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

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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:
https://linktr.ee/covidbailoutnyc
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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

Fordham’s Haunted Dorms: Creepy ghost children, a man disappearing into walls, priests blessing haunted dorms, and more, about in these haunted dorms at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY.

This episode is a look at some of Fordham University’s “less haunted” dorms: meet the ghosts of Loschert Hall (formerly called Alumni Court North), O’Hare Hall (formerly called Millennium Hall), Martyrs’ Court, and Loyola Hall.

Highlights include:
• Thoughts about hauntings based on recent deaths
• Some debunking attempts
• Sleep paralysis
• A dorm built on the former site of a cemetery

Episode Script for Fordham’s Haunted Dorms

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. 

 

Alumni Court North (now called Loschert, renamed in 2008) (1987)

  • I mentioned a 2017 Observer article by Zoe S—-, which had some great accounts of Fordham hauntings, so here’s another story from that article:
    • The article recounts another story, from Tiffany K—-, class of 07, whose friend lived in a rare single room in Alumni Court North, a dorm right next to Queens Court. The friend called her, shaken, and said he head a knocking sound in the room. K—- said it was just his imagination and that he should go back to sleep. I want to read the next paragraph from the article:
      • “But, K—-’s friend couldn’t go back to sleep, “He calls me again later in the night, saying his bed shook and that he was going to sleep next to the guard that night.” The next day, K—- and her friend looked for clarity in one of the priests, “The priest was like ‘Oh, that’s so and so. I guess he moved to your dorm. Come let’s go to your room.’ So, the priest grabs some holy water, the Bible, and candles. We head over to the dorm, and we light the candles, and he opens the door and starts praying.” Unlike the other stories, K—-’s story has a happy ending, ‘All the freshmen around us must have been so freaked out, but whatever he did worked. Nothing ever happened again after that.'”
        https://fordhamobserver.com/33317/features/fordham-frights-the-ghosts-that-haunt-our-school/
    • A commenter on collegeconfidential related this story:
      • “I think it was North, on Thanksgiving break, everyone went home except for me and two other girls on my floor because we all had this one philosophy professor who assigned a 10-15 page paper 1st semester Freshman year. Granted my floor was deserted and I hung out with one of the girls all the time during that break. She was out getting McD’s. I lived near the stairs and I was in my room when I heard laughing and running down the hall. I ran to my door and looked out in the hall way to catch my friend or the other girl to see if they wanted to hangout and no one was there. Also, no slamming of a door down the hall like they had run into their room(s). I just chalked it up to people in the building really bored. “

 

O’Hare (2000)

  • A website called theramrealm.com had a 2014 article that mentioned the O’Hare Hauntings:
    • Tragedy supposedly struck O’Hare when a worker fell from the roof back while it was being built — though no legitimate source has verified this. Still, rumors ran rampant when students started hearing weird sounds that reminded them of construction, on the upper floors. One current resident who was familiar with the tale still lets it get to her, and “refuses to take the stairwells at night.” She said she hears weird sounds late at night, and being afraid of ghosts as is, she said she’s “let the tale get in her head, and [doesn’t] take any chances.
  • So, this article says that no legitimate source has verified the death of the worker: that’s not true, but I don’t blame the author for not knowing, because I’ve only been able to find one source anywhere on the internet that mentions the construction worker by name.
  • The Fordham library website mentions him, though not by name, in their write up of the haunting:
    • Though one of the newer dorms on campus (built in 2000) O’Hare has a ghost of its own.
    • One of the construction workers had a heart attack while working on the roof and fell tragically to his death. Students have reported the sound of hammering in the walls as if the spirit of the man is still trying to finish the job.
  • There’s an article in The Ram from 03/23/2000, called Construction worker dies in tragic accident.
    • This is a really sad story. I feel like the ghost story about O’Hare gets repeated ad nauseum, but no one talks about the man who died, and what his story was, so I wanted to share some of the details of who this person was.
    • A 42-year-old man from Wallkill, NY, was on the scaffolding between the 4th and 5th floors, near where the north and west wings of the building connect. He fell face down on a pile of rocks on Friday, March 10, 2000. When the student EMS service and the fire department arrived, they pronounced him dead.
    • After his death, a Jesuit named Joseph Currie, said a prayer and recited Psalm 23. One of the man’s coworkers said the Our Father, and another coworker said the Serenity Prayer.
    • That afternoon, Fordham’s head of security, John Carroll, Currie, and Sean C—-, one of the man’s coworkers, went to the his family’s home. He was married and had kids, so he left behind his wife a 20-year-old son, a 14-year-old son, and a daughter who had just turned 12.
    • The man’s hobbies including fishing and acting in local plays: he was involved  with the local Gilbert & Sullivan Theater Society, and was in Kismet, Sweeney Todd, The Most Happy Fella, and other plays.
    • 250 people attended his funeral.
    • At the time of this article, it sounds like had been discussion of memorizing him in some way; the priest, Currie, suggesting naming the wing of the building that he had been working on after him. I don’t believe that happened, though I never lived in O’Hare so am a lot less familiar with that building, but I read about O’Hare on Fordham’s website and couldn’t find any mention of him on that page, or on a search of Fordham.edu.
    • When I searched The Ram’s archives, I couldn’t find any other article mentioning him. I also googled his name and Fordham and couldn’t find any information about him.
      • NOTE: I say the deceased man’s name in the episode, and you can find it in my sources, but I kept it out of the shownotes in case his name is intentionally not easily findable online.
  • I don’t know. The O’Hare haunting story really sits poorly with me. I think part of it may be that it’s a recent haunting. I feel like it’s maybe a bit closed-minded to say something like, “ghost stories about recent deaths are in bad taste,” because it is possible that someone may have experienced real phenomena that could be attributed to the spirit of someone who’s recently deceased.
  • But this whole thing, to me, smacks of turning a pretty recent death into a “spooky story,” which . . . I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right to me. I think also that there’s something that seemed really cruel to me, in reading that article: there’s that mention of the priest floating the idea of naming a wing of the building after him, but I don’t think that actually happened, and there’s basically no mention of him online? I don’t know, if you lived in O’Hare Hall and know of any kind of plaque or anything mentioning his death, definitely let me know, I’m curious if that exists.

 

Martyrs’ Court (1950-1951)

  • Supposedly the ghost of a little girl haunts Martyrs. There are stories of students pulling back a shower curtain to find a little blonde girl standing in the shower, staring straight ahead. Some people have claimed to hear children’s laughter echoing from the walls.
    • In the past, I found this not credible at all. Sounds like the preoccupation of folks who’ve watched a lot of horror movies with creepy kids. I can’t imagine what a little kid might be doing on a college campus–I’m not familiar of any stories about young girls on campus. (there’s a boy’s prep school called Fordham Prep on campus, but they don’t admit girls.)
    • However, there’s at least one firsthand account that I found, with specifics and with a named person going on the record to talk about it, so I am reconsidering, though I still have no idea who that little girl would be.
    • It’s been bothering me for years, but I found a possible theory for who the girl might be in The Big Book of New York Ghost Stories by Cheri Farnsworth (2019). To read from the book:
      • “Who the child was is anyone’s guess. She was too young to be a former university student. But she might be a deceased descendant of the Corsa family. The subtitle of a New York Times article dated June 9, 1899, said a “Descendant of Andrew Corsa Claims Some of the Property on Which St. John’s, Fordham, Stands.”
      • According to the article, a Mrs. Davensport Bolsbridge claimed that her first husband, John H. Corsa, the grandnephew of Andrew Corsa, had refused to sign a release for a man who had purchased the property from Andrew’s widow, Ann. Because of financial difficulties, she was seeking the property on behalf of her children, who, she said, were “in sore need of any property which may be rightfully theirs.” Do her children, the direct descendants of Andrew Corsa, now inhabit the Fordham grounds?”
  • I can’t tell you how excited I was to come across a possible explanation for the haunting.
  • I also found two stories about Martyr’s Court hauntings that were in The Ram, The Haunted History of Fordham’s School Spirits, October 25, 2017 by Julia B—- ( https://thefordhamram.com/58141/culture/haunted-history-fordhams-school-spirits/):
    • “Martyr’s is known to have a little girl ghost. This blonde spirit has been seen in the bathrooms and is said to like to lurk behind shower curtains. Bella W—-, FCRH ’20, had a dorm room freshman year was located directly next-door to the communal bathrooms. “Our bedroom door would open and close on its own on several occasions,” she said.
    • Monica F—-, FCRH ’18, had an even eerier Marytr’s experience her freshman year. “What happened was I woke up one morning around Halloween with sleep paralysis and I couldn’t move. I tried yelling my roommate’s name but I felt something like hands choking me. Above me was this floating, translucent figure-like girl with long hair that didn’t have a face but was still looking at me. When she finally disappeared I got this really calming feeling like nothing had happened but I was confused because I was sweating and shaking. I got really freaked out and couldn’t sleep the next few nights but got over it when our floor had our infamous bathroom blessing a few days later,” she said.”
  • I hadn’t heard of this apparently infamous bathroom blessing, but sounds interesting.
  • I also found this story about Martyr’s Court, which I found reposed from elsewhere on College Confidential:
    • Residents have reported seeing a young, blond-haired girl standing in the shower, behind the curtain, staring straight ahead. The dean’s response when they wanted to move was “It’s March. This sort of thing happens all the time, and worse, so just try to turn the other cheek.” They also report seeing a man walking by their rooms, in the direction of a wall at the end of the hall. When they would go out to see who it was, he’d be gone, also hear children’s laughter in the walls of their apartment.
    • I also found another person, commenting on that thread on College Confidential, who shared their own story about Martyrs:
      • I’m not sure if this is the same ghost…but I did see a blonde girl sitting on the toilet in the toilet stalls in Martyrs’…when I went back and checked, there was no one there. A couple weeks back I also saw someone sitting in one of the lounges but there wasn’t anyone there when I turned around. Of course, it might be my mind playing tricks on me but I think it’s much cooler to say that I saw ghosts rather than I was imagining things
      • https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/t/haunted/245728/8
    • From unexplainable.net
      • “Known as one of the larger dormitories on campus, Martyr’s Court has at least two ghosts haunting the grounds. First, residents have come in contact with a young girl with blond hair who has been seen standing behind the curtains of the shower. She always seems to be staring straight ahead. Another ghost is that of a man who has been reported to walk by the rooms of residents, heading towards a wall located at the end of the hall. When attempting to investigate his identity, he has vanished before curious students had a chance. In the apartments, some students claim to hear the laughter of children in their walls.”

Walsh Hall / 555

  • In the 11/7/02 issue of The Ram, a student named Alycia M—- recounts some of her paranormal experiences when she was living Walsh 605:
    • On the first week of school, she and her roommate set their clocks together, and a week later, her roommate’s clock was 15 mins ahead of hers. The roommate synced up their clocks again, and then M—-‘s clock was 15 mins ahead.
    • She also used to hear their shower running at night, and their doors slowly opening and then slamming shut. Her roommate verified the sounds as well.
    • One of her suitemates had a small table fan, which would turn on and off, on and off, by itself. They checked the plug and the switch and everything seemed normal.
    • The student talks about some other stories she’d heard, like a friend of hers who was at Rodrigue’s, the student-run coffee shop, which has a narrow sort of catwalk ledge thing around its interior. The friend heard someone walking above him, but no one was there.
    • Sidenote, here’s the story behind Rodrigue’s:
  • NYC Landmarks describes it as a “small Greek Revival house” and says its original purpose was unclear. It may have been the home of William Rodrigue, John Hughes’ brother-in-law. Rodrigue was an architect who was involved with designing the University Church and St. John’s Hall. He was also a math and engineering professor at the school.
    • Rodrigue may have designed this building for his family to live in while he worked on the church and St. John’s Hall, but NYC Landmarks points out that the style is more like the Rose Hill Mansion than the Gothic Revival structures Rodrigue is responsible for. The date “1840” appears on a stone beneath the attic window (predating the school’s founding.)
    • “In any event, the house soon became the Parish house and office of the pastor of St. John’s Church, and later served as the college infirmary, earning the nickname the “Pill-box”. Offices of the “Fordham Monthly” and t he “Ram” were subsequently housed in the building, and for a time a bakery in the basement produced a campus specialty, “Fordham Buns”. Prior to being occupied by the Housing office, the building contained Alumni offices.”
    • Landmarks report RE: Alumni House / Rodrigue’s: http://s-media.nyc.gov/agencies/lpc/lp/1084.pdf
  • I will say, the Mason frequently mentions her interest in John Edward, the medium, so she’s definitely someone primed to believe in the paranormal. Doesn’t mean the things she saw weren’t paranormal, though.

 

Loyola/Faber

  • Loyola Hall and Faber Hall are two interconnected buildings that students didn’t live in when I was in school.
  • Loyola was built, I believe, 1928. Faber was built in 1959.
  • When I was a student, Loyola was just a Jesuit residence, and Faber was a departmental office building (there may have been classrooms too, but not sure.) Now, about 125 freshmen live in Loyola, and there are two floors of Faber where freshmen and transfer students live. Faber was renovated for students to live there in 2016, and I’m not totally sure when the switch to having students Loyola happened, but it was sometime in the last decade, which also means that there’s been less time for ghost stories to accumulate online about these buildings.
  • However, I expect there to be ghost stories that start to circulate about these buildings, 1) because Fordham’s real haunted, and 2) because Faber is built on top of the former location of the university’s cemetery.
  • According to a Ram article from October 21, 1999, at one point, the university cemetery was where Faber hall is now built. I mentioned this is a past episode, but the cemetery was originally where the botanical gardens are now (or some people say it’s where the old gym was, but I think the botanical gardens are more likely.) The bodies were disinterred and were moved from there to where Faber is now, then moved to their current location. I think I read this in an earlier episode, but to refresh your memory:
    • “The cemetery, which dates back to 1847, has not been significantly changed since 1959, when bodies were moved due to the construction of Faber Hall.”
  • There’s also a 1976 article that says it was moved in ’59 to make way for Loyola Hall–Loyola and Faber are connected.
  • This is from a 2016 article called “Fordham University Is Straight Out of A Horror Movie” published on theodyssesyonline.com. The person who wrote the article lived in Loyola, and here’s what she had to say about it:
    • “My home for the last year, and Father Joseph McShane’s former room, Loyola 415 is one of the lesser known haunted rooms on campus. Living there from 1992 to 1996, Father McShane has noted the room as the “best room on campus,” at least in his opinion. However, even with the best view on campus, 415 is not without recurrent spooky moments. Father McShane notes “One oddity of the room: I was awakened every morning at around 5 when the steam heat started up and the pipes banged to beat the band.” This occurrence as well as a few others have occurred during my time in the room. Late at night, construction work can be heard from the room, and not any other. My roommates and I have also witnesses the closet opening on its own many a time. While it was pretty spooky we may just be chickens.”

 

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

Sources consulted RE: Fordham’s Haunted Dorms

See sources page for the full source list for the series

Books consulted

Finlay Hall Ghosts: A look at my own paranormal experiences living in Fordham University’s former medical school building.

My time in Finlay Hall was uneasy, permeated by the feeling that I was always being watched. Though there were reasonable explanations for why I may have felt that way, I don’t think that’s all that was afoot. I tell the stories of an uneasy possible encounter with an entity in the laundry room in the basement (near where cadavers were once kept), a mysterious bell that seemed to ring throughout the building, and an unusual, regularly occurring gibbering sound that only my roommate and I seemed to be able to hear.

Highlights include:
• Conspiracy theories and the paranormal
• A primal scream
• My attempts to debunk my own experiences
• A bizarre experimental college

Episode Script for Finlay Hall Ghosts

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. 

 

  • So I’ve been thinking a lot about how to present the personal stories in this episode. That’s, in part, because I’ve been thinking about sort of philosophical things about how we talk and think about the paranormal.
  • I listen to a podcast about conspiracy theories (link with info about that podcast) It’s an extremely popular podcast, you may have heard of it.
    • They mostly focus on the one particular conspiracy theory, covering it in detail, analyzing it from a sociological and political perspective, and disproving elements of the theory, but in their patreon episodes, they branch out more, and they cover a lot of paranormal topics. They’ve done topics on Atlantis, the Mothman, Ed and Lorraine Warren, etc.
    • Of course, as someone who’s into the paranormal, I naturally bristled at first when I started listening to the paranormal topics, but the episodes are really good and really well done, and I think it’s extremely valuable to look at the paranormal through the lens of not just skeptics, but people who have made a living out of studying conspiracy theories. They come at it from a really different POV than just a regular paranormal believer OR skeptic.
    • And one thing that really struck me is that the way we tend to think in the paranormal–looking for patterns, following our feelings, connecting disparate but potentially linked things, searching for hidden knowledge–has a LOT in common with the way that conspiracy theorists view reality.
    • That being said, I obviously believe in paranormal phenomena, and I don’t think that all conspiracy theories are false, so I am definitely not trying to paint folks who are interested in the paranormal with the same brush as someone who believes in a harmful conspiracy theory, for example.
    • But I think it’s really, really important to use critical thinking when talking about the paranormal. I mean, obviously that’s a big part of what I’m doing with this podcast, and that’s why this Fordham series is so darn long–because I’m really trying to dive into the paranormal stories and urban legends and sift through what sort of supporting information, etc, I can find about them.
    • But I wanted to take this time to explicitly say all of this, and say why I look at the paranormal from such an analytical and non-dogmatic POV, because I think it’s really important to take any source about the paranormal–including me–with a grain of salt.
    • I never want you to believe that an experience is paranormal because I said it is, or because I said I think it is. And I’ve been trying to tease out how that works philosophically.
    • Take, for example, my experiences in Finlay Hall.
      • I genuinely believe that I was experiencing something paranormal, and I don’t really imagine being able to come across something that would convince me otherwise, no matter how logical that explanation might be. I feel less sure about some of my other paranormal experiences, but my experiences in Finlay feel more solid to me. And that’s just a feeling that I have.
      • However, like I said, I don’t really want you to take my word for it. Or, rather, I’d of course be happy if you also thought I experienced something paranormal, but as always, I wouldn’t blame someone for disagreeing.
      • The worst case scenario, for me, is for someone to believe something just because I said it, if that makes sense.
      • Like I said, I hate dogma and I favor ambiguity when thinking about the paranormal.
      • So if you believe me, in this episode or any other, I hope that’s because when I’ve talked about something, examined it from different angles and looked at possible debunkings and complicating factors–I hope that once I’ve done all that, and you’ve thought through it all, you came to either a logical or emotional/intuitive conclusion, whether you think it’s something paranormal, or something ordinary, or you just aren’t sure.
      • It’s true that in the paranormal, not everything is logical and rational; it’s normal to come to conclusions based on a more emotional or intuitive sense. And that’s okay. But I want to take this time to caution you against believing things just because someone you like or trust said it.
      • And please do periodic reality checks. In the paranormal, it’s common (and . . . I think fine?) to make some weird connections, follow synchronicities, etc.
      • But if you start to find yourself doing that in the mundane areas of your life, you might want to pull back and question some things, think more deeply on them, etc.
      • I know this is a digression, but listening to stories about the paranormal from that other lens, really was a wake up call for me.
      • I don’t think that I tend toward conspiratorial thinking, but I suddenly could see how that could potentially happen very easily. So for myself, I’m trying to find a way to separate the really great habits that I’ve developed doing paranormal research and investigation–this sense of wonder, feeling like the world has hidden meanings and messages, etc–and  making sure that doesn’t seep into other areas of my life, belief system, etc.
  • I’ve really struggled with how personal to get in this episode, because there are some things that were going on in my personal life that I do think had a bearing on my feelings about Finlay Hall, and which may have even influenced, to some degree, my experience of the place as being full of dread and ominous intention
  • I mentioned this a couple times before, but I was very sick when I was living in Finlay Hall (swine flu hit while I was living there, which colored the experience for sure), and I also I think that between getting swine flu + being extremely worn down, that caused what seems like a recurrence of mono (b/c once you get it, you can get it more than once if your immune system is compromised etc.)

    • A lot of my memories of that place are through a sort of unpleasant, feverish, and very gothic haze of illness.
  • There were also a few other things going on.
    • There was a bad situation with my roommate who lived in the loft, she was doing some pretty creepy stuff that included eavesdropping on me and passing off things I’d said to our other roommate as her own ideas in class, and starting to dress like me. Also, I mentioned this last time but the room was arranged so that I couldn’t tell if she was in the loft by looking up, but she could see everything that our other roommate and I were doing downstairs, so there was a feeling of being surveilled by this person who was being pretty creepy.
  • I was closeted because I didn’t feel safe coming out at Fordham. Hopefully stuff has gotten better there since the 2000s, though I don’t really know. I did find a 2016 article in the Fordham Ram about how some roommates in Finlay Hall, who were all queer, got a homophobic comment written in sharpie on the door on their whiteboard, so I don’t have super high hopes for what it’s like these days: https://fordhamram.com/2016/09/07/students-in-finlay-hall-find-harassing-comment-on-door/
      • But there was a girl I liked a lot, but I couldn’t ask her out without coming out, so I was doing a lot of sort of pathetic, silent pining.
    • I was also very depressed.
  • So I think that whole situation was a perfect storm for weird paranormal stuff, for me. College is already this really liminal time, but being extremely sick, feeling watched and imitated constantly by my bad roommate, being closeted and having an unrequited love situation, and being really depressed, really heightened everything.
  • My Finlay experiences

    • Finlay general creepiness
      • I always felt like I was being watched
    • Entity behind me + tunnel entrances
      • I mentioned last time that Finlay Hall is right next to an entrance to campus. It was supposedly placed there to make it easier to subtly transport cadavers to be dissected when Finlay was still the medical school building.
      • Back when I was a student, its proximity to the edge of campus made it ideal for students who lived off campus to bring their laundry to the building to do it there. Laundry was included in room and board, so sneaking into FInlay was a way for students living off campus to get free laundry.
      • The university didn’t like that people were doing that, even though from my POV it wasn’t an issue, so they decided that they were going to require that the laundry room, in the basement, be closed and locked at all times.
      • That didn’t prevent people from off campus doing their laundry there; I had a friend who I still let in, I just unlocked the door for him so he could get into the laundry room and do his laundry there.
      • But the door to the laundry room was very sturdy and heavy, and having it closed and locked the whole time weirded me out while I was doing my laundry.
      • Think about it: you’re down there in this really creepy basement, which doesn’t have cell service, doing laundry in a room next to areas where cadavers used to be stored. There’s also an entrance to Fordham’s tunnels nearby in the basement, so it’s just generally an uneasy place to be.
      • Also, the machines were industrial washers and dryers so they were really loud, so I always felt like someone could easily sneak up on me or something. But, and this is kind of weird, the university apparantly had thought of that, because in the corner of the room there was one of those big, round mirrors that you usually see around tight corners in the subway or on bike paths or by ATMs or whatever; the idea is that it’s like a fisheye mirror so no one can sneak up on you from any direction.
      • Why on earth did a laundry room need that? I have no idea. And I never felt great about it being there, like, that’s just weird. (For the record, I can’t remember if any other laundry rooms at Fordham had those mirrors, I can only remember the Finlay one.)
      • So, one afternoon I was doing my laundry.
        • I was in there alone, and I felt kind of uneasy and unsettled, so I was rushing a little bit as I put a load into the washer, choose the cycle, and started it.
        • When I finished, I remember feeling so relieved, like an unusual amount of relieved, that my clothes was in there and I could go back upstairs.
        • And right before I hurried out of there, I had this thought, “thank god I can get out of here, it would have been terrible if I had selected the wrong cycle and then had to stand here and advance the cycle to fix it.”
        • And right as I was thinking it, I looked at the washer and saw that I had, in fact, accidentally chosen the wrong cycle, which was weird. I’d selected the really hot setting, which would damage my clothes if I left it in. (I’d had a problem with my clothes shrinking in the wash at Fordham, jeans in particular, which of course are relatively expensive to replace, so I was careful about the settings.)
        • The way the washing machines worked there was you couldn’t just stop or switch a cycle once you started it. Instead, there was this button or switch that you had to hold in that would advance the cycle. Basically it would speed through the cycle in somewhere between 30-120 seconds, instead of 30 mins, and then you could start a new cycle once it was done. But you had to be standing there pressing it the whole time for it to work.
        • So I start advancing the cycle, and suddenly I started smelling a sort of weird sulfur smell.
        • This was weird, because I’d never smelled sulfur before down in the laundry room, and I spent a time down there every week.
          • And I will say that while I was typing out my notes for this, I had to ask myself whether it’s possible that I was smelling natural gas.
          • I definitely knew what natural gas smelled like and I didn’t think that I was smelling natural gas.
          • But to be totally honest, I don’t know how I would differentiate the rotten egg/sulfur smell of natural gas vs. a sulfur smell. Something about it just smelled somehow different from natural gas to me, but I don’t know how to explain how.
          • However, PSA: If you ever smell a rotten egg or sulfur smell indoors, it’s way more likely to be a natural gas leak than something paranormal. Do not assume it’s a ghost. If you smell natural gas in a room where you are, get out of there immediately. And don’t do anything with anything electronic, don’t even turn lights on or off, just go outside and call 911 and tell them you think you have a gas leak. Natural gas leaks are extremely dangerous and can cause explosions and fires really easily.
          • In the interest of being thorough, in case you’re wondering, I did look up side effects of exposure to natural gas, and there are no side effects related to paranoia or hallucination etc.
        • I remember looking over at some of the pipes along the wall and ceiling and I was kind of wondering if the smell was coming from one of those pipes. But I thought about it and realized they were probably only steam pipes for heating, and water and exhaust for the washers and dryers, so it didn’t really make sense for any of that to smell like sulfur.
        • As I’m standing there, advancing the cycle and looking at the pipes, I suddenly get the sense that someone is standing right behind me. Like someone’s standing really close, almost close enough to be pressed against my back, but not quite.
        • I tried not to panic, and told myself I was just freaking myself out. I look up at the fisheye type mirror and confirm that I’m definitely alone in the laundry room. There’s no one behind me.
        • But then I start thinking about lore about demons (and sulfur and brimstone smells) and I start thinking about creatures like vampires (who can’t be seen in mirrors.)
        • So, still pressing the advance cycle button, I turn around, and of course, I don’t see anything. There’s no one there.
        • I turn back around and face the washing machine, though really I’m just looking at the mirror, watching it, and of course there’s nothing in the mirror, just me standing in an empty room.
        • But I’m still feeling someone right behind me. I look again, and of course no one’s there.
        • At this point, I’m thinking maybe I should just run and go upstairs, but then I thought about how the washer would probably damage my clothes if I did that. And I tell myself it won’t be long, maybe a couple minutes, and I just need to get through the cycle and restart it.
        • But the whole time, I’m just aware of someone very close to me, behind me.
        • I had this really strong mental image of this male entity who was much shorter than me, but which was hovering several feet over the ground so that his face was either level with my shoulders, or slightly above that. And I had a strong sense of this entity’s face being distorted by this huge, creepy, almost gloating smile. And I felt like this entity was just staring and me smiling like some sort of deranged clown.
        • Now, that could have just been my imagination. But I’d been intentionally trying not to think about it, and this image kept popping into my head.
        • After what felt like forever, but was just a few minutes, I finished advancing the cycle, started it again on the right setting, and got out of there.
        • I went back upstairs to my room, and when I returned to the laundry room half an hour later to put the wash in the dryer, I didn’t smell sulfur at all (that’s another reason why I really don’t think it was natural gas–I didn’t smell it at all before this experience, and I didn’t smell it again, even 30 mins later.) I was obviously still shaken from earlier, and I felt like I was being watched, but nothing new happened.
        • I never felt comfortable in that basement, but nothing like that happened to me in the laundry room again.
      • I didn’t totally know what to make of this.
        • At the time, my sense of the paranormal was less nuanced, so I kind of jokingly referred to it as a demon when I told other people the story.
        • But I don’t really know what this entity was.
        • This story relies a lot on my own feeling about things, so I definitely don’t blame folks if they disagree with me and think that I didn’t experience anything, but my own opinion is definitely that something paranormal occurred there. This wasn’t an instance where I was like, “oh, maybe something happened, maybe I was just freaking myself out.”
        • No, I definitely felt like there was a threatening presence in there with me. And I did feel legitimately afraid, it was not a good experience.
        • I haven’t heard other stories like this in finlay, though.
    • Bell ringing in Finlay
      • My nice roommate and I both noticed that we’d hear what sounded almost like a bell ringing.
      • We heard it all over the building: in our room, on the ground floor by the dorm entrance, in the hallways, in the basement.
      • It wasn’t a loud bell, but it always sounded close.
      • It definitely didn’t sound like a ringtone chime, or like a radiator banging or anything, it sounded like a fairly thick metal bell being rung.
      • This really weirded me out, because it always sounded like it was the same volume, no matter where I was. But if it was something like, say, an elevator chime or a phone’s ringtone (which it wasn’t, but that’s just an example,) it would have been louder or quieter depending on how close or far we were away from it.
      • But it always sounded like the same volume to me, which doesn’t make sense.
      • I asked around to other people I knew in the building but never found anyone aside from me and my good roommate who heard this bell.
      • I haven’t found anything in the dorm’s history to suggest a reason why I might have been haunted by a phantom bell, and I also haven’t thought of a way to debunk the sound.
    • Gibbering sound in Finlay (and how it relates to primal scream, looking for residual explanations for this)
      • My nice roommate and I started to hear, on a regular basis, a really loud noise from outside of Finlay Hall. I would call it almost a gibbering sound. It was extremely loud, and echo-y. The school was next to the Bronx Zoo, and I remember the first time I heard it, I wondered if a bunch of monkeys had escaped and were howling through the streets, until I realized that was highly unlikely, and also I didn’t think monkeys were that loud.
      • We asked other people in the building if they could hear it, and like with the bell, everyone we asked said no.
      • I wish I had written down all of the details, but like I said it was a regular occurrence. It seems to me that it may have been weekly, and it always happened at the same time at night (in the evening, but well before I would have gone to bed.) But I can’t say for sure what the day of the week or time was.
      • Now, there may very well be a mundane explanation for this. If you’ve never lived in that part of the Bronx, it’s worth keeping in mind that the neighborhood is very loud.
        • When I lived off campus, during the summer when everyone had their windows open, it was normal for me to hear a bunch of different people’s radios blaring, and usually it was so loud that there wasn’t much point in me listening to my own music in my room, unless I was wearing noise cancelling headphones, because it’d just be overpowered by the music from outside. It sounds annoying, maybe, but it was actually kind of nice, especially in the summer, when everyone’s outside, hanging out with friends and family, etc. It just felt really wholesome and comforting.
        • And even while living on campus, I spent a couple years living in some buildings along a different edge of campus, and it was really normal to hear music blasting from a car repair shop that was right off campus.
        • So all of this to say that it’s possible that the sound I heard was noise from off campus. But the thing is, when things were loud, you could usually identify what it was: like it was music, or a noisy car, or a preacher at Fordham Plaza with a megaphone.
        • But this didn’t sound like anything I could identify, and it was always weird to me that I couldn’t find anyone aside from my roommate who heard the noise, when it was such a regular occurrence. People usually noticed and remarked upon loud noises.
        • So, while there may be a perfectly reasonable mundane explanation for this sound, I haven’t really been able to identify anything stronger than “well, the Bronx is loud sometimes.”
          • So I’ve also looked for potentially paranormal explanations.
          • I haven’t got anything super super clear, but I have found some instances of loud noises that would have happened in the past in the area.
          • You may have heard of residual hauntings before; I’ve talked about them, and explained stone tape theory earlier in this series. It’s this idea that things from the past can be recorded into the environment and replayed in the future. Most of the time, this is tied to ghosts, the ghosts of past inhabitants of an area leave behind traces of their emotions, forms, etc, to be replayed in the area where it’s been “recorded.”
          • So I’ve been thinking, why wouldn’t a noise, or screams, from the past be able to be recorded somewhere (in the “stone tape” if that’s a real thing) and replayed? It’s a long shot, but I found three things: two more plausible, and one that’s more of a wild card, that are potential candidates for something residual that could have been hanging on around the area.
        • Primal Scream: This is something that an alumni told me about when I was at Fordham, but during the 1980s, the Primal Scream was a tradition on campus. Every Thursday night at 10 pm, people in a number of dorms, including Finlay, would stick their heads out of the window and scream. Some of the Jesuit scholastics who lived on campus would also participate.
        • The Observer, November 17, 1982:
          • “On Fordham’s uptown campus in the Bronx, however,  the  flow of  student  energy is not always so  productive.  Instead of politics and human rights, the most  popular and organized  student  movement  at  Rose Hill is the Thursday night  “Primal  Scream.” At 10 pm each Thursday,  about one-fourth  of the dormitory  residents (including some people who attend the College at Lincoln Center) drop what they’re doing to crane their necks out  their windows  and yell themselves silly.
          • The overall effect  sounds something like the Bronx Zoo  at  feeding time,  but the happy students have,  as they say,  “a good time.”
          • https://www.library.fordham.edu/digital/item/collection/OBVR/id/159
        • To read from a September 4, 1983, story in The Ram (https://www.library.fordham.edu/digital/item/collection/RAM/id/16247/itemsearch/primal%20scream):
          • Faced   with   these   problems   and   academic pressures, students  initiated a  ‘primal scream’ on Thursday  nights at  10 p.m.  to relieve their  frustrations  by  yelling  simultaneously   out  dormitory windows. One boarder described  the weekly  event as the “most  extreme  form  of  relief  a  student  can  experience  after a day  of diligent study.  It expresses a    feeling    of    solidarity    between    Fordham students.”
        • And you might wonder what sorts of things students were upset about. Let me read a bit more from that article:
          • “For  some  Rose  Hill  residents,  however,  Fordham was falling  apart.  Although  no one was injured,  a ceiling collapse  forced  the evacuation of the  campus’  oldest  dormitory,  St.  Johns’  Hall.
          • Sewage  backups,  elevator   failures,  a  water main break,  and a  lack  of heat and  hot water caused  problems  in  others.  A  steadily  deteriorating brick  facade  on Walsh  Hall  is forcing  the  University to  bring the  building  in  line  with  New  York City’s  local  law #10.
          • Maintenance  problems seemed to contradict administrators’  view  that  Fordham  had  one  of  the”most  well-maintained  campuses  in  the  country,”  a view put  forth  in an advertisement  on the editorial  page  of  the  New   York  Times  entitled “Husbandry.”
          • “They  said  they’d  clean it,”  said one  resident concerning  a  sewage  backup  in  her  bathroom. “There  are  maggots  and  it  leaked  out  into  the closet.  After  what  we  saw  I can’t  imagine  even taking  a  shower  in  there.”
          • “Much  of  my  property  has  been  damaged,” said another when a ceiling collapsed  in his room. “The  room  is filled  with dust and debris.  It has covered  books,  desks  and  shelves.”
          • “By   the  middle  of  the  night,  it’s  absolutely freezing,”  stated  a  Walsh  resident  whose  floor did  not  receive  heat  in  December  and  January. Problems  extended  beyond  the  dormitories, also.  Between  October  and  April,   18  students were  mugged both  on and  off  the  Bronx  campus at  gunpoint  or  knifepoint. Although  no one  was seriously  injured,  students wanted  to  know how  campus security  had  let  intruders  into  its gates,  including  a  mental  patient from  Bronx  State  Hospital  who  created  a  commotion  on  the  roof  of  a  Jesuit  resident  hall.”

        Walsh Hall/555 noise, September 22, 1972:

        • I also find a 1972 article about how upon the opening of the dorm next to Finlay Hall, Walsh Hall, or 555 as it was called then, there was an issue with students behaving badly. They were making noise, throwing stuff out of dorm windows, and creating a real disturbance/disruption. It was so bad that local residents had to stand outside the dorm, which was right at the edge of campus, at 9:30 am on a Sunday and bang on garbage cans to wake up the students and show them what it was like to be woken up when sleeping. It sounds like after that, things got a little quieter, though to be honest, I didn’t do a lot of legwork tracking down this story and seeing what the resolution was. I was more focused on the fact that there was this historical disturbance, which to be was a really big act of disrespect toward the community.

        https://www.library.fordham.edu/digital/item/collection/RAM/id/11583/itemsearch/cemetery

Sources consulted RE: Finlay Hall Ghosts

See sources page for the full source list for the series

Books consulted

Don’t miss past episodes:

Haunted Finlay Hall: Chilling urban legends and ghost stories from people who lived in an old medical school building, which featured a morgue and a large operating theater.

From 1905-1921, Fordham University had a medical school. After its short, troubled existence, the medical school was mostly forgotten. One of the few reminders of the school is Finlay Hall, the old medical school building that was converted into a dorm in the 1980s.

Since students have begun living there, haunting stories have emerged: some people claim to see ghostly students looking down on them during the night, as if they’re a cadaver being dissected. Others wake to being choked by cold hands. This episode looks at the stories and seeks to sort out urban legend from credible paranormal experiences, and to corroborate or debunk popular stories.

Highlights include:
• Carl Jung giving lectures at the medical school
• Cadavers being kept in the basement
• Secret tunnels

Episode Script for Haunted Finlay Hall

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. 

  • Last time, I said that I wanted to talk about some of my own paranormal experiences in Finlay Hall, my most hated building on Fordham’s campus, where I lived my sophomore year of college. But I realized that that would have been too long of an episode, so I split this into 2 sections: in this episode, I’ll talk about the history of the building and Fordham’s doomed medical school, and I’ll talk about some of the most common ghost stories and urban legends associated with the building. I’ll also share some of the research I did when trying to verify or debunk some claims and urban legends tied to what different parts of the building were used for. And I’ll also talk about Fordham’s infamous tunnels, which go between different buildings on campus.
  • Fordham had a short-lived, ill-fated Medical School.
  • I think that Thomas J. Shelley, author of Fordham: A History of the Jesuit University of New York: 1841-2003, said it best when he described the Medical School thusly:
    • Fordham Medical School was like a corpse that had been buried in quicksand and periodically threatened to make an unwelcome appearance by bubbling to the surface.
  • I won’t talk much about the attempts to revive the medical school after it closed, but once it closed, it closed for good, and Fordham still doesn’t have a medical school

 

Thebaud Hall (previously called the Science Building) (1886)

  • The medical school was housed in a building called Thebaud Hall when it first opened in 1905.
  • There was also a pharmacy school that opened in 1912, and moved to Thebaud Hall in 1914 (the pharmacy school would close in 1972).

 

Finlay Hall, also previously known as Old Chem, the Old Chemistry Building, and New Hall (1911)

  • The medical school at Fordham operated from 1905-1921.
  • In 1911, a new medical-school building was built, and the med school moved there in 1913.
    • One notable thing about the new medical school building was that it was built right on the edge of campus, by what’s now the Bathgate entrance, and that was supposedly to facilitate discrete delivery of cadavers. More on cadavers later.
  • When the medical school first opened, it operated in Collins Hall, and then it moved to the Science building, or Thebaud Hall.
    • Thebaud Hall was built in 1886.
    • There was also a pharmacy school that opened in 1912, and moved to Thebaud Hall in 1914 (the pharmacy school would close in 1972).
    • I’ve found some vague mentions of hauntings in Thebaud Hall, but nothing super concrete.
  • Also notable about the Fordham medical school, for those of us interested in the paranormal: Carl Jung did a lecture series at the Fordham medical school in 1912.
    • I believe the lecture series was part of a conference called “The International Extension Course in Medical and Nervous Diseases,” which was held Sept. 9 through 28, 1912
    • Jung’s Fordham lecture series was notable because it was where he publicly broke with Freud, who was his friend, and who he’d used to agree with more.
    • Jung also got an honorary degree from Fordham.
  • The medical school grew pretty quickly: it started with 6 students in 1905, and but 1916, it had 259 students and 111 faculty members. Students were getting experience at 10 different hospitals in the area, including Fordham hospital.
    • One interesting thing about the Fordham Medical School was that unlike many schools at the time, there was no quota system for Jewish students, so a lot of the student body was Jewish. (Same went for the Pharmacy school.)
  • However, things were not fated to go well for Fordham’s medical school. I don’t quite understand why, but for whatever reason, the medical school just doesn’t seem like it was a priority.
    • The first dean of the medical school didn’t want to leave his private practice, so the next year, he was replaced.
    • The medical school always had money problems, and it lost its class A status from the AMA in 1911, only 6 years after the school opened. (The school was downgraded to a class B by the AMA because when they inspected, they felt that Fordham fell short in clinical training and in full time faculty members. Fordham declined to fix the issue, so that’s why they got the downgrade. Getting a class B status basically meant that Fordham had a third-rate medical school.)
    • After the AMA downgrade, the next med school dean resigned, and then the next dean that came in apparently tried to save the school, but didn’t get financial support from the administration, so he resigned in 1917.
    • A new dean started after that, but by 1919, it was clear that Fordham couldn’t afford to make the changes that the AMA said they needed, and the school shuttered in 1921. Apparently the school had a deficit of $342,863. In today’s dollars, that’s $5.2 million.
  • As a sidenote: There was once a hospital called Fordham Hospital. It was a public hospital that opened in 1892, but in 1907, it moved to a 4-acre location northwest of the intersection of Southern Boulevard and Crotona Avenue, right next to Fordham’s campus, on an area that is now part of Fordham’s Campus.
    • While the Fordham medical school was open, med students would intern at the hospital.
    • For at least a bit in the 19teens, the hospital president was also the dean of Fordham medical school, so there were some connections between the school and the hospital.
    • IN 1976, NYC Heath + Hospitals decided to close the hospital. The community protested, there were sit ins, even the borough president and the community board were opposed. Obviously, having a hospital is really important in a community.
    • However, the city closed the hospital anyway, and tore down the building.
    • Fordham University bought the 4 acres that Fordham Hospital had been on in 1978, and that is now the campus parking lot.
  • Once the med school closed, the med school building became the chemistry building.
  • Ram Newspaper – 05/25/1980
  • It went by several names: Old Chemistry Building (or Old Chem), New Hall, and then, in 1990, it was renamed Finlay Hall, which is what it was called when I lived there.
  • In my opinion, Finlay Hall is the creepiest building on all of Fordham’s campus. It was definitely the place where I experienced the most unsettling things.
  • But first, lets get to other people’s ghost stories, and urban legends about the hall.
    • The biggest ghost story about Finlay Hall has to do with cadavers, of course.
    • It’s said that cadavers were kept in the basement for dissection.
      • For the record, I believe that this is true. The laundry room was in the basement, which tbh, was one of the most unpleasant places I’ve ever been in my life. Unbelievably, there are actually a few rooms down there where students live, in addition to a lounge and some other mysterious off limits rooms. But anyway, I remember walking down the hallway in the basement and seeing at least one, but I think several, tall narrow doors that were always locked. And I remember thinking, “ah, yes, this must be where the cadavers were,” because they seemed like the perfect height and width for a stack of shelves to hold bodies. I could be wrong, but that’s my impression.
      • Also, one important thing to know here is that Finlay dorm rooms are extremely strange: each one has a loft with a spiral staircase leading up to it. Typically, one student would sleep in the loft, and two would sleep down below.
    • So, anyway, cadavers were kept in the basement, and cadaver dissections were said to have happened upstairs.
    • It’s said that the students would stand upstairs, in the lofted area, and watch as cadaver dissections would happen down below.
  • I’m going to read a bit from the Fordham library website, which has a bit about paranormal happenings on campus:
    • “Finlay, before becoming a dorm, was the location of Fordham’s Medical School. In the lofted rooms students could observe dissections of cadavers and the basement served as the holding place for the lifeless bodies.
    • “More than once students have woken up in the middle of the night, feeling as though someone is grabbing at their throat making it difficult for them to breathe or feel a tugging on their toe as if they were a cadaver being tagged.
    • “They also sometimes see what looks like students peering down on them from the loft”
  • Okay, so while I had paranormal experiences at Finlay, and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a dark and bad place, I’ve been trying for YEARS to substantiate the claim that the rooms were set up as operating theaters, etc. YEARS, literally since I lived in Finlay in the late 2000s. I’ve gone through the Fordham library’s photo archives maybe 5-6 times looking for any photographic evidence of this setup. And maybe just no one took a picture of it? Since the library website claims that the medical school was set up that way, they’re may be right. But if you’ve been listening for a while, you’re probably familiar with how urban legends form and get echoed and repeated etc., and the Finlay paranormal stories are so delightful and chilling and morbid.
    • But here’s what I have been able to glean from looking at medical school photos and other sources:
      • First I wanted to read this bit from the Fordham website; this is from the page about student housing and what Finlay’s like to live in, etc.
        • It then became a residence hall, adding lofted apartments where classrooms and offices had once been and a fourth floor with copper-clad roof and facade. The five-sided eastern face of the building at one time housed an operating theater. Finlay Hall’s facade features beautiful examples of cut stone ornamentation and lower floors terrazo from the era of its design and construction.
      • So this operating theater thing was new to me. Idk how I hadn’t heard of that before or not, but I went to the google maps satellite view, and sure enough, Finlay is a rectangular building with this over obvious bit jutting out. Don’t know why I never wondered about that, but maybe that was just cause I was thinking of it from inside, rather than from a bird’s eye view.
        • I wasn’t in the part of Finlay that had the operating theatre; I was right next to that part so I could see the jutting out part from my window, but never really thought to wonder why it was there.
      • I had found a picture of an operating theater, with either a cadaver dissection or operation going on.
        • I hadn’t read about the operating theater in Finlay before, so for years I thought it couldn’t be Finlay Hall, because the windows behind the assembled students don’t really look like the Finlay windows to me. But maybe the windows in that part of Finlay are just different.
        • Tbh, now that I think of it, I can’t imagine that there was another room on campus set up to house an operating amphitheater.
        • The picture I’m thinking of is captioned “Amphitheater at Fordham Medical School” and it really does look like a purpose built room.
      • Also, I found a picture of a bunch of students in a class with telescopes and textbooks and stuff, and I think that picture was definitely taken in Finlay Hall. The windows are correct, and you can see a spiral staircase on the far right of the picture. That being said, there isn’t a loft arrangement to the room. The floor goes from wall to wall, and there’s basically a small cutout for just the staircase. So maybe later on they converted this room by cutting out part of the floor to make a loft, and the subdividing it into a few different rooms?
    • However, this does suggest an inaccuracy with the story that students stood in the lofts of what are now dorm rooms and looked down at cadaver dissections below. I would imagine that would happen in the amphitheater, whereas the other rooms were regular classrooms and offices, just like the Fordham housing website says.
      • So if you lived in Finlay in the five-sided protrusion where the amphitheater was, then maybe students really did look down at operations and cadaver dissections there, though it wasn’t from a loft with a spiral staircase, it would have been from a more lecture hall/stadium seating type vantage point.
      • And if they had an operating theater, they may not have done dissections in the other rooms? Though I could be wrong about that.
  • So, there are some creepy stories attached to Finlay’s basement, so I wanted to pause and talk about the Fordham tunnels, one of which connects to the Finlay basement
    • When I was a student, I remember lots of stories about the tunnels. Some people said they were used for transporting cadavers (some websites still claim this) while others say that the Jesuits used the tunnels to get between buildings during particularly cold weather.
    • After doing some research, I don’t really think I believe these stories. It seems that these tunnels were used for steam/electricity and were dug sometime in the 1880s.
    • I read about that in the book Fordham: A History of the Jesuit University of New York: 1841-2003 by Thomas J. Shelley (2016), and confirmed it in a story on the Fordham website, which had some interesting information about the electrification of Fordham:
    • https://news.fordham.edu/science/fordham-brightened-the-bronx-with-early-electric-light/
    • “Nearby, lower Manhattan was lighting up with a new kind of illumination powered by electricity. But electrical lines ended below 59th Street, and it would be more than a decade before they reached the Bronx, where the tenebrous 19th-century night was lit only by the feeble glow of oil lamps, gas lights, and candles.
    • So the college’s Jesuits made their own power instead. With the installation of a generating plant on the site (then named St. John’s College), they powered light bulbs across the campus and quite possibly inaugurated the Electric Age in their rural region, according to research by two Fordham professors.
    • “It could be this is the first electrification in the Bronx. We don’t know that anybody else beat us to it,” said Allan Gilbert, PhD, professor of anthropology and coauthor of an article on the project . . .
    • Its appeal was evident at Fordham. Candles and fuel-burning lamps provided only a dim, flickering light and emitted heat, smoke, haze, or particulates, which made for hard studying during the long nights of fall and winter.. . . Most simply did without and spent the evening in shadows.
    • . . . Finished in 1886, Science Hall would later be named Thebaud Hall; today, it houses administrative offices. It had a generating plant in the basement where Freeman installed a Weston dynamo, bought from the United States Electric Lighting Company for $3,154. It was powered by a steam boiler, which heated campus buildings via newly dug tunnels that were also used to extend electric wires across campus.
    • By November 1889, electric lights were installed in most outdoor areas and in all the principal campus buildings, where they usually hung from the ceiling. They were turned on for about six hours a day, ending at 9:15 p.m.
    • It was seen as wondrous. “The whole campus was lit up, and you could see your way from building to building,” said Wines. He said one student quipped “‘It’s even easier to study Greek with electric light.’”
    • The college generated its own power until connecting to the city’s expanding power grid in 1908.”
  • When I was a student, I was told that the tunnels connected the older buildings on campus, including Queens Court, Alpha House, Hughes Hall, I think Dealy, and Finlay. (Can’t remember if Keating was on the list or not.) Since Fordham was connected to the power grid in 1908, it seems strange that the electric tunnels would be built for those buildings, but it seems possible that maybe the tunnels were still used for steam.
    • I do remember that when I was at student, there were weird patterns of melted snow, for example I could see a large, long patch of melted snow from my window in Queen’s Court, down into the courtyard, and the theory was that the stretches of melted snow were there because the ground was warmer in the tunnels so melted the snow from below. Especially if those were steam tunnels, and if it’s possible that Fordham still generates its own steam, that makes sense to me.
    • https://fupaper.blog/2018/10/14/what-is-fordham-hiding-in-those-underground-tunnels/amp/
  • I found some other Finlay ghost stories in The Ram, The Haunted History of Fordham’s School Spirits, October 25, 2017 by Julia B—– (https://thefordhamram.com/58141/culture/haunted-history-fordhams-school-spirits/):
    • “Last, but certainly not least, is Finlay. Before Finlay became known for its cool lofts with the spiral staircases, it was home to Fordham’s Medical School. Up in the lofts, students could observe dissections of cadavers, and the basement was home to these lifeless bodies. One student, Mike C—- . . .  had a great uncle who allegedly died in the building. “Keep your eye out for a man named Jack G—-,” he said.
    • Students have reported waking up in the middle of the night feeling as though someone is grabbing at their throat or they feel tugging on their toes as if they were a cadaver being tagged. Erin F—–. . . , has had her own scary encounter. “I felt a hand gently resting on my shoulder twice while I was sitting at my desk. I was freaked out because it happened so close to my bed.”
    • Also, I just have to share this because it’s delightful, but my favorite part of this article is that it closes with a warning:
      • With all this knowledge, please use your discretion, folks. Try to not to disrupt any ghosts. Let us all hope that, if Fordham does have ghosts, they are friendly.”
    • The other famous Finlay story claims that a security guard was taking a break in the basement of Finlay, where there’s a lounge, when suddenly all of the doors slammed shut by themselves, and the chairs started banging themselves against the walls. The story goes that he ran out of there and quit on the spot. Some people say that this happened in another building on campus, Keating Hall, though my guess is that it was Finlay because that basement is just awful.
    • A commenter on college confidential told this story about their Finlay experience:
      • “Finlay, I lived on first floor and friend lived in basement. Actually I was going to write this to essentially say, I went [to Fordham], lived in various buildings, heard the stories, its all talk. I think my friend in the basement did sleep with the light on occasionally. As I’m typing this, I now do remember this ONE time, my roommate was with me in our room on the first floor. We were on our laptops. It was evening time and we heard running/stomping right above us. The weird thing was that we were friends with the people right above us and knew they had gone away for the weekend. We called them and asked if anyone was in their room and they verified no. Needless to say, we were a little scared and slept with a lamp on.”

Sources consulted RE: Haunted Finlay Hall

See sources page for the full source list for the series

Books consulted

Don’t miss past episodes:

Haunted Duane Library and Dealy Hall: A look at some stories of ghost priests in an old library and classroom building. Plus, something strange that supposedly happened in the cemetery while The Exorcist was being filmed nearby.

Highlights include:
• A 1980s ghost priest who apparently knew computer programming
• A cemetery (and human remains) that was relocated twice
• Phantom voices heard by security guards
• Lightning striking a cemetery

Episode Script for Haunted Duane Library and Dealy Hall

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. 

  • I’m back, and continuing my look at the history and hauntings of Fordham University, my alma mater. If you haven’t listened to the first couple episodes in this series, that’s fine–feel free to jump in here if these ghost stories are most interesting to you.
  • I realized that I’ve unconsciously structured this series, or at least the first 5 episodes in this series, from light to dark, in a way.
  • As in, I’m starting out with the buildings and stories that I find less frightening, and that I romanticized because of their ghost stories before moving onto campus. And then, starting next episode, I feel like I’m delving deeper into the buildings, stories, and experiences that make me uncomfortable, uneasy, and/or upset.
  • This also mirrors my experience at Fordham, which started out pretty good and, by the end of freshman year, had taken a major nosedive, in terms of how much I liked it there and also my mental health. (Those two things were very connected, of course.) And as I became unhappier there, the paranormal experiences that I encountered became more upsetting to me.
  • But this episode, we’re still in the part of the Fordham hauntings that I find fun and charming and almost . . . Cuddly.
  • We’re still at the friendly ghosts, and this episode has some of my favorite stories of ghostly priests.
  • To take a look at where we’re going next, so you know what to look forward to:
    • Last episode, I talked about Hughes Hall, which I lived in during my first two summers at Fordham. There was always something troubling to me about Hughes, and it wasn’t just that part of The Exorcist was filmed there.
    • Then after Hughes, I’ll be talking about Finlay Hall, a place that in my memory is shrouded in shadow and, like, a film of menacing uneasiness. It used to be the medical school building on campus, and cadavers were dissected there. The scariest stories of hauntings are there, and that’s also where the most upsetting of my paranormal experiences occurred.
    • After Finlay, I have a few more episodes worth of stuff about other hauntings on campus, as well as tales of perhaps not paranormal, but unpleasant stuff that’s happened on Fordham’s campus that I think might contribute to its status as a famously haunted campus.
  • So, with that out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this episode: charming ghostly tales of two classroom and/or office buildings on campus.

 

Fordham Cemetery (once called College Garden)

  • I mentioned this I think in the first episode of the series, but Fordham’s cemetery is famous for having been moved once, but in my research, it turns out that it was quietly moved a second time. Very interesting from a paranormal POV, since so many ghost stories tend to collect around stories about bodies being reinterred.
    • There’s also a story about the city wanting to build a road through Fordham’s campus, and Fordham moving the cemetery to block that, but that may be apocryphal.
  • So let’s get into the history of the Fordham cemetery.
  • Today, the cemetery on campus, which at least in the 70s was also known as “College Garden” is a small plot on the western side of campus. It’s 20″ long x 50″ wide, and has a little brown picket gate with marble posts next to it.
    • The cemetery is said to contain the remains of 68 Jesuit priests, 44 Jesuit brothers, 12 Jesuit scholastics, 3 Diocesan seminarians (priests in training), 9 students, and 2 workmen.
  • Fordham used to own the land that’s now the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden, so as people associated with the university died, their bodies would be buried on what’s now the grounds of the botanical gardens, or botans, as Fordham students call it. In the old cemetery, Jesuits’ graves were marked by wooden crosses, painted black.
    • So  the botanical gardens could be built, in 1890, the bodies that had been buried there were moved to a small plot of land right near the University Church. The last burial in that cemetery would be in 1909.
  • There’s a detailed account of what happened in Fordham: A History of the Jesuit University of New York: 1841-2003 by Thomas J. Shelley (2016)
    • “Farther east of the farm was the cemetery located on a hilly slope that is now part of the New York Botanical Garden. The first burial took place on July 11, 1847, one day after the death of Joseph Creedan, a twenty-six-year-old Irish-born novice brother who had entered the Society only two months earlier. New York City acquired the cemetery and some twenty-six surrounding acres by eminent domain in 1888 for $9,300. However, the Jesuits did not abandon their dead and were determined to keep them apud nos [which I think means “among us” in Latin], in the words of Father Isidore Daubresse. The following year they rejected the suggestion to establish a Jesuit plot in St. Raymond’s Cemetery and transferred the bodies of sixty-one Jesuits, nine students, three diocesan seminarians, and two workmen to the new cemetery adjacent to the church.”
  • Despite there seeming to be a clear line from the university, which is that the bodies were reinterred, there’s historically been a lot of debate about whether there are really bodies in the cemetery or not. (I remember that from when I was a student)
    • I will say that there are reputable sources that claim that some of the bodies may be there, but not all of them. There’s a 1976 Ram article about the cemetery, where the author goes on a tour of the cemetery with Father James Hennesey, a historian and former professor. To read from the article:
      • “One of the earliest dates of those buried there was that of James Fennel who died in 1850 . . . Father Hennesey didn’t believe Fennel’s grave was actually still there. . . . Some graves were lost or moved in one of the relocations, and other have probably disintegrated by now.”
    • A later article, from 2000, quotes what seems to be another Father Hennesey who was interested in in the cemetery? This time, it’s a father Thomas C. Hennessey (Hennessey’s spelled slightly differently from the other Father Hennesey), who has researched in the Fordham archives and said:
      • It is not a phantom cemetery. No support has been found for the believe that there are no remains of the deceased found there.”
  • Here’s an example, from an article in The Ram, October 31, 1985:
    • Close  by John’s  Hall  is Fordham’s  own cemetery,  which  would be a lot more  realistic  if there  were actually  bodies there. It’s  said  that  this  cemetery,  consisting  chiefly  of young  priests or men  studying  for the priesthood,  was originally  in the Botanical Gardens  near the Bronx  River  (when  Fordham  owned  that  property).  After  the University  allowed  New York  City to use the area  for  the gardens,  the Jesuits reportedly just  moved  the stones onto campus but left the bodies  in their original  location. Other  versions of this story say the bodies  were re-dug and were in such   disarray  that  whatever  could  be  found  of  the  skeletons  was brought  back  to campus,  but  not  many  of  the tombs  are  intact,  It’s also  said that  the cemetery  was not in the Botanical  Gardens at all;  actually  it was under  what  is now the Old Gym.
  • So, my conclusion from all of this is that it sounds like many, though not all, remains of the deceased are in the cemetery.
  • In speaking of, some of the people buried in the cemetery include college presidents like Thebaud, Larkin, and Dealy, all of whom have buildings named after them. That’s interesting to me because Dealy Hall is a very haunted building, and there’s a ghost on campus who’s been nicknamed “Dealy’s friend,” because people believe he may have been a friend of the late college president.
  • An article by Joana C—- in the Fordham Observer, November 20, 2003:
    • “In addition to the myths  that have persisted for so many years, ghoulish rumors lurk around campus about the cemetery, in particular  one that  involves the 1973  horror film “The Exorcist.”
    • “During the filming of  ‘The Exorcist,’ the  headstones  started to crack,  which is why   they   needed   to  be   replaced,” Mohammed Q—– . . .  reported.
    • Holly  C—-  . . .  offered  a similar account of the rumor and said that while the scenes from “The Exorcist’ were being filmed on campus, “lightning struck and smashed the headstones.”
    • However,  Hennessy  states  in his book [How the Jesuits Settled in New York: A Documentary Account] that the marble tombstones, old and illegible, may have been  damaged by vandals, or  deteriorated  because of acid  rain  over the years. They were replaced in 1999 with granite markers . . . The committee’s job was to find a way to secure the sacred  character  of the  cemetery. All but 13 tombstones  were  replaced and can be found  to the immediate right of  the  cemetery.   Most  are  decaying, some  chipped, and all losing  their  original  marble  white  color,  which  makes them stand out from  the rest of the brand new  granite  headstones.  The remaining headstones  were  retained  for historical reasons.”
  • I’m curious where the removed headstones ended up being relocated to?
  • I did want to read a bit from a Ram article from October 21, 1999, about the reinterring of the bodies:
    • “The cemetery, which dates back to 1847, has not been significantly changed since 1959, when bodies were moved due to the construction of Faber Hall.”
  • There’s also a 1976 article that says it was moved in ’59 to make way for Loyola Hall–Loyola and Faber are connected. And I confirmed all of this in an article that I found from 59, which said that the cemetery move was finished in March 1959.
  • Here’s a passage from a 1954 issue of the Ram, describing what the cemetery’s intermediate location looked like:
    • When the cemetery  was reestablished   behind   Collins   Hall,  arrangements  Included  a path  leading  into  it  from  the walk  behind the  building.  More  recently,  plans had   been   made  to  restore  the grounds  and improve  the appearance  of the plot.  They  were  hastened  in the autumn  of  1950 when a   tree  was up ended  in a  storm and   fell   across  several   rows  of headstones,  knocking   them   over. Soon  all the stones  were  realigned and  cleaned, a new lawn  was seeded,  a  new hedge-row   planted, gate  hung,  and a  brick-and-stonewall  erected  at the old opening of the  path.  The new walk   begins from   the  road.  The  stones,  of course,  still   face   Collins  Hall  to the  south.
  • It’s kind of surprising to me that the campus still has a cemetery, since space in NYC is at such a premium. Apparently, at one point in 1970, a USG presidential candidate suggested that the cemetery be used as a lettuce patch.
  • The 1974 article about the cemetery closes with this:
    • Legend has it that the dead never rest till their graves are marked. In this case the markers are there but the graves are lost. Perhaps on Halloween the restless dead will appear to reclaim their tombstones and finally Rest in Peace.”
  • Obviously that’s just a fun signoff for the article, but also it’s a sort of interesting theory. Are some of the campus’s ghostly priests people who were buried in the cemetery? (Maybe some of the ones who weren’t identified as recently deceased Jesuits?)

Dealy Hall (1867)

  • Dealy Hall today is a classroom building, which also includes several floors of departmental offices upstairs. I remember going to office hours up there a number of times.
  • It was built in 1867. It was originally a 5-story building, built of stone in an ashlar pattern. Not 100% sure what type of stone it is, but I’m assuming it’s locally quarried Fordham gneiss, which is the stone that makes up the bedrock in the Bronx.
  • In the 1950s-60s, they added two limestone-clad stories to the top of the building, making it 7 stories tall. It’s not the most aesthetic addition. In old pictures, the building has a pretty mansard roof and a cupola on top, oh well.
  • I dug into the history of the building, and according to Untapped Cities, Dealy is a former armory, one of the last remaining armories in NYC, and it was built in 1838. However, the article has some factual inaccuracies and I haven’t been able to confirm the claim that it’s an armory.
  • The earliest mention of ghosts on Fordham’s campus that I was able to find in The Ram was, I believe, in the 1970s.
  •  Ghosts of Duane, October 7, 1976:
    • https://www.library.fordham.edu/digital/item/collection/RAM/id/13352
    • The writer says that they couldn’t find a firsthand account of this story, but it was oft-repeated.
      • It talks about how “Last May” (either May 75 or 76), a student was at the Computer Center (capitalized, lol) in the basement of Dealy. He left and went upstairs to the faculty offices. No one was around because it was at night, and no one was in the building except for the student, and a security guard by the first floor door. The offices were all dark, and the doors were locked. All, that is, except for one door, which was open. Light from inside the office streamed into the hall.
      • The student went to see who was there, and found an old priest, who was mumbling to himself. The priest saw the student, and told him about his experiences teaching history at Fordham, and he told him his name. After they were done talking, the student left.
      • As he was leaving the building, the guard asked if he was the last one out, and the student said there was just the old priest still upstairs. The guard thought that was weird, because he hadn’t seen a priest come in that evening. So the guard went upstairs, and no one was there.
      • The next day, the student asked around, and found that the priest had died years before.
  • There’s an article from the Ram called The Ghosts of Duane Continue their Haunt, Oct 21, 1976
    • https://fordham.libguides.com/ld.php?content_id=11270399
    • https://www.library.fordham.edu/digital/item/collection/RAM/id/13404
    • The article is a response to a recent letter to the editor (a response to their publication of the previous story, from October 7, 1976), about a grad student’s ghostly encounter, or, as he described it, “strange happening,” on the 5th floor of Dealy Hall.
      • Though the grad student, who in 1976 was a 1L at Fordham Law, asked not to be named, the writer interviewed the student, and here’s his story:
      • In January 1975,  the week before exams for the graduate school of arts and sciences, the student was studying in a cubicle that the school had for econ grad students. It was a Thursday night, and there were two other people on the floor aside from him.
      • The two other people went downstairs to the Computer Center in the basement, and then closed the door.
      • Moments later, the student heard the door open again, and heard someone going through papers. He assumed that the others had decided to come back, and decided to take a break and talk to them.  So he left the cubicle and went to the office, but no one was inside. He went back to the cubicle and kept studying.
      • The two people who’d been in the basement came back upstairs and commented on how the door was open now.
      • Ten minutes later, they went back down to the Computer Center and make sure the door closed when they left.
      • The student who was still studying in the cubicle heard the door open again. He looked around the cubicle wall and saw the door swing closed. So then the student opened the door (I think this was the door to the main hallway–at least when I was a student, there was a main hallway with departmental offices along the hall, and then once you went into the main office door, there were small offices within the larger departmental ones which were for 1-2 professors each.)
      • So anyway, the student sees an old priest round the corner down the hallway, toward the elevators. He followed the priest, and, to quote the student: “In the corridor between the two wings in Dealy a physical plant man was washing the floor. I asked him if someone had just walked by, and he said no. I took a quick walk around the floor and there was no one to be found.”
      • The next Sunday, the night before the student’s exam, he was studying in the cubicle again. After 7 pm, he was alone on the floor.
      • He heard footsteps, went out to see who it was, and saw the priest he’d seen 3 days before. The priest turned around suddenly, and the student said hello. The priest asked why he was in the building so late, and the student said he was studying for his econ exam. The priest, who introduced himself as Father John Shea, said he taught in the econ department, but he hadn’t taught a class in three years.
      • They had a whole conversation, with the priest asking what level of econ he was taking, the student said graduate level, the priest asked if he was getting his PhD, and the student said no, he was going to law school. The priest asked where he’d applied, and the student said he’d heard back from Georgetown. The priest said, “Good school, I got my doctorate there.” After talking for about 10 mins, they said goodnight and the student kept studying.
      • The next day, the student told the departmental secretary that he’d met Father Shea the previous evening. The secretary said that wasn’t possible, because–you guessed it–Father Shea had died two or three years before.
      • The student asked around some more, and was shown an old course catalog with Father Shea’s name in it, which also said that he’d gotten his PhD at Georgetown. He was also told by some econ faculty that Father Shea had died very suddenly during exams week, the day before he was due to give an exam. Supposedly, on the day he died, another Jesuit went through his room, found the exam, and administered it to Father Shea’s students.
      • The student was also shown a yearbook with a picture of Father Shea, and sure enough, he was the priest he’d seen.
      • The reporter asked around, and found a faculty member who vouched for the student who told this story, and said he was a “credible person.” The reporter also spoke to the secretary, who said the student seemed “sincere,” though she said that she herself didn’t believe in ghosts. She also confirmed that the student gave Father Shea’s name himself (before he was told about Shea’s death.)
      • The student himself said: “I wouldn’t say I saw a ghost. But I wouldn’t discount it.”
    • For the record, I think this story is very credible and I definitely believe it. I can’t really find anywhere to poke holes in the story.
  • I found this article in The Ram, October 31, 1985:
    • While  you’re  in  Dealy  Hall’s  Computer Center   be  on  the  lookout   for   a  benevolent Jesuit  waiting  to  give  you  a  hand  with  your program. This  reportedly  happened  to  a young  student  who  was  frantically  working  throughout the  night to  finish  a  program.  Although   he was the  only  per son  there  and  was laboring  in complete silence,  he just  couldn’t  concentrate and  was getting nowhere.
    • All  of  a sudden  an  elderly  priest  came  in and  asked  him  if he  needed help. They  conversed  for  a while  (including  exchanging  names),while  the   Jesuit   successfully   completed   the task.  The  two  parted  and  the  student  handed in his project,  later  receiving an  A  for  a grade. Being  a  good  soul,  the  young  man  went   to Loyola-Faber   hall   to   thank   his   after hours friend.  After  giving the Jesuit’s name, and  getting  a  few  funny  looks,  he  was  informed  that his mentor  had died  several years before.
  • The Ram, in an article that was published in 1983 and then republished in 1985 and 88, has a story that I really have no idea what to do with, and which I’d never heard of until doing this research:
    • “Probably the strangest  natural  phenomenon  on campus is the so-called  “Jesus  Tree.”  Situated  near   Dealy   Hall,  opposite  Edwards’ Parade, the tree bears a striking resemblance to the crucified  Christ.
    • The  allusion  was  reportedly   discovered   in  1979  when  a  coed noticed it as she was sitting on the steps of Freeman  Hall.  Rumor  has it that  the young  woman  could  not stop  screaming  when she saw it, and it’s said  that  practically  all of the residents of Walsh  Hall  came  running out to observe the figure.
    • A  few  nights  later,  it’s  said  that  a  freshman   living  in  Robert’s Plaza woke up in the middle of the night  yelling  “they’re  hurting him, they’re  hurting him!” The young  man lept  out of  bed and ran across campus  in his pajamas,  with  his roommates, in various states  of dress ,in close pursuit.  Reportedly, he arrived  at the “Jesus Tree” just  in time to  catch  a group  of  students  painting  the tree  red. This  paint  remains on that  tree to this day.
    • These are just  some  of the eerie  tales  surrounding  the legends of Fordham.  It  should  be made  clear  that  this  story  is fiction,  not  fact. After  all, we all know ghosts don’t  exist in real  life.
    • Or do they?
  • Jesus tree forgotten, pg 7: https://www.library.fordham.edu/digital/item/collection/RAM/id/24344

 

Duane Library (1926)

  • Duane used to be a library, until 1997, when  a new library was built. After that, it was left “locked and obsolete” as the architecture firm that worked on the building later on described it. Then, in 2004, it was converted into the admissions office. It’s a really cool building, which I believe was briefly featured in the film Love Story
  • The story I always heard about Duane Library was that it was haunted by the ghost of a Latin professor, who appeared on the top floor and enjoyed helping classics students out with their homework. However, I almost think that’s just an evolution of the more credible story I found from the 1970s, which had a bunch of details, etc.
  •  an article called Ghosts of Duane, The Ram, October 7, 1976:
    • Talks about how creepy Duane Library is, in particular the third floor north stacks. That’s where a lot of religious texts were held, so it’s very quiet and not many people go there. The article also says, “Another factor in its somewhat chilling mood is that the library keeps most of its few texts on exorcism there.”
    • The article goes on to talk about how security guards have to go there, at night, in the dark, to turn off the two alarm boxes, which have to be turned on and off every two hours throughout the night, using a special key, at 12, 2, and 4 am. There are security boxes at the front entrance, and near the door to the third floor of the stacks (there’s only one door there)
    • This story comes from a student security guard who wanted to stay anonymous, who had a weird experience:
      • This takes place in late April (it says during “last spring,” not sure if that means spring 76 or 75.) At 2 am, the student security guard opened the door to the 3rd floor north stacks. I’ll read from the article a bit:
        • “Some light from the stairwell filtered in. He paused before putting the key into the box which was immediately to the left of the door. The room was pitch dark, with virtually no light from outside lampposts coming through the windows. Then . . . ‘I heard voices. They came from the area of the table near the bay windows. The voices were low, but not distinct. It was as if two people were having a conversation, whispering. Then I heard the pages of a book being turned. The voices continued.’ Frightened, he put the key in the alarm box quickly and tore down the lighted stairwell after the alarm stopped ringing.”
      • So when the student went back next, he brought a friend. They didn’t hear anything. The student didn’t encounter those voices again, though he once heard a voice from “the upper tiers of the central hall” another time, though he was less confident about that. He was VERY confident about hearing voices on the third floor, though. The student started singing to himself whenever he was on guard duty, to feel less creeped out.
        • Just a sidenote, that detail really stuck with me because when I was in college and was walking around late at night, either on or off campus in the Bronx, I always sang because I was kinda creeped out by the silence. (That was back before everyone always had headphones in and was listening to music.)
  • The Ram, October 28, 1983:
    • The wandering  ghost-priest is a prominent  motif at  Rose Hill. The  well-known specter   “Duane’s friend,” who was most likely a companion of Rev. William J. Duane, S.J.,  University  president  from 1924 to  1930,can  be seen  floating  around  the Theology  section on  the third  floor of Duane  Library.  He is known to  have sent late-night    custodial workers screaming from the room.
  • 2002: supposedly people saw figures in the windows while the building was closed for renovation: https://www.library.fordham.edu/digital/item/collection/RAM/id/27048/itemsearch/ghost
    • “It is also rumored that at night you can see ghosts in Duane Library’s windows, though this made much more sense three years ago when Duane Library was completely empty and abandoned and it was strange to walk by and see lights on in the windows.”

 

 

Sources consulted RE: Haunted Duane Library and Dealy Hall

See sources page for the full source list for the series

Books consulted

Don’t miss past episodes:

Haunted Hughes Hall: After a scene in The Exorcist was filmed in Hughes Hall, a former dorm at Fordham University, urban legends began to spring up about the building being haunted.

Rumors of “cultish” graffiti, tales of a young boy’s ghost, stories of a mysterious black dog, and more weird urban legends circulated about the building. This episode seeks to tease out why some of these legends may have grown up around the building, which began as the old prep school, was turned into a dorm as a “stopgap” measure that lasted for decades, and has since been completely gutted and turned back into an academic building.

Plus, a look at some of the weird connections that The Exorcist had to Fordham.

Highlights include:
• The Fordham University professor who was an influence on The Exorcist
• What it was like to be one of the last people to live in Hughes Hall (spoiler: it was bad)
• The ghost of a prep school student
• Satanic Panic-type urban legends

Episode Script

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. 

Hughes Hall (used to be called the Second Division Building or Junior Hall, because it was the prep school, until it was renamed in 1935) (built 1891)
  • So, before I get into the haunted stuff there, I want to talk a bit about what the living conditions were like there, since when it comes to haunted dorms, that has such a big impact on what kind of stories were told there.
  • I lived in this building for two summers; it was considered the worst or second-worst dorm on campus, and it was where students who were taking classes or working on campus over the summer were offered housing.
    • So I mentioned that this was an undesirable place to live. It was also known as the party dorm for freshmen, because everyone lived at such close quarters.
    • Each of the (pretty small) rooms housed 4 students, who slept on two sets of bunk beds. I remember when I lived there, the bunk beds were very tall and had no ladder or rails, so every night, I had to climb up the side beams of the bed, and every morning, before my roommate woke up, I had to climb down and collect the stuff from my bed that had fallen into her bed. (Usually my phone and book would have fallen down to her bed during the night, I don’t know why.)
      • It was a grim place to live.
      • Each student had a desk, and there were no closets, because the building was never meant to be a dorm, so each student had a wardrobe. The rooms were so small that the beds would usually be pushed up toward the windows, and the desks would be pushed together in an area between the wardrobes and the door.
    • Each floor had a communal bathroom down the hall, and there was a single kitchen, down in the basement, but I think the first summer I lived there, there was something wrong with it so we didn’t have full use of it, so I remember my roommate had a contraband microwave in our room, and we only really ate things you could make in the microwave.
    • The idea was that students living there had to be on the meal plan, but during the summer, that wasn’t really a thing, I think I worked something out where I could eat in the cafeteria maybe 3-5 times a week for the first summer. And then the second summer, I found myself walking down 4+ flights of stairs just to use the microwave. I have lots of memories of me carrying my pan and spatula and ingredients up and down the stairs, to use the stove, it was awful.
    • When I lived there, they’d stopped maintaining the building, because they’d made plans to gut it and turn it into a shiny new business school building (which is what it is now.) So I remember the second summer, they started cutting holes in the walls in the stairwell and common areas, so everything was covered in a fine white powder from the paint and drywall debris. And the water pressure was screwed up in the showers, so it was painfully strong, to the point where it hurt my skin. So every time I took a shower, I had to bring a washcloth and rubber band, and I had to secure the washcloth over the shower head using the rubber band, to diffuse the water pressure enough so that I could shower. But also the ceiling over the shower had been cut open, so debris would fall on you in the shower, so often I’d get out and have to clean this gross dark stuff from the ceiling off my skin.
    • The first summer, we possibly had bedbugs in the room we were assigned; my one roommate was covered in these huge bug bites all around her stomach and waist that ended up taking months to heal. They were like huge welts. The university sent exterminators, that didn’t seem to help, so then they moved us to a bigger, better room, because it looked pretty bad. And there weren’t that many students who lived there during the summer, so the 4th and 5th floors were empty (and I think there were also empty rooms on the occupied floors.)
      • So the room they moved us to was on a completely empty floor, the 4th floor. At the time, I remembered that part of The Exorcist had been filmed in the building, so I looked it up, and saw that the scene had been filmed on the 4th floor. At the time, I didn’t know what room the filming happened it, though while doing the research for this episode, I’ve seen that it was apparently filmed in room 417. I can’t remember what room they moved us to on the 4th floor, but it was a huge corner room on the far west side of the building (I believe it would have been the room on the far southwest corner of the 4th floor.)
      • The room was so big that we actually didn’t even have bunk beds; there was enough floor space to have all the beds standing on their own, which was wild. Also, remember this is NYC, so when I say the room was huge, I’d guess, from memory and comparing it to places I’ve lived since, that it was maybe 300 square feet?
      • Anyway, while we lived on the otherwise empty floor, I don’t think we had any paranormal stuff happen.
        • The vibe was very bad there, obviously, and usually I’d spent evenings reading outside on the quad and would just go back to the dorm to sleep.
        • Once I woke up during the night, hearing screams, but it was just my roommates trying to chase a rat out of our room and down the hall.
        • Most mornings I woke up and had spider bites on me, but that may have just been from being out on the quad the evening before (though my roommates often had bug bites, just not as bad as the scary ones my roommate had in our old room.)
        • Since there were four of us and we were always going in and out to use the restroom down the hall, as long as someone was home, we usually kept the door unlocked, so once someone came into our room. But I think it was just a drunk person, not a ghost. I remember my roommate got up and shoved them out.
      • The second summer that I lived in the building was less eventful. I think I lived on the 3rd floor, but can’t remember for sure.
        • I do remember that second summer, I once went up to the 5th floor and I remember at least some of the doors of the rooms were unlocked or open, and the rooms were full of weird old furniture? It didn’t really make sense to me, but maybe because we were the last people to live there, they’d just started using it for storage? I remember that floor creeped me out a LOT and if I recall correctly, it was in the mansard roof, so it had a real attic/garret vibe, with sloping exterior walls with windows. I only went up to the 5th floor once and then never went back.
    • So it wasn’t a pleasant place to live, not at all. I know I lived there under extraordinary circumstances, being in the final cohort of people living there, but even under regular times, it was unpleasant and crowded with too many people.
  • Hughes Hall was originally called the Second Division Building; it was basically a boarding school/high school.
    • From an article in the Ram, written in 1990, as well as Raymond Schroth’s book, Fordham: A History and Memoir, which I mentioned in previous episodes, apparently the building was completed and occupied by September 1890. Here’s what each floor was originally used for:
      • 1st floor: gymnasium (had an extra tall ceiling). There was also a billiard room, reading room, and restrooms
      • 2nd floor: VP’s office, study hall with a slanted floor that led to stage, and classrooms
      • 3rd floor: 8 large classrooms (which could hold 50 students each)
      • 4th floor: dorm (apparently it was one huge room with a sliding door that could divide it in half
      • 5th floor: wardrobe (later, it was converted into individual rooms for students to board in, who called it “Madison Avenue”
    • According to Fordham’s website, the Second Division Building was renamed Hughes Hall, after the school’s founder, Archbishop John Hughes, who I’ve talked about enough already, listen to past episodes of you want to hear more about that guy.
      • The new prep school building was opened in 1972. So in June 1973, Hughes was turned into “into a multidisciplinary building, housing faculty offices, athletic facilities and conference rooms.”
      • And then by 1978, the building was mostly used for storage. In 1982, the “the first three floors are converted into a temporary dormitory for 180 freshmen.”
      • Then in summer of 1984, they converted the 4th and 5th floor to dorm rooms and added an elevator.
      • Their timeline of the building’s history and renovation doesn’t mention any additional changes to the building until 2012, when it opened as the new business school.
      • So The Exorcist came out in 1973. Principal photography started in August 1972 and went on for 200 days. I’m not sure when the parts that were filmed at Fordham happened, but it sounds like it probably happened between the building being vacated and it being turned into a “multidisciplinary building.” So much like the summers I spent there, the building would’ve been mostly empty then. Apparently, since the building didn’t have an elevator yet, they had to remove the windows so they could bring up the camera on a crane.
      • As far as I’m concerned, even before we get to the paranormal elements, the place is cursed and awful.
  • I found a reminiscence of Hughes Hall written by someone who went to Fordham Prep, a man named Joe B—-. Seems like he may have attended during the 1960s? This blog post was written in 2009, on his blog, warofyesterday.blogspot.com, but I thought it had a nice description of what the building used to be like:
    • “Huge Hall was our name for the building Fordham Prep was in, Hughes Hall. It wasn’t that big. That’s why we called it Huge. We noticed that the steam radiators had a date in the 1880s cast into them, and being the youngsters we were, with our minds on the present, that seemed too impossibly old to be true. But it was. It was less than a hundred years ago at the time. Some of the classrooms still had the old iron desks attached to the floor, the wooden desktop equipped with a pencil groove and a hole for the ink bottle, the wood worn beautifully smooth by generations of boys. The walls had real slate blackboards. It was a great atmosphere. It reeked of tradition.
    • “Hughes was too old to be a steel building. The support system was the external stone walls and a single row of iron columns down the center on the long axis, visible only on the ground floor where space was opened up for a gym. Yes, a gym with padded iron columns within it! Oof! The stone wall on the ground floor was three feet thick, making for nice window seats.”
  • So that was the building was like it’s prep school days.
  • The book, Fordham: A History of the Jesuit University of New York: 1841-2003 by Thomas J. Shelley (2016) describes how Hughes Hall became a dorm:
    • “Finlay [the university president at the time] sent a panic-stricken letter to the Jesuit community at the beginning of the summer, warning them that the university could not provide housing for more than 200 incoming freshmen. As an emergency measure, Finlay converted three floors of Hughes Hall (the former site of Fordham Prep) into student housing, but he admitted that it was only a stopgap solution.”
    • While the university would build more housing, it seems like housing was always an issue, because that stopgap solution was still in place in the early 2010s.
    • Also, while a bunch of new dorms have been built since the early 1980s, Loyola Hall and Faber are now both used for student housing.
    • In terms of how they converted the building, they obviously just cut the classrooms in half (possibly thirds) and turned them into dorm rooms which slept four people each, in two bunk beds that were about 3 feet apart. And I guess they added showers to the existing restrooms. It was known as the party dorm, which is no surprise, because just entering your own tiny dorm room was basically like walking into a party.
    • So enough background, let’s get into some ghost stories.
    • In the October 14, 1982, issue of the Ram, an article mentions that: “The top floor of Hughes Hall is reputed to be haunted by an eerie unknown specter.”
      • I’ve also read that this ghost on the top floor seemed to potentially be a young boy’s ghost, which makes sense, since this was the prep school.
    • An article that was printed in  The Ram in 1983 (and reprinted a few times) has a very silly anecdote about Hughes Hall:
      • Before its renovation as a new form, Hughes Hall sparked several rumors of being haunted. Reportedly, bizarre Satan-worship ceremonies occurred on the fourth floor and strange “cultish” wall paintings, which depict burning flames against a heavenly sky, still survive to this day.
    • To me, that just seems like typical 80s satanic panic stuff to me. To continue reading from the article:
      • While ‘The Exorcist’ was being filmed at Fordham, specifically in Hughes Hall, it’s said that a large, black dog came to set every day without fail. The animal didn’t bother anyone, but the crew could not chase it away, no matter how hard they tried.. It never returned after the film sequence was completed.
    • The black dog is really interesting to me, since that’s something that comes up in lots of accounts of paranormal encounters.
      • I’m gonna read a bit from wikipedia about black dogs in folklore (I’m sorry to be that way, it just has a good summary):
        • “The black dog is a supernatural, spectral or demonic entity from English folklore. It is usually unnaturally large with glowing red or yellow eyes, is often connected with the Devil (as an English incarnation of the Hellhound), and is sometimes an omen of death. It is sometimes associated with electrical storms . . . and also with crossroads, barrows (as a type of fairy hound), places of execution and ancient pathways.
        • “Black dogs are generally regarded as sinister or malevolent, and a few . . . are said to be directly harmful. Some black dogs, however, . . . are said to behave benevolently as guardian black dogs, guiding travellers at night onto the right path or protecting them from danger.”
  • And because I feel guilty about quoting from wikipedia, I also went over to my bookshelf a cracked open some paper books that mention Black Dogs.
    • The book Where the Footprints End: Hight Strangeness and the Bigfoot Phenomenon Volume1: Folklore by Joshua Cutchin and Timothy Renner, one of my favorite books about the paranormal, talks about familiar spirits that worked with witches and cunning men. To quote from the book: “Large black dogs are closely associated with witches and faeries, both as a guise for Satan and as familiars.” The book goes on to talk about black dogs that have been sighted near bigfoot, etc.
    • And The Encyclopedia of Demons & Demonology by Rosemary Ellen Guiley talks about black dogs, and also says they’re often considered demons or the devil in shapeshifted form. Apparently in European witch hunts, people would claim that witches would “be visited by their master, the devil, in the shape of a black dog.” Also, this next fact isn’t relevant, but it is interesting: apparently in Arabian lore, djinn like to take the form of a black dog, in order to stay close to a person they’re attached to. So basically, the idea is that magical creatures like to masquerade as black dogs.
  • It sounds like black dog lore in the US is more prevalent in New England, which makes sense, since it came over with English colonizers. In particular, Meriden, Connecticut, has had black dog legends associated with an area called the Hanging Hills.
  • A ton of people at Fordham (at least while I was there) are from CT, since it’s so close, so it makes sense that the black dog story made its way to Fordham. Now the question is: Is it just an urban legend that came about because CT people were familiar with the myth, or did CT people just NOTICE the black dog and find it worthy of note bc they were familiar with the legend.
  • It is interesting to me that the Fordham legend doesn’t mention glowing red or yellow eyes, or the dog emitting creepy howls, which are parts of the black dog lore.
    • I tried to figure out if a black dog was sighted elsewhere during the Exorcist’s production, but couldn’t find anything. I wonder if the black dog was some supernatural entity (friendly or not friendly) who had come to keep an eye on the production. A lot of weird lore is attached to The Exorcist so maybe some sort of entity in the area wanted to check it out while it was around. I haven’t heard of other black dog sightings in the area, though.
  • There’s one last line from this article I wanted to read:
    • Hughes is also home for a deceased Jesuit novitiate who had perpetually haunted the top floors of the building after his death there several years ago.
    • When I searched “novitiate dead hughes hall” in the Ram’s archives, I only found this article that I’m reading from. So while I’m not saying it’s false, I hadn’t really seen stuff about Jesuits living in Hughes (though I guess it’s possible) and I can’t find this story. Make of this what you will.
  • So let’s talk more about the filming of The Exorcist at Fordham:
  • Part of The Exorcist was filmed in Hughes Hall, and a Fordham-affiliated Jesuit, Father Bermingham, was involved in the production (he was a technical advisor, and had a bit part in the movie)
  • We need to pause on Bermingham real quick. He taught at both Brooklyn Prep and Georgetown, and coincidentally, he taught Exorcist author William Peter Blatty both places. In fact, while teaching Blatty at Georgetown, he suggested that Blatty do an oration project on demonic possession, and pointed him toward an article about Roland Doe, the case that inspired The Exorcist.
  • The fact that Blatty was close with a Jesuit suggests to me that maybe Blatty did know a bit about how the Catholic church handled exorcisms, and how Fordham may have been connected to exorcisms.
    • This is complete hearsay, so take it with whatever sized grain of salt you want, but: When I was in school, I knew a couple guys who were considering becoming priests and were pretty close with the Jesuits.
    • One of these guys told me that a Jesuit had told him that, from time to time, priests who were recovering from doing an exorcism would be housed in the Jesuit infirmary residences.
    • Exorcisms are very emotionally draining, and it’s understood that priests are often in bad shape afterwards and need somewhere to recover in safety. Apparently Fordham is one of those places.
    • It was definitely common to see different Jesuits appearing on campus: I have so many clear memories of walking around campus and seeing Jesuits I didn’t recognize sitting on benches  around campus, relaxing.
  • Underscoring this for me is the fact that in 1969, Bermingham joined the Classics department of Fordham University. He lived and taught on campus until his death. He died in 1998 at the Jesuit residence where he lived, which I believe was Loyola Hall.
  • In the acknowledgements of The Exorcist, Blatty wrote: “I would also like to thank the Rev. Thomas V. Bermingham, S. J., Vice-Provincial for Formation of the New York Province of the Society of Jesus, for suggesting the subject matter of this novel.”
  • Blatty was the film’s producer, so approached Bermingham to work on the film as well.
  • Also, worth noting, that there was another Fordham Jesuit who was involved in the production of The Exorcist: William O’Malley, who played Father Dyer in The Exorcist. He was an adjunct professor at Fordham University until 2003, and he taught at Fordham Prep until 2012. He continued living on campus after retiring from teaching until 2019, when allegations of sexual abuse against him came to light.
  • A November 4, 1993, article in the Fordham Ram lists a few other suspicious events that I hadn’t really seen elsewhere:
    • “The director  wanted actress Linda Blair to say the Our Father in Latin. To help her memorize it, Bermingham asked a female Fordham student to record her voice. However, before she could do this, she slipped on the ice and broke her jaw.
    • Another freaky event involved Bermingham.  During a routine medical  check-up,  a lump was discovered  under  his arm. He claims  that  the tumor  was  not present before that appointment, even  that  very morning.  Luckily, the tumor was benign, but the doctors kept  it for further  observation because its consistency was so strange;  they had never  seen anything  like it before. In addition to these problems, there  were  two deaths  around the  set.  Also, the son of Jason Miller,  the leading  actor, was seriously  injured.   The accident happened while Miller was about to  reshoot  the scene  that was filmed  in Hughes  Hall.”
  • Things were so unpleasant on set that at one point, Friedkin asked Father Thomas Bermingham, a Jesuit who was a technical advisor on the film and who had a bit part in the movie, to exorcise the set. Bermingham declined, saying that there wasn’t enough evidence of demonic activity, and he didn’t want to cause even more anxiety on set. 
  • Some people claim that the set burned to the ground the next day, though other people said it just caught fire. At any rate, afterwards, Bermingham blessed the set with the entire cast and crew present.

Sources consulted RE: Haunted Hughes Hall

See sources page for the full source list for the series

Books consulted

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