Cen­tres of learn­ing or of ghostly ac­tiv­i­ties?

The Sunday Guardian - - LIVING -

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 fun­seek­ing 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.

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.


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