Myths and urban legends about haunted buildings, secret societies and Greek statues isn’t what one would expect in the culture of a private Christian campus like California Baptist University. However, it only takes a little miscommunication to start a rumor, and eventually a myth is born.
Dictionary.com gives several definitions of the word myth. Some of those definitions include: “any invented story, idea or concept; an imaginary or fictitious thing or person and a traditional story or event without a determinable basis of fact or natural explanation.”
That said, myths and urban legends go against religious Christian doctrine, but it seems that it is a condition of our flesh to have curiosities that lead us to believe in myths and urban legends.
The first and possibly the most popular CBU myth is that the school used to be an insane asylum and has haunted catacombs.
This is false: It has been disproved many times, not only by CBU, but by the Associated Baptist Press, which has written a story highlighting that such myths were disproved. Before the W.E James Building, commonly known as “old” James, became part of the CBU campus, it was a retirement and care home for the elderly. And while there are in fact underground tunnels known as “catacombs,” they are not haunted.
An Associated Baptist Press article indicates that the possible start of this rumor was due to the fact that the land donor was a trustee of an insane asylum which is not in Riverside, but actually San Bernardino.
Despite these truths, myths linger on as new students come to the university. It is typical for a myth or urban legend to have a misunderstood meaning among the student population.
When asked what specifically he has heard regarding the myths about the school and catacombs, Matt Chong, senior kinesiology major, said, “(I’m) not sure; that they used to be part of an un- derground network for the asylum.”
The next myth is much more light-hearted compared to the previous myth, and has to do with graduation. Stepping on the seal in Stamps Courtyard is said to be bad luck – the myth says that a student will not be able to graduate in four years once stepped on. The ritual is that if a student does step on the seal, then he or she have to run and kiss the class ring on the other side of the courtyard to avoid the supposed extra year.
And what would a college experience be without the possibility to be inducted into a secret society with rituals? Alpha Chi has been said to be everything from a cult to a secret society.
In reality, Alpha Chi is no secret, nor a cult. It is a designated honor society for juniors, seniors and graduate students who are at the top 10 percent of their class. The requirements for the honor society may be what sparked these myths about it being a secret society.
It’s by-invitation-only means many students may not be aware of the requirements due to the tough GPA qualifications. Induction ceremonies include a candle-lighting ceremony and an oath taken to uphold the bylaws of the society. It is possible that this ritual coupled with the selective invitation started this urban legend.
The statue of Fortuna and love have had a close relationship over the years, so it is no surprise that this last urban legend includes her.
CBU is known for its steep female to male population and “ring by spring” saying. Marriage is a sought after rite of passage for some female students on campus. So the stereotype inspired a video about CBU students that went viral within days, titled “Stuff CBU Girls Say.” In the video an urban legend lives on when a “female” student (actually played by a guy) runs around the Fortuna Fountain hoping to share her fertile properties. The Fortuna Fountain is a Greek statue near the left of the main lawn when facing the school from the main entrance. The urban legend states that the more you run or circle around Fortuna, the more fertile a woman becomes, which is great for her future marriage.
This urban legend can be understood by the candle lighting ceremonies that started in the 1960’s. When a girl became engaged, she would then tell the room mother, now known as Resident Assistants, or R.A’s. The R.A would then invite everyone from the girl’s floor, as well as her friends.
They would then stand circling Fortuna holding candles that were lit. Then, each girl would blow out her candle. The remaining girl, who kept her candle lit, was the engaged one. It was this way that friends announced to each other who was engaged. It is through this that the “circling and running of Fortuna for fertility” got started as it would mark a time when women were heading toward marriage and children.
As these myths and urban legends are sure to live on, one thing is certain — they are false.
With the rise of the student population, more may be created by misinformation or boredom. But all students should keep in mind, that there is an almighty God who is far more powerful than myths and urban legends. Our Creator, Lord Jesus, is who we should rely on for any answers.