It’s no surprise that many American universities come with a paranormal pedigree: quite a few of these schools date back to the founding of the United States (or even earlier); more than one college has been built on the site of an abandoned mental hospital, and some are even reputed to be built atop Native American burial grounds. Nearly every campus has its own unique haunted history, with macabre rumors often passed down as urban legends from one generation of students to the next. But there are a handful of schools whose supernatural reputations stand out as particularly chilling.
There are too many candidates to list in just one article, but I’ll open with what I consider to be the front-runners – based either on the quantity of paranormal folklore surrounding the school itself, or in some cases the sheer terrifying intensity of the haunting accounts reported there.
Want to explore even more terrifying locales off the beaten path? Check out this list of Ten Terrifying Haunted Sites You May Not Have Heard Of!
University of Georgia – Athens, GA
This campus is virtually swirling with spooky legends, and contains several reportedly haunted buildings. Among these is the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house – once the home of former state senator James Yancey Carithers, whose daughter Susie committed suicide in the attic; residents now claim that Susie’s visage has been sighted in the attic window. Another house, Phi Mu, is said to be haunted by the ghost of Hanna Hamilton, who still mourns her lost fiancé (who, according to legend, is buried beneath the front steps). Joe E. Brown Hall contains a mysterious “staircase to nowhere,” ending in a wall which is said to conceal the corpse of a student who committed suicide there. Some have claimed that the school’s administration building is haunted by the ghost of confederate officer Charles Morris, who has been sighted in his favorite rocking chair in the school president’s office.
Drew University – Madison, NJ
This campus is believed to be so haunted that the caretakers of Drew University’s Historical Archives have encouraged students and alumni to submit accounts of their own paranormal encounters on their website… but the spooky tales go back much further than that, with the first of them dating to the early 19th century. The ghost of the school’s founder, Roxanna Mead Drew, is said to walk the corridors of Mead Hall by night, but the creepiest tales revolve around Hoyt Hall: all on the same night, several students claimed to have sighted a dark-haired woman standing in the window at 2 am. Residents in Hoyt have reported their possessions or furnishings moving around their rooms… or disappearing altogether. These incidents have been reported so frequently, they came to be known as “The Drew Phenomena.”
California State University, Channel Islands – Camarillo, CA
One of the newest campuses with a ghostly reputation is only 14 years old, but thanks to its location on the former grounds of Camarillo Mental Hospital, it’s also a potential hotbed for supernatural occurrences. Astute horror fans might recognize the campus as one of the shooting locations for the THE RING, and some students who stood at the filming site (Samara’s well, atop a hill overlooking the campus) claim to have felt that they were being watched by unseen eyes. Elsewhere, one student claims to have heard a woman crying in an abandoned corridor; others have reported opening and closing doors, and mysterious scratching sounds. The creepiest tales of all surround the former buildings of the mental hospital, in which the words “NO ONE CAN HELP ME” were found etched into the walls… and in a shower room, an unknown hand has scrawled the word “DIE.”
University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, IL
The macabre history of UIUC dates back nearly 150 years, and its legends are bolstered by first-hand accounts and whispered rumors to this day. Allegedly haunted sites include the English Building – a former dormitory and gym where a student is said to have drowned in the swimming pool; her dripping form is said to be prowling the same building today. More infamous legends include tales of students mysteriously disappearing while wandering the school library’s immense maze of book stacks. But the scariest rumor to hit the school broke out in 1998, when word spread that a killing spree had been predicted to occur on an unspecified Midwestern college campus over Halloween, and many of the details in the story suggested that UIUC was the target. Thankfully, this proved to be false.
Ohio University – Athens, Ohio
While most of these schools can lay claim to multiple paranormal incidents and ghostly phenomena, Ohio U’s Athens campus might hold the record for the greatest number of reportedly haunted locations. The tales date back to the school’s founding in the early 19th century, and it’s been claimed that it was built on the site of a Native American burial ground (shades of THE SHINING). Alpha Omicron Pi sorority is said to be haunted by a murdered slave named Nicodemus; in Jefferson Hall, a ghostly schoolteacher has been seen silencing noisemakers (much like the librarian in GHOSTBUSTERS). Then there’s the legend of Washington Hall, which says the building is haunted by a basketball team killed in a bus accident. The spirit of a student who died after falling from the fourth floor of Crawford Hall has been sighted multiple times; the school’s sports arena is said to be occupied by the ghost of a murdered resident advisor; and Lin Hall – in a region known as “The Ridges,” now the Kennedy Museum of Art – was until 1993 the site of the Athens Lunatic Asylum, and the focus of numerous reports of paranormal activity.