Did you know that running between America, Britain, India, Japan and many other countries besides, there is a very unusual and fascinating link between centres of learning? Many of these centres of learning are also centres of ghostly activities. “Historic hauntings, bloodthirsty screams, the smell of burning human flesh…are you brave enough to visit some of these haunted universities?” asked the Times Higher Education website while writing in 2017 about the most haunted universities in the world.
In Japan’s Nagasaki University, listed amongst the world’s ten most haunted universities, “there are regular sightings of ghostly figures, as well as the sounds of people crying and screaming and the smell of burning flesh in the air.” The spirits of people who were hit by the atomic bomb dropped by America in August 1945 are said to inhabit the campus of Nagasaki University. “The university’s medical college was only a few hundred metres away from the bomb and was hit heavily, killing up to 800 members of staff and students.”
The Chinese University of Hong Kong is also listed amongst the top ten haunted universities. “A woman with long braided hair and no face haunts a road that runs alongside the Chinese University of Hong Kong and preys on young men who are walking alone. Legend has it that she is the spirit of a young woman who had her face ripped off when she jumped from a moving train. There is a train station at the end of the road, so perhaps there is some truth to this story…”
Just a few months ago Nicole Pierre reported in the Daily Mail Australia that Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour has been known as one of Sydney’s most haunted locations ever since the killing of a soldier dating back to 1857. Later a reformatory for girls was established due to a rising problem with orphaned children being involved in street gangs. The Head of the school, George Lucas, was known to brutally punish the girls by making them give up their beds and sleep on the cold stone.
In 1858, Gother Mann was superintendent of the school and her daughter Mary Caroline “Minnie” Mann is said to still roam the halls of the old reformatory. In recent years visitors have claimed a little girl in a white dress eerily featured in their photos with some believing the girl pictured is Minnie. Ross Downie, tour organiser, related that two students who camped there one night complained they weren’t able to sleep. They said they saw a little girl in a white dress, matching Minnie’s description, entering their tent and asking them to play with her in the middle of the night.
The UK Visa and International Education Centre or UVIC warns: “If you are easily scared, it’s best not to enter UK’s most haunted universities”, and goes on to provide an account. Writing about the University of Warwick and its ghostly prisoners, it says, “It is rumoured that the Cryfield student accommodation at the University of Warwick was built on the site of an old prison… it is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of people hanged at Gibbet Hill. In fact, the name Cryfield is said to refer to the cries of the convicts that could be heard from the field…”
In India too, more than 20 centres of learning are linked with ghosts and paranormal activity. In Wikipedia’s list of reportedly haunted locations in India, Dow Hill in Kurseong is “considered by believers to be one of the most haunted places in West Bengal, especially in the corridors of Victoria Boys’ School and in the surrounding woods. A number of murders have taken place in the forest.” The list also includes Hastings House in Kolkata, one of the most ancient buildings in Kolkata, constructed by Governor General Warren Hastings. Now, it houses a women’s college. Many students have reported seeing ghosts inside the building and on the grounds. Around New Year’s Eve many of them have claimed seeing Hastings spirit rushing up the staircase of his residence which lay within the premises of this college. =
Considering the amazing number of campuses all over the world which have a reputation of being haunted, the obvious question arises: are the ghost stories simply creations of fun-seeking happy-go-lucky students with a fertile imagination? Are they picked up so often by top flight publications like U.S. News & World Report which carried an article on “Universities With Haunted Dorms” and The Huffington Post which carried a list of “13 Haunted Campuses” simply because of their popular appeal? Or is there something more to the ghost stories? In my own case which I’ve documented earlier, when I was in college there was a hostel room where a girl had hanged herself and a recreation of the entire tragic sequence of events in eerie detail sent the shivers down the spine of whoever was occupying the room at that that time. It certainly sent more than the shivers down my spine.
Even if one allows for some student exaggeration in the stories reported, even if one allows for natural phenomena like the wind whistling eerily for resulting in the stories, even if one allows for the passing down of an oral tradition of ghost stories from one student generation to the next, one cannot discount and dismiss certain features or the sheer numbers of haunted colleges and universities. Just think about it, America alone has more than 50 haunted campuses, each with their own fascinating stories, none of which have been convincingly debunked in the media or through other means.
Several centres of learning are said or known to have been built on ancient burial sites, on former prisons or near former gallows. For instance, in the case of the University of Notre Dame in America, whose notable alumni include Condoleezza Rice, the 66th United States Secretary of State, it is said that “ghosts of the Native American Patawatami tribe haunt Columbus Hall since it might have been built over one of their ancient burial grounds. Patawatami warriors on horseback have allegedly been seen moving up and down on the front steps of the hall.” Others campuses witnessed tragic suicides, accidents and tragic or unexplained deaths. This distinct connection with the paranormal in almost every case provides not only elements of credence but also considerable food for thought. Phantom footsteps, phantom voices, phantom lights, phantom forms, doors being slammed, students shoved on the stairway by unseen hands, students patted on the back by unseen hands, books being moved, unexplained music late at night and much more. Clearly, there is too much that defies reasonable explanations.