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College Urban Legends: Lies Students Love to Tell

One of my friends -- a college junior -- got a perfect 4.0 GPA for the fall semester. How did she accomplish this while not being the ideal student? You see, when her roommate suddenly passed away, her school raised her GPA to compensate for the stress and grief. The same thing happened to my cousin's boyfriend's big brother. Only, his roommate was killed in some freak accident.

I bet you've heard a similar story. So this must be true. Not quite. I made the whole thing up!

Grade Expectations
I'm not the only one who has concocted this GPA award tale. This college urban legend has been told on campuses time and time again. The only parts of the story that change are who it's happened to and the roommate's cause of death. But don't get any ideas, coeds -- although many schools will offer bereavement consideration, no university in the United States has a policy that awards a 4.0 GPA to a student whose roommate dies.

Keep the Lights On
I know you've heard this one before -- so many times that you're not even spooked by it anymore.

It goes something like this -- a female college student who's been studying at the library (or hanging out with friends, whatever) returns to her dorm room late one night. She assumes her roommate is sleeping, doesn't want to wake her, so goes to bed without turning on the lights. She wakes up the following morning to discover a dead corpse of her roomie, and a message on the mirror that reads, "Aren't you glad you didn't turn on the light?"

Creeptastic! However, this story has never been proven true, so don't be scared to live on campus. Perhaps a group of resident advisors started the rumor in order to keep their advisees from inviting strangers back to their rooms.

Outsmarted by the Prof
Speaking of scare tactics, did you hear the one about the two college students who lied to get out of a test? They went skiing for the weekend and didn't study for their Monday exam. Upon their return, they told their calculus professor they got a flat tire and requested a retake.

The professor adheres to their request. During the rescheduled exam, each student is placed in a separate room to take the test. The questions on the first page, worth 10 percent, were quite easy. After answering, each student becomes confident about acing the exam. But when they turn to the second page, they discover 90 percent of their grade lies on one last question -- "Which tire?"

Whether the story can be verified as fact or fib, I bet some students now think twice before they come up with a lie to get an exam retake.

A Halloween Massacre?
There are several versions of the Halloween massacre tale on school grounds. Typically, legend has it that a famous psychic predicts on a TV show that a serial killer will strike on a college campus on October 31. Supposedly, the madman will kill dozens, maybe hundreds.

Some say the psychic appeared on "The OPRAH WINFREY Show," while others claim she was on the "Late Show with DAVID LETTERMAN." Some have even theorized that the killer will wear that creepy mask from the "Scream" movies.

Some even jazz the costume up by saying the killer will be dressed entirely as Little Bo Peep. The story has run rampant at Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI), the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN), and the University of Wisconsin (Madison, WI), specifically because some smart aleck added that the mass murderer will hit a campus that starts with the letter M or W.

But guess what? No Halloween slayings on any campus grounds have ever been reported.

Some urban legends may have been created to scare students into making better choices, while others were concocted as a result of student concerns. Of course, some tales exist sheerly for your amusement. No matter the origin, be skeptical. True stories come with hard evidence -- not "so-and-so's best friend's sister told me so."

Tall Tales Heard Around Campus
College myths specific to campuses are so prevalent that some schools have devised Web sites and bulletins dispelling the lies students may have heard.

For instance, at the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), students were led to believe that James Gamble Nippert, a football player who died immediately after a game injury, is buried beneath his memorial at Nipper Stadium; one of the buildings on campus has hallways and stairs leading to nowhere; the school's library was designed without taking into account the weight of all the books, and is now sinking; and the statue of William Howard Taft on campus was made more portly per the Taft family's request.

All such claims are false. The school has since created a Web page disproving these stories, along with a few others.

Here are some other school fibs.

  • A tower at the University of Texas (Austin, TX) supposedly resembles an an owl at night. Rumor has it that the building was designed by a Rice University (Houston, TX) graduate, whose mascot is an owl. The truth is, the tower as well as 18 other university buildings were designed by the architect who created the campus' master plan in the 1930s, and he had no owl agenda whatsoever.

  • Supposedly, there's a magical spot on campus at the University of Richmond (Richmond, VA). Legend has it that if two people kiss under a gazebo near the lake uniting the two sides of campus, they will marry. The only way to break the charm (or curse, depending on your views on commitment) is to jump into the lake. Several students have kissed at the gazebo and wondered if their fates have been forever changed. Incidentally, quite a few have also jumped into the lake to save their souls from marriage. Silly students, only you control the decision to walk down the aisle -- not some superstition.

  • The University of North Carolina (UNC, Chapel Hill, NC), University of Tennessee (Knoxville, TN), and University of Maryland (College Park, MD) have something in common. Stories suggest that if a virgin walks by a particular statue on campus, that statue will be affected: at the University of North Carolina, they say Silent Sam, a memorial of the UNC alumnus who died fighting the Confederacy in the Civil War, will shoot his rifle; at the University of Tennessee, the statue of The Torchbearer's flame will go out; and at the University of Maryland, the terrapin mascot Testudo will sprout wings and fly away. There's one more: At the University of Missouri (Columbia, MO), University of Michigan (Dearborn, MI), and University of Cincinnati, stone lions will roar when a virgin walks between them.