How to protect yourself from Vassar’s paranormal peculiarities

Do you hear that, fellow Vassarites? That gentle rattling in the chilly October wind? Whatever could it be? The mind leaps to the clicking of skeletal footsteps, the chattering of ghoulish teeth, the crumbling of old bricks as things best left unmentioned burst out of their long-forgotten chambers and let loose in the Raymond basement. Halloween is upon us, after all, and that which would be too frightful to mention the rest of the year now rears its head.

But the clattering you hear is none of those things: No, it is the clacking of my keyboard, the furious pounding of keys as I rush to meet yet another deadline. The scariest thing here is my poor planning, the only true villain being my perennially overcommitted schedule. And yet—though perhaps the macabre and the unexplainable lurk farther away than you had first thought—their presence still menaces our innocent campus. Vassar is famously one of America’s most haunted places, and terrifying stories like those of the Raymond ripper, Noyes neck-snapper and TH toe-sucker frighten students terribly each Halloween night. How can we best ward away the clutching fingers of horrifying death? How can we maintain our precious sanity in the face of that which begs belief? Read on, friends, for the latest advances in stemming the supernatural.

The first precaution one should take on any Halloween is identifying potential sources of danger. When the boundary between our world and the other grows weak, manifestations of madness burst forth at predictable places, and canny students give these a wide berth. Notably haunted locations include: the maintenance passage under the Retreat patio (clearly the entrance to the lair of some undead horror), the woods behind the Observatory (no one would hear you scream) and, of course, the Deece whenever it serves its truly satanic zucchini and squash. Just like real estate, paranormal protection is about location, location, location—you want to ensure that any crawling horrors locate someone else before they locate you.

But what if, heaven forbid, your first precautions prove insufficient? What if you find yourself forced into a place you know to be one of danger? In that case, you’ll simply have to keep your eyes, ears and nostrils peeled to spot any signs of danger before it’s too late. Good signs of impending doom include the screaming of rusted hinges and shambling footsteps in the distance, as well as emails from Moodle bearing news of your midterm grades. But be careful: Some “red herring” sights and sounds are actually commonplace and should not be mistaken for evidence of the supernatural. Strange sobbing in the bathroom, distant, muffled snatches of song and the feeling that you are being silently judged are not indications that something wicked haunts you; instead, they simply suggest that you are living near me.

If worst comes to worst, if the ghastly ghouls come grasping for you, you may need to defend yourself. If you’ve been reading old horror stories, you might be hoping for a well-oiled Colt revolver or else a classic farmer-style shotgun, but in fact there are far more efficacious methods of defeating the forces of darkness. Antique firepower pales in comparison to wicked, unholy texts; words bear a power against demonic fury that lead does not. In the event that the “Necronomicon” is on back order at the bookstore, simply print out your student loan statements and show them to the fiends from the beyond. In the face of such a sight, even the most hardened ghoul will flee in terror.

So, friends and followers, there you have it. Halloween carries the promise of hauntings beyond imagining, but with the right know-how, equipment and humor column at hand, you’ll surely be able to preserve yourself over the next frightful days. As a bonus tip, it’s said that the smell of strong alcohol is a potent ward against many terrifying creatures; luckily, in the name of science, an enormous controlled trial of this theory will be taking place on campus this Halloweekend. Or you could abstain. After all, maybe a visit from the toe-sucker might not be so bad…

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