Forgotten Ohio: Ohio State University

Ohio State University is by far Ohio's largest college. It's actually second-largest in the nation by student body, having been passed by the University of Texas back in 1997. Nevertheless, the main campus in Columbus is an immense, sprawling behemoth of a place, replete with a highly respected hospital system, satellite communications center, public television and radio stations, airport, supercomputer, polar research center, wildlife preserve, and functioning farm. It also features a well-known network of steam tunnels they're always fretting about people exploring and, like any other college that's been around since 1870, more than its share of individualized ghost stories. The legends listed here have been gathered from a wide variety of sources, including students, staff, and faculty, but the best-known legends are regularly listed in the Halloween edition of The Lantern.

Pomerene Hall - Mirror Lake

Dr. Clark, a professor in the early 1900s, got depressed about a failed mining investment and committed suicide. His body was found where Pomerene Hall now stands. Mrs. Clark swore never to leave him, and when she died in the 1920s her ghost began to haunt Mirror Lake in a pink dress. Dr. Clark haunts Pomerene, where he slams doors and does other ineffectual ghostly things. Pomerene Hall is at 1760 Neil Avenue and now contains the Mirror Lake Cafe.

Hopkins Hall

The story with this one goes that a girl was stuck in an elevator all night in Hopkins Hall, the art building. This threw her into a nervous breakdown, and for some reason she wrote things all over the walls of the elevator. She eventually graduated but was later killed in a car accident, and it is said that people sometimes find notes or scratchings in the Hopkins Hall elevator that say, "I'm still mad at OSU for what they did to me." All I can say is, amen. Hopkins Hall is located on the 17th Avenue side of the Oval.

Bricker Hall

When Herbert Atkinson, a member of the Board of Trustees, died in the 1950s, his ashes were placed in the wall of Bricker Hall behind a plaque. Since then lights have flashed and the man himself has been seen drinking punch in the lobby. I once waited for a meeting in front of this plaque, but I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. But oh well. Bricker Hall is also on the Oval at 17th Avenue, a few buildings west of Hopkins Hall.

Orton Hall

One of the oldest buildings on campus, Orton Hall is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of its namesake, Edward Orton, the university's first president, as well as a grunting, mute caveman. Click to take a look at the details of this eerie OSU landmark.

Starling-Loving Hall

Starling-Loving is home to part of the OSU medical school. It contains labs, classrooms, and even a morgue. Ghosts are sighted here frequently, and voices are heard in the halls.

Oxley Hall

This, the first women's residence hall, is one of the most distinctive large buildings on campus. It's used as office space now, but the specter of the days when students lived (and died) there still lingers in the form of a December 17th tradition: the re-emergent screams of a female student who committed suicide there decades ago. She may be present on other days of the year as well, as visitors to the attic have reported seeing, hearing, and feeling strange things.

Canfield Hall

This story from the all-girls dorm raises some questions about the possibility of ghosts roaming its halls:

When I went to OSU I lived in Canfield Hall. It really is a pretty sort of gothic building from the outside, and when I lived there in '98 it was one of the oldest buildings with no plans for remodeling. We lived at the end of the hall on the top floor, and though our room was unusually dark and creepy, I didn't mind it at first. There was a large mirror across from my bed so if you roll over in the middle of the night awake, you see your face staring back, as well as strange laundry-pile shadows. All of our friends said the mirror was creepy and some people wouldn't even look at it. I hung a sheet over my bed canopy-style and I was fine. As the school year progressed things started happening in the room that were a little odd. My roomate's bible kept being hidden somewhere in the room and she would blame me for it - of course I didn't do it!

There was a large pipe that used to be for steam heat that went along the heads of our beds and at night there would be scratching inside of it - we thought it was mice and tolerated it for maybe two hours before I ran down and got the RA, and of course as soon as she stepped in the room it stopped. This continued for months, and everytime she'd come it would stop. Then eventually it just stopped on its own. Well to me all of this wasn't scary, just the weirdness of an old dormitory. But one night my roomate was out of town and I was up alone in the room. I was playing on the computer until way late and as I went into the hallway I could tell that all the other girls were asleep because it was dark under their doors. I left my door open and when I returned from the bathroom I prepared for bed - closing the big heavy curtains and turning the light off. The room was so small it was the sort of smothering darkness and the curtains dampened the sound so I could tell the distance of all the noises from my bed - the clock ticking, the heater's rumbling. I remember all of this so well, I was almost falling asleep - the type of tired where you are aware of everything, but your body is absolutely still - when I heard the distinct and unmistakable sound of 3 loud, shuffled footsteps on the carpet stopping at my bed near my face! I had the canopy, so I couldn't see on the other side (and I'm almost thankful for this). I laid paralyzed and burning all over because I was so panicked for nearly ten minutes waiting for whatever/whomever to come when I finally burst through the canopy and turned the lights on. There was nothing there. The carpet was entirely free of even a pair of socks. But the sound was unmistakeable; I can still hear it when I remember this story. I explained it to myself that it was a plastic bag shifting in my closet. Of course in the morning when I checked there was nothing in the closet that could have fallen or was made of plastic. I wrote it off to my imagination or some blood pumping in one ear.

A couple of months later we had some friends come visit from out of town, and one girl needed to change her clothes in my room for privacy. I left her in the room alone but it took only two minutes before she came out with her face pale and she wouldn't look anyone in the eye. She just said "I can't go in that room, it's evil." I was offended, assuming she was talking about how messy it was. About fifteen minutes later another girl went into the bathroom and came out without going. She told us, "I saw a ghost in the bathroom!" She couldn't describe anything about it, only that it was a shadow that passed behind her as she looked in the mirror. Both girls were entirely freaked out about our hall, and both wouldn't even set foot in my room because of its "presence." I wrote this off as crazy wiccan-punkgirl stuff and/or snobbery at my messy room. But definitely there was something sinister about that room - even our phone number spelled out an upside down cross and we would get crazy prank phone calls at all hours of the day.

Alpha Delta Pi / Phi Gamma Delta

This sorority house is one of Columbus's better-known haunts. It is certainly famous as haunted, but by whom? Many say it's the ghost of a girl who killed herself in the building before the sorority moved in. Today she is spotted roaming the halls, looking out windows, and in mirrors. Chandeliers are known to move for no apparent reason because of her. Others have attributed the activity in the house to an autistic boy who died there at the age of six. He may have been associated with the family of Professor Hagerty sometime in the early 1900s, but firm historical evidence is lacking.

K., a former president of the OSU chapter of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority, has this to say about her experiences there:

"What I can say is that many unexplainable things happened in the house while I lived there, and that these things were as mischievous as they were mysterious. Personal items would be 'stolen' from locked rooms and then found in highly unusual places, like way up on shelves buried beneath hats and gloves or very neatly stacked underneath beds. On one occasion, a small Halloween candle was found to be lit spontaneously in a locked bedroom after both roommates returned from class. A glass fixture fell suddenly on a sorority member in the basement chapter room (of course, maybe our house was just literally falling apart in that instance!).

"While I never personally saw an apparition, there were a few instances in which a ghostly form seemed to have been witnessed in the house. Two women, including the house mother (a practical person who only gingerly admitted to this experience), experienced someone sitting down on the edge of their beds and felt and saw the beds sink beneath the weight of this unseen person. One woman saw the door of her bedroom open late at night and heard footsteps walk across the room and up the ladder to the top bunk. She assumed it was her roommate until the roommate, my closest college friend, came home an hour later and saw that there was obviously no one in the top bunk. I experienced a sudden uneasy feeling once on the third floor landing when I ran down the stairs to answer the front door. It is hard to explain, but it was a feeling like I had been doing that exact thing over and over and over and over, much stronger than a deja vu experience, yet I had not even moved into the house yet. It was actually kind of creepy living there, and I never had a good night's sleep in that house."

K. goes on to relate another possible encounter with the "other side" at the sorority house: "The only story related to the apparition of a woman in the ADPi house involved a sorority sister named N. who actually did pass away tragically in a car accident in early 1994. Two residents of the house say that they saw N. come around the corner of the third floor hallway and disappear." The witnesses in this case were still grieving, K. reminds us, but they did both see the same thing.

Visit the sorority's official website here and take a virtual tour of the house, which is located at 94 East 15th Avenue. (Note: In 2004 the house was sold to the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, which now occupies it. Members of this fraternity have apparently seen plenty of weird things there, if e-mails I've received are any indication.)

The Ghost of Jeffrey Dahmer

One of the weirder stories to make the rounds at Ohio State is that a particular building is haunted by the ghost of Jeffrey Dahmer, OSU's most famous former student. Dahmer, known as "The Milwaukee Cannibal," was raised in Bath, Ohio; he later moved to Milwaukee, where he strangled and ate members of that city's gay community. He was eventually murdered by a fellow inmate just a year into his life sentence. It's true that Dahmer attended OSU briefly in the early 1980s, but it's exremely hard to determine where he lived while he was here. Rumors include Lincoln Tower, Morrill Tower, and Drackett Hall, just to name a few. However, since Dahmer was at OSU for less than one quarter before flunking out and enlisting in the Army, it's doubtful that his ghost would be much interested in hanging around here.

Ohio State as it would have appeared to its first president, Edward Orton. Circa 1880.
Ohio's Haunted Colleges
UnderOSU - OSU Legends
Crime Library - Jeffrey Dahmer
Alpha Delta Pi Sorority at OSU