If you’re the ghost-loving type, then you might want to apply to schools with a reputation for spooky unexplained phenomena; on the other hand, if you don’t want to risk running into a poltergeist in the stacks during finals, then you might want to steer clear of some of these institutions of supernatural learning. As always, it’s all about finding the college that’s right for you!
One of our country’s oldest institutions of higher learning, Yale University has also had a history of supernatural phenomena. Most infamously, the buildings associated with its secret societies are often said to be haunted by ghosts from initiations gone wrong. While no one knows what exactly goes on in these secret societies, according to legend, in its early days the notorious Skull and Bones secret society would conduct secret rituals that involved human sacrifices: once a year, the front door of the Skull and Bones building would be left unlocked, and the first person to trespass inside the unholy space would be boiled alive and eaten by society members to the accompaniment of traditional Yale a cappella singing. This ghoulish tradition is said to have died out many years ago, but the Skull and Bones building is still said to have the largest water bill of any building on Yale’s campus, and the leader of the Whiffenpoofs is always inducted into Skull and Bones every year. On dark winter nights, students say that ghostly figures can be seen tentatively opening the front door of the Skull and Bones building and stepping inside. It is still popular for freshmen to dare each other to try to enter the building, especially during finals.
Aside from being famous for basketball, UNC Chapel Hill is well known amongst aficionados of phantoms and wraiths. The source of UNC’s hauntings is its historic cemetery, located right in the middle of campus. The cemetery contains many former residents of Chapel Hill from centuries past, including a number of Confederate soldiers from the Civil War. Legend has it that on the anniversaries of major civil war battles one can hear the cries of dying soldiers emanating from the graves.
Rice University’s history began with the murder of its founder, William Marsh Rice, in 1900, when his valet killed him with a fatal dose of chloroform as he slept. Rice’s lawyer and his valet conspired to murder Rice and change his will in order to take control of his immense fortune, half of which Rice had planned to use for the creation of a University. Fortunately for the university, their heinous crime was uncovered and Rice’s original will was restored. Today, Rice’s ashes are interred beneath his memorial statue on Rice University’s campus, and intoxicated students often claim that in the wee hours of the morning the statue can be seen to move, giving revelers reproachful glances. Others insist that one can smell the scent of chloroform if one gets close enough to the statue.
Several battles were fought in Princeton, New Jersey during the American War of Independence, including one on Princeton University’s campus. Nassau Hall’s walls are still marked by the artillery barrage that spelled the end of British resistance there. Today, administrators are often confronted by unexplained phenomena that some attribute to the ghosts of British soldiers, many of whom seem to have a penchant for practical jokes, including missing lunches, sharp objects left in chairs, and cell phone ringtones inexplicably changed to “God Save the Queen.”
As one of the nation’s oldest universities, Columbia is bound to have acquired its fair share of spirits over the years. Most of Columbia’s phantasms, however, have appeared since its current Neo-Classical campus was built by McKim, Mead, and White in the early 20th century. Before the modern campus was built, the site was home to an insane asylum (Columbia students like to joke that it still is), and one building, Buell, still survives from that era. Students say that on nights when the moon is full, the howls of inmates can still be heard in the building. Additionally, Columbia was the original home of the Manhattan project, and according to legend, one of the graduate students assisting on the project was fatally poisoned by exposure to radioactive materials during its early phases. Students say that he still wanders the labyrinthine tunnel system that lies underneath Columbia’s campus. Sometimes, desperate physics students steal Geiger counters from their labs and go in search of him, hoping that he can help them with their take-home midterms. The real reason why Columbia is the number one most haunted college in the country, however, is that it was featured in the 1984 classic film, Ghostbusters.