Tag Archives: Archives

“The Funniest Prank Ever”: The Middletown Mummy Mystery, 22 Years Later

 “I looked at my bed and there were all these skin chips and little chips in it. It was pretty disgusting.”

Twenty-two years ago next month, a good-humored, mullet-haired Wesleyan student returned to his Nics dorm room late on a Saturday night and found his bed already occupied by a rotting, fleshy stranger. The student was Tim Abel ’93, a freshman from Wilmington, Delaware. The uninvited guest in question was a 2,500-year-old Egyptian mummy. And the bizarre incident, which Abel has happily proclaimed “the funniest prank ever,” has since solidified its place in the lore of early ’90s Wesleyan history, providing some semblance of levity during a turbulent academic year characterized by generally unprecedented campus unrest, including a firebombing, a week-long hunger strike, racist graffiti in Malcolm X House, and the fatal shooting of Nicholas Haddad ’92.

It’s also just a damn good story, with or without its retroactive Keep Wes Weird significance. It’s a story about President Chace and P-Safe and loyalty among campus pranksters, about MoCon and O’Rourke’s and frosh life and pretty much every Wesleyan institution of the ’90s, about how campus news spread before cell phones and Twitter and this here blog, about how some kid transformed literally overnight from a random freshman into a minor celebrity of sorts. The mummy incident received local press coverage in 1990 (much to Abel’s delight), and it remains a subject of conversation and folklore among his friends and strangers two decades later.

I tracked down Abel over break (he’s now a facial plastic surgeon in Delaware) and ended up speaking to him at length about the mummy, the unnamed perpetrators, and just what made Wesleyan so batshit nuts in the early ’90s (and an alumnus perspective on how it has changed since). Scroll on for the full interview; click here for original 1990 news coverage of the so-called Middletown Mummy.

Armistice Day, 1918: “Peace Finds College Anxious For Old Life”

“As the din of war gradually subsides on the campus and vague and various rumors float about, it may not be out of place to look a few weeks into the future and prophesy a bit about the athletic situation.”

It’s the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour (sort of) of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year. It’s also the 93rd anniversary of Armistice Day, on which the Allied powers made peace with Germany in Compiègne, France, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the—well, 1918.

I clawed through the Argus archives seeking the volume on that day, or week, wondering how the news reverberated in Harriman Hall or the Alumni Gymnasium. What I found was different: with few exceptions, it appears the Argus did not print regular volumes in the fall of 1918, I assume as a wartime-related measure. (Wes historians or alums, feel free to correct me.) There was, however, a December 13 issue, featuring a sort of apology for the slow publishing schedule:

From the Argives, or 2001: A Wireless Odyssey

“It’s a costly idea and I don’t think that many people are going to bring their laptops to the library because when you’re doing research, it’s faster to just write your notes with a pencil and paper, to keep up with your thoughts.”

If you’re reading this in Olin or SciLi (on a personal, laptop computer, no less), pump your fist in the air and jump up and down. This week (or last, close enough) marks the tenth anniversary of a seemingly indispensable tool: wireless internet in the libraries. “Anyone with a laptop equiped [sic] with a Cisco wireless network card can bring their computer to Olin or the Science Libraries and access the internet,” reported contributing writer Emily P. 05 on November 2, 2001. The wireless speed ran at 11 megabytes per second, “compared to the Ethernet’s 10 Mbit connection.” Too bad the wireless card cost freaking $125 at the computer store.

The article is packed with student testimonies—and they’re almost unanimously skeptical of the development (and the cost of the card). What makes it especially worth the skim is the quotes from students who can’t possibly fathom that wireless internet is useful in the library:

A Brief History of Wesnowpocalypses

Did I use enough awful pun clichés in the title? Are you sure?

There’s been some disagreement lately, on the newly Frankless ACB and elsewhere, regarding last week’s snow day—specifically, whether it was a Very Big Deal, or just kind of a big deal. When did we last get this much snow? And when the hell did we last have a snow day during a semester? Some say 1996. Others, 1978. Given the four-year student turnover, it’s difficult to establish an accurate institutional memory on Important Issues Like This. I could probably ask Martin Benjamin ’57, but that would require, y’know—asking Martin Benjamin ’57.

So I dug through Argus archives from both years instead; I found no evidence of full-scale university-announced snow days in either, but I did find articles pertaining to similar massive snowpocalypses of Wesleyan winters past. And it all seems eerily familiar.

From the Vaults: Internet Love Before The ACB

So here’s a fun one from the Argus archives.

Way back in 1995, long before the ACB became the internet tool of choice for  seeking companionship (see: crush list, Wescam, a billion and one hookup threads), there was the internet. You know—email. Chat rooms. Other novel innovations of the mid-’90s internet boom, particularly among college-aged demographics. As former Argus editor-in-chief Sumi Abeysekera writes in an amusingly dated 1995 article entitled “E-Mailers Get Hooked-Up over the Internet”:

The internet, while a very functional mode of communication in terms of accessibility and economy, threatens to wipe out not only the hand-written letter but the agonizing blind date.

“Meeting people over the computer is the ’90s equivalent of getting set up on a date,” concurs Greg Beetle ’97 in the article, processing the realities of new mass communication technology and the implications it could have on students’ love lives, at Wes and beyond. Then there’s the case of Stacy___ ’97, who did not meet her longterm boyfriend over the internet but does get “sex through e-mail,” whatever that means. There was even a student-written play in the spring of ’95 entitled “E-Love,” portraying a couple who met via the internet. And all this before Facebook or eHarmony or J-Date or whatever.

Celebrating 15 Years: WesCards as Door Keys

Fifteen years ago this week, The Argus published some exciting news: WesCards would no longer be used only for meals. The Wesleyan ID card would soon, or at least the following year, go above and beyond the call of duty: it would serve as a key to open building doors around campus. The WesCard was, as many suspected, a goddamn marvel of modern science.

Meredith Orren, News Editor as of September, 1995 (and author of a hilarious April, 1996 Argus article about the boundless thrills of the interwebs—read it if you missed it the second time around), reports:

Under the new system, there will be slots outside building doors through which students can run their ID cards. The cards will serve as an outside door key while continuing to function as a meal plan card, [then Director of Public Safety Harry C.] Kinne said. The new system will also include a local alarm which will sound if a door does not shut securely behind someone.

Kinne, mastermind behind the project, also labeled it “the third stage of the current Telecommunications Project.” Phase One: Outdoor blue-light campus phones. Phase Two? Slightly more relevant to your daily life in 2010: “the installation of the internet and computer programs in dorms.” Next time you use your WesCard to get into a campus building, stop and thank Harry C. Kinne. Seriously—say, “Thank you, Mr. Kinne.” After twenty years at Wes (titles included Director of Public Safety, Dean of Student Services, and Director of Facilities Operations), Kinne moved on to serve as Director of Safety and Security at Dartmouth.