13 Chilling College Urban Legends and Tales

Updated July 7, 2021
Portrait Of Young Woman Shouting From Window

Colleges are rife with urban legends, and no wonder. Many campuses have large, sometimes-creepy old buildings, plenty of history, and they've seen thousands of people pass through their halls. All of this combines to make them the perfect settings for some chilling urban legends.

The Kidney Thief

You've likely heard this one before: a college student begins drinking at one party and leaves for a private party with someone he just met. He resumes drinking at the next party and passes out. When he wakes up, it's to find himself in a bathtub filled with ice and a note with the words "Call 911 or you'll die!"

The student calls 911 and describes his current situation. The operator asks him to try to feel his back. The student does and finds he has two sets of stitches. The operator tells him that he is the latest victim of a ring of kidney thieves who are stealing the organs and selling them on the black market. He's told to lie still, and that help is on the way.

Straight A's

This urban legend is accepted as a fact at colleges across America, although it has no basis in the truth. As the story goes, any college student whose roommate dies, whether by accident, illness, or suicide, gets a free pass for the rest of the current semester and receives a 4.0-grade average. Although some schools do offer some consideration for students who find themselves in such stressful circumstances, none offer an automatic A average.

Massacre Predicted on Talk Show

Young woman shocked while watching TV

The name of the famous psychic and the exact talk show involved changes with each version of the story, but this urban legend recirculates every few years.

A well-known psychic with a track record for accuracy supposedly predicts an upcoming massacre at a college campus. Word spreads through emails and phone calls as students begin to panic. Tension remains high until the "predicted" date (typically Halloween) finally passes without incident.

The Statue and the Virgin

This legend is popular at many colleges. The story goes that a particular campus statue is supposed to move or react in some way if a virgin walks by.

The fact that no one ever actually sees the statue move is supposed to be a wry reflection on just how few virgins you'll actually find on a college campus.

The Dead Roommate

One roommate decided to go out for the night, and the other decided to stay in the dorm. This story usually goes one of two ways:

The roommate that chose to stay home is sleeping peacefully, and then is woken up by scary sounds at the door, and they're too scared to get up and see what it was. In the morning, they get up and open the door to find their roommate there, dead, with their throat slashed.

Or, the roommate that went out arrives home to a dark apartment and doesn't turn any lights on, not wanting to wake their sleeping roommate. They go to bed, and when they wake up in the morning, it's to discover that their roommate was brutally murdered, and that they slept all night with the roommate's dead body in the apartment with them. Even worse, though, is evidence that the killer hung around as well: a message, in blood, on the wall, toying with the living roommate, saying they must be glad they didn't turn on the light.

The Scream

Close-Up Of Woman Shouting At Home

It's final exam time, and all the students are completely stressed out. The student council supposedly passes out a flyer designating a specific day and time for everyone to release their stress by letting out a scream.

As the story goes, many students did scream at the designated time, but one particular scream was of a different nature. While other students were simply releasing steam, a female student screamed as she was being murdered. Her body wasn't found until the next day, as if the killer timed the murder to coincide with the campus-wide scream, covering their tracks.

Cursed Van Wickle Gates

Brown University's Van Wickle Gates are impressive and open into the area known as the Quiet Green. The gates are only opened two times a year.

The first time is to welcome first-year students. During Convocation, these students proceed through the open gates. The second time is at the end of the year after the Commencement exercise. The gates are opened to allow senior graduates to walk out of the campus to start their new lives.

The campus superstition warns that any student who walks through the gates more than these two times will suffer bad luck for all eternity.

Zombie Monkeys

A rogue professor supposedly created zombie albino monkeys in his secret lab that was located underground at Reed College in Oregon. Learning of the experiment, a group of animal-rights activists broke into the lab and set the monkeys free.

The mysterious zombie monkeys supposedly escaped into the adjacent canyon. Students are warned not to wander near the canyon at night lest they fall victim to one of the zombie monkeys.

Kenyon College Gates of Hell

Gates of Hell, Kenyon College

The superstition of Kenyon College resides at the south entrance gates. Dubbed the Gates of Hell, fellow students are warned not to go through the gates at midnight. The adjacent church rings its bells at the stroke of midnight and if anyone ventures through the gates at this time, they will find themselves transported to Hell.

Healy Howl

Georgetown University hosts an annual Halloween campus gathering that ends just before midnight. This ending is hallmarked by the Healy Howl and takes place at the campus cemetery across from Healy Hall.

The tradition began soon after the release of the 1973 movie, The Exorcist, which was filmed on campus. During this annual celebration, the famous movie is shown and finishes just before midnight. Students then rush to the campus cemetery to deliver a chilling chorus of howls at midnight for a one-minute duration.

The goal of the howling is to exorcise all ghosts and other paranormal entities from the campus.

Haunted Pennsylvania State University

Penn State has its share of ghosts. Runkle Hall is said to be haunted by several student spirits with ties to Room 318. The spirit of Frances Atherton, wife of Penn State President George Atherton, is seen at night by his grave while his ghost haunts the Schwab Auditorium.

Notre Dame's Washington Hall

The Gripper is a legendary spirit residing in Washington Hall at Notre Dame. The Gripper is said to be the spirit of a deceased student who enjoyed defying curfew. Unfortunately, one harsh winter night, The Gripper stayed out too late and found himself locked out of the dorm.

He succumbed to the elements and in the morning, students discovered his body on the steps outside Washington Hall. The Gripper isn't the only ghost haunting the building. It's believed he's joined by the spirit of a construction worker who accidentally fell to his death.

Cornell University

After a deadly fire claimed the lives of six undergraduates and one faculty member, Cornell students reported hearing disembodied voices and phantom footsteps. The wandering ghosts visit different residence halls in their continued haunting. A strange grouping of males wearing tuxedos have been seen about the campus along with a female apparition in the library said to be the victim of a fallen bookshelf.

Tales to Scare Freshman With

The creepy urban legends, superstitions, and scary stories of college campuses appear to be commonplace. The signs of paranormal activity are also part of the strange mix of phenomena told by college students. It's likely many of these stories are meant to frighten incoming freshman, but who knows? There may be a kernel of truth to at least some of these urban legends.

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13 Chilling College Urban Legends and Tales