Tag Archives: Quirk

Traditional Luck

– Nina Strochlic

While there is rarely an empty seat to be found in the library come finals week, not all studying methods are the same. Every book-laden, hunched-over student has a unique set of test-taking techniques they fastidiously abide by. While the typical strategies may involve ten-foot stacks of note cards, review sheets, and improved sleeping habits paired with gum chewing, others might step over into the realm of finger crossing, wood-knocking, and lucky underwear wearing. Superstitions run high in uncertain times like midterms or finals week when test outcomes aren’t predictable. Many students ensure their success by wearing a lucky item of clothing or pencil; probably one that has delivered good scores previously. Others swear by strange charms, such as my friend, who’s at his luckiest when his favorite pair of underwear happens to be on the top of his drawer on a test day. Another solemnly claims she can only do well while using a particular decorative pencil on her exam.

Some traditions stray far from individual luck, and become something of a campus-wide practice. At the University of Oregon, students seeking help on their tests diligently place a muffin or other baked good by the feet of the Pioneer Father statue in the middle of campus at midnight. Comparatively, peeing on the Pioneer Mother statue on the other end of campus supposedly grants similar good luck on tests. (The sexism this ritual exudes can hopefully be overlooked for the moment.) UC Berkeley boasts a similar school-wide superstition called the “4.0 Ball.” Named by students, this decorative stone ball draws loads of test-taking hopefuls to rub it for luck the night before a big exam.

While the impact these practices have on the outcome of a test is impossible to measure, maybe the comfort these practices bring actually does make a difference. If sleeping with note cards under your pillow helps you to go into that killer test with confidence, it probably will keep your mind calm and collected throughout. Plus, the risk that comes along with an attempt to dispose of your personal ritual is too great–whether or not you believe the whole thing is a joke. I personally follow only one tried-and-true superstition before a big test: convincing myself that I will fail. Oh, and studying. A balanced combination of those two usually works in my favor. Knock on wood.

Unearthing a Darker Side of College: Yale’s Skull and Bones

– Nina Strochlic

From plots to take over the world, to possession of Che Guevara’s bones, accusations of every kind have been attributed to the most notorious and well-known among college-level secret societies: Yale University’s Skull and Bones. This collegiate group manages to maintain its mysterious facade, even while occasionally appearing in the news. Some devoted fans might know their name from the movie “The Skulls,” or episodes of Gilmore Girls chronicling Rory’s attempt to unveil their archaic rituals. But, more than likely, people will recognize the Skull and Bones since it gained media attention during the 2004 presidential election. Throughout the election, former “Bonesmen” Kerry and Bush remained tight-lipped about their previous membership in the society, both repeatedly telling the media that it was top secret.

Founded in 1832, Skull and Bones is the oldest of Yale’s secret societies, and one of the longest running in the nation. They retain a windowless clubhouse called “The Tomb” on Yale’s campus that continues to initiate prominent Yale undergrads annually. Alumni lists of the Skull and Bones read like a who’s who of history’s wealthiest and most powerful figures. Previous members include President Howard Taft, billionaire John Rockefeller, and writer William Buckley. Membership is typically less than 15 to 20 students at a time, but Bonesmen maintain a tight bond that’s retained long after graduation from the Ivy Leagues.

Even in this modern age, the Skull and Bones has a past littered with unsolved mysteries and unconfirmed conspiracy theories. Initiation ceremonies are the most shrouded, but recent infiltration attempts have begun to slowly scratch away at the society’s ironclad cover. Author and Yale alum Rob Rosenbaum managed to film what he believes was an initiation ceremony in the Tomb’s courtyard a few years ago. His description parallels that of a satanic cult nicely, and involves robe-clad figures, excessive amounts of shrieking, and simulated throat slitting of the novices. A tradition confirmed by former members includes revealing sexual histories to the whole group. Some have claimed this occurs while lying naked in a coffin. Other customs are a bit more vague, as are descriptions of the Tomb, which it’s often said to be filled with bones, stolen headstones, and other morbid historical trinkets.

These alleged practices give little doubt as to where the Skull and Bones’ notoriety stems, even though others maintain that the society is misunderstood. Milder traditions are evidence of this; weekly dinners, encouraging leadership, and quirky customs, such as keeping the clocks five minutes fast, clean up the Skull and Bones’ image.

In recent news, the descendants of Native American warrior Geronimo have filled suit against Yale and the Skull and Bones for allegedly stealing his bones from his burial site. A few reports confirm there is a skull on display in the Tomb that members call Geronimo, but whether or not it’s the same man is unknown.

With such intense secrecy even after graduation, it is unlikely that any reporter will get the full inside scoop on the Skull and Bones. After all, it couldn’t be called a secret society if that were to happen, and the fascination they’ve surely become fond of would slowly wane.