Ties to a Place
Ghost stories, urban legends, and tales about strange occurrences have proven themselves to be hardy things as the years go by and they remain. They are created through associations with events and emotions (some specific, others more general) and their ability to entrance an audience determines how long their lifespans will be.
Big events like wars create so much emotion on a national and local level, that when it comes to the Peace Tree being planted as a symbol of peace, hope, and stability, it's not suprising there were protests and dissention among Ursinus students. When it went missing, the legend was born. A Peace tree that was circled in mystery created a legend staturated in instability and strife, which challegened the people of the time to confront their perceptions of the world around them. The peace tree stood as a symbol of forces we cannot see and a memory of things that future generations cannot understand, unless they were present in a time like the Vietnam War. The scroll that was planted under the tree is like the bottles with the spirits of the men whose lives were lost, moaning in the wind. It's an echo of pain that the tree was supposed to stand for, so that no one would take their life for granted.
But big events don’t just occur on a national scale; they can happen in small communities as well. The ghost stories that live on well beyond their immediate genesis tend to be heavily rooted in personal tragedy at Ursinus. Through these stories, the present and future generations of students hold a dialogue with the generations of students from the past. For the most part, this dialogue is a response to the pain injected into the physical sites by the students who are most closely tied to the tragedy (and ghosts), showing that a place is shaped regularly by the people who live there.
The combination of the physical environment and attitudes associated with said environment have also heavily influenced how Pfahler’s radioactivity labs contribute to the overall personality of Ursinus College. They provide a more interesting connection between the students and the campus where they live, exemplifying the possibilities for adventure in everyday spaces and attributing a quality of mystery and uniqueness to the college. The labs stand as a reminder of how national perception shifts can affect modern understandings of something, even if it is as small as a few shuttered rooms in a basement.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about just a few of the many myths and urban legends that contribute to the rich history of Ursinus College. The preservation of such stories will hopefully serve as a way for future generations of students to connect back with iterations of the college that have come and gone, enriching their understanding of the place where they are learning to become their best selves. For anyone who would like to continue this endeavor by adding to our collection of tales, the Ursinusiana Collection in Myrin Library is one of the best resources available - we welcome any and all additions!
 Goldstein, Grider, and Thomas, Haunting Experiences, 44-45.