Unofficial Hazing Clearinghouse & Watchdog Site
Deaths Through 2017 above. Info from Hank Nuwer. Illustration: The Economist*. Note: 19 additional deaths occurred 2018-2021 (none in 2020, however).
Last edit on 5/13/2021. New cases historically will be added. The numbering will change.
At least one U.S. school, club or organization hazing death has been reported every year from 1959 to 2019 and now again in 2021, according to my research. Barring some additional data, 1958 and 2020* were the last years free of reported hazing deaths in U.S. and North American schools. (2020 lack of deaths is during a year in which pledging and sports schedules were “on hold” due to the pandemic). Note re 2020: It takes schools or families sometimes more than one year to find facts that make a death labeled a hazing death. Thus, a death in 2020 might not be reported until 2021.–Hank Nuwer, Emeritus Professor, Franklin College.
Moderator: New links: 8 Men Charged in horrific death at BGSU
Rahat Jahil, Cornell police close case. Close call at Iowa Acacia, Trial in France over Death, Collin’s Law in Ohio, LSU suicide under investigation; LSU close call; Clay Muehlstein back in jail; U.Conn Fiji expelled after 2020 close call. And a hazing death in Belgium: Sanda Dias at K.U. Leuven. Cheerleader death in Phuket
Franklin Seminary (Kentucky)
John Butler Groves died in a hazing incident, according to a family history. The school’s records were destroyed in an unrelated fire. This is the information I was able to come up with using public grave and ancestry searches–Moderator Hank Nuwer.
A John B. Groves is listed as born October 31. 1819 in Simpson County, Kentucky. His death date is listed as August 7, 1838 in Franklin, Kentucky, Simpson County. He is listed as being buried in Groves Cemetery (likely a plot on family land).
The information was first reported in Hank Nuwer’s “Broken Pledges” (Longstreet Press, 1990). From a letter from a Groves descendent to Eileen Stevens, Committee to Halt Useless College Killings, that she let me read in 1989. The female letter writer (name withheld) wrote that John’s grieving family never sent another child to a similar school.
Using newspaper sources, I found a possible family member in Michael Groves who was born in the 1790s and died around or in December 1885 (The Big Sandy News; Louisa, KY, December 31, 1885). I do not know if they were related. Simpson County itself was carved out of other counties. The town of Franklin was located on a railroad line (making it appealing for parents to send children to such a seminary during the nineteenth century). Hazing at male and even female seminaries was common and even celebrated in printed school “customs books” that celebrated “traditions.”
I searched copies of the Franklin Favorite newspaper and a Kentucky gazetteer trying to find hard, newsworthy data to support the relative’s claim. I will continue to do so. Link to Franklin, Simpson County, Kentucky (in 1874 listing for one male seminary, one female seminary, six churches of various denominations). I found a seminary mentioned in the Laws of Kentucky for sale of the seminary land and building. HN
Know something more about John Butler Groves? Write me, the moderator.
Amherst College (Massachusetts)
President Hitchcock, below, was one of the first USA college presidents to express opposition to hazing.
Jonathan D. Torrance died of illness following a drenching with iced water during a hazing custom called “freshman visitation,” according to then-President Edward Hitchcock of Amherst. The death is included in Nuwer’s Wrongs of Passage. See also article below from Berkshire Eagle dated Nov. 5, 1863 clipping_15952902 Direct link to Berkshire Eagle reference to death.
The red square represented future victims. Since the group’s founding, the red square has been, sadly, filled with numerous deaths. See 2017-Present below.
3) 1873 Cornell University (New York)
Kappa Alpha Society
Walkabout without torches in gorge country
Mortimer N. Leggett died in a fall into a steep gorge while on a walk in the dark required by fraternity members. Family claims that Leggett was blindfolded were disputed by the chapter in spite of admission by the perpetrators during a coroner’s inquiry. Leggett’s death is chronicled in an in-depth investigative feature in Hank Nuwer’s 2018 book “Hazing: Destroying Young Lives” (Indiana University Press). The first two Greek hazing deaths on record in the USA were Cornell KAS chapters (recently made dormant at that campus) in 1873 and 1899. Here is the video account of “Young Mort’s” death.
(Photo) The Charles W. Wason Collection at Cornell University was founded by the young hazer (Wason) who fell to earth with Mortimer Leggett.
United States Naval Academy, Annapolis
Allegations of physical hazing
Final cause was alleged to be aggravated hernis.
Newspapers prior to 1900 contained numerous references to hazing practices at Annapolis such as jamming a newcomer into a barrel and pushing while inside for great distances. The older cadets also tossed newcomers into the air on blankets. These were often done off-campus as soon as newcomer arrived in the area. Fred Schwatka Strang was the subject of nationwide claims that his death of hernia complications was hazing-related.
A Hazleton, Pennsylvania High School School hazing
Newspapers across the country reported that the son of Edward Turnbach died of injuries from a beating administered by fellow students on September 19. The boy had to run between two lines of boys that struck him as he went by. Here is what the Harrisburg Telegraph from September 21, 1885 reported. Moderator: I am trying to get the name of the dead boy and will post when I get it. Moreover, for that matter I hope to find a reputable record of death to verify that the boy actually died in 1885 (given the frequent press errors of the day)–Hank Nuwer July 20, 2019: Ancestry.com lists Edward’s youngest son as Malon Turnbach, but I continue to search for 100 percent verification.
Yale University (Connecticut)
Delta Kappa Epsilon
A blindfolded student named Wilkins Ruskin was killed in an accident in an initiation incident condemned then as outdated “criminal recklessness” by the national fraternity, according to a published article by Fred Kershner (now deceased), formerly of Columbia Teachers College and a fraternity member.