Butler University’s storied history also includes some myths and legends.
These stories are not all true, but many students generally say they believe them. Sally Childs-Helton, special collections and rare books librarian, shared her knowledge of folklore to help discover whether or not the myths are true with the Collegian.
“You see collegiate or campus folklore follow motifs from the rest of the world,” Childs-Helton said. “Students turn over every four years, so the student memory changes very rapidly, which adds to the lore.”
4.0 GPA if your roommate commits suicide: Busted
Although the origin of this myth couldn’t be traced, this myth says that, if your roommate commits suicide, you will receive all A’s for the semester due to the trauma.
While the school will provide counseling, the university will not give you a 4.0 if your roommate commits suicide or is killed, Childs-Helton said.
There are a number of variations involving survivors and whether or not an event is witnessed. This suggests the false nature of the myth. If it were true, the stories would be more consistent, Childs-Helton said.
Vice President of Student Affairs Levester Johnson officially busted this myth.
“In my 21 years here at Butler, I have never seen that occur,” Johnson said. “It is not a practice here at Butler.”
Providing counseling and helping friends cope with the loss is what the university will provide if a tragedy does occur, Johnson said.
Free tuition if a car hits you on campus: Busted
The rumor that you will receieve free tuition if a car hits you on campus is also false.
This myth is so widespread among various college campuses that is was researched by Snopes.com. Snopes researches folklore to see if there is any truth involved.
They have not found any policies from any college that state getting hit by a car on campus will result in free tuition.
“I believe that this is a variant of the suicide myth, because it follows many of the same patterns,” Childs-Helton said. “If something bad happens, I will get something.”
If you are a member of the Ovid Butler family or a descendant of a former Butler stockholder, you will not receive free tuition either, Childs-Helton said.
Johnson said he believes this myth began with one college in one specific instance.
“It probably goes back to when a college or university experienced physical tragedy with one of their students,” Johnson said.
Lydia the ghost: Busted
Lydia is a ghost that supposedly haunts both the Alpha Chi Omega and Pi Beta Phi houses on Greek Row. The myth said the girl committed suicide in the Tau Kappa Epsilon house, which used to be home to the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority.
“The first time I heard the story, I asked for specifics, and no one could give me any,” Childs-Helton said. “The dates (mid-1920s) that I was given (for Lydia’s death) were on the Irvington campus. We weren’t even here yet. We came to this campus in 1928.”
Butler University moved to its current campus in 1928, and Greek Row as it appears now did not exist, Childs-Helton said.
The story moved with the university. A Facebook page was created for ‘Lydia Geist’ to try and root the story in reality. These facts signify the story as folklore, Childs-Helton said.
“She kills herself in one house, but she ends up haunting two different houses on completely different sides of Greek Row,” Childs-Helton said. “Normally, people who believe in ghosts say the hauntings are very site specific. They’re not going to call up Dawg Ride and haunt two different sororities. It doesn’t make sense.”
The story has made its way all over campus. Sophomore Drew Horn has heard about Lydia’s hijinks from his friends.
“I know Pi Phis and Alpha Chis that live in their houses,” Horn said. “Whenever they see or hear something spooky, they blame Lydia.”
The ghost of Lydia’s Facebook page posts about events like Frisbee Fling, and congratulates Pi Phi on its Founder’s Day.
“Google can’t even find me…BOO,” a post on Lydia Geist’s Facebook said.
‘Lydia’ has 210 friends on Facebook. Some even write on her wall and get a response from the ghost.
“There have been students die on campus, but there is not a Lydia associated with a suicide,” Childs-Helton said.
The inconsistencies in the story disprove the myth.
Phi Delta Theta Meth Lab: Busted
Phi Delta Theta was rumored to have a meth lab in its basement in the 1990s. The myth tries to explain why the Phi Delta Theta house was shut down.
“I checked with the office of Greek Life,” Childs-Helton said. “Phi Delt was shut down from 2002 to 2008, so the time period is wrong. The real reason it shut down was because its membership had declined. It lacked alumni support and a house director which is required.”
The national fraternity made the decision to shut the chapter down, and the university agreed, Childs-Helton said.
There was no major meth activity in Marion County until 2003. The time period of the myth is wrong, because there was no meth activity in the 1990s, according to the state of Indiana’s website.
Horn, a Phi Delta Theta member, said he has heard the rumor.
“Completely false,” Horn said. “I even talked to alumni about it.”
Childs-Helton said stories like this spread around campus quickly.
“Sometimes all it takes is one person at a party saying maybe they had a meth lab,” Childs-Helton said. “It’s more exciting and interesting than the actual reason.”
Underground tunnel from Schwitzer Hall to Atherton Union: Confirmed
An underground tunnel runs from the back of Atherton to the Schwitzer basement.
“I have seen the blueprints, and they put a dining room in the Schwitzer basement,” Childs-Helton said. “The tunnel connected the buildings, so they could carry the food over. They bricked it over now.”
However, the tunnel was not used in the Underground Railroad, a network of secret passageways used by slaves and abolitionists during the Civil War, as one version of the rumor states. Butler’s current campus was built many years after the Civil War.
Despite what some students may believe, there is also no one lurking in the tunnel system, Johnson said.
Folklore on campuses will always be around, Childs-Helton said.
“Most of the time this stuff is just told for fun,” Childs-Helton said. “As it gets passed down from student class to student class, the stories get updated, so they make sense to contemporary students.”