Randolph(-Macon Woman’s) College
Traditions and History:
The Past Master

The Calithump:
A Randolph-Macon Halloween Tradition

by Meredith Minter, class of 1984

      Halloween, to most of us, is a time for parents and pumpkins. Too old for trick-or-treating, we look wistfully into the sky, half-hoping that somewhere on campus is the most sincere pumpkin patch in the world. The Lantern Parade, exciting as it is, falls short of true Halloween spirit. Some of the horror is gone.

      Seventy-five years ago, it wasn't. The Parade, of course, was the same as ever. But, from 1908 to the 1920s, it was followed by ritualized pandemonium.

      One night a year, professors, for their sins, were haunted by the student body. Screaming, howling, banging pots and pans, enthusiastic students sought their professors' homes, where they chanted short and ostensibly witty songs. This was known, for obscure reasons, as the annual Calithump.

      One of the campus' best known tunes began as a Calithump song. Addressed to the Dean of the College, Dr. Pattillo, it ran:

Pattillo, we're coming
Pattillo, do you hear?
If you think you can squelch us,
What a foolish idea!
Pattillo, we love noise,
Pattillo, we do,
Pattillo, we make it especially for you!

      When sufficiently annoyed by the racket, professors would frequently appear at their doors. They were greeted with cries of, "Speech! Speech!" and no few of them rose to the occasion. Some, who actually enjoyed the tradition, responded in kind.

      Of these, the wittiest was Dr. Kilby, a physics professor who, it was rumored, wrote his speeches in advance. "Why," he once inquired, "am I thus disturbed by crazy people?. . . Why must I forego the peaceful pleasures of delving into the mysteries of science?. . . Is it that much physics has made you mad, and like evil spirits you return to plague me? If this be so, I reply, 'Lay on, MacDuff, and I'll be doggoned if I cry "Enough". . . In appreciation of this serenade and evidence of good will, I can only say that I reciprocate the good will and consign the serenade to other realms." Other professors, less gifted or more annoyed, gave their opinion of the activity in a few well-chosen words and tried to go back to sleep. One, thoroughly irritated, gave his lectures for next day, at such length that most students drifted dejectedly back to campus.

      By 1914, the faculty had a habit of being out of town on Halloween. The Senior Class of that year, being resourceful, provided a Mock Faculty. Selected students, in classrooms, mimicked each professor, and the rest of the student body serenaded them. The Mock Faculty, requiring more ingenuity, but less physical exertion, than a true Calithump, was great success, and replaced the old custom.

      At last, even this ended. Vampires walked and werewolves howled on North Princeton, but save for that, there was dead silence on Halloween. And that Randolph-Macon faculty rested in peace.

Originally published in The Sundial on October 16, 1981 (Vol. 66, no. 5, p.3)

This article is taken from "The Past Master," a column written by Meredith Minter Dixon, class of 1984, for the Randolph-Macon Woman’s College student newspaper, The Sundial. It is published here with her permission.

Mrs. Dixon has written an invaluable multi-volume set, Maconiana: A Social History of Randolph-Macon Woman's College. For additional information, please visit her author's page on Amazon.

Please contact Mrs. Dixon (dixonm at pobox dot com) if you have comments or questions about her articles.