Cruel Hazing Incidents From the Past

Hazing, also called ragging and organized rowdiness, was a serious problem in the past. Over a hundred years ago, students were harming and killing other students in the name of school spirit.

What was worse than the hazing incidents was the fact that many adults supported hazing as a school tradition and felt that the victims should shut up and take their lumps with pride.

Went Insane

Armand Powlett was eighteen-years-old when he entered the Government University of the Province of Alberta in 1933. As, of course, was custom, the welcoming fraternities began hazing him.

Evidence later showed that the other boys would often strip Armand and force him to crawl between the legs of his tormentors as they slapped his bottom. They would also submit him to long interrogations and write things on his forehead as a form of social humiliation.

After three months of this torment, Armand had a breakdown and was sent to an asylum. His father, in turn, sued the university for over $11,000 and won. [1]

This One Fought Back

Among all the rampant reports of hazing in the past, it is a wonder that there were not more students fighting back against the hazers. Still, there were a few students who decided not to put up with the nonsense and their bravery often ended in some form of violence.

In a 1943 case involving an “unpopular” student, the tables were turned against the hazers. One night at the English agriculture college, eighteen-year-old Michael Lowe was in his study when a group of other students decided to break into his room. They had already drawn a nice bath for him of water, black ink, and disinfectant, and were anxious to get the boy soaked.

Michael, on the other hand, wanted none of it. He grabbed a short sword he had in his room and twirled it around, hoping that the weapon would scare off the other boys. However, Michael’s actions ticked off William Male and the two started to fight until Male truly got the short end of the sword.

Male died of his injuries and Michael went to court. After all the evidence was given and it was proven that Michael acted strictly in self-defense, all charges were dropped against him and he was found not guilty of murder. [2]

A Titanic Survivor

Albert Collett was a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic and in 1913, a year later, he was also the victim of hazing at the age of nineteen.

While attending Dennison University in Ohio, several masked students stormed into his room, bound him, gagged him, and then smeared silver nitrate all over his face.

Albert writhed in severe pain as his attackers fled, but his screams eventually woke other students who came to his aid and freed him.

While the young man survived the attack, he had to bear the brutal scars on his face for the rest of his life. [3]

A Ducking Rag

There were many forms of hazing in the past. Some forms simply involved not allowing a student to fall asleep, while there was also the blanket rag where a student would be ambushed, placed on top of a blanket, and tossed in the air until he was able to touch the ceiling.

One of the more dangerous forms of hazing was called the ducking rag. This involved holding the hazing victim under water, whether it would be in a bathtub or the nearest outdoor body of water. Sadly, ducking rags would often end in the death of the victim.

Such was the case back in 1951 at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Five medical students were arrested for manslaughter after their victim, eighteen-year-old John Gregory Neill, died of asphyxiation.

The young man was recovered from the River Torrens by the police. The post mortem examination showed that he died of asphyxiation due to being held underwater by the other students. [4]

Made to Sing and Dance

The news of the deadly hazing was reported as far away as Australia. It happened one September night in 1913 when three undergraduates of the University of North Carolina woke Rand up in the middle of the night.

The hazers covered the partially undressed Rand in black polish and carried him outside. There, poking him with long poles, they forced him to stand on top of a barrel to sing and dance.

The barrel was on unsteady ground and eventually tipped over. Rand, in turn, crashed to the ground, hit upon a broken bottle, and died from his injuries.

The three undergraduates were taken to court and charged with manslaughter.

Unbelievably, no one gave a darn about the victim. In fact, the judge for the case received hundreds of letters informing him that hazing was a time-honored ritual at the university and that the hazers should get their sentence suspended.

The judge caved in to the pressure and the hazers were given four months of imprisonment. During that time, the boys could be “hired out by the State as laborers.” And so, to keep their sons out of prison, the parents hired their sons for £80 each. [5]

Roasted Over a Fire

When fourteen-year-old Geoffrey Barnard attended St. Peter’s College in Adelaide for a term, he probably expected a bit of hazing, but nothing like what he was made to endure.

As it happened, the boy was selected to undergo an initiatory ceremony. The other boys picked him up and held him over the fire in the school’s common room. Apparently no adults saw the incident, or if they did they were unconcerned, and young Geoffrey became very ill.

He was sent home where it was discovered that the boy had suffered two severe burns on his bottom and was placed under the care of three medical doctors.

The boys who did the actual roasting were called before the school authorities and even though Geoffrey tried to shield the boys from punishment by claiming that he had fallen on a hot brick, the two ringleaders of the hazing were suspended from school. [6]

Poked, Painted, and Ducked

Hazing was not reserved just for the boys. Young women were just as vicious and cruel.

In 1914, seven young women of Purdue University’s senior class grabbed Mabel Rogers. She was stabbed with pins, forced to get naked, and painted with red ink. When the vicious girls were done with that, they poured a bottle of mucilage down Mabel’s back, lifted her up, and dunked her into an icy tub where she fought and struggled.

Mabel survived the ordeal, although her once perfect eyesight was damaged. She sued the seven girls for $7,000 in damages. [7]

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