Urban legends: The College Cut

Elizabeth Rund


Credit: DKS Editors

Pop quiz: What do all three of these have in common?

A psychotic stranger hiding under a parked car, ready to slice an Achilles tendon. An omnibus phone call while a teenager is babysitting two kids in the middle of the woods. Driving home with someone behind you flashing the car’s headlights on and off.

Give up? These tall tales may seem realistic, but they are generally referred to as urban legends. But what about college legends? Are the tales and rumors that spread like wildfire through campus fact or fiction?

Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the lights?

This one has been circulating for a while. Although there are more than a dozen different versions, the legend describes how one roommate goes out to a party while the other stays in the room to study.

When the roommate returns from the party, she finds that all the lights are off in the room. Instead of turning on the lights, she changes in the dark and goes to sleep. In the morning, the girl who went to the party wakes up and finds that her roommate has been brutally killed, and written on the wall above the bed is a message that reads: “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the lights?” The girl is given an automatic 4.0 for the semester because of all the emotional pain and stress she is going through.

“That’s a horrible reward,” senior Spanish major Lauren Stahl said.

“I don’t know where that came from,” senior biology major Ashley Hill said. “I hadn’t heard that until I came here.”

The verdict: Fiction.

Sheryl Smith, associate dean of students and Student Ombuds, said that a student wouldn’t receive a high GPA unless they earned it to begin with.

“It would never happen,” Smith said.

Halloween massacre

This legend also has been circulating for many years. It stems from a psychic predicting that a serial killer will slay dozens of students at a college campus on Halloween.

“It’s crazy,” Stahl said. “It could happen because it’s Halloween.”

“It is unfortunate, because it gets people worried, because they believe it’s true,” Smith said.

The verdict: Fiction.

Although a massacre is predicted every year, there have been no reports of serial killings at college campuses on Halloween.

Which tire?

This next legend has to do with a group of students who are taking the same class. Instead of studying for an upcoming test, the group decides to take an out-of-town weekend trip. When they return to school, they tell the professor that their car got a flat tire and since they were stuck, they were unable to study for the test. The professor gladly lets them take the test the next week. The students are each given the same test and then separated into different rooms.

After completing the first two pages, the students feel confident about the test. When they turn to the last page, they realize that there is one question left worth 90 percent of the grade. The question simply asks, “Which tire was flat?'”

“That’s a dirty trick,” Stahl said.

“If you are a group of people, you are already suspicious,” Hill said.

The verdict: Fact.

To some degree, most professors have ways of finding out if students are telling the truth and may use it against them. All’s fair in truth and education.

The unofficial 15-minute rule

This myth stipulates that students are required to wait for a professor for 15 minutes. If after that time the professor has not shown up, they are free to leave.

Hill said that she understands when professors are late because she is sometimes late to class.

“Trust the students to use their own good judgment and find out if the professor is absent or running late,” classics professor Radd Ehrman said.

He added that if he knows he is going to be late, he either e-mails the class or calls the office and has someone put a notice up on the door.

History professor Victor Papacosma agreed with Ehrman. He said that it is only reasonable that the professor inform the students he or she is going to be late, but said he saw nothing wrong with letting the students take off if it was going to be a while.

The verdict: Fact.

Most students will wait 15 minutes before leaving, although it is not an official rule.

“It would make life easier if it were an official rule because otherwise misunderstandings and confusion results,” Papacosma said.

As far as urban legends are concerned, the general view is that they all need to be taken with a grain of salt.

“People need to understand that they aren’t real,” Hill said. “Don’t be so naive. I know some people believe anything.”

“I hope students are savvy enough not to take things at face value, especially if it sounds far-fetched,” Smith added.

Contact features reporter Elizabeth Rund at [email protected].