Fatal Fraternities
A history of deadly hazing
Published August 3, 1999 in Whoa!

Each year, a fresh crop of college men reaches for the brass ring of leadership, excellence, and fraternity. But one thing stands between the fraternity pledge and his Promised Land of keggers, bong hits, and gang rape: hazing. Before learning the secret handshake, he must be beaten with paddles, zapped with cattle prods, and drenched in vomit -- and survive. Literally. According to U.S. News and World Report, at least 65 students have died since 1978 as a result of fraternity hazing. The following represents some of the Greeks greatest hits.

See also...
... by John Marr
... in the Whoa! section
... from August 3, 1999

Southeast Missouri State, 1994. The four fraternities quaintly known as "historically black" are noted for their vigorous initiations, especially Kappa Alpha Psi. The red and white striped "Kappa cane" is legendary. But sometimes caning isn't enough. The brothers of the SE Missouri State chapter added slapping, kicking, and bodyslamming to their repertoire one year and managed to beat one aspiring member to death. Seven members went to jail for manslaughter.

Towson State University, 1982. "Hell Week," the week before initiation, is a pretty much round-the-clock regimen of paddlings, forced calisthenics, binge/purge drinking and other less savory practices. Sleep is almost unheard of. Thus it was no surprise when one drowsy Alpha Omega Lambda pledge was killed when he nodded off at the wheel of his car and rolled it on a Maryland road. What remained unexplained is why he was wearing a Playboy Bunny costume at the time.

Alfred University, 1978. Members of Klan Alpine locked a pledge in a car trunk until he could down a pint of Jack Daniels, a six-pack of beer, and bottle of wine. It being a cold winter day in New York, he finished in 40 minutes flat. He went on to compete in "the races," a drinking game involving hastily consumed beer and a vomit-filled garbage can, before collapsing with a terminal case of alcohol poisoning.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1956. They called this noble tradition the "One Way Ride." An aspiring Delta Kappa Epsilon member was dropped off in a snow-covered field at 1 a.m. one frosty morning and ordered to be back at the house, some 14 miles away, by 8 a.m. Or else. Or else is right. He mistook a snow-covered reservoir for a meadow in the pre-dawn gloom. They found his frozen body bobbing under the ice a week later.

University of Southern California, 1959. A decapitated pig's head named Charlie presided over the Kappa Sigma initiation buffet table, which featured fresh brains and dripping chunks of raw liver. One by one, six pledges gulped down the sandwich-sized chunks -- but the seventh coughed it up. Twice. The third and final time, he got it down permanently, only to have it lodge in his throat. He choked to death as Charlie grinned approvingly.

John Marr is the publisher of Murder Can Be Fun.