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Scary Tales

Spooky stories from campus lore

Since its establishment in 1876, the University of Oregon has been home to thousands upon thousands of students. With a history that long and with a cemetery right next door, it’s only natural that our campus has a few stories about things that go bump in the night. Thanks to the UO’s Folklore Program, one of only a handful in the United States, we have an archive of these spooky stories, ghostly and otherwise.

Most of the ghost stories on campus take place in Pioneer Cemetery. Even though it is surrounded by athletics facilities or academic buildings on three sides, the cemetery is independent from the UO. It’s also closed at night, but that hasn’t prevented the living and the not-so-living from interacting on a number of occasions. The most commonly reported apparitions are the ghostly bagpiper who patrols the grounds, and the woman in a white dress who floats between the gravestones after dark. The oral history of these hauntings doesn’t explain their origins, however.

Another commonly sighted spirit stands at the corner of East 15th Avenue and University Street. A dark figure, young and male in most reports, moves from the edge of the cemetery to a nearby residence hall, where he peeks in a particular window late at night when campus is quiet. Don’t worry, though—the building has been remodeled, and the window the “Peeping Tom” ghost frequents now overlooks the lobby and a study room.

Aside from “Peeping Tom,” though, reports of hauntings in the residence halls are minimal. In a fraternity house on the west side of campus, there’s one particular story that has circulated for so long that the ghost has a name—Mildred. According to the archive sources, the fraternity house in question had been a sorority before, of which Mildred was a member. Mildred’s presence is reported to be benign, so much so that some students decided to honor her by having a funeral procession and a wake in her name. Guests at the wake didn’t say whether Mildred’s ghost attended her own funeral or not.

Perhaps the spookiest campus legend is also the best documented of all. When the University of Oregon first opened, it had only one building—Deady Hall. In the campus’s inaugural year, Professor Thomas Condon (the namesake of Condon Hall) made a frightening discovery—a well-preserved body in the basement. Professor Condon and the other original faculty members of the university held a postmortem examination of the body and determined that the remains were those of A. Oakley Hall, a missing man from New York State. There is still no clear explanation for how he ended up in Oregon, that basement, or even how he died. Once they had identified him, the faculty offered students a contest: if any student could find the man’s “chief mourners”—meaning his parents, a spouse, or any children—that student would be excused from exams. There’s no word on whether that prize was ever claimed.

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