Universities aren’t just for higher learning—some are reportedly the locations of pretty freaky paranormal activity. Whether or not there's any real evidence behind them, these stories are more than just a little goosebump-inducing.

1. FORDHAM UNIVERSITY

If you need any context for the rumored hauntings at Fordham University, note that some scenes of The Exorcist were filmed on its campus. Elizabeth Tucker recalled one of the school’s most popular legends in her book Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses. According to Tucker, one night in the summer of 2003, a resident assistant was filling out a damage report when he noticed mattresses that should have been flat on the floor standing upright against the walls. Around 2:30 the next morning, a Jesuit priest knocked on the R.A.’s door to explain he’d “taken care of” the evil spirit responsible for messing with the mattresses. Fordham University’s library website reports that the R.A. later tried to track down the Jesuit and eventually learned that the likeness he saw was that of a man who died 10 years prior.

2. UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO


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Tales of the supernatural don’t faze the University of Toronto. In fact, the school embraces the lore, giving haunted tours of the campus. Multiple specters are rumored to linger on U of T’s grounds, but perhaps the creepiest story of all is that of Russian stonemason Ivan Reznikoff. U of T Magazine recounts the tale of the builder, who was working on the University College building in 1856. The project’s foreman, Paul Diablos, played a joke by carving one of the building’s gargoyles in Reznikoff’s likeness. One night Reznikoff returned to the site to alter a gargoyle in Diablos’ image—and vanished.

A student journalist quoted by the U of T Magazine reported that in 1889 Reznikoff’s ghost came back to visit one of the university's students, in the form of a mysterious long-haired figure. The figure explained that while he had been carving the gargoyle, he spotted Diablos with his fiancée, Susan. Reznikoff tried to attack Diablos with an axe, missing the man and hitting a door instead. Diablos retaliated by stabbing the Russian with a knife, killing him and hiding the body in a ventilation shaft. U of T Magazine says the mark from the axe can still be seen in University College’s southwest corner, and workers later found the skeleton of a man wearing a belt buckle with a stonemason’s emblem in a ventilation shaft.

3. OHIO UNIVERSITY


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Some insist Ohio University is one of the most haunted campuses in the country. While ghost stories abound, one bone-chilling feature is the location of the school’s Wilson Hall. According to Haunted Athens Ohio, the building is surrounded by five cemeteries. When viewed on a map, and with an especially active imagination, Wilson Hall and the graveyards supposedly form the shape of a pentagram.

Naturally, Wilson Hall is rumored to be haunted. As the story goes, in the 1970s a female student died a violent death in Room 428 after performing some kind of an occult ritual. In the following years, students residing in the room claimed to hear strange noises and saw objects moving on their own. The room is now said to be permanently sealed.

4. SAINT MARY-OF-THE-WOODS COLLEGE


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The name “Faceless Nun” is enough to send goose bumps skittering up your arms. The story behind the specter is no less chilling. In her book Storytelling: An Encyclopedia of Mythology and Folklore, Josepha Sherman explains that the ghost, who still wears her habit, floats through Foley Hall, where she once taught art. The Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods website further details the legend in a 1974 interview with Sister Esther Newport, who also taught in the art department from 1931 to 1964. Newport recalled numerous instances in which an art department worker named Isabel interacted with the Faceless Nun. In one of many incidents, Isabel complained to Newport of a nun who constantly came around, standing between her and the light. “She leaves when I speak to her,” Isabel explained, “and I never see her face.”

5. UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA–CHAMPAIGN


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One of the University of Illinois’ hauntings dates back to the reported death of a student in the 1900s. In his book Haunting the Prairie: A Tourist's Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of Illinois, Michael Kleen writes that the student either drowned or committed suicide in the campus’ English Building, originally known as the Women's Building. At the time, it was a female dormitory, but had a swimming pool on its lower level. ExploreCU elaborates on this story, explaining that the woman’s ghost is rumored to roam the halls of the building, flickering lights and slamming doors. While the building did formerly have a swimming pool, there is no evidence of the student’s death.

6. PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY


Ghost stories are common at PSU, especially in relation to Old Botany, one of the campus’ oldest buildings. Penn State’s official website details the lore surrounding the cottage, explaining that “In one legend, [the deceased] Frances Atherton, the wife of [former PSU president] George Atherton, uses the windows in the top floor of Old Botany to keep an eye on her husband’s grave, which rests across the street from Old Botany. As students trudge along Pollock Road—one of the busiest walkways through campus—they cast an eye on the upper-floor windows, half-expecting to see the worried gaze of Frances looking back at them.” Creepy, right? 

In a 2003 article in the Daily Collegian, one of the building’s staff members, Karen Snare, recalled a particularly eerie instance she experienced in Old Botany. "I came to work one day and put the key in the door and they both flew open," Snare said, after explaining that usually only one of the doors opens. "You have to physically pull a chain and lift the bolt from the floor [to open the other door]." She noted that there were other creepy abnormalities that day, such as a roll of carpeting changing location and what sounded like books hitting the floor of an empty room.

7. UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME


Notre Dame has been described as a “breeding ground” for ghosts—and for good reason. In Matthew Swayne's book America’s Haunted Universities: Ghosts that Roam Hallowed Halls, he writes of numerous reports of paranormal activity in the South Dining Hall. Workers reportedly heard claps and moans, saw weird flashes, and one person even claimed to see a white figure floating by the entrance—only to later recognize him in a campus portrait. The figure was reportedly Father Sorin, the founder of Notre Dame. As Notre Dame Magazine notes, Sorin died on Halloween in 1893, which only adds to the creepiness of the story.