Factchecking Hazing Death Misinformation

As a Matter of Fact: Updated May 9, 2024

Falsely Listed Hazing Deaths and Tragic Alcohol-related deaths that later were credibly shown as non-hazing cases.

  1. While a small number of papers reported the death of Delta Delta Delta coed Georgia Stevens, 18, as a hazing death, the University of Texas sorority tragedy was actually an accident during formal initiation. Her flammable fishnet gown brushed a candle and she went up in flames and ran away in a panic. Two sorority sisters were injured while beating out the flames. The death was a tragedy, not a hazing, nor a prank. Source: The [Shreveport] Times, April 20, 1946.
  2. Buffalo State College, Bradley Doyley, Alpha Phi Alpha. A former BSC basketball point guard, Doyley died a few months prior to graduation. Alpha Phi Alpha was suspended pending an investigation by police. Police ruled out hazing as a cause. Doyle’s family and attorney said they suspected hazing and that they would pursue a civil case. To date, there has been nothing further to report.
  3. SUNY Binghamton, Conor Donnelly, Alpha Sigma Phi. Conor Donnelly perished in a fall while intoxicated at a St. Patrick’s Day party. Police considered it a non-hazing tragedy. Anyone with contrary information is invited to contact me, the moderator, but certainly the chapter was grossly negligent in the way it conducted the party.
  4.  2012. Chico State University (California). Sigma Pi; alcohol-related incident.The administration of Chico State suspended all Greek groups for a semester following the birthday celebration death of pledge Mason Sumnicht. The number of birthday drinking deaths is not kept by any researcher to my knowledge. Moderator Hank Nuwer: The fraternity (Sigma Pi) was the SAME fraternity under a different name that was thrown off campus by Chico State following the alcohol related death of Adrian Heideman.
  5. The death of 19-year-old Zach Wardrip, a visitor from Indiana, who died inside a Murray State University fraternity house of an alcohol overdose was ruled an accident and no charges are pending.  http://www.wpsdlocal6.com/…/investigators-withholding-caus…/   This appears a tragedy totally unrelated to hazing. A foundation was created in Zach Wardrip’s name.
  6. In 2016, Indiana State University Sigma Chi members either served or allowed to be served a vast amount of alcohol to Yiorgo Karnezis who got into a boat that capsized.

    He drowned. It was not hazing or a crime, but is an example of negligent conduct and a lack of supervision.

  7. The New York Daily News of December 11, 1931, reported the death of Fred H. Hoppe of Alton, IL, in a prank hazing for Lambda Chi Alpha at the University of Alabama. While it is true that Hoppe was seriously injured while climbing a flagpole to measure it as a condition of pledging, he recovered from the fifty-foot fall. Thus, once again, a newspaper account was premature and bogus. His middle initial was A, not H, as the clipping reported. He later served honorably in World War Two. He once was a stowaway and formerly attended the University of Kansas. See below:
Fred. A. Hoppe

8. While Time Magazine and some papers reported the 1921 death of Montress Freeman as a hazing death, he actually was shot while trying to shear the hair of a friend and student at a rival college to celebrate the Howard University (Birmingham) vs. Birmingham Southern football rivalry.

Time Magazine Headline from Birmingham Age-Herald : ” ‘I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO IT’ YOUTH TELLS OFFICERS AFTER FATAL SHOOTING.”

“A Birmingham-Southern College student was shot and fatally wounded shortly after 9 o’clock Wednesday night in an altercation at the Highland Pharmacy, located at 1000 South Twenty-Sixth Street.

“The student died en route to St. Vincent’s hospital. . . .

“The dead man is Montress Freeman, of Gadsden.

“O. H. Westbrook, a junior at Howard College, called police after the shooting and surrendered. . . .”

The shooting followed several weeks of reciprocal hazing by students of Birmingham-Southern College and Howard College, football rivals. The Howard killer was working in a drugstore when in strode his friend from Birmingham-Southern with threats of head-shaving. Nervous, terrified, the student drug clerk picked up a revolver, fired. Days later the drug clerk fainted at his friend’s funeral, which was attended by students of both colleges prior to their big football game. Howard won, 13—12.

Moderator Hank Nuwer: It was therefore a prank gone wrong, not a hazing incident.  It  is  an  example  of  “unintended  consequences”of  questionable  traditions.

9. The Austin American headline on April 25, 1947 said four died in a Caltech interclass hazing.  None died.


10. The death of William A. Clare in a Purdue University Phi Gamma Delta hazing was erroneously reported by some newspapers in 1904 as at death;s door as a result of a Phi Gamma Delta initiation. He did not die in the initiation but did incur a serious illness. Papers accused the chapter and an attending physician of a coverup.

11.  John Mount did not die in a hazing at Chicago Dental School.  The errors in Wikipedia and elsewhere began here in a partially true, mostly false front-page newspaper story widely printed on Jan. 24, 1906.

12. Yes, Dorothy Berard of Harrison, N.J. did die in a parachute club “initiation” in 1952, but in no way can the death be linked to hazing by definition. This is just a sad accident.  https://www.newspapers.com/image/66313495/?terms=initiation%2Bdeath

13. The 1999 Texas A & M bonfire deaths were the unfortunate result of a fun-filled “tradition” that had been improperly supervised for years and was a tragedy-in-the-making. 12 people perished and many more were injured. No, it was not hazing per se, but it was and is an example of campus administration negligence and lack of safety precautions connected to a tradition. –HN

14). A letter to the editor of the Fairbanks Daily Miner erroneously stated that a basketball player named was killed in a 1990 hazing. An 18-year-old was paralyzed for a time after a foolish hazing, not killed. He was a baseball player at the University of Northern Colorado. A baseball assistant was reprimanded for allowing a silly initiation involving sliding into mud puddles. The player wore a halo for some time but returned to school. The letter is a good example of why newspapers need to factcheck claims in a letter to the editor before blindly printing them.

15. As I reported in two of my books, no truth whatsoever is in the urban legend that a Cornell fraternity pledge was held above a gorge and accidentally dropped to his death. Somehow, this unfortunate homespun story came out of the 1873 death of a Kappa Alpha Society pledge who did accidentally fall over the side of a gorge while on a hazing walkabout.

16. The Lancaster (PA) Sunday News erroneously reported that a 22-year old member of the George Washington University Delta Phi Epsilon professional foreign service fraternity died during an initiation stunt.  My research shows that a St. Louis resident was injured in the stunt but survived.

17. Although the drowning death of George De Armon, Jr., 18, of Gary, Indiana, occurred during freshman orientation at Lakeland College, his death did not occur during initiation ceremonies, according to the Sheboygan (WI) Press of July 14, 1980. He was swimming in a large campus pond behind some friends in a canoe when he suddenly yelled for help. He went under and the friends were unable to revive him. Years later, a Lakeland College football player also drowned in that large pond.

18. 2020.

Louisiana State University,

Phi Kappa Psi.

Hazing-related but not Hazing per se/

Suicide of a pledgee’s girlfriend occurred after pledges stormed her room to help intoxicated pledge brother who was brought there earlier in bad condition. LSU is under a federal investigation for its handling of a serious alcohol-related hazing incident.

After  a Phi Kappa Psi pledge was rushed to an emergency room by Phi Kappa Psi pledge brothers to get him medical health, the young woman harboring the pledge took her life.   https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/article_0699818a-1331-11eb-8689-23f8f5b80014.html

19. James Brier was hazed while trying to gain admission into the Manatee High School “Interact” Club sponsored by the Bradenton (FL) Rotary Club. Alcohol was served and he was hazed. He behaved badly and was subsequently bullied by classmate John (Juan) Albert Acosta, son of a Cuba-born physician, Jose Acosta.

John (Juan) Acosta, Convicted

Acosta killed Brier with his bare fist in a sucker punch, and then pounded the unconscious boy’s head into a curb, according to court testimony.  John Albert Acosta lost an appeal.

(10-19-01) (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Carolyn Kaster) *Digital image –Murder victim James Brier, 16, was beaten to death by 17-year-old John Acosta Thur., Oct. 18, 2001 in a parking lot on the 2900 block of 6th Ave. West in Bradenton. This photo of Brier was taken Sept. 19, 2001.

Acosta served a nine-year sentence for homicide. The Interact club was closed by the school.

20. Charles William Hill, AKA Charlie Hill, 19, of Lexington, NC, a former standout high school football player, died as a passenger in 1952 when thrown from a 1950 Ford convertible after the driver of the car–a Sigma Chi pledge brother–failed to yield to a lumber truck at the intersections of NC Highway 41 and Highway 74. An inquest was held on the collision, but no charges were brought against driver Walter Converse, 19, then of Spartanburg, S.C., a Sigma Chi pledge from the University of North Carolina. Pledges Hill, Converse, and Frank C. (Skippy) Roddey were on a road trip with a full Sigma Chi brother named Raymond Collins, son of the owner of a chain of department stores. A request from this moderator has been made of the only survivor, Converse, now 88, to inquire about the purpose of the trip and to update this entry. Newspapers at the time said the Sigma Chi pledges and brother Collins were headed to a beach house reserved by Sigma Chi for the weekend, which coincided with an annual Azalea Festival. Other UNC fraternities also were on the road in late March of 1952  to attend the festival for “partying” as a local paper reported. No charges of hazing or a pledge sneak were raised by reporters at the time. The driver of the lumber truck and the other three occupants were taken to a hospital, treated, and released. Hill’s funeral service was March 30, 1952.

21. 1885.  I have removed a Hazleton, Pennsylvania school hazing  in a gauntlet. I can confirm as a severe injury that made a boy “dangerously ill,” but almost certainly was not a death.  (Wikipedia on June 21, 2021 still lists this as a definite hazing death of “Edward Turnbach” as a result of news coverage in 1885.) The original article (below)  was widely reprinted by papers of the day but highly questionable and irresponsible).

The original reporter  erroneously reported one of Turnbach’s sons had died then 1n 1885. I have ruled out all sons of Edward Turnbach (a Democrat Party local Ward secretary from Hazleton) because all lived to maturity.

Checking census and death records, Edward R. Turnbach, the boy Wikipedia lists as hazed to death, died at 56 on March 2, 1933.

Here is what actually happened. Dozens of newspapers reported that the “young” and UNNAMED son (NOT son Edward as Wikipedia states) of Edward Turnbach died of injuries from a beating administered by fellow students on September 19, 1885.

This part I verified: The “new” boy had to run between two lines of boys that struck him as he went by. After each boy took blows, all went to the back of the line and pummeled the next child.

In a local news article that appeared four days AFTER the supposed death, a Mr. Eby of the Hazleton school board asked the superintendent, a Mr. D. A. Harmon, for details about the “dangerously ill” “victim,” not the “deceased.”

Harmon told the board all boys had been reprimanded, according to the Hazleton Sentinel of Sept. 23, 1885. The unnamed boy thought to have injured the Turnbach boy denied the charge. See Link.

This article below  is  likely  in error about “young” Turnbach’s death.

22.  As a policy, I EXCLUDE birthday deaths unless a college administrator (etc.) terms it a hazing. For that reason, I do not include a 2004 death listen in Wikipedia’s Hazing  Deaths (on June 21, 2021) of Steven Judd, a New Mexico State Delta Chi.  These birthday deaths are definite tragedies but in my opinion belong in a SEPARATE category and list all their own.  I closely looked at the death of Mason Sumnicht, a Chico State Sigma Chi in 2012, but have excluded for the same reason.

23. Barring additional information, which I hope to obtain, the tragic death of a former Phi Gamma Delta brother who dropped out of Fresno State is an alcohol-related death with dire negligence of attendees, but fails to qualify as a hazing.  The Wikipedia hazing deaths page on June 21, 2021 lists Danny Ray Daniels as a hazed pledge, but he was not officially a student for two semesters. This is what I have from the school: http://www.fresnostatenews.com/2006/01/24/fresno-state-bans-phi-gamma-delta-fraternitys-phi-chi-chapter-for-five-years/

24. Wikipedia in 2020 (still  there June 21, 2020) erroneously lists Frank Miller dying of pneumonia after a class hazing incident at Purdue University.  Miller graduated from Purdue in 1907, later joined the U.S. Navy, and died in a tragic hydroplane boat collision in 1922. He was hazed at Purdue but did not die.   The  origin  of  the  story  was  a 1906  news  story  on  hazing.

25. A magazine claimed that George Phillips of Colby College died from kidney disease following a blow received in hazing in 1900.  Newspapers in 1906 reprinted the wrong information. Phillips did have a kidney weakness, but it was not caused by hazing. nor did he die while in college.  See  below:


The Los Angeles Times erroneously reported that a Butte County CC student died as a pledge from hazing-related alcohol poisoning in 2005.  No one died but a community college student was hospitalized following that drinking incident (January 2005). The paper subsequently criticized reporting errors by its own Eric Slater, a once well-respected war correspondent, and dismissed him. Slater denied some of the paper’s criticisms. Chico State has seen the tragic hazing deaths of Matt Carrington, Adrian Heideman, Jeffrey Long, however.

27. Henry Johnson entered Michigan Agricultural College on December 3, 1904, for so-called special study. The Detroit Free Press reported later that on December 7, he became violently insane. He died the following month of a cerebral hemorrhage–perhaps  caused  by  a   head  injury of unknown cause.His father claimed the boy must have been hazed. President Snyder of M.A.C. ordered an investigation. However, no evidence of hazing or any witness to hazing was discovered. See Detroit Free Press, January 13, 1905. Nonetheless, hazing at that time was rampant and occasionally brutal.