Fans of horror movies and Halloween music know the song immediately.
“(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” was the band Blue Öyster Cult’s most successful single, first heard on their 1976 album Agents of Fortune. It may have been about eternal love and the inevitability of death, but for many it's an ode to vampires.
Band drummer and Watertown native Albert Bouchard and guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser met as students at Clarkson in 1965. Bouchard and Roeser were studying civil engineering and electrical engineering, respectively. They were introduced by a friend, Bruce Abbott, and with two others formed a band called The Disciples. Playing at local bars and parties in the north country, the band members eventually moved to Long Island and ultimately became Blue Öyster Cult.
“(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” made it on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of top 500 songs of all time. And, it spawned one of Saturday Night Live’s most memorable sketches, “More Cowbell.”
Blinking lights. Whispering voices. The sound of footsteps. All have been attributed to the “Ghost of Holcroft House,” where most of the alleged sightings and strange happenings have occurred on the third floor. Interestingly, there was no third floor when Holcroft was built in 1821; the floor was added sometime after 1853. The house changed hands many times until the late 1920s, after which it remained empty until it was opened as a men’s dorm in 1939.
The first record of a ghost sighting dates back to the 1970s, when Holcroft was a women’s dormitory. Those who saw the ghost described her as “a woman in her late twenties or thirties, dressed in a long, dark skirt and a blousy blouse, with leg-o-mutton sleeves, tight at the forearm then expanding and gathering at the elbows.”
When Holcroft was transformed to offices in the late 1970s, the strange happenings persisted, although not so often.
Most recently, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Shane Rogers led a team of Clarkson student researchers in a study of the possible links between reported hauntings and indoor air quality. They visited Holcroft to take air samples and look for clues as to what may lead to haunted house phenomena.
It has been suggested that fungal hallucinations – caused by toxic mould – could stimulate haunting-related perceptions. Rogers' team noted similarities between paranormal experiences and the hallucinogenic effects of fungal spores. This may explain why ghost sightings often occur in older buildings with inadequate ventilation and poor air quality.
Other experts have previously reported a similar effect associated with old books. They claim that mere exposure to toxic moulds can trigger significant mental or neurological symptoms, which create perceptions similar to those reported during haunting experiences.
“Supernatural” perceptions can also arise from reactions to other toxic substances – such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and pesticide.
For several years in the 1960s, famed horror film director Wes Craven taught at Clarkson.
Rumor has it that the fright film auteur’s 1984 masterpiece, A Nightmare on Elm Street, was inspired by a house in Potsdam.
Craven denies that direct connection to the birth of Freddy Krueger, but he did shoot his first short film almost as a lark in Potsdam, and shortly thereafter headed to New York City to start his film career in earnest.