EVANSTONâAn investigation into the origins of the universityâs most beloved landmark was sparked last month when a graduate student stumbled upon a curious article in the Daily Northwesternâs archives. Entitled âDisgruntled Freshman Freezes to Death,â the record from 1902 details the untimely demise of one Earl Worthington, a freshman who tripped into a newly-installed koi pool during a blustery October cold snap.
Ellen Katz, who discovered the article while researching the mysterious origins of Dillo Day, was stunned by her discovery. âIt was unbelievable. It was a grisly story, but it piqued my interest and I couldnât stop reading… when an old map of the university showed the pool at the current location of the Rock, I couldnât help but think âWhat if…?ââ
Worthington drowned, apparently stunned by the fall, and his corpse froze along with the contents of the poorly-planned reservoir pending the arrival of a clean-up crew. Before the crew arrived, the scene of the accident was swarmed by enthusiastic Pi Kappa Alpha brothers, who covered the body with a spray-painted sign celebrating their recent intramural football victory.
At Katzâs behest, a full geological survey was conducted, showing that The Rock contains no stone whatsoever. A combination of X-ray imaging and strategic drilling revealed a skeleton under 107 yearsâ worth of paint. The lead in the innermost layers had corroded the body, but analysts were able to discern that Worthington lies in rest with a pleading arm stretched toward Harris Hall, the nearest shelter. Indeed, even today The Rock lists southward, capturing the freshmanâs final throes. âThis is an amazing discovery,â says Katz. âThe story is so fascinating, Iâm reconsidering my thesis topic.â