Crazy. Haunted. Naked. Cattle-branding.
If that’s not what comes to mind when you ponder your own school, check out some of these below. What follows is a list of wacky college traditions, bizarre campus history, and truly spooky sightings from around America.
1. Long Live the Longhorns: University of Texas
Known as the Longhorns, the UT football squad owes its mascot, Bevo, to an intercollegiate rivalry.
Bevo entered history in 1916 thanks to alumnus Stephen Pinckney, who gathered $124 to purchase a steer for the team. Called Bo at first, the name Bevo was coined after a prank pulled by Longhorn rival Texas A&M. According to legend, the Aggies branded poor Bo with the score of a 1915 A&M victory over the Longhorns, 13-0. UT students, displeased with this development, altered the brand to read BEVO, the name of a popular non-alcoholic beer of the era.
The original Bevo served the Longhorns until 1920. Lacking finances to properly house and care for the steer, the university found a new use for Bevo: a student barbecue.
2. Devil of a Different Color: Duke University
Just what is a blue devil anyway?
Les Diables Bleus — Blue Devils — are a highly-skilled French mountain combat corps originally formed in 1888. Acclaimed for bravery, the Blue Devils toured America to raise money for the war effort during World War I. They captured the popular imagination thanks to their distinctive blue uniforms, flowing capes, and distinctive berets.
Not until 1922, however, was the name adopted by Duke. Credit goes to William H. Lander and Mike Bradshaw, editors of The Trinity Chronicle, who determined to use the Blue Devil designation when reporting on Duke athletic teams. Expecting strong opposition from Methodist leaders on campus, Lander and Bradshaw were surprised when no ruckus arose.
The name stuck.
3. Enter the Dragon: Cornell University
Dragon Day, conceived by Cornell architecture student Willard Straight (class of 1901), was originally intended as a celebration of Cornell’s School of Architecture.
Taking place around St. Patrick’s Day, Dragon’s Day grew from humble beginnings — hanging banners and shamrocks — into a major event complete with a parade and a giant snake. In the 1950’s, the snakes evolved into monstrous dragons.
Today the dragon is marched to the Arts Quad and, in spectacular fashion, set aflame.
4. Angels and Confederates: Sewanee - The University of the South
The Sewanee campus is believed to be the home of guardian angels, which students there can apparently summon at will to watch over them as they come and go.
Less angelic is Sewanee’s early history, which includes a six-ton marble cornerstone consecrated in 1860 and later blown to bits by Union soldiers during the Civil War. Pieces of the cornerstone were carted away by Union soldiers, though one large hunk resides today in the school’s All Saints’ Chapel.
Originally intended as a Southern university free from anti-slavery Northern influence, Sewanee was initially bankrolled by prominent slave-trader John Armfield, who promised an annual contribution of $25,000, a small fortune in those times.
Image courtesy of dannyiuwa
5. Skeleton Out of the Closet: Emory University
Emory University’s unofficial mascot, Dooley the Skeleton, first made an appearance in 1941, inaugurating annual campus visits and the jovial Dooley Week, a seven-day celebration that includes musical performances, free food, and the grand Dooley’s Ball.
The Lord of Misrule has been well-known, however, since 1899, when he began making regular contributions to the campus newspaper. Purporting to have once lived in New York and later became a resident of the Emory Science Room, Dooley has commented upon and satirized Emory culture for over a hundred years.
5. Splish Splash: Ohio State University
Begun on a whim when 100 Buckeye students leapt spontaneously into Mirror Lake at the end of the 1990 parade celebrating the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry, this tradition has continued for a quarter-century.
Today, the ice-cold dip has grown to some 12,000 students who make the leap each year to honor Buckeye victory.
6. For Love of the Game: Ohio University
Considered by many to be one of the most haunted locations in America, Ohio University sports a particularly unique breed of specter. According to legend, Washington Hall is haunted by the ghosts of an entire women’s basketball team. After attending a basketball camp on campus, the team’s bus reportedly crashed, killing all aboard. The ghosts of the players, having so enjoyed their time at OU, returned to reside there forever. They can be heard and seen enjoying the afterlife to this day.
7. Blowin' in the Wind: University of Michigan
Highly controversial and — thanks to the internet and exploitive pornographers — now defunct, the University of Michigan’s Naked Mile began with 12 brave track and rowing team members who streaked down South University Avenue in 1986.
Peaking with some 800 naked souls in 1999, the event was later disbanded in 2004 amid concerns that photos and videos of participating students would remain online forever.
Deyle, S. (2005). Carry me back: The domestic slave trade in american life. Oxford University Press.
Dragon day. (1994, March 17). Retrieved from Cornell University.
Everett, L. (2002). Ghosts, spirits, and legends of southeastern ohio. Haverford: Infinity Publishing.
Hauk, G. (1996). A legacy of heart and mind: Emory since 1836. Bookhouse Group Inc. Retrieved from Emory University.
King, W. (1997). If gargoyles could talk. Carolina Academic Press. Retrieved from Duke University.
Nicar, J. (n.d.). The truth about bevo. Retrieved from Texas Exes.
Pearcy, P. (2011, 3 29). Questions on campus: What happened to the naked mile? Retrieved from The Michigan Daily.
Slovin, M. (2013, 11 29). Despite regulation, ohio state tradition for michigan week continues. Retrieved from The Michigan Daily.