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Myths and Legends Abound At SUNY Oswego

By Andrew Kunkel, Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY – After 150 years, there are plenty of legends, ghost stories and other lore regarding SUNY Oswego.

One of the college’s most famous alumni, television weatherman Al Roker, separates fact from fiction in “Laker Lore,” a short video available at www.oswego.edu/150

Students cross the bridge between Seneca and Tyler halls; the only place on campus that there have ever been ropes put up for pedestrian safety.
Students cross the bridge between Seneca and Tyler halls; the only place on campus that there have ever been ropes put up for pedestrian safety.

A popular legend from anyone who has ever attended school on the shores of Lake Ontario is that the wind was, at one point, so fierce that ropes were built from building to building so students would not fall over and be blown away.

Roker explains that the only place on campus there were ever ropes like this was on the bridge between Seneca and Tyler halls in the early 1970s. The ropes were there as a precaution for construction work being done at the time.

Ever notice how there is an eight-foot wall built around Tyler Hall?

Legend has it that it was just an architect’s line around the blueprints; but, the construction workers misread it and placed a large wall there.

Another such legend on campus is that there is an old Desoto car buried there.

Actually, on the celebration of the first Earth Day in April of 1970, a Dodge Desoto was filled with garbage and buried near the entrance to campus on Route 104.

This was the students’ way of protesting the excessive pollution of the auto industry at the time.

Spirits are also said to inhabit Oswego, and the college.

Freshman Chelsea Newton has had first-hand experiences living in Funnelle hall on campus.

The long wall that surrounds Tyler Hall, shown here, is said to have been erected due to the mistake of construction workers interpreting the blueprints.
The long wall that surrounds Tyler Hall, shown here, is said to have been erected due to the mistake of construction workers interpreting the blueprints.

“My roommate and I were lying down about to go to sleep, when all of a sudden we saw this huge white figure appear in our room. I’ve been told that it’s the ghost of Amanda Funnelle, the woman the building is named for. Other times it has been lights turning on and off by themselves and flickering,” said Newton.

“My friend who lives on the fourth floor in Funnelle has had strange experiences too. One night around 2 a.m. he woke up to see his locked door slowly creep open by itself, and then suddenly slam shut,” Newton added.

An Oswego alumnus, Tony Herrick, has also heard of ghostly rumors in town.

“In Fort Ontario, ghost hunters have reported finding evidence of ghostly activity in a few of the buildings. A blonde girl was seen in the third story window of one of the officers’ quarters. The third stories of the building are used for storage and not accessible by the public. The fort was closed at the time,” said Herrick.

“At the railroad tracks between the fort and Lake Ontario, it is rumored that a Civil War soldier from Fort Ontario had his head shot off by a canon ball. He is said to walk along the old railroad tracks looking for his head. A floating light moving along the tracks is said to be him or his lantern,” Herrick continued.

But not everything in Oswego deals with spirits.

Alumni Mark Hutchins was on campus in the late 1960s, and saw more than his fair share of interesting events.

“In Seneca Hall, guys in the Industrial Arts department took apart a kid’s Volkswagen beetle. While he was at class, they reassembled it in his room,” said Hutchins.

“The first Black Student group made public demands for spending allowances and some off the wall demands. The campus was tense for days. A white cross was set up. Then it was all diffused by other student groups making demands; Italians wanted the stacks at the steam plan renamed Luigi, Antonio, etc. The Irish wanted shamrocks planted in front of admin building with green beer served in the cafeterias. It was a wild and wonderful time,” Hutchins recalled.

In the early 20th century, a famous legend is that of President William Howard Taft having a massive bathtub in the White House and in Oswego as well.

An Oswego businessman was a friend of President Taft and had an extra large bathtub for his husky friend built in his Port City home, in case the president came for a visit.

The entrance to SUNY Oswego on Route 104. Somewhere in this area is the burial ground of a Dodge Desoto that was buried on the first Earth Day in 1970.
The entrance to SUNY Oswego on Route 104. Somewhere in this area is the burial ground of a Dodge Desoto that was buried on the first Earth Day in 1970.

After the businessman’s passing, his wife donated the house and all of its contents to the college.

Another discovery in the home made SUNY Oswego into a “presidential library.”

It so happens that the man had 10,000 letters written by President Millard Fillmore in the house. These letters can be found today in Penfield Library on campus.

The college on the shore of Lake Ontario is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its 1861 founding as the Oswego Primary Teachers’ Training School. The first class of nine teachers-in-training met in a cloakroom in a school on Oswego’s West Fourth Street.

Today SUNY Oswego enrolls more than 8,000 students on its nearly 700-acre lakeside campus, SUNY Oswego Phoenix Center, and SUNY Oswego Metro Center located in downtown Syracuse.