Fact Check

The Roommate's Death

Coed who remains in dorms over holidays discovers her roommate has been murdered.

Published April 20, 1997


Claim:   Two roommates remain at their deserted college dormitory over a holiday break. One of the girls goes out on a date that evening, and the other one turns in and goes to bed before her roommate returns. Later that night the sleeping girl is awakened by gurgling and scratching noises coming from outside the hallway door. Frightened, she locks the door and cowers inside the room until morning. When the girl finally opens the door and ventures outside, she discovers the bloody corpse of her roommate in the hallway. The murdered girl's throat had been slit, and she had bled to death in the hallway while clawing at the door.


Example:   [Brunvand, 1965]

These two girls in Corbin had stayed late over Christmas vacation. One of them had to wait for a later train, and the other wanted to go to a fraternity party given that night of vacation. The dorm assistant was in her room — sacked out. They waited and waited for the intercom, and then they heard this knocking and knocking outside in front of the dorm. So the girl thought it was her date and she went down. But she didn't come back and she didn't come back. So real late that night this other girl heard a scratching and gasping down the hall. She couldn't lock the door, so she locked herself in the closet. In the morning she let herself out and her roommate had had her throat cut, and if the other girl had opened to door earlier, she would have been saved.



  • The

    Cartoon of the legend

    reason why the girls stay alone in the dormitory varies (e.g., they live too far away to go home).

  • The frightened roommate sometimes hides in the closet (and hears the scratching noises coming from outside the closet door).
  • In some variations the dead girl's fingernails are described as having been ground down to bloody stumps.
  • The frightened roommate's hair turns white overnight from shock in some versions.

Origins:  Like several similar adolescent horror stories (e.g., The Hook, The Boyfriend's Death), this story first appeared in the early 1960s. As with the Campus Halloween Murders legend, this tale may have originated with what Bronner describes as "the mistrust of the security of institutional life — especially for students away from the haven of home — and the setting of many campuses in isolated arcadias . . ." As colleges eased the restrictions of dormitory life and took a much less active role in their students' personal lives, students came to see campuses as "more open but less protected" places, sites "potentially open to dangerous strangers."

Last updated:   30 June 2011


    Bronner, Simon J.   Piled Higher and Deeper.

    Little Rock: August House, 1990.   ISBN 0-87483-154-7   (pp. 173-176).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.  
The Vanishing Hitchhiker

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1981.   ISBN 0-393-95169-3   (pp. 57-62).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Mexican Pet.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1986.   ISBN 0-393-30542-2   (pp. 202-204).

    Coffin, Tristam Potter and Hennig Cohen.   Folklore: From the Working Folk of America.

    Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1973   ISBN 0-385-03874-7   (pp. 28-29).

    de Vos, Gail.   Tales, Rumors and Gossip.

    Englewood: Libraries Unlimited, 1996.   ISBN 1-56308-190-3   (pp. 318-319).

    Emrich, Duncan.   Folklore on the American Land.

    Boston: Little, Brown, 1972   (p. 335).

Also told in:

The Big Book of Urban Legends

    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 74).

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.