Blast from the Past: The Colgate Maroon 1978

The brothers of Delta Kappa Epsilon were surprised when they entered their chapel one spring day late in the 1950’s. Not only did they find it cleaner than before, but it was also a bit more empty.

It seems that after weeks of work the 1957 Phi Tau pledge class had completed their task — they had dug a tunnel underneath Phi Tau right into the DKE temple.

One Phi Tau brother had discovered earlier that he could fit through an outdoor ventilation grate, crawl underground and enter the temple through a trap door. According to the alumnae [sic] who had done this, “Having that chapel sit in front of our beautiful house was a source of constant irritation. You could say we did this to get back at the forces of nature.”

Once this alunae [sic] had found the entrance to the temple, he and a friend made frequent visits. They took pictures and a careful inventory of all that was contained within the temple. This Phi Tau brother was surprised at the condition of the temple. “It was really nice, an impressive place with alters and various other artifacts,” he said. He did not go into a detailed description of what was contained in the temple, since he was still conscious of the sanctity of fraternity rites and traditions.

However, in 1957 this Phi Tau brother was not concerned with sanctity. Rather, he was concerned with putting the Phi Tau pledges to the test. He had discovered a crawl space in Phi Tau and decided “Well hell, let’s just take out the cinder blocks and dig on through.” The Phi Taus did exactly this.

According to the Phi Tau president of that year, “The DKEs took themselves so seriously that we decided it was time to profane their sacred place.” So, after weeks of digging, the Phi Taus entered the temple. Although they had accomplished what they set out to do, the majority of them did not enter the chapel through the tunnel.

Weeks before, their pledge master had discovered that there was a false wall which could be removed on the second floor, allowing Phi Tau brothers to enter from the rear of the temple.

In the mid-50’s although fraternity pranks flourished, they were never intended to be destructive, according to the 1957 president. Therefore the Phi Taus limited themselves to confiscating only articles that belonged to other fraternities and the university.

However, their biggest coup was discovered by the DKEs the following day. All of a sudden, a four foot, 250 pound marble sundial appeared outside Lathrop Hall. This sundial, which had been missing from the quad since the 1940’s, was removed from the DKE chapel. After careful research, the Phi Taus returned it to the exact spot it had been taken from years before.

It was only upon seeing the sundial on the hill, and hearing rumors that the President’s office was now lined with various fraternity’s cups, trophies and plaques, that the DKEs realized that their chapel had been invaded.

They returned to the chapel to find that the Phi Taus had been so meticulous that they even swept the place before leaving.

According to another Phi Tau alumni, “we were very careful and didn’t take anything that belonged to the DKEs.” As for sweeping up afterwards this alumni insisted that “we wanted to make a good impression.”

The general impression the Phi Tau alumni remember is that the DKEs were shocked, but that it was the DKE alumni who expressed the most concern. Since this occurred very close to graduation, none of the alumni remember the DKEs having much time for retaliatory acts.

Where is this tunnel today? According to the present Phi Tau brothers, no one in the house knows too much about it. The general assumption is that it caved in when the house was rebuilt in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s.

DKEs present house manager, Steve Kelley, claims “to the best of my knowledge, I never knew of the existence of any tunnel, although it is true that they broke in.”

Unfortunately, all the alumni we spoke with regarding this prank wished to remain anonymous. As one alumni stated, “I don’t know how my DKE friends will react to a story like this.” Some things never change.