A friend mentioned to me during lunch that although he doesn’t believe in ghosts, ghost stories frighten him. I think many people can relate to that sentiment. It’s a strange facet of the human psyche that we can be afraid of things that our rational mind rejects. I have to admit that since I started writing this article, I’ve noticed some odd occurrences in my room that have left me spooked: incessant knocking throughout the night, waking up on numerous occasions to find my posters on the ground, scratching noises coming from my window, an apparition of Woodrow Wilson with a paddle appearing at my door. Ok, that last one was made up. Regardless, even though I know there are explanations for these occurrences that don’t posit the existence of supernatural entities, I get a little bit scared when I turn off the lights and knocking begins.
Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, scary stories are fun to hear. And this campus has scary stories aplenty. Actually, I only got two responses, so I guess it only has two scary stories. That’s embarrassingly low for a 250-year-old campus. Step it up, Princeton ghosts!
My first response was from a frightened former Forbesian whose freshman year dorm had some foul juju. Here is our exchange:
FF: So my dorm freshman year wasn’t haunted, but it was cursed.I was in a triple in the annex of Forbes. I got really sick the first week of freshman year and spent several days in McCosh. I eventually went to the hospital because McCosh was going to release me without treating me. The next week, one of my roommates fell down a flight of stairs and really messed up her ankle. The next week, my other roommate got into a bike accident and flew over her handlebars. The swelling she had in her abdomen lasted several weeks. Then, at the beginning of October, I was run over by a football player on a bike - I got a concussion, an occipital blowout fracture, and a fractured collarbone. A few weeks after that, my first roommate severely hurt her ankle - again. There was much discussion of [a] seance or some kind of voodoo nonsense to remove whatever curse had been left on our room. All of the accidents stopped after winter break.
Me: Wow, that is some streak of bad mojo. I'm glad to hear things improved. Did you end up holding a seance of any kind? Any ideas why it stopped in the winter?
FF: We didn't wind up doing anything of the sort, but I did get really into burning incense (probably an idea I got from looking up random things that came up in the Internet regarding old magic-esqueremedies. I do also like the smell). I suppose the curse just ran its course. [By the way], the following year when I was a sophomore, a guy in the same room got concussed the first week of school.
This conversation led my train of thought to the following statistical puzzle: How many unlikely or inexplicable events need to occur in a room in order for us to say it’s cursed? Suppose it’s some finite number k, and the ghosts are privy to k, and keep the number of shenanigans under k to keep us from finding out about them...
I received another response from a Ji-Sung Kim ’18, who told me about the bathroom ghost of Fisher Hall.
JK: I lived in a small, quiet single in Whitman my freshman year. I shared a bathroom with another student. Unfortunately, I found myself locked out of the bathroom several times over the first few months of Princeton. My bathroom-mate apologized constantly and I was getting increasingly irritated at his apparent forgetfulness.
Ji-Sung told me that the previous resident had also experienced this and believed the room was haunted.
JK: The girl found herself in the same situation as me, being locked out of the bathroom constantly. However, she did not have a bathroom-mate her year, as the room that shared her bathroom was vacant. As a result, she was under the notion that her bathroom must have been haunted, or perhaps frequently visited by a sinister figure.
But Ji-Sung was not convinced.
JK: One day, however, I realized that [somehow] the bathroom door locked itself while I was still in the bathroom. I was puzzled as to how this could happen. Upon closer inspection, I found that the door stopper (which is supposed to catch the door handle to prevent the lock from being pressed when the door hits the wall) was misaligned. The door stopper looks like a small rubber bowl -- the button on the door handle is supposed to go inside the hollow created by the stopper, preventing it from being pressed. However, due to the misalignment, whenever I opened my door too forcefully (causing the door to hit the door stopper), the door's lock would engage. I was essentially locking myself out of the bathroom each time I swung the bathroom door open too hard. I promptly called Facilities to ask them to fix this issue, they did so expeditiously... I am still not sure if the girl in question still thinks that there is a "bathroom ghost" in Fisher Hall.
I called the bathroom ghost of Fisher Hall to get his thoughts on the matter, but the line was dead.
So although neither of these ghastly tales proves the existence of undead spirits, they do raise the question. When you go out tonight for Princetoween, keep in mind that the tap on your shoulder may not be from your friend; the chill that runs down your spine may not be from the autumn breeze; the rhythmic creaking and moans in the middle of the night may not be from next door. They may be from a ghost.