Campus Cryptids and Creepy Canards
October 31, 2019
October 31, 2019
cryptid. n. (plural cryptids) (cryptozoology) Any creature that may or may not exist. Sightings of various cryptids have been reported, but their reality has not been proven.
Have you ever had an encounter that was just sort of … odd?
Maybe it was with another student, a faculty member, or someone (or something) outside of those two categories. The experience in and of itself was totally harmless, but it definitely raised a lot of questions, such as, “What was that about?” or “Do they even go here?” Maybe they’re recurring sightings, or maybe it was a once-in-a-lifetime brush with the strange. Here are some encounters with the mysterious, enigmatic, and the hilarious, as relayed by current Southwestern University students.
Megan Betancourt ’21
The Flying Fish of Mabee
This was back in October of 2018. I was sitting (ironically) in one of the fishbowls on the third floor of Mabee, just working on some homework, when I look out toward the walkway, and all of a sudden, I see a giant fish float up from one of the lower floors. Do you remember the sun rising in the opening of the Lion King? It was a lot like that. It was beautiful and mysterious and filled me with such utter bewilderment that I felt as though I was looking upon an ancient and powerful being making itself corporeal right before my very eyes. I suppose I should specify this was not, in fact, an actual fish that had somehow attained the powers of levitation, but I like to believe that this mysterious presence was a product of the cosmos, a physical representation of all the best possible timelines converging, rather than that of human intervention.
The Story Tree
Ah, yes—the Story Tree. A renowned, beloved, and feared emblem of Southwestern. A place of camaraderie and debauchery. Legend has it that this mighty oak has been host to many late-night story exchanges among students, telling tales not too unlike the ones documented here. Or extremely different, as the towering maple has also heard its share of spine-chilling confessions. Students wracked with guilt about one transgression or another have been known to release their secrets unto the tree; it’s very good at keeping them. The mesquite also has garnered quite the reputation among seniors, who have buried offerings underneath its boughs to grant them good fortune during their postgraduation endeavors.
Just don’t take anything from the tree; it’ll always want it back.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering just where exactly this lovely cedar tree is located, so you, too, might bask in its presence. Beats me! But if you do miraculously find it, be careful not to stay too long, and remember to always walk away from the tree the same cardinal direction that you came from, and do not look back. If you arrive after sundown, leave before midnight. If you arrive after midnight, leave before sunrise. And whatever you do, do not fall asleep underneath it. If you hear something in the branches above you, pretend it’s a squirrel, and don’t look up. And never, never go back to get something you forgot. That’s what it wants you to do.
Ellie Crowley ’19
The Piano Man
As I approach McCombs, I always wonder, “Will the piano man be there?” Will his sweet tunes be flowing through the echoing halls of the building? Or will I have to come back another day to hear the tinkling of the ivory? Whether it be a delicate “Für Elise” or a rather abrasive Pirates of the Caribbean, you can always count on the piano man’s tunes to brighten up your day. With a deep v-neck and aviator sunglasses, he’s the coolest mystery in town.
Ah yes, the infamous juggler. He’s exactly where you least expect him at any given moment. Taking a midnight stroll on the lawn? The juggler is there. Eating breakfast in the Commons? The juggler is there. Taking a post-chunch-slump nap? The juggler is there, too. The juggler is everywhere and nowhere, all at once.
The Roof Dancer
There is a girl who dances on the roof. One night, I saw her. I was walking to the Commons for a rather-late-night snack. Far in the distance, I could see a shadowy figure atop one of the largest buildings on campus. I thought to myself, “Surely that cannot be a person up there.” Alas, it was. It was the Roof Dancer in the flesh, doing a little jig. Every now and then, I would look over, and she had disappeared, only to reappear once again minutes later, just tapping away. As I finished my snack, I peered out the window to see if I could spot her again. Alas, she had disappeared into thin air. Legend has it she is still up there, dancing the night away.
Justin Cruz ’20
The Fraternity Phantom
If you know Southwestern, you know it is rich with history, being the first college in the state of Texas. It is a given that students will tell you that the 179-year-old institution is haunted, and every residence hall on campus has its own version of a spooky apparition that haunts its residents. The Kappa Alpha (KA) Order house is no different. Although the house has 14 rooms, with a total of 22 members living in the house, one room is empty, and there is said to be an extra resident. Out of all the paranormal phenomena that occur on campus, nothing feels more real to the members of KA than the ghostly apparition of Ms. Doris Miller.
Doris had the duty of being house mother for the KA house during the years 1955–1972. Having a knack for proper language and etiquette, she demanded that the young members never curse and demonstrate proper table manners. During her years in the house, many of the actives feared receiving a scolding and did their best to wash their dishes, clean their messes, and dress professionally for class or else face strong ridicule for not doing so.
A bit harsh at times, Doris was actually quite compassionate and kind at heart. Having a degree in education and English literature from SU and being a former school teacher, she was sharp and wise, and people gave her their full attention. She was an avid reader and would spend her early mornings reading next to her most prized possession: an enormous and archaic grandfather clock.
Through the years, Doris’s wisdom left an imprint on the house, and the chapter learned a lot from her rigid teachings. Although she was in her late 80s, many actives believed she would live forever. Her mind was sharp as a tack, and she never forgot even the most distant memories. However, as all things do, Doris eventually passed away, and her authoritative presence was no longer a part of the KA chapter house.
As many know, spirits are often tied to an artifact that was symbolic in that person’s life one way or another. For Doris, that artifact was the dusty old grandfather clock she kept in the chapter room. During her time, the clock would send residents flying out of their seats when it struck 12:00 a.m., knowing very well that they should be in bed already rather than getting into late-night shenanigans. “Nothing good ever happens past 12,” Doris always bellowed while wagging her finger in the air.
To many residents today, the old grandfather clock is merely a decoration, an antique that adds a nice touch to the chapter room. But something about the clock always brings an eerie presence to the room. “The wall where the clock was positioned is always significantly darker than the rest of the room, and the air seems to feel thick and smell of ozone, making the hair on your neck stand up if you stay there too long,” one resident observes. “I never study in the chapter room, and we all avoid ever being in there alone.” It’s common for the grandfather clock to go off around 12:00 a.m. and is even said to chime when an active member unleashes some abhorrent expletive—even though the pendulum and the second hand of Doris’s clock are missing entirely.
Victoria Galbreath ’22
Kurth Residence Hall is known for the apparitions that inhabit the building. However, last October, a new presence made its home there.
Everyone remembers their first encounter with the creature: the Kurth elevator doors sliding open, the demonic poppet’s face lit up in glee as noises of terror slipped from the student’s lips. All have reported that they tried to get rid of this nightmarish fever dream of Steven King and Don Mancini, but none succeeded. The mysterious marionette always returned, traveling through the floors of Kurth like an eerie elevator operator.
One student recalls the figurine having a gray countenance, wearing a long ivory dress. Another student, voice trembling, swore they saw it in plaid overalls with a jester hat. And yet another insists the puppet had orange yarn hair and wore a striped outfit. A couple of details, however, have remained the same: its scarlet smile and shifting eyes.
By the last week in October, everyone was too spooked to use the elevator. Even an “Out of Order” sign was put up for a few days. It wasn’t until dawn broke on November 1 that one brave soul (with a knee injury, living on the third floor) decided to press the dusty button to call the elevator. For the first time in weeks, the elevator arrived at the first floor, evil entity absent.
Relief did not fill the passenger, though.
On the elevator wall was a mirror, five words scribbled on the surface.
T.J. Vela ’19
It’s been 24-plus hours since you’ve seen the light of day. Your stomach is grumbling from the lack of food in your body, your hand is in searing pain from the notes you’ve been trying to jot down, and your butt is numb from sitting at this desk on the third floor of the Smith Library Center for so long. You look at your watch; it’s 3:16 a.m. You wonder if dropping out and becoming an exotic dancer would be better than taking this midterm that you’ve spent days studying for.* You slowly start dozing off until you’re awoken by one of the foulest stenches you have ever smelled. It’s like a combination of rotting Commons eggs and decaying tuna-fish sandwiches sacrificed to Monstrance. The scent is unbearable. You quickly gather your belongings and begin walking out the door to leave, but your curiosity gets the better of you. You decide to investigate the stench.
You follow the scent down the stairs to the second floor of the library. The putrid stench leads you straight to the entrance of Special Collections. As you stand there with chills running down your spine, you look to your right and see a book cart with a lone book laying on it. It is “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. You reach down and open the book to a random page that says, “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, / Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” As chills run down your spine, the stench grows stronger. Wearily, you decide to continue following the stench.
The smell leads you deep into Special Collections, up some hallways, down some stairs, and all the way to the original entrance of the Cody Memorial Library. The old wooden doors of the entrance are covered in dust, cobwebs, and old Pirate Cards from the 1950s. As you stand there with your hand covering your nose, you think to yourself, “I really gotta get outta here.” Before you begin walking away, you hear the cracking and creaking of the wooden door opening right in front of you.
Frozen in fear, you wait to see what demon will come through this dark, deep abyss. You begin to hear the faint sound of wheels on a cart coming closer and closer to you through the entrance. With each second that passes, the sound of the wheels gets louder, your heart beats faster, and your palms get sweatier. You think to yourself, “Is this a monster? A zombie? A student from Trinity who wishes they chose to come to Southwestern instead?”
The screeching sound of the cart gets so loud and deafening until finally from the darkness comes the librarian who walks around after hours giving students candy and asking to see their Pirate Cards. You don’t even know her name or her official title, but you do know that she is one of the sweetest staff members on campus. Relieved, you reach your hand out to introduce yourself and apologize for being in this part of the library so late at night.
However, she never does grab your hand for that reassuring handshake. You take a closer look into the eyes of this lady and quickly realize that this is not a normal person. Her eyes cut through you like a hot knife through butter.
The librarian begins smiling and laughing wickedly as she asks, “Can I see your Pirate Card, sweetie?” You’ve seen enough scary movies to know not to do something like that, so you sprint back up the stairs. You look back and see that this sweet librarian has transformed into a demonic being with three heads and six arms and is chasing after you. As you sprint out the main entrance of the library, her chilling screams of, “GET OUT OF MY LIBRARY!” echo through your mind.
The next day, you’re still shook. You don’t even think about telling your roommate or even one of your friends about what you saw because you know they wouldn’t believe you. You take your midterm and stay far away from the library for about a week.
That’s when you get your score back on your midterm and you realize something.
Whatever you experienced that night is definitely not as scary as having to call your mom and tell her that you failed another midterm and are going to have to be at Southwestern for another year.
Yeah, three-headed demons don’t seem so bad after all now.
*This author does not condone dropping out and becoming an exotic dancer.