Oprah Guest's Horrific Prediction Struck Fear in College Students
On October 31, 1998, students on the University of Dayton campus in Dayton, Ohio, clung desperately to each other out of fear. Their fear had merit, since a famous psychic who appeared on <i>Oprah</i> had predicted a mass murder. She stated that she could see the murders happening, in a building shaped like an X, with cemeteries on three sides. There was one building on that campus that fit the description, an undergraduate dormitory called Marycrest that boarded the famous Woodland Cemetery on three sides.
The word spread like wildfire; students whispered to each other, emails were sent, calls were made, and eventually calls were made to parents, who took their own worries to the school. Time was running out; the psychic predicted the murders for Halloween night, and that was only a few short hours away.
The problem with the story was that similar stories were sweeping campuses across the Midwest.
On the Michigan State University campus, the story was more developed. Gone was the X-shaped building, replaced by an H, and instead of a location near a cemetery, it was near a set of railroad tracks. Other additions were that the psychic said it was a Big Ten school with a morgue on campus, and MSU was the only option that fit all the criteria.
The campuses were not the only ones flooded with calls, but the show as well. Representatives from <i>Oprah</i> were quick to point out that a psychic had not appeared on their show in years, and no one had ever made a prediction like that on their set. If it had, it would not have aired.
At the same time, the rumor swept the campus at the University of Michigan. For every campus that the rumor of a mass murder hit, the details were changed to fit the school. The Florida State campus version of the rumor ignored the location details, and focused on a sorority or fraternity house, and a killer dressed as Little Bo Peep. Purdue kept the X-shaped building, and added that it would occur at the highest, or lowest point on campus. And at Ohio Northern, the Little Bo Peep killer planned to attack a building with an "O" in the title that was on flat land.
The one thing people didn't realize was that by 1998 the story was already an old one, having been debunked the previous year. In fact, the story had appeared at least once a decade since the 1960s, and usually centralized around a school in the Midwest.
As Halloween night neared, the schools did what they could to reassure students; calls went out to dormitories, emails were sent, and students flocked to safer places to spend the night. At the usually bustling Marycrest Complex on the University of Dayton campus, there was almost an eerie calm. Resident Advisors stuck around to make sure their charges were safe, but most residents had already left for the night, some choosing to populate the overcrowded downtown area just to escape the mass murderer. Those who stayed hid in their rooms until the night was over.
Morning came, and as daylight approached, they were breathless sighs all around. No serial killer struck the campus and nothing out of the ordinary happened. Later, the story made the round that it was a hoax; emails came from friends at other schools and laughter was shared.
The next year when the rumor swept campus again, the upperclassmen smiled to themselves and let their peers worried. Murderer on campus? Just another rite of passage.