Perhaps no holiday on campus is celebrated as thoroughly or with as much vigor as Halloween. The festivities begin tonight with Hallowoad’s and will continue until the spectacular Yale Symphony Orchestra Halloween Show closes a four-day marathon of candy, tricks and costumes. Certainly, the holiday has its festive features. However, we would be remiss to forget its darker sides. Indeed, as much fun as Halloween can be, the holiday has historically been associated with witches, spook and, of course, curses.
Here at Yale, we are not strangers to curses. Classes such as “Egyptomania” and “Great Hoaxes and Fantasies in Archaeology” expose us to some of the most fascinating ones, such as the terrifying Curse of the Mummy. And these horrors are not confined to the pages of our textbooks. Some people, for example, believe Commons is cursed because the doors are so heavy and the food is so scarce, often disappearing as much as a full hour before lunchtime ends.
No curse at Yale, however, has been quite so unforgiving and at times bizarre as the one that has ravaged Saybrook for the last three years. It came in hot in 2013 when the so-called “poopetrator” willfully treated the Saybrook laundry machines as a toilet and defecated into people’s clothing. Lucy Fleming ’16, one of the poopetrator’s victims, captured the mood of the community when she described her feelings to the News: “I simultaneously wanted to throw up, cry and punch someone.”
Yet the curse did not end there. Last year a pipe burst, rendering the common room and dining hall unusable. Soon after, asbestos was found in the ceiling. For the remainder of the year, the dining hall took on a decidedly janky aesthetic. Saybrook certainly has many merits, such as the fact that it is populated by Yale’s most exciting personalities. But by the close of the spring 2015 term, the curse had made the college a campus punch line.
This year, of course, the story could not be more different! Ten days ago, Saybrook hosted the best residential college event of the term so far, Oktoberfest. Master Thomas Near has risen to the occasion and emerged as the best master at Yale. Perhaps most important, nothing horrible has happened. Indeed, the adversity of previous years has knitted a tight bond among Saybrugians and confirmed once more that the strongest steel is made from the hottest fire.
Although the curse’s origins are uncertain, the source of its defeat is not. At the conclusion of spring term finals, a group of Saybrugians decided to take matters into their own hands and end the curse once and for all. Using special edition St. Patrick’s Day Lucky Charms thoughtfully procured by Avery Thompson ’17, Johnny Bodeau ’16 and I sprinkled the cereal into the stone courtyard from the top of the college. As we did so, Danielle Melgar ’16, who is a leprechaun, danced a magic jig to bring good luck to Saybrook and erode the power of the curse.
Halloween often evokes thoughts of bad luck. Black cats, scary pumpkins, evil spirits and cackling witches shape a day that is, at its core, designed to scare people. Yet by learning from the recent experience of Saybrook, we can recognize that curses, no matter how entrenched or startling they may seem, can be overcome.
It will be interesting to see what new curses this year will bring. Will the Hope Diamond be stolen from the Smithsonian and lead to another gruesome death? Will a new college absorb the Saybrook Curse and soon find feces in its laundry? Will the Cubs, cursed 70 years ago by a goat named Murphy and swept out of the postseason last week thanks to the historic performance of a second basemen named Murphy, invite Danielle, Johnny and I to sprinkle Lucky Charms in the dugout?
Only time can answer these questions. In the interim, let us hope for a very happy Halloween!
Michael Herbert is a senior in Saybrook College. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact him at email@example.com .