/Myths and Legends Abound at SUNY Oswego

Myths and Legends Abound at SUNY Oswego


By Steve Yablonski

After more than 160 years, there are plenty of legends, ghost stories and other lore regarding SUNY Oswego.

Anyone who has ever attended college on the shores of Lake Ontario knows how fierce the winds can be. There was a time the wind was so strong, ropes were tied to stretch from building to building so students would not be blown over—or be blown away.

However, it is said 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.

There was an 8-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 built a large wall there.

Another legend claims a car was buried on campus.

Actually, during the celebration of the first Earth Day in April of 1970, a Dodge De Soto was filled with garbage and buried somewhere near the entrance to campus at 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 as well as the college. The spirits of some of the buildings’ namesakes have reportedly made their presence known over the years.

At Fort Ontario, ghost hunters have reported finding evidence of supernatural activity in a few of the buildings. For instance, a blonde girl was seen in the third story window of one of the officers’ quarters. 

The third story of the building was used for storage and not accessible by the public. And, the fort was closed at the time.

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 cannon ball. He is said to walk along the tracks looking for his head. A floating light moving along the tracks is said to be him or his lantern.

But not everything in Oswego deals with spirits.

In the early 20th century, a legend claims President William Howard Taft had a massive bathtub in the White House—and in Oswego as well.

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

A discovery in a city home made SUNY Oswego into a “presidential library.” The man reportedly had 10,000 letters written by President Millard Fillmore in the house. After his death, they were donated to the college. These letters can be found today in Penfield Library on campus.

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