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Academic Encounters of the Ghostly Kind

Many a campus carries a ghostly tale or two. We’ve dug up a few of them, but beware, these aren't stories for the faint of heart!
BY Achala Upendran |   12-11-2013
All Hallows’ Eve has come and gone, but there’s nothing wrong with carrying a ghost story or two into the chill of winter. Universities around the world have long been hotspots for the supernatural, and many campuses have resident ghosts and ghouls. In the case of the eerily supernatural, it’s best to know what you’re in for before you take up residence on campus. Check out these campus tales of spine-chilling terror. Just make sure you have some hot cocoa to hand, and nerves of steel to read on. 

Note: There are a few graphic details below, so read only if you can handle it!   

National University of Singapore; Singapore

Sign warning of ghosts at the Bukit Timah campus of NUS; Photo courtesy:
The National University of Singapore (NUS) plays host to the Pontianak, the ghost of a headless woman who has been spotted in various locations on the Bukit Timah Campus. After the Sin Chew Daily ran a story on the Pontianak in 2009, the university put up signboards warning students about her. The ghost is not the only spectre to haunt NUS halls; students have also seen supernatural Japanese soldiers marching along the corridors of some of the faculty buildings, and there have even been reports of chairs and tables being thrown about classrooms in the dead of night.

University of Cambridge; U.K.

SMagdalene College, Cambridge University Photo courtesy:

As one of the oldest universities in the world, the University of Cambridge is home to more than its fair share of hauntings. Trinity College happens to be the founding-home of the ‘Ghost Club’, which has existed since around 1851 – and counted Charles Dickens as one of its early members.  One story at Sidney Sussex College says that Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Wales between 1653 and 1658, was decapitated and his head finally buried in the grounds of his former alma mater. The story tells that his head tends to float around the grounds, sometimes peering into windows, perhaps hoping to be reunited with its body, which is buried at Westminster.

Although Cambridge is a history-laden town, and is rife with hauntings, the strangest is possibly a ‘penguin’-like figure that has been spotted by a number of people walking down Newmarket Road. The ‘beak’ of the figure was what threw people for years—but it has lately been suggested that the ghost is actually that of a doctor wearing a nose guard that he believed would guard him from the plague or Black Death. Whether he was successful or not, we might never know.

Gettysburg College; U.S.

Pennsylvania Hall, Gettysburg College; Photo courtesy:

Gettysburg was an important point of battle during the American Civil War (1861-65), and ultimately served as the site of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. The college is considered to be one of the most haunted institutions in the world. The on-campus theatre, Brua Hall is home to 'The General', a Civil War veteran who has been seen reclining in a chair, or looking out of a window. Ghosts of little children have been spotted in Stevens Hall, spiritual remnants, perhaps, of the children’s school that once stood here.

Though most chilling of all, however, is the experience of two faculty members in the college’s Pennsylvania Hall – when the elevator they were in refused to acknowledge their pressing of the 2nd floor and instead descended into the basement of the building – the doors opening into the scene of a Civil War hospital. They later described seeing a Civil war era hospital room, a pile of amputated limbs in a corner and sounds of screams and moans. A blood drenched surgeon apparently began to make his way over to them, but the elevator doors slammed shut and took the members out of the scene before they could find out what he wanted. Perhaps that was a lucky break!

Chinese University of Hong Kong; China

Single Braid Road of the Chung Chi campus of Chinese University of Hong Kong, is home to a truly unsettling spectre of a young woman.

According to Feng  Shui experts, this particular area is a sinkhole of ‘dark’ energies, through which  the appearance of one of the university’s more famous and gruesome ghosts have manifested. Students have reported seeing a young woman with a long braid; when she approaches them, they realize that her face is a perfect blank, bearing absolutely no features. The story goes that this young woman was entering Hong Kong as an illegal immigrant from mainland China; when she neared the city, she got cold feet and attempted to jump off the train. Her braid got caught in the train door and her face and scalp were ripped off.

University of Toronto; Canada

University of Toronto; Photo courtesy: photo courtesy:

The University of Toronto has perhaps the strangest story of them all. In 1889, a student encountered a strange man wearing  a ‘witchlike’ hat on a cold autumn evening. The man said that he had a story to share, and proceeded to tell it over a bottle of rum in the student’s room. He revealed that he was the ghost of Ivan Reznikoff, a stonemason who had worked on the university’s construction in the mid nineteenth century. Reznikoff narrated the tale of his death: his supervisor, Diablos had believed Reznikoff had been trying to steal his fiancé. Reznikoff, furious, had attacked him outside his quarters, missing, and instead striking the wooden door with his axe(the axe-marks in the door still exist today). The man told the student that there had been a chase, and he had been stabbed on the back – with Diablos hiding his body in a ventilation shaft. The body had not been found.

When the student woke the next morning, he was alone, and dismissed the previous night’s encounter as nothing but a fanciful dream. A few years later, however, In 1901, part of the University College buildings burnt down. Out of the char and timber emerged a ventilator shaft which housed—wait for it—a skeleton wearing a stonemason’s belt.



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