Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > American
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. I–V: American
 
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College Humor
 
Ghastly Scenes in the Anatomical Lab on Hallowe’en

Three Stiffs Limber Up for a Few Hours—They are Interviewed by Our Ghost Editor, Resulting in the Explanation of the Mysterious Disappearance of Messrs. Grind, Half-back, and Shy-frat—Another Great Scoop Credited to Wrinkle.

From “Wrinkle,” University of Michigan

IT was an awful night.
  1
  So, at least, thought all upper-classmen who happened to be out so late. So thought all juniors who happened to be in so early. So thought each of some six hundred little freshmen as he lay tucked snugly in his little bed, listening to the whistling of the wind, and sobbing softly to himself. The air was charged (for even that is charged in Ann Arbor) with electricity; and the rain fell in such torrents that Pieface was as dough before it.  2
  It was growing very late. The library was dark, but that doesn’t prove anything; and Jolly and Tuttle were watching each other to see who could close up first. The night was wearing on rapidly, and the streets became more and more deserted.  3
  About twelve o’clock, when the festive boarding-house cook was beginning to pound the steak for breakfast, Sporter, our ghost editor, passed like a shadow up the street and rapidly made his way toward the anatomical lab. His managing editor had felt vague premonitions that there were to be mysterious manifestations on that part of the campus; and with the intention of scooping the Bulletin, Inlander, and University Record, he had sent his best man to investigate.  4
  He could not have made a better selection. Sporter was almost fearless. He believes in ghosts, and had deadheaded his way all his life. Realizing that his mission was a particularly grave one, he had brought his spiritual adviser with him, from which, from time to time, he took copious drafts.  5
  Reaching the lab, he inserted a skeleton key into the door and entered. Once inside, his nerve almost forsook him; and well it might. He found himself in a room containing an immense vat which held a half-dozen bodies properly tagged and prepared for the dissection table. These were the subjects he had to interview.  6
  As the bell in the library tolled twelve, there was a slight stir in the vat; then a sepulchral sigh or two, mingled with wild waitings and low moans. Sporter’s hair turned red with fright and his teeth usurped his tongue.  7
  Presently, with a loud splash, the cover of the tank was pushed up, and three cadaverous beings, with glazed eyes and faces streaming with brine, rose to the side of the tank, tumbled over to the floor, and lay there motionless.  8
  Sporter advanced and offered his card. The cadavers were a little stiff at first, but as their circulation was resumed they became quite communicative.  9
  “To think I should come to this!” said one, as he pointed a bloated finger at a table on which lay a half-dissected body.  10
  “Two weeks ago I was playing half-back on the ’varsity eleven. It was the Minnesota game, you know, and I was to have the ball. The signal was given; I started. The entire Minnesota eleven jumped on me, and here I am.”  11
  “But didn’t the Michigan men interfere?” said Sporter indignantly.  12
  “Nay,” said Half-back with a sigh. “It is one of their fixed rules never to interfere with one another’s playing, and I did not know that hatchets were allowed under this year’s rules.” He choked back some embalming fluid, and continued: “The idea of this being the goal of all my hopes! I don’t want to be pessimistic, but I can’t help kicking at it. My death, however, was quite inexpensive. The Minnesotas laid me out, and the athletic association realized on my body. I hope they will apply the money in securing a new ambulance, for the laundry wagon they now use is not up to date.”  13
  “And you,” said Sporter, turning with great interest toward the second, “what is your history?”  14
  “I was a grind,” said the second stiff meditatively, as he toyed with a prof’s eye that had been knocked out that morning. “Grammatically, the past of grind is ground; and logically I should have been buried. But here I am, and there is no use being cut up about it until I have to be. I used to study twenty-two hours a day; I rarely wasted more than five minutes at a meal, and never indulged in any such nonsense as exercise. When they told me I was getting stoop-shouldered, I replied that I stooped to conquer, and they let me alone after that. I always learned everything by heart—never tried to reason anything out; and if a question arose that was not in the lesson, I was not in it. I never took any interest in university affairs, for that takes time; and I never supported any university organization, for that takes money. I never swore, smoked, told a lie, nor kissed a pretty girl. I was a model—a clay one, now,” and he laughed a hollow, spasmodic laugh. “Well, I grew to be such a dig that I almost dug myself a grave, and now I find myself in a pretty pickle.” At this he nodded toward the vat. The Grind was silent.  15
  Sporter, almost beside himself with excitement, looked long and earnestly at the third stiff. He felt sure that he had seen him before. A mutual recognition followed, and the cadaver extended two fingers of his left hand to Sporter.  16
  “Ah, yes,” he said, “I remember you. We met at Parker’s, don’t you know? I was a Shy-frat, at least I would have been one if I hadn’t died of the grip. They taught me to bow by holding out my hat as if waiting for a coryphée to kick it, and made me practise walking with my cane in my mouth. When they initiated me, I had to swear not to drink any water or to be civil to an independent, except when I wanted to borrow his essay or examination papers; and I was not to bolt less than twice a week. But I’d rather be here than in the graveyard. Such swell company, you know.”  17
  As he finished, a cock in the distance crew thrice. At the last crow the three cadavers grew stiff. Their eyes became as stones, and they sank lifeless to the floor while trying to climb back into the vat.  18
  Sporter gathered up his notes and made a sneak for the door. When outside, he breathed more freely, took a long pull at his spiritual adviser, and disappeared among the sighing trees.  19
 
 
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