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The Great Cornell Pumpkin

DATELINE: Ithaca, New York Nov. 26, 1997
Reported by Jim Mica

Cornell University, the only Ivy League school with cows, is located in this quaint little village on the shore of Cayuga Lake. Since early October Cornell students and staff have been showing the world that collegiate humor and pranksterism are not dead. And those of us looking on say, “Bravo!”

One morning in mid-October a big pumpkin –estimated to weigh up to 60lb (27kg)– “mysteriously” appeared on top of McGraw Tower in the heart of Cornell’s campus. As I write these lines, it is still there and has become the focus of national interest!

McGraw Tower is some 173 feet (52.7 m) tall, loaded with bells and attached to one of the school’s main libraries. The top 20 feet (6.1m) of the Tower is a steep cone and there’s a lightning rod on top of it. The great pumpkin may have been skewered with the lightning rod to keep it up there.

Nobody has come forth to take credit for the prank. There’s all sorts of wild speculation going on about how it was done. Folks have gone so far as to suggest that somebody got hold of a helicopter. My sources (fully protected by the Bill of Rights) tell me that skilled rock climbers, using ample safety equipment, got the gourd up there under the cover of darkness.

However it reached the top, Cornell’s administration has declared the the pumpkin must get down on it’s own because they don’t want to risk the lives of their maintenance crew in a retrieval effort.

The only suggestion at variance with this policy of pumpkin neglect has been to get a sharpshooter to just put the gourd out of its misery.

After the pumpkin had sat atop the tower for several weeks, Cornell administrators had barricades and warning signs erected around the base of the tower. They don’t want anybody to get swacked with the big orange gourd when it takes its final swan dive.

Not to be outdone by the Administration, students have placed small carved pumpkins around the base of the tower. These jack- o-lantern observers look up in horror at the plight of their sibling. It should be noted,however, that there is a touch of contemporary cynicism in this pumpkin tableau because some of the watching gourds have signs which say “Jump!”.

By now you’re probably eager to experience this wonderful prank yourselves. Well, through the magic of the World Wide Web, you can! Cornell had a Web site set up with a “live” image of the pumpkin at the top of the tower. The pumpkin has returned to Earth. Cornell now has two pages dedicated to the pumpkin.

One page tells about the celebrity of the pumpkin, the other relates the tale of its removal.

This page was last updated October 12, 2005.