From The Stacks: Frat rash and some lubed up armpits

From the front page of the Oct. 29, 1963 edition of The Diamondback, directly under the 1963 Homecoming queen finalists:

By Ronnie Oberman

A rare disease called rhinosporeadosis, a few dozen jars of petroleum jelly and three clever fraternity members combined last week in one of the biggest hoaxes ever pulled at the University. 

Just ask the boys down at No. 14 Fraternity Row, who last Tuesday spent probably the stickiest day of their lives.

The actual operation of the hoax began when the members and pledges of Phi Sigma Delta were called together for a joint meeting.

The purpose was to hear some important information from a supposed representative of the University Health Service, who shall be referred to as Miss Duval.

The young lady, speaking in a calm and clear voice, made her point quickly:

A rare disease,,[sic] rhinosporeadosis, had been detected in the house, and unless corrective measures were taken and the disease controlled within a week, all fraternity members and pledges would be quarantined for an indefinite period of time.

The disease, she said, uncomfortable though not dangerous, had been detected when three Phi Sigma Delta zoology majors, doing an assignment, brought a professor samples of  parasites and micro-organisms they had collected from around the house.

Miss Duval said the disease caused much itching and braking into red blotches, and the entire campus could be affected if the affliction were not controlled.

She said the “cure” was to deny the disease oxygen and the only way to accomplish this was to smear the armpits and midsection of the body with petroleum jelly. Toilet seats also would have to be smeared, she said.

The petroleum jelly would have to be kept on 24 hours a day, she noted, and if by Saturday the disease was not stopped, the entire house would be quarantined.

Naturally, this caused a great deal of alarm among the fraternity’s members, who quickly dispatched someone to buy a few dozen jars of petroleum jelly from a College Park drugstore.

After Miss Duval left, the students, resigned to the fact that what had to be done, had to be done, began the uncomfortable task of applying the jelly to themselves.

Most members continued the process through the following day. A few, however, grew suspicious and contacted the University Health Service.

There they learned there was no person named Miss Duval, and only about four cases of rhinosporeadosis had been reported since 1904. And those were outside the United States.

Word of the revelation was quickly spread through the fraternity and elaborate plans were made to get even with the perpetrators.

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