Life on a college campus is weird. You can get away with the most bizarre behavior without anyone raising an eyebrow. But even by the standards of campus life, there are some traditions and rituals which are right beyond the bend of normalcy. Here is a look at five of the craziest ones.
The Shoe Tree – Murray State University, Murray, Ky
Right outside the library at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky is a tree whose trunk is covered with mismatched shoes from top to bottom. It is the legacy of one of the weirdest college campus traditions: couples take two shoes, one from each partner, and nail them to the trunk. It is believed that those who do so will have a happy marriage.
Healy Howl – Georgetown University, Washington DC
The classic horror film The Exorcist made its box office debut in 1973. Part of it was shot on the campus grounds of Georgetown University and this made a considerable impression on the movie-crazed students. Every year since, the movie is screened on campus on Halloween. The screening is timed such that the movie ends just before the clock strikes midnight. The students then head off to the campus cemetery grounds and mark the occasion by howling at the moon.
Pterodactyl Hunt – Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA
Some weird college traditions sound like nothing more than excuses to run around doing goofy stuff. The pterodactyl hunt tradition in Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College is one of these. Lore has it that the first pterodactyl hunt was initiated by the campus’ science fiction club as an inside joke. But since then, the tradition has captured the imagination of the entire campus and is eagerly awaited each year. To participate, students are required to don black or white garbage bags on top of the clothes as “armor.” There are some elaborate rules of engagement as well as well-developed characters and plot lines. However, most students are content to just run around hitting each other with foam weapons.
Orgo Night – Columbia University, New York, NY
One night every year as students of Columbia University are steeped into their notes and tomes in the library, they get a rowdy disruption. In streams the campus marching band, as loud and boisterous as they come. The tradition is held in recognition of the travails of the college’s organic chemistry students whose final exams are reputed to be particularly hard. After some boisterous singing, jokes, and verse, the atmosphere is decidedly livelier than at a typical campus library. Orgo Night is just one of the more quaint but harmless ways students find to let off steam during finals.
Dooley Day – Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Emory University’s most recognizable character is a full-size human skeleton named James W. Dooley or more affectionately as Lord of Misrule. On an unspecified day each year, the grim character leaves the confines of the biology department building. Accompanied by an entourage of guards and courtiers, he makes way into lecture rooms around campus, abruptly and wordlessly bringing classes to an end. What follows is a day of fun and merrymaking known as Dooley Day.
The sheer lunacy of some of the most well-known college traditions is stupefying. Indeed, it is not possible to document every one of the mind-boggling antics students get into as part of making campus life memorable. But the five featured above should provide you with a good idea of what is on offer.