned about the undead). In addition to the vast number of courses and activities offered on campus, many students partake in sports as either athletes or members of the ZonaZoo, a group of Wildcats fans that supports the teams at games. UA also offers three levels of intramural sports: the Desert League, for fun; the Sunset League, for moderate athletes; and the Cactus League, for highly skilled and competitive athletes.

St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN
Many St. Olaf College students are familiar with the Red Cap Boy, who is thought to occupy the first floor of Thorson Hall. While attending a bonfire, two sophomore students first spotted the boy, wearing a red baseball cap, looking out from the window of their dorm room. Other strange occurrences coincided with the Red Cap Boy’s arrival in 1991. Stereos would mysteriously stop when students attempted to play Led Zeppelin and would abruptly start up whenever a CD with Pachelbel’s Canon in D was in the disc player. Other St. Olaf apparitions include the child in the Lounge of Hilleboe, who has been reported to sing and play the piano in this building (and leave child-size handprints on the outside of third-floor windows).

In addition to the Red Cap Boy and the Hilleboe resident, this private university is also home to the spirit of Agnes Mellby, who started the St. Olaf Women’s League for the female faculty and professors’ wives, and has been seen roaming Melby Hall in Victorian garb. The Dean of Students now maintains a ghost file to track all these residents, with the belief that the ghosts continue to haunt St. Olaf because of their undying love and devotion for the school.

Founded as an evangelical Lutheran college, St. Olaf’s 3,156 students are required to take “The Bible in Culture and Community” and a class on Christian theology in addition to their courses in the school’s 39 major areas of study. Students can also create their own programs and partake in any of the 200 student organizations at the college from the badminton club to the St. O’s Laugh Comedy Club. Home to a world-renowned music program, more than a third of St. Olaf’s student population is active in one of the many musical organizations on campus (perhaps the source of the Red Cap Boy’s preference for Pachelbel!). The school further offers 120 distinct international and off-campus programs in 46 countries, including Costa Rica, Vietnam, and Russia.

Regardless of whether you’ve got your sights set on a spooky school, finding the colleges that are a good academic and social fit will ensure that you’ll have a spirited time both inside and outside of the classroom. Happy haunting in your college hunting from all of us at IvyWise!

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