One hundred and fifty years ago to this day, shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War, Southern Yalies played a campus prank that made headlines across the U.S., Adam Goodheart wrote in the New York Times’ Opinionator blog today. On Jan. 20, 1861, a Sunday, Southern students flew a Secession flag from the top of Yale’s Alumni Hall, a building on Old Campus that has since been replaced by Lanman-Wright Hall.

The Southerners had barricaded Alumni Hall from the inside to prevent Northern students from entering and tearing down the banner. Yet — “to the dismay of administrators, probably,” Goodheart writes — Northerners, undeterred, broke down the front door with sledgehammers and crowbars and proceeded to take down the flag.

The prank, or “freak” in nineteenth-century lingo, made newspaper headlines across the country. Hence the headline of one Vermont paper: “COLLEGE FREAKS.”