Legend – New York

“So the legend goes that a long time ago, probably like around the 1920’s or so, there was a kid that was really stressed out about school and finals were coming up.  A few days later the kid decides that he’s had enough and he jumps off of this local suspension bridge into the gorges and kills himself.  People say that you can still hear screams from the bridge and some people say that they’ve seen him especially on the day that he died.”

This legend holds a lot of truth in the Cornell community due to the fact that many people actually have committed suicide by jumping into the gorges in Ithaca, New York.  What Matt told me is that although there have been many suicides in the past, but this one is the one that was supposedly most traumatic and is still talked about today.  Matt also said that he and a few of his friends have listened for the screams on the day that the student died, but they didn’t hear anything or see anyone.  Matt told me that he heard the story from an older student who was a part of his fraternity, and that it was a big deal when it happened because it was so long ago.

Elizabeth Tucker also lists this story in the book Campus Legends– A Handbook.  The legend is very similar, and it involves a male student who commits suicide by jumping off of the same suspension bridge.  The book said that typically the story is told that the student was under academic stress, had family problems, or was involved in a fraternity initiation that “shatters the student’s peace of mind and makes him decide that life’s not worth living.”

What can be seen in each situation is that there is a student who is undergoing a lot of stress and decides that the easiest way out is to jump into the gorges of Cornell to escape his troubles.  The fact that students at Cornell have jumped into the gorges to commit suicide is indeed a fact, however the reality of whether or not the suspension bridge legend is true is questionable.  A legend is something that could be true, is set in the real world, and invites discussions about belief.  This legend definitely has each of these factors.  Because Cornell is such a difficult school and finals week is often very stressful, it is clear why students continue to speak of it today as if it really has happened and is probably the reason the legend will live on in the future.

Annotation:  Tucker, Elizabeth.  Campus Legends – A Handbook. Westport, CT:             Greenwood Press:  2005.  pp. 78-80.