Residence Hall Rumors: Hatchet Man


When looking at Northern’s past, some things that can get lost are the little nuances, inside jokes or funny oddities that make students’ experiences at Northern unique and special. Every now and then, those things show up in the student newspaper.

A funny one that I came across is a rumor that spread in the dorms in the late 1960s: The Hatchet Man. The Hatchet Man was a man in women’s clothing that had allegedly killed 40 women in the Midwest area.

In fact, even Michigan State University’s student newspaper, The State News, reported that women in the dorms didn’t feel that the residence halls were safe enough to protect them from the supposed murderer. Maybe that’s because two men at MSU impersonated the Hatchet Man to scare women by, indeed, dressing as women and wielding a hatchet.

At Northern, this fear demonstrated itself in women locking their doors at night and requiring “elaborate password and counter-password systems” for visitors at the door. Apparently many women were awakened throughout the night from anonymous phone calls, and some received threatening notes from “Hatch.”

A simple Google search suggests that maybe this myth was the combination of a couple of ominous fictions. In Spring Valley, Illinois, there was a mausoleum that was supposedly guarded by the ghost of a “hatchet man.” Or etymologically speaking, it could relate to 1880s California slang for a hired Chinese assassin.

At its core, however, this fear is seemingly from nothing. Even the Northern News article admits, “The fact that no one has been mutilated, much less hatcheted to death, has not diminished the chaos in the women’s residence halls.”

Written by Lucy Hough


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