College Ghosts – Reality and Urban Legends

Creepy stairs at a university - ghosts?Hauntings — or reports of them — have increased at colleges and universities in recent years.

Apparitions, “cold spots” and poltergeists are becoming almost commonplace at many schools.

There are many possible reasons why we’re hearing more — and more credible — reports from colleges and universities.


The media have increased our awareness of the spirit world. Each year, new ghost- and paranormal-related films and TV shows spark fresh interest in this subject.

Researchers are making steady breakthroughs in paranormal studies.   When ghosts are in the news, people pay more attention to the odd things they’ve noticed… but previously dismissed as “just my imagination.”

And, as more ghosts are noticed, they manifest more often.  After years of being ignored, maybe they’re delighted that people are finally paying attention to them.

In addition, websites such as this one are able to inform more students about hauntings at their schools.  Once you know what to look for — and where — you’re more likely to recognize the ghosts and paranormal activity around you.


College ghosts are reported so frequently — and sometimes for just a brief span of time — that it’s nearly impossible for us to keep our lists up to date.

In some cases, the ghost is a poltergeist and it’s following one student. When she changes dorms, so does the ghost.

Poltergeist – From the German meaning “noisy ghost,” this term has been in use since the early 19th century to mean a spirit that makes noise, or otherwise plays pranks… often annoying.

Unlike other ghosts, poltergeists can move from one location to another, following the person they’ve chosen to torment.

Many psychologists believe that poltergeists are not ghosts at all, but some form of psychokinesis or remote activity.

Like many ghost hunters, I take poltergeists seriously.  I believe that some — perhaps most — are connected with ghosts or other spirits, and each one usually manifests in the vicinity of one specific person.

Sometimes, a college student’s ghostly encounter is sparked by a contagion of suggestion. One person convinces others that he’s seen a ghost, and his friends and acquaintances start looking for ghosts.

At many colleges, they’ll find them… perhaps more than they bargained for.

Whether or not we list a particular haunting, remember this:  Almost every older college and university has reported a ghost at some time.

We’re not saying that every college and university is actually haunted, but most colleges report a ghost or a poltergeist at some point.  We can’t personally confirm every story, but when multiple students describe the same ghostly phenomena… we take it seriously.

Hauntings are more commonplace than most people believe.

High levels of stress make colleges a prime target for residual energy hauntings. (These hauntings are energy — not necessarily lingering spirits — that remain in a location and can be sensed by later visitors.)


Almost every college that reports a haunting offers one of the following stories:

  • The haunted theater – An “odd feeling” backstage, on stage, or in the auditorium. Sometimes a woman is seen at the door.  Many haunted theaters report the ghost of a worker or actor in the wings of the stage.
  • The haunted locker room – Odd noises, odors, someone whistling, or the roar of the crowd outside when the building (or field) is actually empty.
  • The haunted dorm – Usually tagged to a suicide (sometimes just a rumor), or one area of the dorm is considered “creepy” and weird.  When there was no actual suicide at the dorm, we often find an earlier, documented event that could explain the haunting.
  • The haunted bathroom – This usually involves something gruesome in a mirror.  Usually, it’s a female who looks distressed.  Sometimes, she’s wearing evening clothes and applying garish makeup… sometimes leaving it on the mirror.

While pranksters do write to us regularly, most people genuinely experience something frightening when they report ghosts to us.

This is important: Many of these “ghost stories” are true, even when they echo urban legends.  Rampant ghost stories aren’t necessarily the product of imagination or simple contagion.  They might indicate an undisclosed or undiscovered history that could put some tales — and help some ghosts — to rest.

Use History to Find Haunted Places

How to use history to find haunted placesMany ghost hunters are looking for something different… any new, haunted site with a good, creepy feeling to it. They want to explore haunted places that haven’t been visited by a bazillion ghost hunters, yet.

I have good news: It can be easy to find unreported and under-reported hauntings, if you start with history.

At least half of all reported hauntings may be the product of residual energy. Since the late 20th century – and perhaps earlier – researchers have called those “imprints.”

The haunted site remains charged with energy that lingers from an event that took place there. In most cases, the event involved strong emotions, and sometimes violence.

When I research those kinds of locations, I usually find elevated EMF readings. I almost always get more orb photos there, too.

(When I first wrote this article – around 2010 – I explained that I call these “residual energy hauntings” or “residual energy imprints.” Today, many ghost hunters use those terms, or similar phrases.)

In brief, a residual energy haunting may not have a ghost, but it definitely provides strong psychic impressions and an eerie feeling.

So, where does this lead us as ghost hunters, looking for new sites to investigate?

It’s simple: We work with history.  We look for places where repeated acts of violence and strong emotions may have happened.

Four Ways to Predict a Haunted Site

These are the four elements I look for in a haunted site:

  1. Money.
  2. Power.
  3. Drama.
  4. Tragedy.

With sufficient intensity, even one of those can be enough.

Combine two or more, and it’s often a site (house, business, garden, grave) with a ghost story.

Kinds of sites with residual energy

Battle sites such as Gettysburg are an easy choice. They’re also enormously popular. Since many of us prefer to conduct research without an audience, I often avoid the most well-known hauntings. (At Gettysburg, I recommend the open fields that aren’t part of the normal loop. You’ll drive past a couple of them on your way to the Visitors Center.)

Remember that makeshift hospitals were created near many battle sites. For example, the haunted Tudor World site in Stratford-upon-Avon (England) was once used for triage after a nearby battle. (However, Tudor World’s hauntings go far, far beyond just “residual energy.”)

Actual hospitals are a sure thing, but if the building’s in use, access may be impossible. If the site is closed, trespassing becomes an issue. If I’m not supposed to research there, I keep looking. Somewhere – usually nearby – I’ll find a safe (and completely legal) haunted site to investigate.

Jails, ‘hanging trees’, and old courtrooms can contain residual energy. Inns and other buildings used by smugglers and pirates are also rich with energy imprints.

Sites of multiple murders or violence are smart choices for ghost research. For example, the Lizzie Borden House – now a B&B – seems to be very haunted at times. In my opinion, the story behind the haunting may not be what people expect. Until the truth emerges, expect Lizzie’s family home to remain active.

The more history a site has, the more likely you’ll find at least one incident that may have left some residual energy. An investigation is the only way to find out if it’s enough to call a haunting.

Weird residual energy

The police are among of our best resources for information about weird residual energy hauntings. If the police receive repeated calls to certain locations — especially when they find nothing to report — that can identify a haunted site with residual energy. If you know a police officer, ask him or her for recommendations.

Follow your “gut instinct” to find sites with residual energy. With practice, you can become more sensitive. Start by paying attention to your emotions as you run routine errands.

For example, many dentists’ offices store considerable anxiety-related energy. Churches can hold grief from funerals, joy from weddings, and a general sense of reverence. Cemeteries often store energy, too.

Visit art museums and galleries. See what happens when you walk towards — and then away from — extremely passionate, expressive art.

Think of other places where emotions can run high, such as sports stadiums. Visit them when they’re empty or nearly empty. See if you can sense the emotional energy that lingers there.

Once you increase your ability to recognize everyday residual energy, it’ll be easier to identify previously overlooked haunted sites.

Start with local history

Visit your town’s historical society, or see if your library has books about local history.

Locate the oldest buildings, and those that are in the historical register. They probably have residual energy, though it may not be ghostly.

Check those sites for EMF and orbs in photos. Try recording EVP. If you’re psychic or have a medium on your team, that can help, too.

I always check ‘famous haunts’ when I visit an area. However, I often get better results when I start with local history, and look for patterns of events likely to produce hauntings.

When you combine your awareness residual energy with a site’s history, you’ll probably find several nearby, unreported haunts.

In addition, many sites with residual energy have ghosts, too. After a few visits, the ghosts may become more comfortable with you. And that’s when the really fascinating research begins.

Related articles at this website:

How to Find Local Ghosts

Almost every city and town has ghost stories. Many have active hauntings. The biggest challenge for new ghost hunters is to find really haunted places.

Look at the photo to the left. It doesn’t look especially haunted, does it?

That’s a photo of the most haunted wing of one of America’s most haunted houses, The Myrtles Plantation, in Louisiana.

Few places are as haunted as that house. However, no matter where you live, you can find haunted places nearby.

Q. How do I find local ghosts?

Start ghost hunting near your own home. That’s usually the easiest place to find haunted sites.

Search using Google or another search engine. Enter the name of your city, town, state, or region, using words such as “ghosts” and “haunted.”

Remember, a lot of this is based in folklore, and the stories are more fiction than fact.  Many websites list every location that is even rumored to be haunted.  (I like Dave Juliano’s website, The Shadowlands.) In my experience, only a small percentage of listed locations have actual ghosts. However, if sites are nearby, they’re worth looking into.

Check news headlines for recent reports of hauntings. Search at Google News using words such as “ghosts,” “haunted houses,” and so on. (I regularly review those kinds of reports, but I can’t investigate — or even list — all of them.)

Read books at the library. Most public libraries have a section that includes paranormal books. Also look among books describing your local geographical area, especially folklore. Libraries usually have a section specifically about their town or city, and the region in general.

While “ghost” books — collections of stories — can be unreliable, they are a good place to start.

Ask people. Almost everyone has heard of a few local places with ghost stories and haunted histories. Generally, college, high-school and middle school students know the most rumors about local haunted places.

Check back issues of local newspapers. Most regional newspapers feature haunted sites during the week before Halloween.

Ask the police. Police are often the best resource for information about hauntings. They know which places generate complaints about odd activity–noises, weird lights, and so on–but have no reasonable explanations.

Q. Are there some places almost always haunted?

Yes, and some of these classic cliches can help you to locate haunted places.

Cemeteries are usually mildly haunted. Older cemeteries–from the 19th century and earlier–are far more likely to have ghosts. Explore the oldest sections of cemeteries for the best results. However, many cemeteries are closed between dusk and dawn. Observe local laws whenever you’re ghost hunting.

Abandoned buildings are often haunted. People rarely walk away from a perfectly good house or building unless something’s really wrong with it. What’s “wrong” may be a ghost. A few commercial locations in Salem, Massachusetts, are like that. (However, never trespass on private property. Get permission.)

Theaters — those with a stage the people have performed on — are almost always haunted. Usually, these are fun ghost. Look for ghosts on the stage, in the audience, backstage, and just outside the auditorium doors. Many theaters have a ghost that visits during rehearsals, and can be seen sitting or standing on the balcony.

Most colleges and some schools have at least one poltergeist. Ask students. To narrow your focus, remember that poltergeist activity is usually connected with water or a water source (streams, ponds, and — indoors — faucets).  Also look for unusual, mobile EMF spikes.

Avoid investigating private homes when you are new to ghost hunting. Safety issues are just part of the problem. Some people who are troubled by ghosts — or proud of them — may have expectations you’re not able to meet.

These tips will help you find good local haunts. In addition, rely on your gut instinct. If a location looks haunted, it might be a good place to investigate.

Also, be sure to check my Guidelines for Ghosthunters before going on your first ghost hunt.