Hazing at West Point at the Turn of the Century

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I ran onto an account of an investigation into hazing at West Point in the Chicago Tribune for January 21, 1901.  It was headlined “52 KINDS OF TORTURE AT WEST POINT.

I really don’t consider any of them to be torture.  They are hazing, though, and pretty good hazing.  Now, as always, since we know that hazing is abolished in fraternities and other institutions today, this is posted for purely historical purposes. Some of them are quite interesting. I won’t repeat all of them since some are just silly pranks like pretending to talk to a tree, et cetera, but here are the interesting ones:

 

Bracing – standing at an exaggerated position of attention for long periods.

Wooden Willying – holding a rifle and moving it into firing position, then back to the “ready position” and repeating this ad infinitum.  100 times was considered to be a mild “demonstration” while it could go on up to 200 or 300 repetitions. Usually, it was done until exhaustion and the plebe could no longer raise the rifle.

Eagling – resting on tiptoe in a squatting position and springing up and down while flapping the arms like an eagle.  A very tiring exercise. 100 “eagles” was considered to be a good “dose” but the plebe was made to keep it up until he collapsed.  Then he was helped up and back into position to resume the exercise.  This was continued until he could simply not even do one more.  Usually accompanied by muscle cramps, vomiting, and so forth.  One sequence was one “eagle” so there was plenty of knee bending and arm waving.  Quite exhausting.  The record is supposed to be something over 450 Eagles.

Football = ling flat on back, arms outstretched, and raising legs up and down from the waist.

Stretcher – hanging by the hands from an iron pipe or bar with legs bent from the knees. The position must be held until the hands fail and the plebe drops to his knees.  This is repeated until the plebe cannot hold on any longer.  Plebes were noted to have thick callouses on their hands from doing the Stretcher.

Feet Inspection. Dropping drippings from a lighted candle on bare feet.

Sitting on a bayonet.  Sometimes done with the sheath off.  Civilian variation – sitting naked on a wire coat hanger with one end against the butthole and the other end on the floor.  Pledge is not allowed to allow the coat hanger either to bend or fall.

Sweating – similar to Sweat Party.  Plebes or pledges are forced to dress in their winter woolens, wear a raincoat, and stand in a bathroom with the hot water running so as to create a steam room, or, in the case of the West Pointers, wearing their winter uniforms, raincoats, and being wrapped in bedding while standing in a hot tent with no ventilation.

Choo-Choo – lying on back and pumping arms and legs.  Similar to The Dying Cockroach.

Chewing rope ends.  Literally chewing rope ends covered with soap.

Eating soap.  Made to eat a bar of soap.

Chinning.

Tobacco shots

Barnyard – imitating various animals by actions and sounds.  Modern variation – Gargoyle, where the pledge must imitate a gargoyle for a period of time, or until the hazer becomes bored with it.

Qualifying – eating quantities of food.  Three examples were given from West Point:  Qualifying with molasses (known as “sammy”).  Typically this consisted of eating 8 large slices of bread thoroughly soaked in molasses.  Qualifying with prunes.  Required to eat 100 prunes at one sitting.  If unable to do so, “eagled” until they vomited and then required to resume the task until all 100 were eaten.  Qualifying with oatmeal:  A large bowl of oatmeal is consumed.  Qualifying with cabbage.  A whole boiled cabbage is consumed at one sitting.  Same rules as for other vegetables.  If cannot be completed, exercised until vomiting, then resume.

Pushups, called “dipping” in those days.

Swimming to Newburg – lying on stomach and moving limbs as if swimming.  Variations: Performing this in a mud pit, a kiddie swimming pool filled with ice water, and filth, et cetera.

Holding out dumbbells or other weights.  Variations:  Wall sits while holding weights at arms length.  Military:  Doing a “wall sit without a wall” while holding rifle at arms length.

At Attention:  Standing on head.  Variation:  Standing on head in tub of water.

Double stepping:  Running in place.  Variation: Running in place with high knee lifting where arms are held out and knees must slap palms with every step.

Interesting that nowhere is paddling mentioned.  This was left to other military institutes, principally Texas A&M where paddling was the norm from its inception all the way up through the 1930’s when all the paddles were supposedly confiscated.  The Corps of Cadets promptly substituted ax handles for paddles, and they justified this on the basis that they were used in building the traditional annual bonfire.  Paddling was quite serious and freshmen usually had bruised, sore, and sometimes raw asses all through their freshman year.  When ax handles were substituted, they proved to be worse than paddles.  [Personal note:  Just for fun I have felt an ax handle on my bare ass and can tell you that it leaves an “impression.”]

 

Now, all you fraternity pledges know what you are missing since hazing has been eliminated.  The military academies still use exercise as punishment, but they call it “training” now.

HAZING R.I.P.

 

 

 

 

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