The “Halloween Campus” Murders
Did you ever hear about the episode of Oprah that had the psychic on who predicted a mass murder would take place on Halloween night? The murder was supposed to happen on a college campus. Oh wait a minute! It was Donahue! Yes, yes, the Donahue show. Or was it Montel? Geraldo? Joan Rivers?
Truth is, all of these hosts were mentioned as having this supposed psychic on their respective shows. The identity of the psychic also changes with each account. The first incarnation of this story appeared in the late 1960’s, and last appeared in 2007 at Kent State University. Each time the story gets going again, it causes panic in the colleges that fear they are targeted. 1998 was the year the rumor was most widespread, and each time, details of the story changed. First it was Oprah’s show that had the psychic, then it was Montel Williams. The killer was said to either have on a Little Bo Peep outfit or a Scream mask. First the victim count was said to be eight or ten and then it moved up to twelve or eighteen. One said it was all female students, one didn’t specify. Most versions said the episode was “taped, but never aired”, which was why the show could never be found when searched for.
The inconsistencies continue because of course this is a classic urban legend. Nothing about this story is true, and each year it exists, it grows. It doesn’t take long to get it started, and before you know it there are terrified students at college campuses everywhere. There was no psychic prediction of a mass murder on Halloween night (or Halloween weekend) on any talk show anywhere. It simply did not happen.
It is thought that the initial legends that were told in the late 1960’s and early 70’s were stemmed from a very real terror that happened in the Midwest. The summer of 1966 was a tragic one for the families of the student nurses murdered by serial killer Richard Speck. He was arrested shortly after the murders and spent the rest of his life in Statesville Prison. A horrendous crime to be sure, but there was no psychic who predicted it.
Every five or ten years, the rumor will spike up on a college campus somewhere, unnecessarily frightening the students and sometimes bringing Halloween festivities to a halt. When the story hit the University of Illinois in Urbana, the claim was that the murder would take place on a Big Ten campus. One of the residence halls had an H shape and fit the description that had been circulating, terrifying people to the point of requesting transfers. Nothing happened, although campus security was stepped up just in case of a possible “copycat” or someone seeking to make the rumor a reality. The scare died out and life returned to normal on the campus, with some students possibly feeling a little foolish for believing the legend so quickly.
Can’t say I blame them for being scared. I may find myself thinking twice before answering the door to Little Bo Peep next Halloween night!