I found the owls (Randonautica Series): I talk about some of the strangeness and patterns that have emerged during my own randonauting trips. Plus, I tell the story of some freaky fire-related synchronicities that have happened since last week.

Highlights include:
• Three fires I’ve encountered since recording the last episode
• Ominous warnings from Randonautica
• Lots of owl lawn decorations!

Subscribe on Patreon to support the show and get cool stuff: https://www.patreon.com/buriedsecretspodcast

Episode Script for I found the owls (Randonautica Series)

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The Despair Meme and the Hell Gate: A look at memetics and the idea of the despair meme in Randonautica. In particular, I talk about some weird stuff that happened to me at New York City’s Hell Gate, examine its relationship to randonauting, and see whether my experiences could be tied in with the despair meme.

Highlights include:

  • An attempt at explaining memetics
  • A possible initiation experience
  • Ghost-transmitted memes?

Subscribe on Patreon to support the show and get cool stuff: https://www.patreon.com/buriedsecretspodcast

Episode Script for The Despair Meme and the Hell Gate (Randonautica Series)

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Randonautica synchronicity: A look at the connection between strange synchronicities and Randonautica.

Plus, I explore some unusual synchronicities that happened to me while just talking and thinking about randonauting. Can Randonautica cause synchronicities when you aren’t even actively using the app? I’m not sure, but I’m ready to speculate wildly.

Highlights include:
• Stumbling across a piece of art called “Synchronicity”
• Conspiracy thinking
• A higher-than-average number of references to 80s music

Subscribe on Patreon to support the show and get cool stuff: https://www.patreon.com/buriedsecretspodcast

Episode Script for Strange Randonautica Synchronicity (Randonautica Series)

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Escaping the Probability Tunnel Using Randonautica: A deep dive into how to randonaut, or go on mysterious, synchronistic adventures using the Randonautica app.

Highlights include:

  • Psychic self-defense
  • Ideas behind how the app works
  • Weird owl stories
  • Probability Tunnels

Subscribe on Patreon to support the show and get cool stuff: https://www.patreon.com/buriedsecretspodcast

Episode Script for Escaping the Probability Tunnel (Randonautica)

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A how-to guide on how to use a modified version of the Estes Method in solo paranormal investigations. I walk through how to set up your own Solo Estes Method kit, how to use it, cheap or free alternatives to buying new gear, and more.

Highlights include:
• Some weird audio from a 1979 spirit communication
• A look at some ghost hunters who developed a technique very similar to the Estes Method
• A quick history of the Estes Method

Subscribe on Patreon to get the Solo Estes Method Kit (pre-recorded questions) that I made: https://www.patreon.com/buriedsecretspodcast

Episode Script for How to Ghost Hunt By Yourself Using the Solo Estes Method

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Why is Fordham University Haunted? Wrapping up this series on the history and hauntings of Fordham University, I look at some additional theories behind why Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus seems to be so haunted.

Highlights include:
• My recent trip to Fordham’s campus
• Some less pleasant elements of Fordham’s past
• Stone tape theory and residual hauntings

Check out BronxWitch HeadQuarters:

Episode Script for Why is Fordham University Haunted?

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Ley Lines in New York, Window Areas, Liminal Spaces: A spin through some theories behind why hauntings and strangeness occurs.

In this instance, I’m looking at the concepts of ley lines, window areas, and liminal spaces, and seeing whether any of them could be in play in the hauntings of Fordham University.

Highlights include:
• A quick examination of incomprehensible aeromagnetic maps
• A weird internet aesthetic
• Former trails that ran through the area
• Ley line weirdness

Note: Sorry about the radiator noise on this one. I did my best to reduce it, but it ended up sounding a lot louder on the recording than it did in real life. Maybe just pretend it’s a poltergeist or something.

Episode Script for Ley Lines in New York, Window Areas, Liminal Spaces

DISCLAIMER: I’m providing this version of the script for accessibility purposes. It hasn’t been proofread, so please excuse typos. There are also some things that may differ between the final episode and this draft script. Please treat the episode audio as the final product. 

Ley lines

  • Ley lines show up in a lot of pop culture fantasy and paranormal stories, but I wanted to do some digging into the history behind ley lines and look at “real” ley lines.
  • The quick and dirty definition of a ley line is:
    • A straight line drawn between important historic structures and landmarks that supposedly have connections to paranormal phenomena, earth energy, etc.
  • I first heard of the origin of the ley line idea from Magic in the Landscape: Earth Mysteries and Geomancy by Nigel Pennick. The book talks about Alfred Watkins, an amateur archaeologist who in the 1920s coined the term ley line. Basically, he was looking at a line on a map that connected different parts of the landscape, ancient sites, etc.
    • The book goes on to talk about how Watkins’ “discovery” of ley lines wasn’t really an original idea, but Watkins was the one who gave it the name ley lines. He published a book in 1925 called The Old Straight Track, which then became popular in the 60s and 70s and there was this resurgence of interest in the topic.
  • It’s funny, right when I started researching ley lines, a podcast that I listen to sometimes did a whole episode about ley lines, so I felt like that synchronicity signaled I was on the right path in my research.
  • Ley lines are a huge topic that seem pretty easily debunked. Seems like the big argument is that you can draw lines to connect important sites really easily, but that doesn’t mean there’s actually a pattern, since of course there are also important sites outside of whatever lines you might draw.
  • But to get back to the relevance of ley lines to my research, to my puzzlement, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of high-quality, detailed map of supposed ley lines that cross through the US. 
    • I was looking for one that was overlaid over a google map, which you could zoom in on, etc.
    • I’m ashamed to say that the terrible lady Ghostbusters movie (which though I don’t think it’s good, I own and have watched more times than I care to admit), had me thinking that there existed detailed maps with ley lines. (There’s a whole plot point related to NYC ley lines.) As far as I can tell, there aren’t official ley lines in NYC.
    • If you google ley lines, you can find some somewhat low res jpgs that show at least two lines in NY state: one that passes through upstate, and one that passes through Long Island.
      • It was when I was reading about the Hammonasset Line, which starts in Montauk, LI, that the bad feeling I was starting to get about ley lines was confirmed: I pretty quickly ended up on the website of Graham Hancock, whose name set up some big alarm bells for me.
      • I tried to remember where I knew his name from, and then I looked it up and confirmed that some of his books have been characterized as supporting ultra far right, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He’s one of those people who has published all these books that sound really smart and sort of . . . DaVinci Code or National Treasure-like, only they aren’t fiction.
        • The Southern Poverty Law Center mentions Graham Hancock in a 2018 article called “Close encounters of the racist kind,” which talks about links between ancient alien theories and the far right, so you can google that if you want to know more. There’s also a great episode of the Qanon Anonymous podcast that talks all about the history channel, ancient aliens, and all of the bad stuff tied up with that whole scene, if you want to learn more about that.
    • To be clear, I’m NOT saying that everyone who’s interested in ley lines is racist or far right or anything. Not at all. But I do think that when you look into ley lines, you should just be very careful to be a filter, and not a sponge.
  • But, as usual, I digress, and to make a long story long, I determined that ley lines weren’t really going to help me explain anything going on at Fordham. Fordham also doesn’t lie on any kind of latitude that’s known for weirdness, either.
  • So then I turned to psychogeography, which as I explained in the last episode, I only sort of understand.
    • The conclusion that I kinda drew from reading what I did about psychogeography was this:
      • The way that people interact with a place and each other might have complex repercussions that may affect the paranormal
      • The paths that people take (walking paths, trails, train routes, roads, rivers and shipping routes) are important.
        • To me, they seem maybe more important than ley lines. Like, for example, who cares if there are no ley lines going through NYC? If a ley line is defined by connecting the dots between important places, then every street is basically a ley line. So much history has happened here: important events, famous buildings, the lives of a higher-than-average number of people for hundreds of years, and many, many people prior to the centuries of settler colonialism.
        • We also know that many present-day streets grew out of old walking paths that may have been around for hundreds, or even thousands of years. 
          • As a sidenote, I don’t want to get too sidetracked about this, because in the process of researching this episode I’ve spent tens of hours pouring over old books and maps, and newer, not-exactly-accurate books, trying to identify important pre-contact paths and villages, and plotting them on a map. and I could go on about this subject for a very long time while also giving very little real information, so I’m going to try to keep in brief.
        • But for example, to name one of the very many sources I’ve delved into in researching this, in 1946, a man named James A. Kelly created a map of Brooklyn called Indian Villages, Paths, Ponds, and Places in Kings County, and the map shows that some of the trails became major roads, including Fulton Street, Flatbush Avenue, and some of Atlantic Avenue.
        • Another source: Indian paths in the great metropolis by Reginald Pelham Bolton (1922) https://archive.org/details/indianpathsingre01bolt/page/n3/mode/2up?q=map 
        • In the US, it seems that ley lines are often plotted and drawn based on landmarks left by the indigenous population, like mounds and sacred sites.
          • But what about trails? To me, by ley line logic, it seems just as legitimate to plot out ley lines based on the trails that were used by indigenous people.
          •  So, you might ask, what trails went through the land that is now Fordham University?
            • I’ve mentioned that the NYBG is right next to Fordham’s campus, so I wanted to read a bit from their “Outdoor Self-Guided Visit: Westchester Indian Trail Walk TEACHER GUIDE”
              • “The southern branch of the Westchester Indian trail came across Fordham University’s campus [note from me: I believe this refers to the university’s prior, larger campus grounds, part of which were later turned into the botanical garden], through present day Garden land and made its way to a ford across the Bronx River about 150 feet north of the Pelham Parkway bridge. There was a cross-over trail (the Aquahung trail) which followed the east side of the river and connected the south and north branches of the Westchester trail.
              • “The Siwanoy (Munsee dialect–speaking) occupied the east side of the Bronx River and the Weckquaeskec (Renenu dialect–speaking) occupied the west side, but both tribes traversed both sides of the property. There were no permanent dwellings on Garden property, but there was at least one further south, alongside the present-day zoo.
              • “At least two middens (shellpiles) were revealed on Garden grounds: one on the hillside where the present-day Ruth Howell Family Garden is located and another, located at Daffodil Hill.”
  • One note: the full sources for this teacher guide weren’t really cited, and many of the sources I’ve found aren’t exactly accurate, so you should take this historical information with a grain of salt rather than accepting that it’s 100% accurate.
  • However, we do know folks were living in the area, pre-contact, and I think it’s worth noting that an important turtle pictograph was found on the grounds of the NYBG. The pictograph is thought to be between 400-1000 years old. 
    • Per the NYT in March 1988:
      • “”For the first springtime since it was given form by Delaware Indians some 400 to 1,000 years ago – perhaps as a clan design, a hunting-ground designation or a symbol of the creation myth – the turtle will be far from its original home on a bluff above a gentle bend in the river.”
      • https://www.nytimes.com/1988/03/25/nyregion/the-voice-of-an-ancient-bronx-turtle.html
    • Who knows how accurate those theories are, but my understanding is that the stone with the pictograph was brought indoors, and based on what I read online, it’s unclear whether casual visitors can see it now.
  • So anyway, to get back to my original point, I’m not trying to say that Fordham is haunted because historic trails went through it or near it. There’s plenty of irresponsible urban legends claiming that artifacts and sacred sites from indigenous people make a place haunted, and I don’t want to add to that.
  • But I do want to challenge and complicate the idea of ley lines a bit, and I do want to underscore that the area has a long precolonial history that may or may not have an effect on the paranormal in the area now. However, as I’ve discovered, much of that history has been lost and/or obscured by incorrect information, so I don’t feel able to hypothesize anything on this front.

 

Window areas

  • Tangentially related, there’s a theory that hauntings could be connected to a location being a so-called “window area.” 
  • The concept was created by legendary journalist/investigator/UFOlogist John Keel, of Mothman Prophecies fame. 
    • He suggested that Point Pleasant, WV, might be a window area, which is basically an area where a bunch of strange phenomena are concentrated.
  • Here’s a bit from Keel’s book Operation Trojan Horse where he talks about his idea of window areas. This is in the context of UFO sightings but, like I mentioned last time, I think that all paranormal phenomena are related and there’s plenty to learn from reading across disciplines.
    • “At first I termed these sectors [of greater activity] base areas, but this was misunderstood by many UFO enthusiasts, and soon after my first article on UFO base areas appeared, teenagers everywhere were out scouring the countryside looking for underground UFO hangars. So I adopted the term “windows” as a good substitute.
    • “Every state in the United States has from two to ten “windows.” These are areas where UFOs appear repeatedly year after year. The objects will appear in these places and pursue courses throughout the 200-mile limitation. These window areas seem to form larger circles of activities. The great circle from Canada (not to be confused with the traditional geographic Great Circle) in the northwest through the Central States and back into northeast Canada is a major window. Hundreds of smaller windows lie inside that circle. Another major window is centered in the Gulf of Mexico and encompasses much of Mexico, Texas, and the Southwest.
    • “Many windows center directly over areas of magnetic deviation such as Kearney, Nebraska; Wanaque, New Jersey; Ravenna, Ohio. In the 1950s, teams from the national Geological Survey Office quietly flew specially equipped planes over most of the United States and mapped all of the magnetic faults in the country. You can obtain a magnetic map of your locale from the Office of the Geological Survey, Washington, D.C. 20242. If you have been collecting UFO reports in your home state, you will probably find that many of those reports are concentrated in areas where magnetic faults or deviations exist.
  • So I thought this thing about magnetic maps was very interesting.
  • I searched the USGS website to try to find detailed magnetic fault maps of NYC, but weirdly, a lot of the maps cut off right before reaching the city, around the North Bronx. I’ll include links in the show notes for what I found, but I don’t think I can say much based on any of that. If you know of magnetic fault maps of NYC, please let me know, because I’d love to see them. Here’re the maps I was able to find:
  • I did find this really interesting article called Intensity and impact of the New York Railroad superstorm of May 1921, which the USGS wrote, which actually may be relevant. Here’s the summary of what the report was about:
    • “Historical records of ground-level geomagnetic disturbance are analyzed for the magnetic superstorm of May 1921. This storm was almost certainly driven by a series of interplanetary coronal mass ejections of plasma from an active region on the Sun. The May 1921 storm was one of the most intense ever recorded by ground-level magnetometers. It exhibited violent levels of geomagnetic disturbance, caused widespread interference to telephone and telegraph systems in New York City and State, and brought spectacular aurorae to the nighttime sky. Results inform modern projects for assessing and mitigating the effects of magnetic storms that might occur in the future.”
    • The article had this bit, which probably isn’t relevant to the story here, but which I found interesting so wanted to share, especially since SO many people in the paranormal are interested in the Appalachian Mountains:
      • “The high-geoelectric hazards shown in Figure 4 are part of a band running from the southwest to the northeast that more or less corresponds to igneous and metamorphic rock of the (highly eroded) Appalachian Mountains and the New England Highlands. Such rock types tend to be relatively electrically resistive, corresponding to high impedance, and, thus, for a given level of geomagnetic disturbance, geoelectric hazards will tend to be high. In contrast, low-geoelectric hazards are seen to the northwest, across the sedimentary rocks of Appalachian Plateau. Such rock types tend to be relatively electrically conductive, corresponding to low impedance and, for a given level of geomagnetic disturbance, lower geoelectric hazards. Notably, geoelectric hazards are relatively high around New York City and southeast New York State “
    • And in case you’re wondering:
      • “The most intense magnetic storm since the IGY (1957–1958), that of March 1989 (Allen et al., 1989), had a maximum –Dst = 589 nT. This storm is especially notable because it caused an electricity blackout in Québec, Canada. This impact on electricity power grids is essentially the modern version of the disturbance summarized here for landline telegraph and telephone systems in May 1921. Indeed, should a storm as intense as that of May 1921 occur today, its impact on electricity networks might exceed that realized in March 1989.”
      • https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70204992
      • https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2019SW002250
  • So, in conclusion, do I think Fordham could be haunted because it’s a window area? It’s a place where a ton of stuff has seemed to occurred, so I guess it’s possible, but I couldn’t find anything to support it. There are no UFO sightings that I’ve found, and no magnetic anomalies that I’ve found, aside from that ominous thing about geoelectric hazards being high in NYC, but I’m not science-y enough to understand exactly what that means.

 

Liminal spaces/liminality

  • The last things I wanted to talk about in this episode are liminal spaces. 
    • Liminal space is a huge buzzword right now, and I feel like it’s the kind of term that will very soon become almost meaningless.
    • If you’re someone who’s very online, “liminal space” may immediately make you think of the liminal space aesthetic. Images of dead malls, empty school hallways, fluorescent-lit office corridors, and playgrounds at night might come to mind. These sort of images, which are very unsettling but also compelling, have become popular enough that the aesthetics wiki has a whole page on it. (Which I’ll link in the shownotes if you want to take a look.) If I had to describe the liminal space aesthetic, I’d describe it as nostalgic images that make you feel like you’re the only one left after the rapture, maybe, like you’re wandering alone through spaces that should be full of life and people but which are instead unsettlingly empty of people, but which make you feel exposed, almost like you’re being watched.
    • That’s the liminal space aesthetic. But if you’re steeped in the paranormal, you probably think of liminal spaces as places in-between other places. Hallways, bridges, staircases, and other places that you pass through on your way somewhere else.
      • You might also be used to hearing liminality talked about in terms of life stages. It’s a time of transition in your life, a rite of passage, or maybe even an initiation. 
      • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liminality 
    • You see what I’m getting at here, right? For people who attend universities, that time is likely a liminal time in their lives. 
      • If you’re a residential student, you’ve left the home you grew up in, but you likely aren’t working full time yet. 
      • There’s this idea of figuring out what you want to do in your career, but also figuring out who you are.
      • That self-discovery can be somewhat tame and straightforward. But it often isn’t.
        • College is also often billed as a last hurrah. Some people treat college as a four-ish-year-long bachelor’s party thrown for an impending marriage to adulthood, a time when you can and must do all of the foolish things you wanted to do before having to grow up. 
        • Or many people, myself included, experience somewhat major mental health crises, which ends up turning the college experience into a highly emotionally charged trial by fire.
      • No matter how dramatic a person’s college experience may be, I think it’s safe to consider it a rite of passage, and a liminal time.
    • The idea in paranormal circles is that the paranormal appears more often during liminal times, and in liminal places. It’s a sort of Twilight Zone where the uncanny pops in.
  • So college is a liminal time. But another thing to consider is that as liminal spaces, residential universities have students moving in and out with great rapidity. And I think that has its own impact on the paranormal.
    • In one of the episodes I did on the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, I talked about how the intersection in Vegas that Excalibur and Luxor sit at, where Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard meet, has the most hotel rooms of any intersection in the world. That’s a lot of lives and souls moving through there. In a place like Vegas, where people travel to party and often lose huge sums of money, it seems like there could be an awful lot of psychic upset and human pain there.
  • I think something similar could be at work when looking at a college campus
  • Of course, last episode, I talked about urban legends, and how the residential population of a college campus is, I think, a perfect breeding ground for urban legends. But what if it’s also a perfect breeding ground for real paranormal phenomena, as well?
    • Much like my Vegas example, we have a bunch of young people who are not transient exactly, but on short-term, less-than-a-year-long leases to live in dorms shared with a bunch of other people. (And I talked in previous episodes about how, at least in my day, sharing a single bedroom with 2 or 3 other people wasn’t unusual. So that adds to this sense of a bunch of emotionally volatile young people all being crammed together in a small space.

 

Don’t miss past episodes about Fordham’s history and hauntings:

Sources consulted RE: What Makes a Place Haunted?

See sources page for the full source list for the series

Books consulted (partial list)

  • Magic in the Landscape: Earth Mysteries and Geomancy by Nigel Pennick
  • Psychogeography by Merlin Coverly (2006)
  • Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past by Merlin Coverly (2020)
  • The Official Guide to Randonautica: Everything You Need to Know about Creating Your Random Adventure Story by Joshua Lengfelder and Auburn Salcedo (2021)
  • On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor (2017)
  • Dark Folklore by Mark Norman and Tracey Norman (2021)
  • The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings by Jan Harold Brunvand (1981)
  • The Old Straight Track by Alfred Watkins
  • Indian paths in the great metropolis by Reginald Pelham Bolton (1922) 

What Makes a Place Haunted? A look at different theories behind hauntings and the paranormal, with an eye to why Fordham University’s Bronx campus might be so haunted. This episode focuses on the spread of urban legends and theories behind urban legends.

Highlights include:
• Comparisons with hauntings at Vassar, Columbia, and NYU
• Thoughts about urban legends and why they spread
• Interesting books I’ve read while working on this series
• Psychogeography and hauntology

Episode Script for What Makes a Place Haunted?

DISCLAIMER: I’m providing this version of the script for accessibility purposes. It hasn’t been proofread, so please excuse typos. There are also some things that may differ between the final episode and this draft script. Please treat the episode audio as the final product. 

  • I’m trying to answer the question: what makes a place haunted, and specifically why might Fordham be so haunted?
    • In theory, this episode wraps up my series on haunted Fordham University, but that’s not reaaaally what I want to explore here. Of course, I do have closing thoughts on the series I did on Fordham University, but it shouldn’t matter if you’ve listened to the series or not, since what I really want to do here is look at theories behind hauntings and the paranormal and what makes a place haunted.
      • The question I’m really trying to answer is this episode is: why are some places more haunted than other? What causes hauntings, or if not hauntings, then urban legends about hauntings?
      • This is a HUGE topic that I know it’s impossible to cover in just an episode or two, but I want to at least spent a bit of time exploring the question. This is a question that a lot of people have explored a lot of different ways, and there are a number of podcasts looking into why a certain area might have strange stuff associated with it (for example, the podcast Penny Royal looks at the town of Somerset, KY, and really dives deep into it–so if you’re interested in the subject and haven’t already listened to Penny Royal, you should check it out).
      • I want to at least scrape the surface of the subject, so let’s get into it.
    • First off, there’s a clarification that I wanted to give: Throughout this series, I think I’ve probably fallen into the trap of talking about phenomena as if everything’s a ghost, and every “ghost” is the spirit of a dead person. That is, in part, because that’s what a lot of the urban legends have posited. It’s probably also related to the less complex ideas I had about the paranormal while I was in school. It’s also because, when looking at urban legends and trying to analyze them, it’s hard to know what to look into aside from the history of the people who lived in that location, and the location’s past.
      • But just to be completely clear, I don’t think that all paranormal phenomena are ghosts. I tend to be of the opinion that all paranormal stuff, whether it’s apparently ghostly experiences, or UFOs, or cryptids, etc, are all connected somehow and potentially part of the same phenomena.
    • I started publishing this series in October 2021. (Though I did most of the Fordham-related research for it back in 2020.)
      • Since last October, I’ve been delving more into what I guess you’d call theory, looking at stuff like folklore, urban legends, psychogeography, and hauntology, trying to get some additional angles through which to see these phenomena that I’ve been looking at. Though I haven’t necessarily been talking about these books, I still wanted to mention them because I believe that they’re of interest, and because they’ve helped me contextualize and think of a lot of the stuff I’ve been talking about. So, the specific books that I wanted to mention were:
        • Magic in the Landscape: Earth Mysteries and Geomancy by Nigel Pennick
          • I read this because I was interested in ley lines. I had this thought in October, which was, “Could Fordham possibly lie on a ley line?” so that question led me to read more about the subject. This book was a good intro to the topic.
        • Psychogeography by Merlin Coverly (2006)
        • Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past by Merlin Coverly (2020)
          • Both of these Merlin Coverly books were very good and interesting, though please don’t ask me what psychogeography or hauntology are. I think they’re better known concepts in the UK, and it also sounds like the sort of mean a lot of things and nothing at once.
          • But if I were to give my best, and probably very incorrect or at least incomplete definition:
            • Psychogeography is about place
        • The Official Guide to Randonautica: Everything You Need to Know about Creating Your Random Adventure Story by Joshua Lengfelder and Auburn Salcedo (2021)
          • I should do an episode about randonautica sometime, but I read this book because randonauting is a form of psychogeography. And if that sentence made no sense to you, don’t worry, I’ll explain randonautica in a future episode.
        • On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor (2017)
        • Dark Folklore by Mark Norman and Tracey Norman (2021)
        • The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings by Jan Harold Brunvand (1981)
  • In a 3/25/82 issue of The Ram, there’s an interview with a elderly Jesuit theology professor named Robert Gleason.
    • There’s an interesting, seemingly random question thrown into the middle of the interview. The interviewer asks: “What is this “curse” on Fordham that I’ve heard about?” and the priest answers “That’s a very old, long-lived Jesuit story. I heard it first 50 years ago and many times since. A strange curse is supposed to lie on the land—why, I wonder? Of course, much more interesting, we have a Jesuit “ghost” they tell me, who roams and moans at night. My advice—better get home early!”

So basically the Jesuit just jokes about it, but interesting that back then everyone was like, “oh, you know, Fordham’s curse.”

 

Urban legends

  • First, I want to talk about urban legends. There’s one big reason why a college would have more stories about hauntings, because I think that universities, especially residential ones, are a perfect petri dish for urban legend creation and proliferation.
    • Here’s why:
      • In a college with dorms, a bunch of people who all presumably know each other or are likely to interact are all living in close proximity, partying together, etc.
        • By contrast, when you’re a regular person living in an apartment or house, the only thing that you and your neighbors share for sure is just geographic proximity. You may not be the same age, run in similar social circles, etc. So you might know your neighbors, or you might not. Unless your neighborhood has a lot of block parties, though, you probably don’t spent large amounts of time partying with, hanging out and talking to your neighbors, swapping stories, etc.
          1. So for example, I’ve talked before on the podcast about some paranormal activity in my current apartment. But I’ve never talked to my neighbors about it. Usually we just say hi, maybe quickly talk about the weather, etc. But we’re certainly not swapping strange stories.
          2. Contrast that with a university, where not only is there already a shared trait between all students (the fact that they’re students there), but there are socially acceptable reasons why you might be hanging out more with your classmates, maybe getting drunk and telling wild stories, etc.
      • Also, undergraduates usually only spend 4 years living on campus and then they move away.
        • So it makes it easier to spread weird, unlikely urban legends.
        • Say that today one of my neighbors told me that another neighbor, who’d been living in the building for a couple decades, had a weird experience 6 years ago. I would be able to ask the other neighbor about it, hear it firsthand. And even if I didn’t do that, my neighbor might be less inclined to exaggerate, because they’d know that I could just check with the original source if I wanted to.
        • Again, contrast that with a university, where people usually only live in dorms for about 9 months at a time, and, if they’re lucky, don’t spend more than 4 years in college. It would be so easy for an upperclassman to tell a freshman a weird story, and then for that story to get passed down from class to class. The upperclassman would be long gone, so it’s not like anyone’s going to ask that person about it. Also, there are lots of parties where people are gossiping, spreading urban legends, etc, so that gives things a chance to spread far and wide and to possibly get embroidered with each retelling.
      • So to me, a college is the perfect breeding ground for urban legends. Now, this isn’t to say that all of the stories of Fordham hauntings are urban legends. It’s just that I think urban legends are far more likely to form.
  • Here’s a bit of an explanation of what urban legends do, from The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings by Jan Harold Brunvand (1981):
    • “In common with age old folk legends about lost mines, buried treasure, omens, ghosts, and Robin Hood-like outlaw heroes, urban legends are told seriously, circulate largely by word of mouth, are generally anonymous, and vary constantly in particular details from one telling to another, while always preserving a central core of traditional elements or ‘motifs.’ . . . Like traditional folklore, the stories do tell one kind of truth. They are a unique, unselfconscious reflection of major concerns of individuals in the societies in which the legends circulate.”
  • At Fordham, there are a number of stories about people encountering ghostly priests, especially while studying. So in theory, the urban legends about Fordham could be related to it being a Catholic university, and to students being anxious about doing well in school, especially since some priests there are professors.
    • And of course there are other concerns that individuals may have that I’m not thinking of. Those are just the two most obvious ones to me.
  • Also, I mentioned this in prior episodes, but stories about Fordham hauntings only appeared in print starting in the 1970s. There are several reasons for that, I think:
    • Parts of The Exorcist were filmed on campus in the early 70s
      • That both added a creepiness factor to campus, since The Exorcist was such a defining cultural product, and it also served as a reminder that the Catholic church still performs exorcisms.
    • Also, the number of students living on campus increased steadily starting in the 70s or so (it became less and less of a commuter school, so people had more time on campus to either witness hauntings, swap scary stories late at night, etc.)
    • The satanic panic in the 1980s clearly influenced campus urban legends (for example, stories of “cultish” paintings in Hughes Hall in the 1980s)
  • So in thinking about this, I was wondering whether any university would have the number of paranormal stories that Fordham has. I was curious whether I was just thought Fordham was more haunted because I went there, but I might have felt the same about any school I might have gone to. So to try to answer this question, I wanted to look at some other colleges
  • First, I wanted to think about NY private schools with a large amount of students who live in student housing

“Years later, during World War II, the United States launched the Manhattan Project to secretly develop a nuclear weapon. The project mainly took place at Columbia, where researchers, students, and physicists worked on creating these atomic bombs.

“Legend has it that one of the students working on the project was exposed to radioactive material and fatally poisoned. Students say that he haunts the tunnels below campus, which are remnants from the asylum. Supposedly, desperate physics students go looking for him, hoping he can help them with their exams. “

  • I was actually shocked to find so few hauntings, considering the fact that Columbia has some similarities to Fordham, because an iconic paranormal-related movie was filmed there (Ghostbusters) and because it was literally built on the former site of the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum. The main library building was built on the site of the original insane asylum, which could house up to 200 people.
    • https://news.columbia.edu/news/6-spookiest-things-you-should-know-about-columbia-university
    • This is anecdotal, of course, but my wife went to grad school at Columbia and lived just off campus, and she worked in one of the libraries when it was being renovated so spent lots of time alone during a renovation, which supposedly kicks up hauntings. Despite being really sensitive, my wife said she never experienced anything weird, got any weird vibes, or heard other people talk about ghosts, hauntings, or urban legends on campus.
  • Vassar
    • My wife went to Vassar, which is a school in upstate NY, for her undergrad, and said that it did have a kind of creepy vibe at times, so I wanted to include it.
      • From Vassar.edu:
        • “Main fifth floor, Main third floor, Pratt House, Alumnae House, Davison fifth floor, Old Observatory.

“Many people have reported feelings of “a presence” watching them in these places. According to legend, Main is the refuge of the spirits of suicidal students and deceased employees. Pratt House is inhabited by a ghost who is friendly to Vassar folk, but often disturbs those not officially affiliated with the college.”

  • A 2014 article in the Miscellany News, Vassar’s student newspaper tells stories of ghostly maids, people’s spirits hanging out after dying, ghostly Victorian women, the ghost of Matthew Vassar (who died while giving a speech to the board), phantom footsteps, and people feeling invisible hands touching them, hearing voices, etc. An emeritus dean said that “A now rather famous performance artist in the Class of ’81 supposedly governed a coven somewhere in the South Tower of Main” and that another time he was he was “were called into the basement where some wallboard had been removed to determine if graffiti there were satanic markings. Our inexpert conclusion was that they weren’t.” The graffiti thing was interesting since it made me think of the Fordham story.
  • Vassar’s Main Building was designed by James Renwick, Jr., of Renwick Smallpox Hospital fame
  • “If you’ve ever visited the Blodgett basement, you’re probably not surprised to hear that Vassar is infested with ghosts. Specifically, spirits roam the third and fifth floors of Main, the fifth floor of Davison, the Alumnae/i House and the Old Observatory. There’s the friendly ghost of Pratt House, who only haunts those not officially affiliated with the College.”
  • I’ve been thinking about parallels between Vassar and Fordham and trying to see why they might both be pretty haunted. You almost couldn’t find schools that are more opposite of each other. They’re almost inverses or reflections of each other, as far as I can tell.
    • Sure, they’re both extremely overpriced private schools in New York State, but Vassar is suburban and upstate, where as Fordham is urban and downstate. Vassar is famous for its, uh, liberalism (politically, culturally, sexually, etc), and Fordham is extremely conservative and repressed.
    • Vassar started out as a women’s college (though it’s open to all genders now), and I was curious if other women’s colleges had a lot of hauntings. I just checked one other one, Smith College, but Smith does seem to have a lot of stories of hauntings and shows up on a lot of most-haunted-school lists that I was finding.
    • I haven’t done a deep dive into this, but what this says to me is that while schools like NYU might be haunted because of their location, some other colleges may be haunted because of their students. Like, the people who choose to go there.
    • This may be tenuous, but hear me out:
      • Fordham is a Catholic school, and the Catholic church is famous for a lot of beliefs that some people might consider paranormal. I’m talking exorcisms, ghosts, demons, etc.
      • Vassar is a women’s school that was founded in the 19th century, and women have historically been linked to spiritualism, seances, mediumistic talents, witchcraft, etc. I have NO idea whether there are actually any links between Vassar students and spiritualism so I’m not trying to make any solid assertions there, I’m more saying that there’s a historic link between women and the paranormal, just like there’s a historic link between the Catholic Church and the paranormal, and I wonder if there’s something in that. Because it doesn’t matter how many ghosts a school has, if the people who go there refuse to acknowledge the existence of the paranormal, then there won’t be paranormal stories coming out of that school.
      • Also, importantly, both schools have a population of students who live on campus. Since the 1970s or so, Fordham has had a steadily increasing number of students residing on campus, and I think it’s no coincidence that ghost stories started arising at Fordham starting in the 1970s. The more time you spend in a place, especially at night, the more likely you might witness something weird.
      • Also, and this may be completely unrelated, especially since many paranormal stories happened to men, especially in the 70s, but Fordham became co-ed in 1974.
  • Then I wanted to look at other Catholic universities, since I think Fordham’s Jesuit identity has an influence on the hauntings, since there are so many stories of ghostly priests.

Don’t miss past episodes about Fordham’s history and hauntings:

Sources consulted RE: What Makes a Place Haunted?

See sources page for the full source list for the series

Books consulted

  • Magic in the Landscape: Earth Mysteries and Geomancy by Nigel Pennick
  • Psychogeography by Merlin Coverly (2006)
  • Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past by Merlin Coverly (2020)
  • The Official Guide to Randonautica: Everything You Need to Know about Creating Your Random Adventure Story by Joshua Lengfelder and Auburn Salcedo (2021)
  • On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor (2017)
  • Dark Folklore by Mark Norman and Tracey Norman (2021)
  • The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings by Jan Harold Brunvand (1981)

The Curse of the Fordham Ram: A strange story about a doomed dynasty of rams that once lived on Fordham University’s campus, and the urban legends that grew up around them.

Highlights include:
• Kidnapped rams
• A house built for the ram by Grace Kelly’s father
• Gruesome office decor

Donate to bail funds to get people out of dangerous NYC jails:
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Episode Script for The Curse of the Fordham Ram

DISCLAIMER: I’m providing this version of the script for accessibility purposes. It hasn’t been proofread, so please excuse typos. There are also some things that may differ between the final episode and this draft script. Please treat the episode audio as the final product. 

  • Just right off the bat, I want to make it really clear: This bit is about a bunch of animals being abused and dying.
  • This is actually a pretty upsetting story about animal abuse that then is cast into a sort of paranormal and ironic tone, with  the tone of the reporting of these stories being lighthearted.
  • There are a few reasons why I wanted to tell this story:
    1. It’s a weird story that I think adds something to the narrative about Fordham that I’m crafting.
    2. More importantly, I think this points out a real problem that happens in the paranormal, when a story about a haunting or urban legend gets woven around something really bad, either as a way to evade responsibility and obfuscate, or to avoid looking at an issue right on its face, etc. This is a topic I want to continue to explore. I see it used in urban legends and ghost stories that are linked to racially motivated violence or sexual violence, etc, and I just think it’s a good thing to get into the habit of noticing and digging into and challenging. So this is me wading into the shallow end of this topic, where I’ll be talking about a ram.
  •  So just wanted to clarify that before getting into this story, because it’s real bad.
    • And I guess it’s worth mentioning here in case anyone doesn’t know: Rams are male sheep. I’ve seen pictures of the different rams who lived at Fordham and they looked like adorable, fluffy, helpless sheep, just with horns since they’re rams.
  • So, here’s the story. Fordham’s mascot is the Ram.
    • The story goes that the university got that mascot because at football games, students used to shout “one damn, two damn, three damn, Fordham,” but the administration didn’t like it on account of the cursing, so they made the mascot the Ram, so it rhymed, and they could say “one ram, two ram, three ram, Fordham.”
    • Anyway, in 1927, the brilliant minds of Fordham decided to get a live Ram to bring out as a mascot at sporting events.
    • And what happened next was . . . Not good. As Ram after Ram, all named Ramses, I think about 28 total, died in horrible ways, people began to claim that the ram was cursed. And I’m not sure that they’re wrong. But even if there is a curse, it was helped along by some pretty rampant animal abuse.
    • In case you’re wondering, all of the Ramses lived behind Queens Court, near the Metro-North train tracks.
  • Also worth noting, Fordham had a major rivalry with Manhattan College, another university that’s in the Bronx. Manhattan College shows up in the story a lot, with students abducting Ramses. Though I also heard accounts of  NYU and even Georgetown students abducting Ramses.
  • So I found this article called “The Curse of the Fordham Ram,” The Ram, October 14, 1982, that recounts some of the trials and tribulations of the different Ramseses:
    • “Most Fordham students are familiar with these supernatural aspects of the University, but one strange, yet true tale has thus far escaped notice–the Curse of the Fordham Ram.
    • The terrible legacy began in 1927 when a naive group of students procured a live mascot for the University and christened him Ramses. SInce that time every animal bearing that unfortunate title has been stricken down in the most unusual and sickening ways.”
    • Pausing here to say that I do remember being told some of these stories, but not all of them. I’ll continue reading:
      • “Ramses I himself was felled on a cloudy moonless night by a speeding passenger train. His shaggy head was subsequently decapitated and mounted on a ‘handsome walnut shield,’ as the unfeeling Ram [the newspaper] proudly announced. This ghoulish adornment graced both the front page and office wall of the Ram until 1930 and for this reason students and administrators alike accused the Ram editors of strapping poor Ramses to the tracks. However, a series of fiendish ‘accidents’ started in the mid 1950s made it all too clear that no mortal being was responsible.”
    • This is me again, here to correct this 1982 article and say that bad things happened to Ramses before the 1950s, as well. There’s a whole section of the Fordham library website that’s called The Toils and Troubles of Ramses, Ramses Dynasty 1925-1978.
      • The library claims that Ramses I actually came onto the scene in 1925, and was kidnapped by a rival school and send to a slaughterhouse. I don’t know who is correct.
      • Ramses II met the same fate.
      • Ramses III, according to the library, was a troubled animal. Possibly because Rams aren’t supposed to be kept on urban campuses in NYC and abused by college kids? At any rate, he was apparently “aggressive,” and often ran away from campus and tried to attack the NY Central trains, because the train tracks are right off campus. Trains were delayed, conductors were mad, so instead of maybe building a better habitat that the Ram couldn’t escape from, Ramses III was “sentenced to death” in December 1927 and “executed” (to use the library’s phrasing) by the Fordham Rifle Team. So you know, if there’s a curse on the Ram, maybe it was of the school’s own making.
      • Here’s something weird, though: I found a article from the 1930s that claims that Ramses III met a different, maybe even more upsetting fate. I wonder if the numbering is off, like if the rams that the library says were I and II were actually unnumbered Ramses, and then it started over again in 1927 and what the library thinks was III is actually I?
    • At any rate, in the November 13, 1930, issue of the Ram, you’ll find a front-page, above-the-fold article with a headline proclaiming:
      • Ramses III, Maroon Monarch, Dead; Long Live His Successor, Ramses IV! Fordham Mascot Sccumbs to Attacks of Wild Dog Pack at Dead of Night. Students Mourn Loss.
      • I wanted to read a bit of the article, which is slightly graphic, so if you don’t like hearing about injured animals, skip ahead a bit:
        • They found him Monday morning on what we call the Ramkin field over behind St. John’s Hall. No one knows exactly what happened but enough could be seen to piece together the story. He lay tangled in the long heavy chain that kept him to the stake. The ground about was torn and uprooted and white fleece scattered all around him. How long he fought that night stubbornly and silently–St. John’s is only fifty yards away and no sound was heard–hampered with his chain, a white blotch for his enemies in the blackness, we can only guess. Of the marauders we know nothing. The only hit is that a number of dogs were seen on the campus early Sunday evening. Whatever did the bloody work slunk off before daylight.
        • The knell of the chapel bell is rung–the Ram is gone. His ghost harbored in the mounted head will stare down enigmatically by day from one of the college walls and by night through the centuries will wander through the corridors and over the campus, munching quizzically . . . The Ram is dead, long live the Ram!
      • So based on this article, it wasn’t just Ramses I whose head was mounted and displayed somewhere on campus. I did find an article that contained a picture of at least one of the ram heads, the one at the Ram’s newspaper office, which I believe was in the basement of St. John’s Hall, now Queen’s Court. That ram head was there from 1927-1935 at least, not sure what happened to it afterwards. Where are these ram heads now?
    • The library website continues listing the Ramses dynasty:
      • Ramses IV was known for liking to eat cigarettes.
      • According to a 2019 article in the Fordham Observer (the LC newspaper), in 1933, Ramses V was kidnapped by NYU students. NY state police had to help track him down, and they found him 300 miles away, somewhere in Connecticut. The cops grabbed him and brought him back to NYC as quick as they could, so Ramses could attend the Fordham-NYU football game.
      • We don’t know much about Ramses VI-VIII, but we do know that they died early in life, no surprise there.
      • I’ll read what the library had to say about Ramses VIII, which weirdly echoes what happened to Ramses V in 33–not sure if that happened twice, or if someone got some dates confused:
        • “The first Rameses to grow old and die of natural causes. Kidnapped by NYU and taken to a Connecticut farm. New York State troopers picked him up at the state lines and he was escorted to the game by four squad cars and six motorcycles, sirens blaring. He arrived just in time for halftime. He also made headlines in 1941 when he escorted models at the British Relief Society’s fashion show.”
        • Also, there’s a picture of Ramses VIII with two football players, and Ramses just looks like the cutest, fluffiest animal I’ve ever seen. So at least I don’t need to imagine him dying horribly.
      • In 1948, apparently the Ram ran an article imploring volunteers to guard Ramses from NYU students, because, to quote that article “it would be very discouraging to have him show up at the Polo Grounds on November 27 on the wrong side of the field.”
      • The library website says that we don’t know much about Rames IX-XV, so we can pick back up with the 1982 article:
    • The article says:
      • “In 1954, Ramses XVI died under mysterious circumstances. Although foul play was suspected, the murderer was never found. Three years later Ramses XVII narrowly escaped a heinous kidnapping attempt by inept Manhattan students, but did not survive a second time when the luckless beast vanished one night and was brutally slaughtered.”
    • Maybe worth noting, the library website says the killing happened in 1955.
    • Back to the 1982 article:
      • “Ramses XVIII fared little better than his predecessor. In 1958, the Ram House was gutted by a fierce blaze that Fire Marshall Victor Delancey called ‘the most blood-curdling sight a man could ever witness.’ Although Delancey strongly suspected arson, this case too remained unsolved.”
    • Here’s what the library has to say about Ramses XVII:
      • “Homeless after his shed burned down under mysterious circumstances. He was the first to move into a two bedroom with running water Ram House built by Kelly Bricklayers, a business owned by Princess Grace’s father. He died of alcohol related liver disease in 1961.”
      • I read this and was like, is this some kind of not-in-super-good-taste joke? But no, I did further research and learned that students were giving Ramses alcohol whenever Fordham won games (and probably some times when Fordham lost too, would be my guess), so he really did die of liver disease.
      • Now, again, we’re talking about a bunch of rowdy college students abusing a defenseless sheep. I know Ramses was technically a Ram, but I feel like people think of like mountain goats and rams that live in the mountains and look all tough. (At least that’s what I think of when I think of rams.” But you look at pictures of Ramses and you’re reminded that again, a ram is just a male sheep, and he was just a docile, domesticated, extremely fluffy sheep who didn’t deserve to be abused.
    • Ramses XIX, whose nickname was “Thumper,” was kidnapped by Manhattan College students, who dyed him green, which is Manhattan College’s school color. There’s a Ram article detailing this 1961 kidnapping, and apparently the kidnappers bought all the green food coloring in Tarrytown/Sleep Hollow in order to dye Ramses green. It’s a whole long story, but I’m too exhausted by reading about this serial animal abuse to go into it, I’ll include a link in the shownotes, how about that?
    • Ramses XX was around in the mid-1960s, and his nickname was “fatty.” He was also a very cute ram. In 1965, students from Iona College in New Rochelle tried to kidnap Ramses, but they were foiled by Fordham students (that happened twice in two weeks.) Ramses XX died of pneumonia.
    • Ramses XXI was the most kidnapped ram; he apparently spent more of his career as a mascot at rival campuses than at Fordham’s.
      • I don’t get it, why was it a thing to repeatedly steal this animal? Was that a thing among all colleges in 20th century, or is this just a weird, cruel NYC/east coast type thing?
    • Okay, the next story in the 1982 article, about Ramses XXII dying in 1970, sounds almost made up: supposedly Ramses disappeared for months, and was found by a street cleaner who “found his bleached skull near Madison Square Garden. Dental records confirmed the poor creature’s identity.” That’s got to be a joke, right? To keep reading:
      • “Just two years later, the bloated green carcass of Ramses XXIII was discovered dangling by his horns from the Whitestone Bridge. Every Ramses since then has become so violently insane that they had to be destroyed.”
    • So I’d been told the bridge story when I was a student, I remember a professor told me about it.
    • However, a 2019 article in the Fordham observer claims that Ramses XXXIII lived a long life and retired to Birch Hill Game Farm in upstate NY, so I think the Whitestone bridge thing is an urban legend. I’ve also heard a version of the story where he was hanged from the GW bridge.
    • The article goes on to talk about how Ramses XXIV attacked a cheerleader at a basketball game in 1974 and “bit off a piece of her leg.”
      • I’ve read elsewhere that Ramses XXIV was actually a sheep, and the extremely intelligent Fordham students didn’t realize it until “he” gave birth to a bay ewe.
    • I guess there were a a few other issues with Ramseses over the next couple years, and then the last straw was when Ramses XXVII got in a fight with a horse in 1978 at the Pelham Bit Studios. However, I’ve also read in that 2019 article that Ramses XXVII accidentally broke his own neck by twisting his head in the fence around his pen in 1975. I believe the 2019 article more.
    • So after that, after 50 years of Ram issues, the university decided that there would be no more live rams on campus. The article ends in such a fun way that I have to read a little more:
      • “Yet, there exists one small fear harbored by those who know of the doomed Ramses heritage. Without a sacrificial ram, where will the angry force that plagues the campus vent his ancient rage? Given the demon’s past modus operandi, the student who wears the Ram suit would be wise to be on his guard, lest he find himself painted green and hanging from the nearest bridge, the latest, but not the last victim of the Curse of the Fordham Ram.”
  • I know this seems farfetched, but as you start to look into it, it does seem like there is something paranormal to consider here.
  • Most of these deaths seem attributable to abuse, except for when Ramses was torn apart by wild dogs, and when he broke his neck accidentally.
  • But this story shows some interesting things about urban legends, and how our stories about the paranormal can be dehumanizing or cruel.
  • Obviously, this is a story about an animal, and not a human, so maybe dehumanizing isn’t the exact right word in this case, but the urban legends, which seem to have been popularized and repeated in the 1980s, after the reign of the final Ramses, take a story about repeated, inhumane treatment and straight up abuse of a series of animals, and makes it into a spooky “ghost story” type urban legend.
  • You know, it’s easy to look at a chain of untimely deaths and attribute it to the paranormal. You can become so wrapped up in weaving a chilling story that you forget the real evil that may have been done.
  • This story is, of course, lower-stakes, because we’re talking about an animal. Now, I’ve eaten plant-based for years and was a vegetarian for 10 years before that, so I take animal life maybe a little more seriously than the average meat-eater. There is an argument that there’s a lesson about how we treat animals that you can take from this story.
  • But that’s not the thing I’m really trying to explore here. so I want to be clear that I’m using this story as a metaphor for the ways in which we talk about the paranormal, and perhaps even use stories of the paranormal to paper over some really bad stuff that may make us uncomfortable, but which are important for us to acknowledge and grapple with because they may still be happening now.
  • You know, many of the hottest spots to do paranormal investigations are old prisons, insane asylums, and hospitals. And I do think it can be easy to investigate those places and focus just on the “spooky” aspects of it.
  • And even if you’re thinking about the atrocities happening in those locations, and trying to honor that history through the paranormal stories you dig up, I think that it’s also essential to ask yourself if the terrible things that happened at, say, a closed old prison, are perhaps still happening now. And what about the medical trauma in old hospitals; are people still suffering unnecessarily in the hands of an uncaring medical system today?
  • I’m not saying that all paranormal investigators have to give, like, equal time to social justice topics, etc. I certainly don’t do that, and to be honest, I don’t want to do that. Paranormal research and investigation, for me, is a hobby and a sort of escape.
  • But with any kind of historical research and attempt to tell stories from human history, I do think it’s just important to make sure to peel back the layers of urban-legend, campfire-story type narrative and:
    •  1) look at what really is occurring in a supposedly paranormal situation. In the case of Ramses, you read the article from 1982 and it’s easy to be like, “oh, there’s a curse, how creepy and fun, after all, the campus is super haunted,” etc. but then once you really sit with the stories, and peel back the sensationalism, you can start to glimpse what ‘s really happening, which is that an animal is being abused.
    1. Once you see what’s really happening in a story, I think that’s a call to look around you and ask yourself, “do I live in a system that still allows this sort of thing to happen today? What are the ways in which I participate in making things worse, and is there anything I can do to make it better?”
  • Of course, this is just my opinion, and I’m not really interested in telling anyone what to do or how to think.
  • And to be totally clear, this isn’t directed at anyone I know. Everyone I know in the paranormal is really engaged in these topics and does talk about this sort of thing, and I know thinks about this sort of thing a lot.
  • I’m moreso trying to make a larger statement about how we as a society view urban legends, hauntings, curses, etc, and I’m trying to offer some additional lenses through which stories of the paranormal can be viewed.

 

Don’t miss past episodes about Fordham’s history and hauntings:

Sources consulted RE: The Curse of the Fordham Ram

See sources page for the full source list for the series

Books consulted

The Collins Auditorium Ghost and Other Stories: Ghosts emerging from paintings, an entity made from smoke, and bathroom electronics going haywire are just a few of the weird stories I dug up for this episode.

This is a look at some of Fordham University’s “less haunted” haunted buildings, including a theater, administration building, and classroom building. Plus a look at some of Fordham’s other campuses (including one defunct one.)

Highlights include:
• An urban legend about George Washington’s headquarters
• Phantom cigar smoke
• Stories from the Lincoln Center campus
• A look at a supposedly haunted women’s college that had an ill-fated merger with Fordham

Episode Script for The Collins Auditorium Ghost and Other Stories

DISCLAIMER: I’m providing this version of the script for accessibility purposes. It hasn’t been proofread, so please excuse typos. There are also some things that may differ between the final episode and this draft script. Please treat the episode audio as the final product. 

Note: For this version of the script, I tried to censor students’ names. Everyone I mention by name was quoted and named on the record in publicly accessible articles, but many of the articles exist in PDF form in the university’s archives and are not indexed by search engines. I don’t want to screw up the SEO on anyone’s name, so if you want to see full names, check out the sources or listen to the episode. 

Administration Building (now called Cuniffe House; it was renamed after a trustee in 2013)  (1838):

  • The Administration Building was the old manor house for Rose Hill Manor. Technically it’s the second manor house, I’ve heard it called the Moat Mansion; there was another before it that was built in 1692, or maybe 1694, depending on what you’re reading. I’ve read lots of stuff about there being different old historic hospitals and stuff on campus, and while I’m not familiar with a hospital other than Fordham Hospital, which came in the later 19th century and was demolished in the 20th century, in 1846, the old Manor house was used as an infirmary and residence by the Sisters of Charity. So that’s at least one old hospital-type use that a building had on campus.
  • There’s an interesting article on Fordham’s website about what life used to be like on Fordham’s campus back in the day. There did use to be a farm at Fordham until around 1907. I wanted to read a bit from the article, because it talks about what life was like for students and how Cunniffe house was used:
    • “The food was produced within sight of the building—today’s Cunniffe House—where the students studied, slept, and ate. On the site of the Rose Hill Gym was an orchard that produced apples, pears, and cherries, according to the professors’ research. Potatoes, corn, and other crops were also grown on campus. A vineyard on the site of today’s college cemetery yielded two or three barrels of wine per year, and the field at present-day Fordham Prep was a pasture populated by 30 to 40 cows.
    • “. . . Dietary staples at Rose Hill included beef and pork; pigs as well as cows were raised at the farm, Wines and Gilbert said. On special occasions, students dined on oysters and other shellfish. Bread was probably baked on campus, and vegetables may have been grown in a greenhouse east of the University Church. Jesuit brothers oversaw food production.
    • “After a few decades, the students’ dining area was moved from today’s Cunniffe House to a newly completed space in Dealy Hall. Eating was a solemn affair, far removed from the freewheeling atmosphere of today’s campus dining venues. It was strictly regulated by the college’s Rules and Customs Book, according to a chapter by Gilbert and Wines in Fordham: The Early Years (Fordham University Press, 1998), edited by Thomas C. Hennessy, S.J.
    • “A student read aloud from literature or history during meals, and No. 5 in the Rules for the Refectory section of the customs book required students to eat in silence so they could “give an account of what is read, if called upon.” Students stopped eating at the ringing of a bell and then rose to face the prefect, answer a prayer, and make the sign of the cross before turning to silently leave in single file with their arms folded.
    • “Indeed, students were expected to keep quiet during most of their daily routine, which was akin to the rigors of a “medieval monastic regime,” according to Msgr. Shelley’s book, Fordham, A History of the Jesuit University of New York: 1841-2003 (Fordham University Press, 2016). But they still found moments for food-related levity, he wrote: “God sent food; the devil sent cooks,” the students would gripe, echoing a longstanding complaint of college students everywhere.”
  • There’s a legend that says that the old manor house  was used as George Washington’s HQ during the Revolutionary War, but I don’t think that’s been substantiated.
    • Fordham Manor is supposedly mentioned in James Fenimore Cooper’s book The Spy, though I did a text search of The Spy for a lot of key phrases, like “Fordham,” “Rose Hill,” “Manor,” “Headquarters,” and both the old and new spellings of Bronx and came up empty handed, so it must be a fairly oblique reference.
    • To read a bit from the 1891 book A History of St. John’s College:
      • “Tradition ascribes to this time-honored relic the distinction of having served as General Washington’s headquarters during some of the maneuvers preceding the battle of White Plains. Among the many venerable trees that surround and overshadow the houses is the identical tree (so says again infallible tradition) to which the Father of his Country tied his horse on dismounting. It is believed by a great many that this old manor house is the building in and about which the principal incidents described in Fenimore Cooper’s novel, ‘The Spy,’ took place.”
    • I like how even this 1891 source is sarcastic about “infallible tradition”–at least I assume it’s sarcasm.
  •  If it’s true anyway, it would have been the old manor house, because the current administration building was constructed in 1838, with the current wings added in 1870. (there had previously been wings coming out from the back of the building, east toward Keating Hall, and now the wings extend north and south)
  • The old manor house was torn down in 1896.
  •  The most common story I’ve heard about the administration building is at hat supposedly it smells like cigars all the time, and people say that there’s a ghostly story behind that–I assume some former resident or a Jesuit was supposed to have smoked cigars?
  • The Ram, October 28, 1983 (this article was also reprinted in October 1988):
    • Rumor has  it  that  five  Rose Hill  buildings contain  entities  of  the  “former-human”   persuasion:  the  Administration   Building,  Dealy Hall,  Hughes  Hall,   Duane   Library   and   St. John’s Hall.
    • “There have been  a couple  of  cases  of  old Jesuits    floating    around    here,”    says   Rev. Norris  Clarke,  S.J.   “The  old  Jesuit   walking on   the   second   floor   of   the   Administration Building  has  been  seen  by  a  number  of  people,”  he added.
    • One  of  two  buildings  on  campus  to  pre-date  the  arrival  of  the  Jesuits  (the  other  is  the University   Church),    the    Administration Building   has   served   as   everything   from   a student  residence  hall  to  a library since its construction  in  1838. According  to  Clarke,  a  few elderly   priests  lived   there  when   the  second floor  served  as an  infirmary  several years ago. In  the  recent  past  a  student   worker  was  up-stairs after  hours  when  he saw an elderly  Jesuit walking    around    aimlessly.    He    made    an attempt  at  conversation  but  got  no  response. Later,  according  to  Clarke,  the  student  asked a  group  of  priests  about  his  late  night  visitor
    • Upon  describing  him  to  them, they said to  then young man,  “Well, he’s  been dead  for  a number  of years.”
  • The 1983 article also describes a supposed haunting on the first floor of the administration building, where a bunch of portraits of Fordham’s past presidents hang. Supposedly, the ghosts of the past presidents emerge from the paintings when they want to see how things are going.
  • Fordham farm: https://news.fordham.edu/fordham-magazine/on-campus-farm-nourished-fordham-in-its-early-years/

 

Keating Hall (1935)

  • Keating Hall is the university’s sort of flagship, trademark building. It towers over the quad and looks nice. It holds classrooms, some big lecture hall/auditorium type rooms, a chapel, and there’s also stuff like the radio station in the basement. At least when I was a student, there was a language lab in the basement, and some of The Exorcist was filmed there, though language labs prob aren’t a thing anymore, are they?
  • The basement room that was used in the filming of The Exorcist was also used as the Pentagon office in the movie A Beautiful Mind
  • In terms of hauntings and dark history relating to Keating Hall, I keep reading stuff online saying that Keating Hall used to be a hospital. I don’t know what they’re talking about.
    • Keating’s actually one of the (relatively) newer classroom buildings on campus, it wasn’t built until 1935.
    • I tried to figure out whether it was possibly used as a hospital or medical facility during WWII, and it doesn’t look like that was the case.
    • Fordham was a site for two Army Specialized Training Program units, so in June 1943, the gym was a dorm for troops. At one time there were 788 troops staying there. And then after that, the army requisitioned some buildings, including the gym, Dealy Hall, and part of Keating. But that was just to use as housing for 900 Army Postal Service members. They were there till 1945. Keating Hall used to have a cafeteria, and apparently at one point during the war effort, 2,750 meals were served there each day (it was open from 4 am to midnight.)
  • Supposedly, Keating Hall was built on top of old morgue tunnels, and I’ve read that there was an old hospital there in the 1830s. I haven’t found reputable sources saying this, however.
    • though I’d imagine that it’s connected to the steam/electricity tunnels, so that may be where the morgue rumor is.
  • An October 2005 article in the Columbia Spectator, Columbia’s student newspaper, recounts some of the stories of Keating Hall:
    • “The first floor of the building has chairs and historical items on display, but few students sit on them because of the feeling of being watched. There are also cold spots even in the summer, and people often say they are the spirits of Jesuits that have past. On the third floor, there are many reports of being touched on the shoulder and seeing ghosts while in the auditorium, a chair tumbling down the stairs without anyone present has been witnessed more than once.”
      https://www.columbiaspectator.com/2005/10/28/haunted-new-york/
  • I can confirm myself that there were cold spots in the building. I remember feeling them on the first floor, in the interior area leading toward the big auditorium there. I remember there were these connected interior hallways with benches, and I specifically felt cold spots, and tried to find where they were coming from and wasn’t successful so thought they might be paranormal.
  • A video on Youtube from October 29, 2021, from the Truman High School Media Program, recounts one person’s story. Truman High School is a school in Co-Op City, so by Pelham in the Bronx.
    • A teacher at the school had an experience in Keating her freshman year. She went into the bathroom, the automatic sink wouldn’t turn on. Suddenly, all the lights turned off. Then one of the other sinks turned on by itself, and she went over to wash her hands there and it went off. Then the window slammed and the lights turned back on, and then all the sinks turned on at the same time.
    • She did think through what mundane stuff could have happened: The sinks were new automatic sinks. She thought maybe there could be a glitch in the electronics since they were new. It was also windy, it was March, so she said that was what may have been going on with the window.
    • One additional point of interest is that her grandfather, both parents, and sister went to Fordham, and she was aware of Fordham being haunted before she started there.
    •  https://youtu.be/Ng_9bY6vedg
  • I found some claims that the clock tower in Keating is haunted, in an article published in The Fordham Ram, Truths of a Forbidden Tower Revealed (published online in 2021 but seemingly originally published in 2013?): https://fordhamram.com/1659/news/truths-of-a-forbidden-tower-revealed/
    • Blair H—-, FCRH ’12, attests to a scary but worthwhile experience. “It was a lot of fun and kind of dangerous, especially when my phone lost battery in the dark,” she said. “But once we were up there the view was breathtaking.”
    • Mairin O—- FCRH ’12, accompanied Hassell in the tower. She offers this warning to future climbers: “Beware of the ghosts. Blair’s phone died on the way down. Kelly swears a ghost tickled her neck.”
  • Maybe worth mentioning, the Keating clock tower is off limits and it’s dangerous, and when I was researching this, I saw that in 2019, a student fell to her death from the clock tower.

 

Collins Auditorium (1904)

  • This was originally the law school building. The law school was supposed to use facilities at Xavier, a catholic school downtown, but when enrollment at Xavier increased, they didn’t have space, so the law school was moved to Collins.
  • Nowadays, there’s a standard theater, a blackbox theatre, and I believe the philosophy offices.
  • Per Fordham library:
    • With the hauntings around Collins even the faculty are spooked. They and students alike have reported seeing a man walking around the balconies. This same ghostly figure is often blamed for things being rearranged or moved backstage before performances.
  • A 2010 article in the Ram claims that Father Collins, the university president at the time that the building was constructed, is the ghost who haunts the theater, though that seems awfully convenient to me.
  • However, a website called theramrealm.com had a 2014 article that quotes an anonymous student who talks about the supposed ghost that haunts Collins Auditorium, Johnny Collins.
    • “Johnny is harmless, but he likes to make his presence known. It can be frustrating when we’re practicing, and then the lights just shut off.” Still, despite the hauntings, she says “Collin’s is where I spend half my semester practicing, I think Johnny likes the company.”
  • That being said, it’s hard to say who a ghost is unless they tell you, or you see them (and even then, they could be lying.) So even though I think it’s kind of convenient that people assume the ghost is the guy the building was named after, I guess I don’t blame them for assuming that’s who the ghost is, lacking other evidence of who the entity may be.

 

Lincoln Center

  • There are very few stories that I could find about hauntings at Fordham’s Manhattan campus. I did find a few mentions of weirdness in one of the residence halls, McMahon, and maybe something in Lowenstein, which is a building that holds classrooms, offices, etc.
  • First, let’s look at McMahon, which was built in 1993 and is a 20-story dorm.
    • https://fordhamobserver.com/33317/features/fordham-frights-the-ghosts-that-haunt-our-school/
    • “For McMahon Hall resident Sam T—-, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’19, this situation became a reality just a few weeks ago. “I was exhausted. I had pilates in the morning, so I figured I would go to bed early. While I liked the idea of having the apartment to myself, something just didn’t feel right, but I attributed it to being naturally paranoid and the spooky nature of October,” Sam recounted of the October night. She disregarded her uneasiness and quickly got ready for bed. Just like a typical night, Sam shut her door and laid on her bed with her back facing her door. That’s when she began to hear her door open and close. “My door has never shut all the way. The door just doesn’t fit the frame properly. So, I didn’t think anything of it at first.” Sam turned over to look at her door and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but when she returned to her position facing the wall, she heard her door open and close again. “This happened a few times, and the door only seemed to move when I was facing the wall. Yeah, it was strange, but it was also starting to annoy me.”
    • Sam got up and opened her door, but didn’t find anything. “I’ve seen my roommate prop her desk chair against the door before, so I did that, and got back in bed. I figured that would stop my door from opening and closing.” Sam paused to recollect herself for a second, then continued, “But the opposite happened. I turned to face the wall and got comfortable, then all of a sudden the door began rapidly banging against the chair as if someone was violently attempting to break in.” Instead of facing whatever was at the door head on, Sam decided to pull the covers over her head and tried to go to sleep. “I reasoned with the ghost. I basically said, ‘Hey, I have pilates in the morning, so I’d appreciate if you don’t do this tonight,’ and it seemed to work. The banging eventually stopped, and I was able to go to sleep. But, it was still the spookiest thing I’ve ever experienced.” Since this incident, Sam hasn’t experienced anything else in her apartment, but she believes someone definitely wanted to make their presence known that night.
    • Sam is not the only student at Fordham Lincoln Center who has experienced something strange. Another McMahon Hall resident, Jasmine F—-, FCLC ’19, recalled seeing a ghostly figure: “It was the night before Halloween. I just remember waking up and feeling a presence. I looked near my bed and it appeared to be a person in rags with a black aura and smoke where their feet should’ve been.” When asked if she was as scared as Sam was, Jasmine replied, “No, I was more intrigued. It was magnificent really. It made me want to learn about the history of this building, and who the figure could’ve been.”
    • While Sam and Jasmine have first-person encounters of ghosts at Fordham, many students haven’t experienced anything. One of the people I asked about Fordham ghost stories even said, “No…Lincoln Center is too new and nice for ghosts. Try the Rose Hill campus.” So, that’s exactly what I did.”
  • Now, let’s get to Lowenstein, which was built in 1969. It’s the building I was in the most at Lincoln Center, since I took some classes there. It has classrooms, the bookstore, theater, etc.
  • From the Fordham Observer, October 28, 1998:
    • The article talks about how the building is so new that it doesn’t make sense for there to be hauntings there, etc. So there’s a kinda jokey article about that where the writer mentions one strange thing she’s encountered, and then comes up with a fictional story to say what could be happening.
      • “There   is  one   Lowenstein   room, however,  that  makes  me  think  twice before  dismissing  it  entirely. Have you  ever  wandered  by the  new  Photo ID room  when  it  is closed,  either  late at  night  or  on  weekends?  If  so, you may  have  taken  notice  of  a  strange, yet persistent phenomenon.
      • “Whenever the  Photo  ID room door is closed, an eerie tapping  is heard  from within.    It  is  repeated  and  insistent, and  it  is  always there.   When  I  first heard  it a month ago, I thought  it was an isolated  incident.  Each time thereafter,  though,  I  became   more  and more   intrigued.     Where   was  this sound   coming  from?     What  did  it mean?

Marymount

  • https://hauntedplacesofusa.blogspot.com/2009/09/marymount-college-of-fordham-university.html?m=0
  • “The ghosts of founders Father Gailhac and Mother Butler roam the halls of the dorms and protect the girls of this women’s college. Evil spirits lurk in Sacky parking lot, left behind when the Sacky House was torn down before the college was built in 1907. Most haunted dorms: Gailhac Hall and Gerard Hall. Strange phenomenon exist in these halls from invisible bed guests to bed shaking and the constant feeling of being watched.  Beware students and stay far away from Ouija Boards.
  • “Marymount College has been closed in May 2007.”
  • Anonymous said…
    • “I work there and i just recently had an experience I saw a shadowy figure move from right to left it was awesome and also heard whistling
    • February 18, 2013 at 5:14 PM
  • Anonymous said…
    • Neat trick on Fr. Gailhac’s part if he found his way to Tarrytown. He died before the college was founded and wasn’t in on the planning of the college. He knew nothing about it. His role was as Founder of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary in Beziers, France. Mother Butler is buried in the crypt of the now Marymount Convent. In my years at Marymount, I can’t say I ever met her wandering around, but I know she was very much loved by students who knew her when she was alive.
    • “Regarding “Sacky House”, the information is really messed up. Sacre Coeur Hall stood on the site of the “Sacky Parking Lot” until after 1970, so it was very much a part of the college and was not torn down before the college was founded. I know. I lived in it as a student. It was NEVER called “Sacky House”. It was Sacre Coeur Hall or “Sacky”. It was one of our favorite dorms because it was a nice old mansion with turrets and a wide veranda with a view of the Hudson River. Haunted? I doubt it. In any case, if there are “spirits” slouching around the parking lot, they’re benevolent ones. Sorry to burst your bubble, but Marymount was a fine old college that provided a wonderful education to generations of young women. It’s not haunted.
    • May 15, 2013 at 7:18 PM”

Don’t miss past episodes about Fordham’s history and hauntings:

Sources consulted RE: Collins Auditorium Ghost and other stories

See sources page for the full source list for the series

Books consulted