Tag Archives: Campus Legend

USC Nazi Tree


My informant is a 21 year old student from the University of Southern California. This conversation took place in a university dining hall one evening. The informant and I were in an open space, and the informant’s significant other was present and listening to the conversation, as well. The SO’s presence, is the most likely reason that the informant was much more dramatic and told the legend quite jokingly, as if for the purpose to get laughs out of both me and the SO.In this account, he explains an urban legend from USC. This Nazi Tree was recently mentioned in an LA Times article.  This is a transcription of our conversation.



Urban legend turned truth at the University of Southern California, is that there on our premises lies a single Nazi Tree. Before you say, “What? The USC institution—gilded in white privilege—has a Nazi tree on campus?” Well, when you have Von KleinsSmid as a president for a decade, wild shit happens.

So essentially, at the 1936 Munich Olympics, there are obviously lots of USC athletes there, and, you know, in celebration and in giving thanks, the Nazi regime gave saplings to all the athletes. And so one sapling made it back to USC, and it was planted right in between the back of Bovard and the back of PED [the Physical Education Building] over by the Book Store, and so now enshrined on our campus is a gift directly from Hitler himself.”



Though this is the first time I heard a formal telling of this USC urban legend, I did hear word of it in the first few weeks that I came to this school. The informant and I are in an organization together, Trojan Advocates for Political Progress, so discussion of this tree began again in our meetings due to the relevant name change of VKC (which is happening upon the discovery that Von KleinSmid was in support of of eugenics). Looking this up, I saw that the LA Times also mentioned “one of two [saplings] planted on the USC campus survives to this day.”

My informant proceeded to tell me that, after doing some research on Reddit, he decided to explore the campus area of where the tree is possibly located; sure enough, he found the tree, which he stated was “unmistakably the tree because there was a plaque in front of it dedicated to the 1936 Munich Olympics.” He’s not the first I’ve met one to search for this tree— this tree seems to have the same reputation as ghosts, where people hunt around to see if its existence is true. I surmise that, just like ghosts, it’s tied to our shame or guilt of our school’s racist and corrupt history. The official existence of this tree is just another factor that reinforces the notion that USC is racist, both past and present.


For the LA Times article mentioned above, please refer to this citation:

Crowe, Jerry. “To Protect and Preserve a Tree Rooted in Games.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times,                         20 Aug. 2007, www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2007-aug-20-sp-crowe20-story.html.


Ghost in McCarthy Honors Dorm 3107


This piece is about a ghost sighting in USC McCarthy Honors Dorm Room 3107. A white figure sleeping with the informant in bed was spotted by her roommate and told to her later.

Main Piece:

“L: Last year I was in the dining hall and one of my friends that wasn’t one of my roommates was making some joke about my room being haunted. And I was like “what? No. Don’t tell me this.” And my friend was like “Oh did your roommate not tell you this?” So it was my direct roommate. So one night we were all hanging out and watching movies or something and the next morning my roommate asked that friend, “why did you sleep in my roommate’s bed last night?” And she was like “I didn’t sleep in her bed last night.” And my roommate said “No I definitely saw a really pale bed laying next to her at night.” So it was laying with me.

C: That’s the creepiest thing I’ve heard.

L: So I think it’s because I have all white blankets and maybe it’s because I had all my blankets pushed to one side and maybe looked like a person. It happened in May of last year, so I only had a few more weeks left in that room.

C: And you lived in the village so they were new?

L: Yeah they were new. So no rumor of them being haunted. But we were watching Buzzfeed Unsolved, so maybe she was super paranoid or something.

C: What room were you in?

L: 3107. In the lofted double. So we were high up. Like you can barely see each other from the beds because we are so high up. She thought it was my friend who was really pale, but then we thought it was a ghost.”


The informant is a 19 year old sophomore who lived her freshman year in Room 3107 in McCarthy Honors Dorm at the USC Village. She was the first year of students to live in the newly built dorms, so there was no rumor that there could be ghosts from past students or people.


Unlike the informant, I had heard rumors about ghosts being at the USC Village before. Though these ghosts were not trying to haunt students, it was more of the idea that they were haunting the school for taking over the neighborhood due to gentrification. I had heard from people in the community the continuing dislike of the expansion of USC, especially the USC Village. I have heard of ghosts from Denny’s that couldn’t afford to get a place in the Village due to this type of sentiment as well.

The Serial Pooper

The informant is my 20-year-old friend from Washington, D.C. He heard this campus legend about our Quaker high school from upperclassmen students when he was a freshman.


“So in high school, there was this legend–I don’t know if it’s a legend, because everyone says it’s true, but no one knows who it was and it happened in one of the graduating classes before we got to high school. I don’t know. Anyways, whenever we had Meeting for Worship, which is basically the whole school once a week goes to this big room and sits in silence for a class period to reflect, or think, or whatever…anyways, whenever we had meeting, there was this guy who would go and poop on one of the desks in the classrooms. And this happened for, like, WEEKS on end. And everyone was going crazy trying to figure out who this person was and how to catch them. And then, so, one week, when everyone was in the Meeting room, they had the entire upper school on lockdown. And they were making sure to see who was leaving Meeting to go to the bathroom or whatever, and they made sure no one was entering the upper school and no one was in the hallways. Anyways, so there’s no incident, and they all go back to class. And everyone thinks the thing is over. But then, the middle schoolers get out of their meeting for worship, and when they go back to class, someone had come and pooped on one of the middle-school desks. And they never figured out who this person was.”


Campus legends have always been particularly interesting to me, and this one is especially compelling because it is so specific to the age group of high schoolers. Legends stipulate by their definition that there must be an element of doubt as to whether or not the story is true, and such doubt about this story could only exist in this particular age group. High schoolers are at probably one of the only ages where a story about someone going around pooping on desks could be true, because this would not be a plausible story in the adult world, nor could it realistically happen in younger age groups, because not only of the planning required but also because their rebellions against authority are almost always more tame than those of older children. Though this is clearly example of the counter-hegemonic bend of most children’s and young adults’ lore, this particular legend could be interpreted as counter-hegemonic in more ways than one–it could be pure strategy to use the Meeting for Worship period to poop on desks, but it also could be a rebellion against the he spirit of Meeting for Worship, which is something religious and of high importance in Quakerism.


The Second Floor of Marks Tower is Haunted

The informant is friend of mine from San Jose, California who attends USC. When I was investigating campus lore, she shared with me this legend that circulated her building freshman year.


“So, basically, when we were living in Marks Tower, the floors are single-sex, but the building is co-ed. So it alternates, like, second floor is boys, third is girls, fourth is boys…basically, even numbers are boys and odds are girls. And, so, because we were living there the whole year, we kind of got to know most people in the building. Like, not all of them, but I would recognize people’s faces and stuff. And so, um, basically, as the year went on, we kind of noticed that…well, I noticed, and I guess other people were noticing, but basically, we noticed that we were never meeting anyone from the second floor. And all the people I asked, none of them had met anyone who lived on the second floor either. So, like, it kind of became this thing, like, “oh, the second floor is haunted, no one actually lives there.” So yeah it was kind of like this building legend where you would say to people “Oh have you met anyone on the second floor yet?” and every time they would answer no.”


I found this legend interesting, because it seemed like an example of parody folk belief. Obviously, everyone in the building knew there had to be people living on the second floor, but they suspended their disbelief for the sake of the legend that the floor was haunted. It is very hard to believe that no one in the entire building had ever encountered someone from the second floor, so I suspect some people lied to keep the legend going. This demonstrates an interesting and cool thing about legends, and folklore in general: they tie people together and create common ground. The existence of this legend allowed the people living in that building to participate in the shared identity of “people who live in Marks Tower.” I also thought it was interesting that floor numbers were also a place that people found identity, or that being a second-floor resident would be a way to mark someone’s identity in the larger group of Marks Tower residents.

Cornell Virgin Legend

“Okay, so the deal is, there’s A.D. White and Ezra Cornell. So, there are statues of each of them. Ezra Cornell is the first president of Cornell and, I forget, I think A.D. White was the founder. Oh, no, no, no, A.D. White was the first president and they named the school after Cornell. So, um, what happened is, there’s statues of them on opposite sides of the Arts Quad, and Cornell legend says that if a virgin crosses the Arts Quad at midnight, the ghost of the two statues walk to the center of the Arts Quad and shake hands in appreciation of chastity. Okay, in recent years, students have painted footprints of the two umm, one in white, one set of footprints in white and one set of footprints in red that lead to the center circle on the Arts Quad as if the statues actually were able to get up and walk.  

I dunno really where I heard this from. Everyone just sort of knows it. I think maybe I heard it from my Orientation Leader or a tour guide but I can’t remember.”


The informant was pretty shaky on the details of the legend, and seemed somewhat flustered when she forgot who founded the school and who was the first president. It was pretty funny because even though there are statues of these two important figures at her school, that does not seem to be very important to her, and understanding the actual, historical roles of these two figures is not imperative to understanding the legend.

The legend is a quaint throwback to the notion of chastity and is particularly ironic in a college environment, where the attitude usually seems to be that everyone is having casual sex or losing their virginity. It almost seems to be making a joke out of the idea of a virgin on campus, as if to say that having a virgin on their campus is so impossible that if there was one, supernatural things would occur. It is interesting that students have taken the urban legend and perpetuated their own sort of folklore by making a folk tradition out of painting the footsteps onto the quad.

A variation of this legend appears in the book Campus Legends: A Handbook (Greenwood Folklore Handbooks), compiled by Elizabeth Tucker. The book says, “…if a virgin graduates from Cornell, the two statues will meet in the middle of their courtyard to shake hands” (Tucker 16.) The book also notes that students have a tradition of painting the red and white footsteps in the courtyard between the two statues. It is interesting that the version of the legend in this book, which was published in 2005, has a distinct variation from the version of the legend that the informant told me. In one version, the statues shake hands when a virgin graduates, whereas in the version the informant told me, that statues shake hands when a virgin crosses at midnight. The canonized version of the legend suggests that it is rare for a person to graduate a virgin (that is, to make it through all four years of college and remain a virgin), whereas the version the informant told me suggests that it is rare for someone to maintain their virginity at all once they arrive at college. Perhaps this variation implies a changing view of sexuality over the past few years and suggests that modern college students are much more sexually aware and sexually active than ever before.