A Brief History of Ill-Advised Campus Fads

the mag
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Long before planking (that absurd fad from 2011 in which people laid themselves flat in public places—like a wooden plank) ever existed, college was a breeding ground for bizarre fads.

In 1939, a Harvard freshman showed off by swallowing a live goldfish. The stunt spread to other colleges, leading one student to gulp 23 fish in 10 minutes. The fad puzzled the editors of Time magazine, who called it “among the maddest in the annals of U.S. undergraduates”; a Massachusetts senator went so far as to propose a bill making it illegal.

Two decades later, 25 students in South Africa packed into a phone booth and inspired a worldwide craze of phone-booth cramming. At the same time, the granddaddy of planking swept Southern colleges: hunkering. Men would simply squat on their haunches for hours (LIFE called it “sociable squatting”).

In 1973, Philadelphia Eagles line-backer Tim Rossovich claimed he was “so mean he could eat glass.” Students at Harvard didn’t think he was that tough and started eating light bulbs to prove it. Rest assured, they limited their diet to incandescent bulbs. As one anonymous student told The Harvard Crimson, “I don’t eat neons or fluorescents because they give me gas.”