Where there are storied old buildings, it’s inevitable that macabre tales of ghosts, spirits, and demons circulate. Perhaps it's a trick of the mind, or just a ploy to attract visitors (given our fascination with the supernatural), or you know, maybe they're real?
Sure, we've never proven the existence of ghosts, but we've never disproven it either. That's not very scientific, we know, but we're not here to talk about logic today -- Halloween is approaching so we’re willing to become believers, if only for now!
As if going to university wasn’t life changing enough, these five haunted universities could provide you with a little more than just an education.
A fair warning though -- while we can take these hauntings with a huge pinch of salt, some of the gruesome stories that inspired them are not for the faint of heart!
Penn State University, Pennsylvania, USA
One of the most prestigious schools in the US is also one of its most haunted. Penn State was inaugurated in 1855, so there’s been plenty of time for spirits to take up residence on campus! First up is the 900 seater Schwab Auditorium, which is reportedly home to a few different ghosts. A long-dead janitor, an unknown female, a playful young boy, and even Charles Schwab, the building’s designer, are said to stroll around the theater late at night. In fact, many Penn State employees and students dread being alone in the building -- they claim to hear footsteps in the upper chambers and even see “empty” chairs fold down, as ghosts settle in to watch the stage.
Elsewhere on campus, the ghost of Frances Atherton, wife of former Penn State President George Atherton, can often be seen in an upstairs window of the Botany Building. Meanwhile, over in the Pattee Library, the mysterious and gruesome murder of a female student in 1969 has left a palpable mark on the place. Ever since this unsolved murder took place, students have reported seeing apparitions, moving objects, and feeling sudden temperature drops, while one student even raised the alarm when she felt a pair of invisible hands gripping her neck!
While we’re sure Penn State is a great place to study, we wouldn’t fancy spending the evening alone in the library!
Nagasaki University, Japan
Those of you with a mind for history may recall that in August 1945, as World War II was raging, the USA detonated atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The scale of the destruction was almost immeasurable -- so much so that an atomic bomb hasn’t been used in warfare ever since. It almost goes without saying that the death toll skyrocketed, with as many as a quarter of a million people dying in the blasts.
Nagasaki University’s Medical College took a huge hit, having been located less than a kilometer from the detonation. Around 800 faculty and students lost their lives and ever since, eyewitness accounts emerge regularly, telling of spectral figures running, struggling desperately and walking forlornly through the college. There have also been hundreds of reports of people hearing cries, screams, gasps, and even of smelling the foul odour of burning flesh.
The University of St Andrews, Scotland
There’s something special about Scotland that makes it a perfect setting for ghost stories. In part, it’s the foggy, drizzly weather, and in part it’s the craggy landscape. Couple this with the country’s checkered ancient history and love for gothic architecture , and you’ve got yourself a tonne of potential hauntings. Given that the University of St. Andrews has been around since the year 1410, the place is believed to have accrued a motley collection of ghosts and spirits in its time.
The revolving cast of ghosts includes a coterie of murdered monks, a bagpipe playing spectre, a lady in white who haunts an abbey tower, weeping over the loss of her beheaded husband, while there’s even a ghost ship which sails along the nearby coast! If you find yourself attending St Andrews, or just visiting the area, the good news is that you can go on an official tour to all of its haunted sites to see for yourself.
Heidelberg University, Germany
Another absolutely ancient building, and another series of hauntings related to World War II. Heidelberg University has been around since 1386, but during the rise of the Nazis in the mid 20th century, things took a very dark turn here. As you may know, Nazi rule was autocratic and fascistic -- in short, they were horrible. Anything that was said or taught which defied their doctrine was harshly punished. In fact, in 1933, Nazis gathered in the university square to burn masses of books they disagreed with. Today, students and faculty alike claim to smell charred paper and leather as they pass by this spot, particularly on the anniversary of that day.
A great many professors of Heidelberg University defied the orders of the Nazi regime and refused to change their teachings. They were sent off to work and die in concentration camps as a result, but to this day it’s often claimed that their chalkboards now act of their own accord, erasing and writing words overnight, even when the lecture halls are locked!
The eeriest spot of all on campus is the medical clinic, where people often report hearing the cries and screams of scores of women at night. As part of a bid to create their “ideal” race, the Nazis forced thousands of “undesirable” women to undergo sterilization procedures, stopping them from being able to birth children. If you hadn’t already guessed, Heidelberg’s clinic was one of many used to carry out these operations.
...We did warn you these stories weren’t for the faint hearted!
The National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Republic of Ireland
Much like neighbouring Scotland, Ireland is a hotbed of ghost stories. It’s an island filled with age old castles, superstition, a rich folklore, and a complex religious and cultural history.
Maynooth University is separated into two schools -- a modern university for any and all subjects, and an old seminary (a university for budding Catholic priests). Now, horror movies like The Exorcist have taught us that religion and evil spirits don’t always mix well, and that has certainly been the case here at Maynooth, where a demon is believed to have possessed a number of would-be priests.
In the 1840s, two young students were found dead one after the other, each with his throat cut. Was it murder? Apparently not, as these men were found holding razor blades. Since suicide was considered a mortal sin, one which would forego any chance of getting into heaven, it was believed that these men had been possessed by a sinister demon who forced them to take their own lives, therefore winding up in hell.
But how did they decide it was a demon? An eyewitness account, no less! Shortly after these two suicides, another resident at the seminary threw himself out of a third floor window. He didn’t die on impact though, and survived long enough to tell his seniors that while shaving in front of his mirror, a demon appeared to him. He said he’d felt an overwhelming urge to slit his own throat, and in his struggle to fight off the demon’s advances, he threw himself right out the window and onto the ground below.
That very night, another priest was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, and spent the night in the room from which the priest had thrown himself. So the story goes, when he emerged alive the next morning, his hair had turned ghostly white, and he never once spoke of what he experienced.
Today, you can actually visit this “ghost room” in Maynooth University. It’s treated as a serious subject however, by the priests who live and work there, and remarkably, nobody is allowed to bring a mirror with them into the room!