Spring 2017 /Hidden Pomona/

Excerpt From Episode 4: Catch Us If You Can

A Mufti burger from 1974–75

A Mufti burger from 1974–75

Tidmarsh:  “… Joshua Tremblay, the editor of TSL in fall 2003 actually did a ride-along with two Mufti members for a night, and they told him that most of the 20-odd members at the time had either been approached by an active member or caught them in the act. But good luck trying to catch them. A TSL columnist in 1981 wrote that, quote, ‘Mufti is to Pomona College what Bigfoot is to Northern California. Nobody’s really sure who or what it is, but the telltale evidence for its existence is everywhere.’ Conor O’Rourke, who graduated in 2003 … is one of the few people who can give some insight into how Mufti recruits students. He went through the majority of the induction process, but he couldn’t attend the final challenge.”

O’Rourke:  “My senior year, things had relatively calmed down, I guess, with Mufti, and they seemed to be somewhat inactive. But that spring semester of senior year … we had been looking closely, I guess, for whatever reason, and came across an unusual message in the Digester that on first glance seemed a little incoherent. It was complete sentences and actual words but didn’t mean anything either. If you were really reading into it, you might have been able to interpret that it was somehow in reference to a return of some kind. There was something that was trying to make a return to campus. So it was cryptic enough that our ‘spidey senses’ told us it might be Mufti-related. And the idea of a return certainly fit with where Mufti was at the time, which was that they were relatively dormant that particular year. So we tangled with this message for a while.

“Eventually, you know—one of us was a computer science major and started kind of taking a more technical approach to deciphering this and used some type of number-to-letter language—I’ve forgot what it was called. But what happened was that we found that these numbers corresponded to, essentially, a Dewey Decimal code, and the book that came up with those numbers was called The History of Secret Societies, or something thereabouts. And that was a light bulb going on. Wow! This has gotta be—this has gotta be it. And so we went to the library—we went to Honnold-Mudd—and we looked up that book. It was there, somewhere deep in the stacks—didn’t seem like it had been checked out for a very long time. It was an old book, from maybe the 1920s or 1930s. So we checked out the book, and we played with it a little bit. … One of us actually read the entire thing. Again, we were looking for answers. It was kind of hard. And one of us had the idea of kind of cracking open the book—literally cracking open the book. Took a pen knife and made a very small incision on the back cover, and lo and behold, hidden beneath that was a small note that basically said, ‘Congratulations. You’ve come this far. If you want to go further, you know, contact us.’ And there was an email address, some AOL address or something like that.

“And it took a day or two to hear back from them, but eventually we did. And their message back was written in a cryptic way, but it was another challenge—once we interpreted what the message meant, it was another challenge to us. The challenge was: they essentially wanted us to bring back the Mufti T-shirt to the Coop Store. You know, it was a very large challenge. So we thought long and hard as to how we were going to do that. I don’t know how it came about, but eventually we decided to take the scarecrow from the farm up at Pitzer, and we put a suit on this scarecrow, which fit, actually, quite well, and took him down to the Campus Center and propped him up against the door to the Coop Store, and then pinned to him a document that we called ‘Peter Stanley’s Last Will and Testament.’ And Peter Stanley was, of course, David Oxtoby’s predecessor, and this was his final year as president of Pomona College. So this last will and testament was written as a will in which he was requesting the Coop Store to bring back the Mufti T-shirt. I happened to be writing for TSL at the time and in charge of something called the Security Briefs—I don’t think this is a section they have any more, but it’s essentially a police blotter from CampSec [Campus Security], and I worked that into the police blotter for the week. … [Mufti] contacted us and said, ‘Congratulations—you’ve gotten this far. And if you want to keep going, you know, you need to meet us out on the Quad at midnight’ or something, of this particular night that was down the road. Now unfortunately for me, when we got this response from Mufti inviting us to learn more and meet them on the Quad with a blindfold on—they wanted us to blindfold ourselves—I was already down in San Diego for Senior Week, and I actually got the call about the email from one of my friends, who was a junior and obviously not in San Diego for Senior Week. It was at that time that I thought, ‘Darn!’ This was happening too late for me. …”

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