When I first starting researching this list, I thought it would be funny. Pledges being made to dress as Bugs Bunny and say “I’m a naughty rabbit” all day- that kind of thing. But a few minutes, a few court cases and a few lost appendages in and I realized just how dark these rituals were. This is no schoolboy pranking – people have lost their lives in ridiculous hazing rituals (over 50, according to research by Hank Nuwer in 1990) so be prepared for the dark, disturbing and downright inhumane in our Top 10 Most Bizarre Fraternity Hazing Incidents. Not suitable for children and probably not suitable for college students either.
The Pi Alpha Kappa fraternity of Tulane University (known as “PIKE”) had something of a bad reputation for a long time, with claims by several girls that they had been drugged at a frat party there. But the fraternity’s lowest point came in 2009, when allegations about their “Hell Night” ritual led to the fraternity being shut down, and several members being arrested (no charges were brought – prosecutors are often ex-Frat boys themselves). The ritual involved pouring boiling water onto Pledges, which sounds bad enough until you hear that it was mixed with wasabi, crab boil and vinegar. Two Pledges were hospitalized with severe burns and the university stepped in to shut it down. It doesn’t seem to be missed much – a message on one forum said “This frat was notorious for starting fights, causing major trouble with the university in regards to damages and graffitti, and gave bad people everywhere a clique to expand with. I will shed no tears at its disappearance.”
9. Klan Alpine, Alfred, and The Kidnap
Now, this is a tragic story of a hazing gone wrong. In 1978, Chuck Stenzel was a young athlete just starting out at Alfred University, Western New York. But one night, he was kidnapped from his dorm in the middle of the night, stashed in a car trunk with the other Pledges and lot of alcohol and forced to drink it all. Suffering from exposure to the cold and alcohol poisoning, Chuck was left on a mattress by his “brothers” and died overnight. His mother, Eileen Stevens, made it her life’s mission to campaign against hazing, and has set up C.H.U.C.K. (Committee to Halt Useless College Killings) which allowed her to tour colleges and speak to students about the dangers of hazing. Alfred University continued to allow fraternities until another death in 2002 shut them down for good.
8. Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Dartmouth, and the Kiddie Pool
What could be more innocent than a kiddie pool? A lovely toy for children to splash around in…but not if it’s filled with rotting food and bodily fluids. That’s the charming welcome ritual performed by Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of many fraternities held sacred at Dartmouth University. The practice was exposed by Andrew Lohse, a frat member who detailed his Pledge experience in the student paper “The Dartmouth”, where he concluded “One of the things I’ve learned at Dartmouth – one thing that sets a psychological precedent for many Dartmouth men – is that good people can do awful things to one another for absolutely no reason”. Other hazing rituals at SAE included making Pledges chug down vinegar, causing one to cough up blood, and the cooking up of vomit omelettes.
Naturally, Lohse’s accusations didn’t go down well with the fraternities of Dartmouth, which make up 66% of the student body. Some called him a liar, others compared him with a person who’d made up false allegations. But at least one of his frat brothers confirmed most of it was true – but the kiddy pool was actually just full of rotten food, made to look like bodily fluids. That’s OK then.
7. Kappa Alpha Psi, Florida, and The Paddling
Paddling is among the most well-known and parodied of fraternity rituals. In common with another secret society – the Freemasons – fraternities have a reputation for hitting new recruits with a paddle until they leave a mark. But even this most traditional pursuit is getting frat boys into trouble – last year, alone two separate fraternities at the University of Florida were charged with hazing offences related to paddling. One of those was Kappa Alpha Psi, a traditionally black fraternity, who faced 13 misdemeanor sworn complaints. It came to light because another black fraternity – Alpha Phi Alpha – was also being investigated, although the university insists that they are not specifically targeting the black student community, just the act of hitting other students with paddles.
6. Pi Kappa Alpha, Tennessee, and The Rubber Tubing
Now, this will almost certainly make you wince, so prepare yourself – A student at the University of Tennessee was hospitalized with a near-fatal level of alcohol in his blood. So far, not too unusual. But when doctors queried just how how managed to consume so much (0.448 per cent, six times the drink-driving level), the answer took them aback. It was a creative solution involving a length of rubber tubing, inserted in entirely the wrong end for drinking. The practice, known as “butt chugging” is quite widespread and extremely dangerous. As a result, the university suspended the fraternity until 2015 and 12 people were cited for underage drinking. Whether or not it was the conventional drinking method is unclear.