Was UMass Dartmouth Designed By a Devil Worshiper?
UMass Dartmouth students are moving in and getting ready for classes to begin next week, which could only mean one thing: it’s time for all incoming freshmen to hear the urban legend that surrounds the university’s campus:
UMD was designed by a Satanist.
According to the legend, architect Paul Rudolph was a devil worshiper, and may have even been possessed by the Prince of Darkness himself. It was his love of Satan that led him to design the campus as a monument to his Dark Lord, hoping to use it as a portal for him to rise up from Hell and walk the Earth. The campanile (also known as the “radio needle”) at the center of the campus was supposed to be used to broadcast to all the demons around the globe that the boss was coming.
The story goes that Rudolph, perhaps distraught that his unholy temple didn’t summon the devil (or maybe because it worked all too well), jumped from the campanile on June 6, 1966—6/6/66—sometime between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight. Rumor has it, on the sixth day of any month, you can spot Rudolph’s glowing ghost standing atop the needle during those same hours.
Meanwhile, generations of UMD students have had to endure Rudolph’s Satanic structure ever since—and the signs of his devil worship are supposedly everywhere. The entire campus is comprised of cold, unfeeling concrete. Staircases always have either six or 13 steps; the six-step staircases are grouped in threes (6-6-6), and every step is six inches high.
There are underground tunnels that go from building to building, supposedly to allow the Satanic cult that (legitimately) operated out of the Freetown State Forest a sanctuary to hide from authorities looking into their cult crimes.
There is even a strange tale that the flat roofs of the six campus buildings were constructed in such fashion because Satan had told Rudolph he was going to bring flying cars to mankind.
Yet nothing stands out more as “proof” of the devil worship theory than the “666” benches outside of the auditorium building.
Situated just below the campanile, the three walking paths that cross the campus end in rounded alcoves with benches inside them (with six steps leading to each one). The design, at ground level, struck me as quite odd on my first day at UMD—but when observing them from one of the upper floors, they overtly look like the Number of the Beast.
For many students, that’s proof positive that Rudolph was in league with the devil, and UMD was intended to be Hell on Earth.
But as with most urban legends, the story that has been passed down from generation to generation of scholars is far more interesting than the truth. In reality, Rudolph designed the campus in the Brutalist style that was just beginning to fall out of favor at the time it was designed; Rudolph also used the same style when designing City Hall in Boston and the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, DC. It’s a design choice that has been questioned by many of the years, but it certainly was not nefarious in nature.
And don’t bother going to the campanile to watch for his ghost on the sixth of the month; the suicide story is complete urban legend. Rudolph actually died of cancer in 1997 after years of exposure to asbestos.
So clearly, UMass Dartmouth was not designed by a Satan worshiper. He wasn’t possessed, didn’t kill himself, the flat roofs and sharp angles are typical for Brutalist structures, and the underground tunnels are actually for cables that run across the campus.
That said, we still can’t explain the shape of those benches.
*Information in this story came from my book Ghosts of the SouthCoast.