The Unusual and Weird at the University of Florida

University of Florida Campus

By Natalie Arrieta
By Natalie Arrieta
Unigo Campus Rep at UF

UF is just like any other college with its superior academics, athletics, students and staff and its infamous- urban legends. Gainesville is home to numerous myths, tall tales, and false folklore. I’m here to separate what’s real from fantasy:

Haunted Norman Hall

Rumor has it that Norman Hall, previously P.K. Yonge Elementary School and currently home to the College of Education, is inhabited by the ghosts of children who died in an elevator accident many years ago. Speculations include alleged hearings of the children running and laughing on the third floor at night. The elevator they died in is still intact.

It’s also been said that an old hospital bed remains at its top floor and is mysteriously unmade each morning after being re-made each day.

In an interview with The Independent Florida Alligator newspaper, UF historian Carl Van Ness refutes that this myth is false and a common gator ghost story. To his knowledge, there have never been any ghosts in Norman.

Mysterious naming of Lake Alice 

Previously known as “Jonah’s Pond” prior to the 1890s, Lake Alice’s renaming has a stir of stories surrounding its history. UF student, Lindsey Teichert, recalls hearing that Alice was either a woman killed by an alligator or a witness to her boyfriend getting killed by one and was traumatized. Other speculations include the wives of past university presidents or that it was named for the only daughter of a Mr. Witt, who owned a farm of which the lake was a part of.

Truth be told, the naming of Lake Alice is uncertain. After its alias of “Jonah’s Pond”, in 1894, the US Geological Surveys noted it as Lake Alice.

Tom Petty’s “American Girl” 

It has been said that Tom Petty’s song “American Girl” is about a female student who committed suicide by jumping from the Beaty Towers dormitories.

The song goes: "She stood alone on her balcony / Yeah, she could hear the cars roll by, out on 441 like waves crashin' on a beach / And for one desperate moment there, he crept back in her memory."

It has been rumored that things have been moved around in the rooms. Van Ness does confirm that a student committed suicide by jumping from one of the Beaty Towers in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s, while Petty still lived in Gainesville. Beaty Towers, however, does not have balconies.

When asked directly about the myth in the book Conversations With Tom Petty, Petty replied: “Urban legend. It's become a huge urban myth down in Florida. That's just not at all true. The song has nothing to do with that. But that story really gets around... They've really got the whole story. I've even seen magazine articles about that story. 'Is it true or isn't it true?' They could have just called me and found out it wasn't true.”

The song in reality was written during Petty’s stay in California.

Haunted Thomas Hall 

With its red brick and solemn gargoyles at its entrance, Thomas Hall is one of the university’s oldest dormitories with the oldest legends. Thomas Hall, having previously housed a cafeteria, is said to be haunted by a rowdy ghost named Steve. Steve is deemed responsible for the ceaseless banging of the radiators/heaters during the months they are not in use.

Van Ness says this is an old university joke, and all the banging you hear is old Steve banging on his pots and pans.

Roommate Suicide Perks 

Rumor has it that if your roommate commits suicide and you witness the gruesome scene, say hello to a 4.0 for the semester.

Certain provisions are taken for students who have witnessed traumatic experiences, such as counseling services and perhaps some academic extensions, but there is no such thing as a free ride from the university.

Julie Abrams-Bernier, a representative from the university’s Student Mental Health Services department, says that the mental health care center works alongside the Dean of Students Office to provide whatever assistance the student may need.

In terms of guaranteeing a 4.0 GPA for the semester, “That is up to the discretion of UF faculty.”