Weird History
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The 15 Worst Hazing Deaths In The History Of College Fraternities

Updated June 14, 2019 187.6k views15 items

"Thank you, Sir! May I have another?" This line, immortalized in 1978's quintessential fraternity/hazing movie Animal House, essentially summarizes how young male college students - pledges - respond to extreme obstacles in order to join a fraternity. Men desperate for the status of an elite brotherhood go to such great lengths to show loyalty that many have ended up sick, injured, terribly hungover, or even worse: dead.

Why do fraternities haze? What is fraternity hazing? 

At its best, fraternity hazing builds camaraderie, creating a common experience shared by a select group of young men. It passes along tradition and get a few chuckles, too. It's a way of acknowledging hierarchy, blending in, and proving one's worth to a brotherhood. At its worst, fraternity hazing usually involves alcohol, physical or sexual violence, and bad decisions. Sometimes, hazing stories even end with a completely unnecessary and sobering death. To this end, many college campuses and even states have officially banned hazing, but secret societies and pure testosterone will often make sure some of the fraternal traditions are still carried out on the sly. 

  • Photo: Triratna Photos / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Robert Perry Was Covered In Flammable Materials And Shocked - He Then Caught On Fire

    At St. Louis University in 1945, Robert Perry joined Phi Beta Pi fraternity. For his initiation ritual, he was stripped naked and covered in flammable liquid. According to records, he "went up in flames and died when he was forced to lay naked on a table and receive shocks to his skin." 

    Apparently, one of the sparks from the shock set him on fire. 

  • Richard Swanson Choked On Oil-Soaked Liver That His Brothers Made Him Eat

    In 1959 at the University of Southern California, 21-year old Richard Swanson joined Kappa Sigma fraternity. The 11 pledges gathered for initiation and were forced to do pushups. After that, they were told to eat pieces of oil-soaked raw liver without chewing.

    When Swanson tried to swallow his piece, he choked.  His fraternity brothers told authorities that he had a "nervous spasm."

  • Photo: Norm Stephens / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    William Flowers Dug His Own Grave In Sand And Then Couldn't Get Back Out

    William Flowers was digging a grave - a symbolic grave - as part of his initiation ritual to Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at Monmouth College in New Jersey in 1974.  He fell in and was unable to escape as the walls of the grave caved in around him.  He suffocated to death. 

  • James Lenaghan Died From Too Much Wine And Spaghetti

    In 1984 at American International College, James Lenaghan pledged Zeta Chi fraternity. As part of his initiation, he took part in the "spaghetti ritual" where pledges ate bowls of spaghetti and drank wine until they vomited and then kept eating and drinking.

    During the ritual, he lost control of his bowels and his fraternity brothers put him in the bathtub, where he fell asleep...and died. The medical examiner determined that he died of alcohol poisoning. His blood alcohol level was .48.