Superstitions and Traditions: Haunted Books, Hooting Owls and Lesser Known Stories

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Ghosts are likely not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a college campus.  However, DePauw has its fair share of both ghost stories and other interesting tales about superstitions and traditions around campus. Yes, you may already be aware of traditions pertaining to a particular boulder or a particular bell, but who wants to hear those stories for the millionth time? I am here to inform you of some traditions and superstitions you may not be so keen on. 

Roy O. West Library

As someone who has spent a majority of their collegiate career in this building, I can easily say I was just as shocked to hear about a Roy O. haunting my first year of college as you may.. But, you know, ghosts need to study too, I guess? 

The story goes that a student was reading The Poems of Ossian, the Son of Fingal and was so fascinated that he took the book from Roy O. West in an effort to continue reading outside of the library. To his dismay, he woke up in the middle of the night to a ghost. It is said that this was the ghost of former Indiana Governor James Whitcomb, who had donated the book to DePauw after his death. The ghost of the former governor demanded the student bring the book back to the library. Basically, don’t take restricted books from Roy, folks. 

Edna Collins Bridge

Edna Collins, whose family lived near DePauw’s campus, used to swim in the creek as a young girl near the bridge her father built for her. It’s  is located about 20-25 minutes away from campus. Sadly, she drowned while swimming one day and now it is said that her spirit haunts the bridge. Legend has it that visitors often see an apparition of a young girl near or on the bridge, hear strange sounds or find finger or hand prints on their car after visiting the bridge. The bridge can be found on a back road, and can likely be located through Google, but may not show up on apps like Google Maps. 

Don’t worry, DePauw’s history is not only  packed with ghost stories. With the school’s  historically rich Greek life, there are a lot of old traditions worth mentioning.

Sigma Chi Bell

Back in the day, East College’s bell was known as the “Sigma Chi Bell.” In the 70s, Sigma Chi’s new members were tasked with protecting the bell from being rung at any time other than the scheduled times. Usually, new members of various sororities would try to get past the Sigma Chi new members and ring the bell. Although it is unknown when the tradition started, many remember it as being a fun time for new members to get to know one another. Although this tradition was a fun and social event, it sounds like there were also some serious repercussions for trying to ring the bell. Lexy McCulloch, a DePauw alum, said, “A group of us from Rector (Hall) did it and one girl was caught. They cut her bangs off!”

The Owl Statue 

So this legend is short, but nonetheless interesting. There is an owl statue outside of East College that was donated to the school in the 1900s. Legend has it that if a virgin passes by this statue, it will hoot – a strange legend for sure. 

University Cave 

There is supposedly little known about what has been dubbed the “University Cave,” but the DePauw University website wrote, “In 1884, a DePauw student named John Reasoner was asked to check out the cave system by the U.S. Geological Survey,” in an article from 2007. The article continues to explain that Reasoner’s professor took a group of students to explore the caves. They were afraid of getting lost, so not much of the cave was explored. The article also states that it is rumored the cave runs from near Blackstock Stadium to Boone Hutcheson Cemetery. 

Your first year is certainly a time to create your own traditions on campus as well as participate in traditions that are already established. Whether that means cultivating a love for Marvin’s or cheering on DePauw at the Monon Bell game, it is certainly a great time to get involved in all things DePauw!