Tag Archives: Campus Legend

USC Campus Legend: Secret tunnels to the Coliseum


EL: “The Olympics were here, long ago, and there’s the Olympic Village, which is housing where the Olympians stayed. Supposedly, there are underground tunnels from the Olympic village to the Coliseum that people used to party in, and apparently there was a party drug problem down there in the eighties so they sealed them all up and you can’t get into them anymore. But no one knows where the entrances are. And they’re spooky.”


The informant is a 20-year-old college student from New Jersey. She learned this legend while exchanging lore with other students who rushed a sorority with her. One of her peers, who is now a friend, told EL that these tunnels, which were supposedly intended to provide athletes with discrete transportation to the stadiums, was co-opted by students as a secret party space in the 1980s.

         USC’s Coliseum, which was first constructed in 1923 and now seats approximately 80,000 individuals, hosted the Summer Olympics in 1932 and again in 1984. Many USC students and alumni have competed at the Olympics, which is a source of school pride for some. School folklore around the Olympics includes the legend there is a tree on campus which was donated to the university by Hitler in celebration of the USC athletes who participated in the 1936 Olympics in Munich.


This legend pieces together interesting parts of USC’s culture and history and creates a compelling mystery. Members of the school community can take pride in the Olympics, a globally and historically significant event which garners attention from around the world, took place at the Coliseum. Moreover, USC has a longstanding reputation for partying, and the 1980s is notorious for its culture of drug use around LA and around the country. To some students, the idea that these tunnels were sealed makes the legend of the secret underground tunnel both believable and exciting, since they can cite it as evidence of the intensity of the school’s party culture. 

While this legend has the elements of mystery and seediness which tends to make stories universally compelling, I think that it provides a mode of social bonding particularly for USC students. Because the legend is so specific to the school, it takes on more significance to members of the community because it is more relevant to their lives. This shared interest gives USC students something to bond over. People can connect with one another through telling the story, through arguing or sharing conspiracies about its existence.

I have never heard of students actually trying to find the sealed off entrances to the underground tunnels, but if people have, I imagine that they were motivated by a sense of connection to the school and a desire to access this epic part of the school’s history. However, I think the main intrigue of this legend is its social function and the fun of talking about it. 


3rd piece – Folk belief
Transcript – informant speaking
“The statue Bacon and Eggs, that sits between Stevenson and Darwin halls at SSU as legend tells it that it represents the American flag. The front red and white representing the flag in peace time; the back is black and white representing the flag at war. The blue base holding up the statue symbolizes a star that has fallen from the flag.”

This was a strange one. The informant of this piece goes to Sonoma state and he studies history, which is probably where his concern for the statue stems from. I couldn’t find anything on the internet to confirm this interpretation on the meaning of the statue. So it definitely falls into the folk category (i.e., non institutionalized) mode of knowledge. I might even guess that this folk belief might reside solely with the history department. However, it’s also an interpretation being levied on an existing piece of centralized artwork. This is why folk belief is probably the best catagory for this information, as the folk element comes in with the idea or interpretation, not the object itself.

This story was provided during a zoom call about college legends. It was told in a very straightforward way, but I think the informant might have been trying to embellish a little. They used the cliche phrase “as legend tells,” even though the story is not necessarily a legend. It was clear while talking that they were trying to hype up what they were saying about the statue.

I’m not a big history buff, but what I find interesting about this story is the attempt to localize this form of artwork. If you look at the original statue, it’s literally just a tall piece of bacon. It’s completely absurdist, and objectively, there doesn’t seem to be that much to be made out of it. But here, we seem to have an attempt among the history geeks at the school to make it more relevant to their field of study. Assuming it was built this way, the statue would suddenly grant far greater importance to the history department. In a way, this can be seen as semi self-centered, but also a much needed boost to a frequently overlooked field of study.

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.