Halloween Traditions at US Universities | Top Universities

Halloween Traditions at US Universities

By Chloe Lane

Updated Updated

With Halloween quickly approaching, chances are you’re probably planning your Halloween costume as we speak. 

It’s well known that the US goes all out for Halloween – with trick or treaters at every corner and carved pumpkins lining the streets. However, we bet you don’t know what Halloween traditions are celebrated every year by some of the top universities in the country. Some of them might surprise you!

Read on as we take a look at what some of the US’ top universities do to celebrate Halloween.

MIT’s annual Pumpkin drop

MIT is the top university in the world according to the QS World University Rankings® 2020 – earning top ten scores for its academic reputation and employer reputation, but could MIT also excel in its Halloween traditions? We’ll let you decide.

On the evening of the 31st October, a large crowd of MIT students dressed in Halloween costumes gather for the MIT annual pumpkin drop. This is an event in which 100 pumpkins are dropped 90 meters, or 21 floors from the top of the Green Building onto McDermott Court below.

If you’re concerned about wastage, don’t worry – these pumpkins are ones that were carved a while ago and are going rotten, so would’ve been thrown away anyway, but instead get to be part of this fun tradition.

University of Rochester’s Rush Rhees Library Scare Fair

At the University of Rochester, there is a ghost called Pete Nicosia who is said to haunt the library. Legend says that Nicosia worked as a mason’s helper when the building was constructed in the late 1920s; while working on the library tower he slipped and fell 150 feet to his death.   

Several years later, a student reported a man walking around the roof of the building looking down, who exactly matched the description of Pete Nicosia. Since then there have been several sightings of Nicosia around the library, including in the library stacks, basement and the library tower.

Every year on Halloween, the University of Rochester puts on a ‘scare fair’ scavenger hunt. Winners get to visit the library tower, where they take a scary tour through the stacks of books while enjoying cider, donuts and Halloween treats as they go.

Georgetown University’s Healy Howl

If you’re a fan of scary movies, chances are you’ll have seen (or at least heard of) The Exorcist. What you may not know is that the legendary film was partly shot at Georgetown University. Because of this, since 1973 it has been tradition for students to gather at either Copley Lawn or Gaston Hall every Halloween, where the movie is screened.

The movie finishes just before midnight, ‘the witching hour’, and then students head to the local cemetery as part of this Halloween celebration, where at midnight they howl at the moon. It’s said these howls can be heard for miles around.

Roanoke College’s Ghost Class

While this one isn’t a tradition as such, it’s still pretty cool. Every year on Halloween, Dr Tom Carter hosts a class on paranormal activity, entitled ‘Ghosts and Human Perception’; a class which explores how paranormal activity and people’s perceptions of it has changed across time.

The class supposedly teaches students research and collaborative skills, but frankly just sounds like a great excuse for students to go around the haunted Monterey House – something they do every year to put their knowledge into practice.

Pennsylvania State University’s Pumpkin Festival

Every year the Arboretum at Penn State University there is a ‘Pumpkin Festival’ which takes place just before Halloween. A few days before the contest, the university hands out around 1,000 pumpkins in preparation for the event, and submissions must be made before a certain date.

The carved pumpkins will then be judged, with award ribbons rewarded for the best three pumpkins in each age category, the best in show, the best pop culture theme, the best Penn State theme and the best Arboretum. There is also family crafts, face painting, a magician and strolling musicians. What’s not to love about this spooky Halloween celebration?

UCLA’s All Hill Halloween

UCLA’s annual ‘All Hill Halloween’ sees UCLA invite over 2,500 elementary and middle school students from low income backgrounds to dress up and go trick or treating around UCLA’s residence halls.

The event offers a safe and friendly space for these children to go trick or treating, where it wouldn’t be safe to do so in their own neighborhoods. The event is enjoyed by children and students alike; with UCLA students decorating their halls and buying lots of sweets for this fun Halloween celebration.


What are you doing to celebrate Halloween this year? Let us know in the comments below! 

This article was originally published in . It was last updated in

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