My student worker swears she heard my toilet flush when my office was empty. (Yes, I have a private bathroom, thank you very much.) I even had a friend die in his office during commencement. I'm skeptical, to say the least. Unless he happens to be looking over my shoulder right now...From The Atlantic.
Why College Students Need Their Urban Legends
Legend has it that the forests surrounding Reed College in Portland, Oregon, are home to not only standard flora and fauna, but also a slightly lesser known species: zombie monkeys. The mutant albino monkeys are rumored to be the former subjects of a psychology professor’s secret experiments in his underground lab. At some point, the primates were allegedly freed by an animal-rights activist group and now run amok in the canyon beside the school’s campus—potential threats to students wandering around a little too late at night.
Meanwhile, near Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, a Loch-Ness-like creature (lovingly nicknamed Champ) has reportedly been spotted in the depths of Lake Champlain over the years, becoming a local attraction. And at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, a duck spirit is thought to roam the halls and block the refrigerator doors of unsuspecting freshmen students trying to drink beer. Many colleges across the country have their own version of a lurking zombie monkey, sea monster, or duck (and in some cases, the all-too-real rumor of human-size cockroaches or rats roaming the halls). And that’s on top of the myriad tales of haunted dorms and classrooms. At Emory University, for example, a playful ghost named Dooley who died from alcoholism and went on to teach anatomy using his bones, is such a household name that stuffed animals of his skeletal likeness are sold at the campus bookstore and a spirit week every spring claims him as mascot, according to Elizabeth Tucker’s Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses.
Simon Bronner, an American studies and folklore professor at Penn State Harrisburg, says such urban legends emerge on campuses as a manifestation of student anxiety about the college experience—often serving as an outlet through which they can express their fears about being away from home. In other words, they’re often a means students can use to acknowledge and contain this apprehension without having to be completely vulnerable about it. Bronner, who authored the book Campus Traditions: Folklore from the Old-Time College to the Modern Mega-University, cites legends that center on romantic relationships and roommates as cases when the stories function as stand-ins for students’ own fears. “Telling them is partly ritual, partly humorous,” he says. “Students are using that frame of lore to raise issues about aging, about where they are on a strange place on their own for the first time.” Many of the college legends—which may warn against partying too much or caving to academic pressures or even staying out so late a zombie monkey might appear—are “cautionary tales” that provide nuggets of “cultural advice,” he says.