[Penn State legends uncovered]

For The Collegian

Don’t believe everything you hear. Penn State is host to a number of urban legends that may have some students fooled.

Murder in Pattee Library

“I know someone was killed in there,” Jeana Spearly (freshman-psychology) said. “It’s eerie and it’s silent. You feel like someone is lurking right around the corner.”

Spearly said getting lost in the library was no fun. Wandering around the musty, low-ceilinged corridors of the Pattee Library’s stacks, the building’s infamous murder story was enough to have her watching her back.

Some say the ghost of the murder victim still haunts the stacks.

“We get reports all the time, especially from women, that they feel like they have been attacked by some invisible force,” Ryan Buell, director of Penn State’s Paranormal Research Society, said. “A lot of people also see shadowy figures walk through old areas where a doorway or corridor used to be.”

Though the existence of hauntings is up for debate, a homicide did occur in the library.

In 1969, a graduate student named Betsy Aardsma was doing research for an English class in the Pattee stacks when she was murdered. To this day, the mystery remains unsolved.

“I spoke to the police, and they’re still actively investigating,” Buell said. “They won’t open the file to the public because they say it’s an ongoing case.”

Buell said the library staff is not comfortable discussing the incident.

“The library is kind of shady about the whole thing,” Buell said. “They want to keep it hush. They don’t like to talk about it.”

The only designation of the area of the murder scene are the letters, “B.A.,” which is the name of the library section and also Aardsma’s initials.

Buell has not officially attributed the alleged haunts to Aardsma and said much of the lurking creepiness is because of “energy flux” created by the numerous people who have passed through the library over time.

“There are people who come out of there screaming because they think they’ve been attacked,” Buell said. “People are genuinely creeped out.”

Tunnels Under Penn State

“When I walk down the sidewalk, I see heat coming out, but I never thought they were tunnels,” Hussein Al Sina (junior-mechanical engineering) said. “It would be fun to explore them, but I have never heard of anyone doing that.”

The labyrinth of tunnels beneath Penn State was built in the 1930s to distribute steam-heat to the university buildings.

The energy comes from coal burned at the West Campus Steam Plant, located at the corner of College Avenue and Burrowes Street.

“An interesting side effect that shows evidence of these tunnels is that in some cases, you can see the snow melting from the steam beneath the road,” Paul Ruskin, Office of Physical Plant spokesperson, said.

However, those who plan on visiting the subterranean maze may find themselves in trouble.

“We caught somebody that had been trying to access Old Main from the tunnel system,” said Tyrone Parham, assistant director of the Penn State University Police. “The average person should not be down there. They are really hot and have exposed machinery that people shouldn’t be around.”

The old entrances to the tunnels, which have since been sealed, are located at the intersection of Shortlidge and Pollock and between the McElwain and Grange residence halls.

In April 2005, two students set off alarms in the tunnels. Both were arrested for trespassing by the University Police.

“There’s a lot of graffiti down there,” Parham said. “People usually just go down there to fool around.”

Ruskin strongly recommended that no one attempt investigating this urban legend.

“They are fairly tight and cramped,” he said. “It would be very dangerous.”

Sorority houses as brothels

“I heard that more than 10 or 12 girls in a house is considered a brothel,” Joe Becker (senior-mechanical engineering) said. “I think it’s true. I’ve been to other colleges in Pennsylvania, and it seems to make sense.”

Jean Welling, staff assistant in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said students should not be quick to believe this one. She said this legend has plagued Penn State’s campus for many years.

“I get so many calls about this,” Welling said. “They talk about this brothel law, but it never existed.”

The absence of sorority houses at Penn State goes back to the end of World War II, she said.

“Because of the large influx of students returning to the campus, the university bought the sorority houses and built residence halls on those sites in order to accommodate more students,” she said.

Now, sororities are housed on-campus in the floors of residence halls.

“They pay the same amount in housing as everyone else and a little extra to keep their suite,” Welling said.

Hit by the CATA Bus

“I would definitely jump in front of the CATA bus,” Tyler Fishburn (freshman-architectural engineering) said. “After that, I would be going to college for free.”

Though free tuition is very tempting, if students do plan on hurling themselves in front of a bus they’ll probably end up with little more than a few broken bones, said Eric Bernier, service development manager of Center Area Transportation Authority.

“Getting hit by one of our busses is no different than any other accident, I suppose,” he said. “I’ve been here for 20 years and we’ve never paid for anyone’s tuition.”

Bernier said CATA buses rarely hit pedestrians.

“We’ve had some accidents on campus, but not very often,” he said.

Bernier also suggested dismissing this rumor that getting up close and personal with a CATA bus is a pleasant experience.

“If someone is contemplating doing it, I wouldn’t suggest it. There are no benefits,” he said. “Don’t do it unless you have a high tolerance for pain or are into that kind of thing.”

15 Minutes Late to Class

“My teacher was 12 minutes late to class once, and everyone was waiting for it to be 15,” Jen Burns (freshman-history) said. “I heard that if your professor doesn’t show up after 15 minutes, class is canceled. If that’s true, it would make life much easier.”

Wishful thinking can sometimes get the best of some students with an absentee professor.

“I heard it when I was a student, and I’ve heard it ever since,” Tysen Kendig, Penn State spokesperson, said. “It’s pure fiction. Attendance is at the discretion of the instructor.”

Though unsupervised, students are still required to be in class at the assigned time.

“I’ve heard that the student is still responsible for the entire class,” psychology professor Jeffrey Love said. “Personally, I hold the policy if I am more than 15 minutes late, you can go.”

Professors often use other methods to inform students if they are running late, Love said.

“I usually make an effort to try to notify the class through several ways. I use e-mail, put a sign on the door, and if I know ahead of time, I will tell the class in advance,” he said.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Info
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 10:26:03

    Betsy Aardsma — the facts are here:

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