Evan Martin (evan) wrote in uw,
Evan Martin

Colleges Rich with Local Urban Myths and Legends
Elizabeth Williams
The Daily - U. of Washington

SEATTLE, Wash. -- A girl is at home alone with her dog - a big furry animal with a tendency to slobber. The girl's roommates are all out at a bar, but the girl has decided to stay home and go to bed early.

As she's just about to drop off to sleep, she feels something wet on her hand. She turns over, and tells the dog to go lie down. In the morning, she goes into the bathroom to take a shower. There, in the shower, is her dog - hanging from the shower head. A note pinned to the dog says: "People can lick too."

Just about every student arriving at college has heard this story, or a version of it. Every school tells it a little differently, and usually has the girl live in some nearby neighborhood for added effect. Of course, the story never really happened. It's just another urban legend - a modern tall tale designed to awe and impress gullible freshmen and other uninitiated pups.

Here at the UW, these and other urban legends are passed down to each successive class. But not to be outdone by the universal legends, several campus legends have surfaced as well. Some are true; some are not. Regardless, these stories are as part of the UW as Red Square (which, by the way, is not its official name - thus another campus legend).

The Tale of the Broken Obelisk

The obelisk in Red Square was erected in order to expose students to high culture in the form of modern art. But reports have circulated for years that the obelisk is actually upside down.

Supposedly, the obelisk originally stood on a different base, with the pyramid balancing above. But during a frat prank, the original base broke off, and the UW was forced to re-mount the obelisk on what used to be the top of the sculpture. That's why the top is so irregular.

Art connoisseurs who see the broken obelisk will recognize the abstract-modern style of Bennett Newman. Newman, although best known for his paintings, created six sculptures during his artistic career. The broken obelisk , which is the largest of the six, was donated to the UW in 1971 by the Virginia Wright Fund. And, yes, that's the way it's supposed to look.

The Suzzallo Ghost

Rumor has it that a shadowy female figure walks the halls of Suzzallo Library. Some people think that it is the ghost of a librarian that once worked there. Those who claim to have seen her describe the apparition as being tall and thin, and clad in a raincoat.

According to the resident expert on the Suzzallo ghost, Nick DiMartino:"[The Suzzallo librarians] made up the story and told it to a gullible Daily reporter."

Based on the story that later appeared in the Daily, DiMartino wrote a book, University Ghost Story. In it, the Suzzallo ghost makes an appearance, as does the mysterious Stair 13 - a spiral staircase that accesses the tower in Suzzallo. Although the Suzzallo ghost is ostensibly just another ghost story, there are areas in the library, including Stair 13, that librarians and custodians hesitate to go into.

The book describes one of these areas as "a last reading-room cut in half by wire-grid fencing and a 'Staff Only' sign." This room on the second floor of Suzzallo is the place where the ghost is supposed to walk. The book also mentions the Graduate Reading Room as another spooky place where weird noises can be heard.

Ghost or no ghost, the bowels of Suzzallo are a creepy place to be after dark.

The Missing Monkey

The reason that the left leg of the statue of Darwin on Suzzallo looks funny is that the statue was originally designed with a monkey there. Later, the president didn't want a statue acknowledging evolution, and had the monkey removed.

The jury is still out on this one. In 1951, "The Washington Alumnus" published an article that presented the monkey story as true. The article said that the designer, Allan Clark, included the monkey as a joke, but removed it after then UW President Suzzallo objected. The article claimed that a photograph of the original design (the one with the monkey) had been taken, even though no such photograph exists in the archival files.

The Special Collections librarians, however, disagree with the article.

"It comes up almost every single year, and I'm sure it's a myth. There was never a monkey," said Lisa Scharnhorst, who works in Special Collections. Carla Rickerson, head of Special Collections, agrees.

"It's anecdotal - it's an urban legend," she said.

The Drumheller Dunking

Freshmen beware! At the UW, the upperclassman throw all the freshman into Drumheller Fountain in order to initiate them and make them true Huskies - or so innocent freshmen are told...

Surprisingly enough, this story was true at one point. Freshmen in the School of Forestry were once forced to grow beards (clearly this was before women were allowed in the school) throughout the first study quarter. At the end of the first quarter, they were thrown bodily into Drumheller by their classmates and shaved. Non-forestry freshmen were also thrown in, but there were no stipulations concerning facial-hair.

The Bell-tower Haunting

The one-time ringer of Denny Hall's bells never quite wanted to leave his job. So even after death, he returns to the bell tower to try and ring them one more time.

George Bailey rang the Denny Hall bells from the time he graduated from the UW as a Bachelor of Music in 1917 to the time he died in 1960. Interestingly, he was completely blind. He learned the lever system that controlled the bells, and played them by touch. It's unlikely that he returns from the grave to ring the bells, because there are no longer bells in Denny Hall. The chimes that ring out across campus are tape-recorded.

McCormick's Secret Exit - Just in case students ever surround the administration building, McCormick has a secret exit to prevent him from being held hostage. There's a trapdoor under his desk that leads to the Red Square parking garage. It's kind of like the tunnel to the Batcave.

This story is one of the few that have no known basis. The president's office regularly admits people who have heard the rumor and want to see forthemselves.

"This business with the hidden door came up in just the last year," said Thelma Rodriguez, assistant to the president. She said that she hadn't heard of any such story prior to then.

The president's staff occasionally lets people check under the desk if they won't be convinced any other way. At present count, there are only three doors out of the president's office - all clearly visible.

"That's all - unless he jumps out the window. And he's not going to do that," Rodriguez said.

The No-strikes Rule

You know those tunnels under the UW campus? Well, if you get caught in them by the campus police, you automatically get expelled.

Although dire consequences indeed follow attempts to break into the tunnels, the actual punishment is a little more mundane. The Revised Code of Washington defines first-degree criminal trespass as when a person "knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building." While it's debatable whether the tunnels constitute a building or not, that's what students are charged with if found in the tunnels.

First-degree criminal trespass carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail or a $5000 fine. So regardless, getting caught in the tunnels is not a good idea.

The Rose-picking Penalty

The roses that grow around Drumheller fountain are pretty to look at, but not to touch. Aside from the thorn pricks, punishment for picking the roses includes getting expelled.

Boy, seems like students can get expelled for everything nowadays. Technically, since this is a state institution, picking the roses constitutes theft of state property. This charge is tried as a gross misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail or up to a $5000 fine. Yow.

But don't worry, Chief of Campus Police Roger Serra says that in all his years working here, he has never seen a student arrested for picking the roses. Nevertheless, leave the roses where they are.

Of course, there are thousands of other stories that have made their appearance during UW's long history. And there are probably others that were missed by accident. Clearly, urban legends start for every reason -including no reason. But keep an eye out for ghosts anyway - just in case.
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