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UvA mysteries | Are there dead bodies in the IWO?

Andrea Huntjens,
21 februari 2019 - 10:16

The IWO is dark, cold and the elevator only goes to the fourth floor. Rumour has it there are corpses stored in the building.  

The exam rooms on the fourth for of the IWO are by no means much loved by UvA students, but are also shrouded in mystery.  One of the rumours circulating is that it holds thousands of dead bodies waiting for autopsy, research or organ donation. The evidence? The IWO is next to the AMC hospital and often has a particular smell. The temperature is always just that little bit colder than outdoors, and the elevator only stops on the fourth floor.

‘When I leave for home in the evening, sometimes I feel a cold wind in the hallway’

A quick Google search disappoints. According to the UvA website, the IWO doesn’t hold dead bodies but the UvA Book Depot: kilometres of books, stored for distribution across the various UvA locations. If you order a book that’s not available in a university library, it’s probably in the IWO. ‘But we don’t use all the floors’, an employee tells Folia over the phone. ‘I believe we’re not the only ones in the building.’


The mortuary myth is pervasive. Employees of the book depot have heard of it, but don’t believe it. ‘It sounds like an urban myth to me’, says Koen Alefs, manager of the nearby University Sports Centre. ‘When I leave for home in the evening, sometimes I feel a cold wind in the hallway. I have a hard time closing the door’, he laughs. ‘But this is because ventilation problems. Right next to the gym is a cold store with bacteria and stuff.’ Could this be the origin of the myth? ‘There’s nothing human in there’, Alefs says. ‘But I’ve seen guys in green suits walking around. Maybe that’s what started the rumours.’


‘Animal testing for AMC research is conducted at the animal research institute’, states the AMC website. The annual report of the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority from 2016 shows that the AMC and UvA holds thousands of animals for research focused mainly on cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurological diseases. The IWO appears to be one of the UvA’s facilities for animal testing. A total of 11.900 mice, 1.483 rats, 67 rabbits, 75 pigs, 10 sheep and 624 zebrafish are held in the AMC, according to the report, although Folia couldn’t trace the exact number of animals held in IWO. One thing is for certain however: there are no human bodies


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