A Harvard student once told me a story about a man who darts around Cambridge courtyards at night. Barnard has hallways which creak mysteriously while unoccupied. Yale, I assume, must also be rife with strange locations and rich with urban lore. But since I arrived here in August, my life has been oddly devoid of ghost stories. Yale’s gothic buildings are practically screaming for legends to be told about them, yet the fact that I still have not heard any ghostly tales leads me to believe Yalies don’t have time for horror stories. But Theodore Dwight Woolsey’s shiny foot attests to the fact that people actually rub it and Branford’s cross-it-and-risk-not-graduating gate does remain eternally deserted. Yale students, like members of any small community, have succumbed to the tradition of legend and superstition.
Decide this article is perfect opportunity to live out Nancy Drew-type fantasies. In keeping with this decision, prowl down the street in slinking fashion until standing in front of Skull and Bones building. Try to run Internet search on organization earlier; am disappointed when no http://www.yale.edu/welcometoskullandbones pops up. Remember belatedly S&B is ‘secret’ society.
Meet a senior who is willing to talk openly about the secret society she is a part of. She won’t disclose the society’s name, but she has no qualms with sharing all other information about it, such as the fact that the society’s members have frequent dinners which center around debates much like Yale’s other political organizations and the fact that, until recently, members of the secret society held naked wrestling matches in the tomb’s basement.
Find myself on Old Campus, rubbing Woolsey’s foot and trying to look officious, as if the University has hired me to keep it shiny and clean. Am not in any way participating in superstitious ritual, just taking care of a well-loved campus statue. Yep.
Stand there, looking both stupid and towards Branford. Consider running over to step on the seal in the college’s courtyard despite the fact that legend claims that to step on it is to ruin your chances of graduating. The story also claims the stones that make up the seal — brought over from Branford Mill when the college was being built — are cursed, as one of the men building Harkness Tower supposedly tumbled to his death during construction and landed exactly where they lie.
Research leads to the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, currently located at Betts House. Owners of the house dating back to the Civil War have all come to mysterious ends; more than two of those deaths took place in the house’s attic. The house was abandoned for much of the first part of the 20th century, when New Haven inhabitants supposedly often heard strange sounds coming from within. Set on fire by a homeless man in the 1970s, it stood in disrepair for years even after Yale bought it and eventually spent millions on restoring it. Prior to the renovatiosn, the house was creepy enough to draw the attention of “The Addams Family” director Barry Sonnenfeld, who, when Yale refused to lease the house to his crew for filming, instructed his set designers to build a replica of it in a Hollywood studio. Am terrified to learn Yale has since renovated the entire house — the entire house, that is, minus the attic. Am not terribly disappointed when I visit the Center and am unable to find someone to point me to the still-charred attic where several deaths took place.
Have to admit that Yale, unlike I assumed, has anything but a dearth of Halloween tradition. Attics, superstition, secret societies and offhand rumors about a strange draft in Davenport’s library point towards exactly the opposite conclusion — Yale is home to the active imaginations of thousands, and this Halloween students should celebrate that richness of tradition, whether by visiting old attics or simply by passing the attics’ stories along.
Image of self as intrepid investigative reporter has long-since been shattered by inability to jimmy way past Skull and Bones’ locks or scurry into the Betts House attic, so decide to try one last adventure for honor’s sake. Have heard from students that Sterling Memorial Library’s stacks are dank and downright terrifying. Decide to bravely march in; refuse to be cowed.
Stacks awfully dark.
Take tremulous steps and nervously peek down every aisle on third, second and first floors. Turns out am unable to follow even simple arrows, and so find self in the basement instead of at the exit. All is well. Yet to feel even a sliver of fear. Decide am brave. Nay, not merely brave, but fearless. A prize should be awarded to all freshmen as brave as I, for we are the mighty —
Hear loud thump. Run like hell.