Author: Lizeth Castillo
Walking down a dark, deserted hallway, you start to hear noises. You look around but no one else is there. Suddenly the lights begin to flicker and a window slams shut all by itself. Could our 120-year-old campus be the home to spooky spirits or have the ghost stories gotten to us?
Originally celebrated by the Celts, All Hallows Eve—otherwise known as Halloween—is believed to be the most spiritually transcendent day of the year. Celts thought All Hallows Eve was the day when ghosts of the dead returned to earth. On this night, magic and the supernatural were present, and spirits could make contact with the physical world. Personal accounts of ghosts and spirits in Oxy’s buildings and residence halls raise questions of their existence on campus. Who will be haunting you tonight?
Erdman Hall is one of the grounds for possible paranormal activity on campus. Among Oxy’s lesser-known history are the stories of two ghostly hauntings in this residence hall. The most prevalent and the most blogged about on websites about the school’s ghostly history (like on theshadowlands.net) is the story of the friendly spirit who manifests itself in a room on the front side of the second floor toward the middle of the floor.
Rumors are unclear as to the specific age or reason for manifestation of this friendly ghost, but it is said to be the ghost of a younger individual. This mischievous spirit is rumored to be looking for companionship. In order to make its presence known to the inhabitants of this room, the spirit has been known to turn the faucets of the room’s sink on and off throughout the day, turn the lights off and on, turn the room’s doorknobs, pull the shades up suddenly and take the door’s chain on and off.
Theshadowlands.net also claims that past inhabitants of the room have found messages written on the wall, believed to have originated from this real-life Casper.
In addition to the trickster ghost, there are tales of another spirit occupying the same room. This spirit is said to be less inviting and apparently only manifests itself at night. Individuals have posted anonymous blogs on StrangeUSA.com about the hauntings and have characterized this ghost as a “dark and heavy presence” that resides in one of the closets. It is also noted on this website that this ghost appears while a person is sleeping, and has been identified as a male by the anonymous bloggers. This male spirit apparently watches you, harmlessly looming in the doorway. No insight has been provided as to the origin of this ghost.
Erdman Hall, erected in 1927, is one of the oldest residence halls on campus. Inhabitants and RAs have reported suspicious noises and activity at night. Rumors about these mysterious occurrences all point back to the hall’s paranormal hauntings and the events surrounding these incidents have become common knowledge among Oxy students, evident through the sheer number of students who have either read or heard about the various posted blogs.
“I can hear scraping and banging coming from the ceiling and walls, but I can never find out where it’s coming from. Also, when I ask if the people above me are doing it, they say, ‘No, but I hear it too,'” Erdman RA Erik Quezada (junior) said.
Newcomb Hall is also rumored to be haunted. Originally erected in 1956 and remodeled in 1996, two students are thought to have taken their lives in Newcomb’s rooms. One spooky story that circulates around campus concerns a lonely female who was unable to cope with being away from home. Stories are unclear as to how far in Oxy’s history this tale dates back, but the young girl was suspected to have fallen into a deep depression. Finding herself unable to deal with her homesickness, she hung herself in her room located on the second floor of Newcomb. Since then, strange things have been said to happen in Newcomb, such as alarms randomly going off.
This is not the only presence said to be lurking in Newcomb’s halls. Wylie Hall RA Debbie Weiser (senior) said she has heard stories of a room on the farthest side of the third floor being occupied by the ghost of a young girl who committed suicide by jumping out of her room’s window.
Weiser knows the haunted history surrounding Oxy’s residence halls—particularly Fowler Hall. While working for Telefund, an alumnus once recounted to Weiser that Fowler, built in 1914, was indeed haunted.
Cindy Tang (junior) has heard ghostly stories about the tunnels underneath Fowler and the ghosts that haunt them. “People say construction workers have died down there,” she said. The tunnels are believed to be sealed off to students, but Tang said that they were once open and students would make an adventure of exploring them.
Bell-Young, erected in 1956, has also been the site of mysterious events. Residents of Bell-Young have reported strange noises coming from the walls, and other mysterious incidents. “The faucets in the bathroom turn on while you’re inside. It’s eerie because they’re motion-sensored, and they’ll stay on for the longest time,” Bell-Young resident Amber Fandel (sophomore) said. Although there have been no student blog reports of Bell-Young being haunted, Fandel said, “There’s this odd presence to the entire hall.”
Past residents have complained about the supernatural atmosphere Bell-Young possesses. “It’s especially creepy when you’re all alone. Last year, I was there the entire fall break, and I could definitely hear some strange noises at like 2 a.m. It makes you wonder if there’s any truth to the stuff people say, especially when you’re caught up in the moment,” Ronni Toledo (sophomore) said about her first-year experience in Bell-Young.
The Mary Norton Clapp Library, erected in 1924, is yet another example of paranormal intrigue on campus. Apparently, one student succeeded in finding ghosts in the library. Jessica Nizar (junior) shared what she’s heard about a student who got locked inside one of the library’s private study rooms for the night. Whether or not the student meant to get locked inside the library is unclear, but it was only until the library was reopened the next morning when he was found. “Campus Safety apparently found him in the morning, and there was tons of writing on the whiteboards, the table was turned over and there were scratches and bruises on his body,” she said. “There was scribbling all over the place and the kid was on the floor. Something was obviously wrong.” Stories like these perpetuate the mystique surrounding the Clapp Library with each incoming class.
Students have reported hearing stories about Oxy’s suspected hauntings before their official enrollment as first-years. Emily Warren (junior) had stories passed down to her from her older brother who graduated from Oxy in 2001. She shared her story of how Campus Safety was inside a residence hall during fall break making their daily rounds. The lights inside the halls were on, which was particularly interesting considering there were no students inside the hall. The officer proceeded to turn off the lights and made his way to another part of the hall. Returning minutes later, he found the lights he had just turned off were on again. He apparently turned them off again, only to see them turn on as he walked down the corridor.
It was then that, with all the lights on, he began walking towards the door. As he walked under each lamp, it mysteriously turned off—a nearly impossible event due to the bifurcated light system present in each hall. As the story goes, the officer left the building and decided to come back in the morning.
Familiarity with the tales comes from websites directed at tourists seeking the best “Haunted Places in Los Angeles.” The school’s name and the various locations on campus thought to be haunted have been mentioned on several websites like Shadowlands.net, Metroblogging LA and StrangeUSA.com. Along with various pet cemeteries, museums, other educational institutions and even coliseums, Oxy and its haunted residence halls are guarantee
d to generate a spook.
Suspiciously, the origin of these posted blogs is anonymous and continues to be mediated through other users and servers. However, there is a distinct similar phrasing of stories between the various websites. It’s unclear whether the same blog has just been copied and pasted by several users or if the same person has created an account for multiple sites.
Regardless of their origin and whether or not you believe in paranormal entities, the stories surrounding Oxy’s campus have become an oral tradition among students. Many reported having heard these stories through their RAs in their first year on campus. With these tales flowing throughout the student body, Halloween is especially spine-chilling for Oxy students.
The stature and age of the buildings themselves serve as motivating props for the tales spread throughout campus. “It’s definitely creepy sometimes, even if you don’t believe it completely,” Nizar said. “I think in the end it just makes it really fun, like if you know something special about your school.” Others agree with Nizar that these mysterious tidbits add intrigue to the campus.
“Apart from being funny, it gives you something to talk about when you’re in the library late at night and you hear this really strange sound,” Fandel said. “It gives the campus a different kind of character.”
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