Happy Halloween: Myths and mysteries around CWRU

Sketch of amasa stone chapel from 1911

There are campus legends that are passed from each generation of students to the next at Case Western Reserve University. But are they fact or fiction?

The gargoyle on Amasa Stone Chapel

The tower of Amasa Stone Chapel, completed in 1911, is adorned on three sides with smiling angels. The west side, however, features a menacing gargoyle, sparking what is probably the most persistent legend concerning the campus. As the story goes, the trustees of Western Reserve University decided to put the gargoyle on the side of the chapel facing the campus of Case School of Applied Science. Their reason for doing so, it is said, was their belief that Leonard Case Jr., who founded Case School, was an atheist. An amusing story, or something more nefarious?

The Searcher on Tomlinson Hall

In 1947, Case Institute of Technology built Tomlinson Hall as its new student center, named for George A. Tomlinson who had operated a fleet of ships on the Great Lakes. Over the main entrance to Tomlinson Hall is a large stone carving of a figure in a boat peering eastward into the distance. He is facing Adelbert College, at the time the men's college of Western Reserve University and Case's principal rival in athletics and other pursuits. Rumor has it that the figure is glaring at the Adelbert students.

Who's buried there?

At least two structures on campus are often rumored to be grave markers.

On the north side of Euclid Avenue, between Mather House and the Church of the Covenant, sits the Mary Chisholm Painter Arch, which served as a main entrance from Euclid to the campus of the College for Women, later Flora Stone Mather College. Built in the Gothic Revival style, the arch gained the nickname "the Tombs" per The Reserve Handbook for 1928-29, which commented on its "sepulchral tone."

Down the street, a low stone marker was built in the 1970s denoting "Case Institute of Technology, Case Western Reserve University." Once rumored to be a grave marker or memorial to Leonard Case, it is located on the southeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, marking the traditional entrance to the campus of Case Institute of Technology. It was a response to the concern of some alumni and friends who worried CIT would have less visibility than they hoped within the newly federated university. Leonard Case is not buried there (he and his family were laid to rest in the Erie Street Cemetery near Progressive Field and then moved to rest again at Lake View Cemetery.)

An abandoned lab in plain sight

The vine-covered Morley Chemistry Laboratory holds campus myths and legends right in the middle of the Case Quad. It’s closed, locked and abandoned. Have you walked by and wondered what’s really going on in there? The Observer last reported on the building in 2016.

A haunted house next door

At Case Western Reserve University, you’re in walking distance from the distinguished Cleveland Museum of Art. Unknown to most, the museum contains more than outstanding collections of art from all periods and parts of the world. There are rumors and whispers of more supernatural occurrences. Read more in this 2013 article in The Observer.


What’s your take on these myths and mysteries? You can read more about the history and traditions of Case Western Reserve University on the Student Affairs website.