Campus News

Night of the Living Scarecrow

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Note: the following story is fictitious. Any resemblance to real-life characters or events is coincidental.  Halloween is traditionally held to be a night of fun and terror, a strange mixture of mirth and fear. From costume parties to scream parks, trick-or-treating to horror movies, everyone celebrates in their own way.  What most people don’t know is that, here at Bethel, it’s the night before Halloween to be afraid of. Since 1964, there have been regular sightings every six years of some kind of creature—and if the pattern continues, it will be spotted again this year. Cheryl Fitzgerald, a 2001 graduate, spent most of her senior year studying the reports after seeing the creature for herself.  “It resembles a scarecrow, really,” said Fitzgerald. “It even lost a few pieces of straw when it ran away from me, and I still have them.”  Fitzgerald vividly remembers her encounter with it. She had been working late on October 30, 2000 and was returning to campus alone.  “It was a dark night, really overcast,” said Fitzgerald. “I got out of my car and headed toward my dorm when I saw someone—or rather, what I thought was someone—walking toward me. I called out a ‘Hello’ to them, and when it raised its head, I realized it wasn’t a person at all; the face, if you can call it that, was nothing but a burlap sack.”  Fitzgerald said that she and the scarecrow both froze for a moment before the scarecrow turned and bolted.  “I didn’t chase it,” Fitzgerald added. “Afterward, I wished I had.”  Most students might have written down the encounter as someone’s idea of a practical hoax, or a chance meeting with someone returning from a costume party—but not Fitzgerald.  “I had to know more,” Fitzgerald said. “What was it? Where had it come from? I was also kind of superstitious, and I wanted to know if seeing it had, you know, put some kind of curse on me.”  Fitzgerald began by asking around, and when she found out no one else had seen the scarecrow, she turned to the archives.  “I knew it was a long shot, but I figured that if this thing had been seen before, there must have been a record or report somewhere,” said Fitzgerald.  It took a few weeks of dedicated searching before she found anything, but when she did, she was ecstatic.   “There it was, a report of the same thing appearing on campus in 1994,” said Fitzgerald. “It was a brief report, but it was there. It was proof that I wasn’t completely off my rocker.”  Fitzgerald continued digging for more and was surprised by what she found.  “With the exception of 1976, there’s been a report of this thing every six years all the way back to 1964,” said Fitzgerald. “Likely it was spotted in 1976, but whoever saw it simply didn’t come forward.”  Fitzgerald also noted that there were multiple sightings reported in 1964, including a few ideas as to where the scarecrow had come from.   “Basically, everyone thought it was a prankster,” said Fitzgerald. “A couple people thought it was a science experiment gone wrong, and then...there was one report where someone actually thought it was a ghost.”  Fitzgerald explained that she quickly dismissed the idea of a ghost because of the straw the scarecrow left behind when she encountered it, since ghosts—if they exist—are not in any way physical.  Since 1964, there has only been one sighting reported at a time, though Fitzgerald says that some years there were likely more that were not reported.  Fitzgerald also says that two reports indicated that the scarecrow had attacked students in some way.  “When I first studied the sightings, there was one report—from 1982—where two students were walking together and claimed to have been attacked, though they had no injuries to support their claim,” said Fitzgerald. “Since graduation, I’ve continued to follow reports, and I was surprised when two students claimed the same thing in 2006—though again, there were no injuries.”  Fitzgerald says that even if the attacks were real, she doesn’t think students have anything to worry about this year.  “I mean, yeah, there’s a first time for everything, but I really don’t think it’s dangerous,” said Fitzgerald. “I’d just encourage anyone out walking after dark on October 30 to have their phone out and ready to take a picture, or better yet to record. That way we have something more concrete than a verbal record to verify any reports.” 
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