Informant is LO, a USC freshman from New York City, New York.
“The Parkside Ghost has never been taken seriously. It’s common knowledge but no one truly believes in it. Sometimes all the lights will go dark and you’re in the hallway, and the lights on the other side of the hallway will start flickering which is just scary especially when it’s late at night. Then you have other instances where the elevator doors open randomly, like when the elevator is there but no one ever walks in. There’s also The Stench. It kind of smells like sulfur, rotten eggs, and you smell it and then it goes away. It usually stays for five minutes and we’re all like ‘Oh, it’s the parkside ghost.’ There’s also no hot water, although recently there has been. All of those have happened to me, so there definitely could be a ghost, but I think they’re all circumstantial. I think it makes it more fun, personally I don’t believe it. Also because Parkside is pretty old, so there’s that idea.”
The University of Southern California was founded in 1880, and the Parkside residential buildings which informant LO references were built over the course of multiple years in the 2000s, making them at least 10 years old. The Parkside residential buildings include Parkside Arts and Humanities Residential College — a special living community for freshmen interested in the arts and humanities — Parkside International Residence College — a special living community targeted at first year students seeking an international experience — and Parkside Apartments — a living space designated primarily for juniors and seniors.
As USC is an institution with a nearly 150-year tradition, there are bound to be certain legends and folk narratives that form. This memorize reflects one consequence of an old school, which is the presence of old buildings. However, unlike other ghost stories — such as those from Estonia which tell of demons which steal property from Ülo Valk’s “Ghostly Possession and Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore” — this ghost story lacks any reference to “unfinished business,” whether from a failed ritual or disappointed ancestors. Rather, as LO states, the goal is simply to make fun of the poor quality of an old building, and perhaps give some explanation to the unexplainable, as some ghost stories do.
My informant is a USC undergraduate student majoring in Theatre. He used to have a major in the cinematic arts, and acted in a few student films produced by his fellow students.
“So I was filming a student film here on campus a couple years ago. Uh, it was a–I was like–the film never actually got produced but I was a killer. I was like a serial killer or something. With all his–it was real–all like themed killings. It’s all pretty…insane. And, uh. We didn’t have a permit. So we got approached by a DPS officer. And we were all scared we were gonna get like…or the director at least was scared that we were gonna get busted. I didn’t care ’cause, you know, I’m just the actor. I can’t be held accountable for any of this. Uh. And… But she doesn’t say anything, she actually, uh, starts…talking to us and I forget how…this came up. But she starts talking about this house near campus. And uh, this is at night. And apparently this house near campus is haunted. And…because she said that like fellow officers have been in it to like…look at stuff or whatever, and there’ve been voices and moving things, spooky stuff. And uh, she said that apparently a family lived there, and…two–I’m pretty sure it was only two of the members of the family are…actually there as ghosts now. And they’ve been…messing with stuff, and…I think she said–yeah, she said one of them is friendly and the other one’s pretty…spiteful and vindictive. Uh. And so basically it’s not a place you wanna go. And I don’t know where it is. But…it’s around here somewhere.”
Finally, a ghost story about USC. According to my informant, he had no real personal reason for remembering this story that the DPS officer told; he remembered it because it was part of the larger story that almost got their filming crew “busted.” But for me, and possibly for any other USC student hearing the story, it’s interesting because it presents a side to the DPS that we as students don’t normally hear about. It raises interesting questions as to why the DPS investigate this house that often in the first place and how the story is told amongst themselves. When one of them is told to go investigate it, how does he or she feel about this if he or she has been told about the supposed history of this house? It is curious that this story does not circulate amongst the student population of USC as ghost stories usually thrive amongst young adults around college-age, especially when it involves a location near them. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that this house is probably not one open to the public and thus the only legal reason a person would have for ever entering the house is to investigate it for some official reason, as the DPS officers do in this account. But it is still odd that even rumors of this house have not appeared en masse amongst the students and that even a Google search for haunted locations in the USC area turns up nothing except staged haunted houses for the purposes of Halloween celebrations.