Hidden Columbus: Below the Surface at Ohio State

Steve Wartenberg
Cryolophosaurus ellioti at Orton Geological Museum

Ohio State University is gearing up for its sesquicentennial celebration in the 2019–20 academic year, which makes this a good time to explore some of the university’s many secrets. The first is the meaning of the word sesquicentennial: 150th anniversary celebration.

The Murderer Among Us

Notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer lived in the Morrill Tower dormitory when he was an OSU student for one quarter in 1978. Dahmer killed his first victim, Steven Hicks, in Northeast Ohio a few months before he came to campus. Not much is known about Dahmer’s short stint at Ohio State, but reports indicate he spent most of his time drinking and very little time in the classroom. Dahmer is believed to have murdered 17 boys and men but none while at Ohio State.

Cold As Ice

There are about 4.5 miles of ice cores from glaciers around the world in the minus-30-degree Fahrenheit freezers at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center in Scott Hall. They chart the history of the earth’s climate and provide a cautionary signal about global warming. Special treasures include samples from the Guliya ice cap in northwestern Tibet, believed to be more than 600,000 years old, and cores from a Himalayan glacier that are the world’s longest, at more than 1,000 feet.

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Buckeye Till I Die … And Then Some

The final wishes of Herbert “Hub” Spencer Atkinson (class of 1913), a longtime trustee and member of the Ohio House of Representatives, included a request to have his ashes buried on campus. They were—behind a wall in a second-floor conference room in Bricker Hall, along with a commemorative plaque outside the meeting room. 

Sleeping at the ’Shoe

For many years, students lived in dorms in Ohio Stadium. It began in 1933 when 75 male students moved into barrackslike lodgings beneath the bleachers. This unique housing experiment was called the Tower Club, and students worked on campus in return for reduced room and board. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Tower Club in 1938. The dorms were expanded to accommodate 360 students in 1975, including the first women. The Tower Club came to an end in 1999 as the dorms were removed to make way for the Huntington Club suites. 

Manga Mania

It’s no secret the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum on campus is chock-full of historic comics, including original art from Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts and Jeff Smith’s Bone. But here’s a secret: The museum contains the largest collection of manga outside Japan. Manga? It’s the Japanese version of comic books, the printed version of anime. The museum has more than 20,000 volumes.

OSU’s Jurassic Park

Did you know there are dinosaurs on campus, in the Orton Geological Museum? The biggest and baddest is the 24-foot-long, 1,000-pound Cryolophosaurus ellioti that stands guard at the museum entrance. He (or she?) was discovered by OSU geology professor David Elliot in 1991 on the slopes of the Beardmore Glacier region in Antarctica. Cryolophosaurus ellioti lived early in the Jurassic period, about 120 million years before the T. rex. The museum also has the skeleton of a 7-foot-tall sloth from Ohio’s ice age and a 20-foot carnivorous fish, along with meteorites and mastodon teeth.