From the article 13 of The Weirdest College Traditions, here are some strange college traditions that you may encounter this fall if you’re heading off to school.
Dooley Day: Emory University (Atlanta)
Emory University’s school spirit is guarded by a rather surprising character: a skeleton from the biology department named James W. Dooley often called the Lord of Misrule. Dooley appeared for the first time in 1899 when he wrote a letter to the college publication, The Phoenix. Over the next few years, he appeared more and more often becoming a permanent fixture on campus in the 1940’s.
With multiple degrees form the university, Dooley has more power than Emory’s president in one very specific area. On an unspecified day, Dooley “walks” into classrooms across campus, accompanied by his guards, and wordlessly dismisses class for the entire university. Students are then treated by the administration to a day of fun on campus.
Highly anticipated, Dooley Day is by far one of the best days on campus and has, over time, become a week-long spirit celebration. Dooley is so important to Emory, that he has his own email address and his curriculum vitae is displayed online.
Healy Howl: Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.)
When the movie The Exorcist debuted in 1973, Georgetown University students were some of the most excited movie goers. Since parts of the movie were filmed on campus, their excitement was understandable. Over the 42 years since the movie first came out, that excitement hasn’t dissipated at GU.
Each Halloween, the movie is screened on campus and set to end just before midnight. Students immediately head to the campus cemetery and celebrate — by howling at the moon. The Healy Howl, as it is known, is by far one of the eeriest college traditions and it can be heard throughout campus.
Birthday Dunk: Occidental College (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Birthday celebrations in college are generally filled with parties and dinners at Mexican restaurants but if you are a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Calif., your birthday is likely to also include some anxiety.
For years, student’s birthdays have been marked by their friends dunking them in The Fountain. The tricky thing about the tradition is that it can happen at any time. You could be pulled out of bed, the dining hall, or even class!
Headed to Stetson University in Florida? Same thing, you’re going in on your birthday. Say hello to the Holler Fountain.
Pterodactyl Hunt: Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, Pa.)
On an evening in early October, foam swords, garbage bags and pterodactyls are the ingredients for a college tradition unlike any other. The annual Pterodactyl Hunt on campus at Swarthmore College began as an inside joke, but quickly became an event on campus that few are likely to miss. Organized by Psi Phi, the science fiction club on campus, the event is a massive success each year.
Students act either as hunters or monsters and don either white or black garbage bags (called armor and required to participate) to differentiate themselves. Although there are very specific rules and characters, most students are more interested in running around and bashing each other with foam weapons.
The Primal Scream/Silent Dance Party: Carleton College (Northfield, Minn.)
At exactly 10:00 p.m. the night before finals start, the quiet town of Northfield, Minn., is rocked by the shrieking and wailing of the Carleton College students. The primal scream is the students’ way of blowing off a little finals studying steam before hitting the books again as if nothing happened.
If that’s not enough de-stressing for you, students have added a new, much more quiet, tradition in the past few years. At 11:00 PM on one of the two “reading nights” before finals, students sync up to a master playlist, put their headphones in and press play all at the same time. Then a massive dance party starts at the library and travels to other buildings on campus.
So, what will your traditions be? If you would like to get a jump on what to expect, use your always-handy search engine to probe the web pages of your new school and search for information on traditions. One final word, however. Unless you’re going to Reed College, I’ll bet you won’t find a tradition as weird as their Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day:
… Reed’s admiration for nitrogen seems worth a mention. Their outsized love for the chemical element goes back to 1992, when a group of students, troubled by “Nitrogen’s tendency to be overshadowed by flashy elements such as oxygen,” hosted the first Nitrogen Day on April 23. There was a speech titled “In Nitrogen We Trust,” hot dogs (nitrates, get it?) were grilled, and the band “Just Say N to O” played. The event remains a yearly tradition, though it’s always called the “Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day” because nitrogen is the seventh element. Today, students freeze things (like socks and other inanimate objects) with liquid nitrogen, hang in a beer garden with kegs “on nitro,” and even compose haikus about the element.