Cow in the Science hall
and other stories
The legend of the cow in the Science Hall is one of the college’s most mysterious and well-known legends – even though there are conflicting stories about when it happened, who did it and where the actual location was on campus. Though the most popular location that people choose in telling the story is the Science Building, different versions of the story place the hapless bovine in almost every building on campus.
In the U.S., a widely known and practiced college prank is to take a cow to the top floor of some building and release it there – but it is especially popular in areas like Goshen, where cows have always been readily available (after all, the land that the campus stands on today was a farmer’s field in 1903!)
So where did the cow really appear? One reason there are so many variations is that several cows were put in various buildings over the long history of Goshen College. Inspired by tales of the venerable prank, students have been inspired to try to repeat the feat in their own day.
One of the funniest aspects of these stories is that it is commonly thought that while cows can be made to go up a flight of stairs, they won’t be herded down. In several versions of this GC folktale, the cow is tranquilized and brought out through a window or balcony!
Here is the most well-known version of the story, attributed to the late minister and well-known storyteller J.C. Wenger:
Cow in the Science Hall
Harold Hartzler, long-time professor of mathematics and physics at Goshen College, overextended himself one year by putting out a challenge. He said to the class, something like, “All right, don’t any of you try anything smart on me this Halloween.”
Well, that prompted some characters to go out and find a cow. It was Hartzler’s own cow … that’s one angle – some say he lived in town and there wasn’t room for a cow. Anyway, the cow ended up in his office overnight, and rather messed it up. The clue that Hartzler had was that around the cow’s neck there was a brand new piece of rope. Hartzler was so annoyed and inquisitive that he went all around to all the hardware stores in Goshen to ask who they had recently sold a piece of rope to, but nobody could remember!
In perhaps the oldest and one of the most reliable versions of the story, from a written first-person account by Al Lohr (Class of 1942), the cow was in Kulp Hall, which has for decades been a women’s residence hall:
Cow in the Kulp Hall
One dark night – it may have been Halloween – a bunch of us decided to place a cow in Kulp Hall. Now, in order to do this, we needed the help of one of the girls in Kulp Hall to unlock the door. There were quite a few steps into the dorm, so the task of getting said cow into the hall was not an easy one.
We led the cow to the steps and tied a rope around its mouth to keep her from bellering and a bag over her head so she would go up those steps. We all grabbed legs, tail, neck and also took hands under her belly and literally carried her into the dorm, where we removed all the fetters, slapped her on the rump and she was into the hall.
Soon this poor, frightened animal was leaving evidence of her fright on the floors, walls and ceiling.
The floors were waxed and she was frightened, so she proceeded to run and fall and fall and run. Soon girls’ doors opened and heads popped out and the stairs filled with upper-floor women all-out screaming at each other.
This went on for quite a while until one of the ladies, who happened to be raised on a farm, opened the College Avenue door. After making many trips up and down the hall, our cow was glad to see an open door and zoomed out into the night and home to her farm.
We, the fellows involved, started a rumor that some Goshen town boys were seen in the area. Also, the next day, a bunch of us volunteered to help clean up Kulp Hall. I don’t think college officials ever knew who was involved in the dastardly deed.
Clearly, Goshen College has a sense of humor. Here are a few other examples of GC humor that live on in campus legend:
One time I heard that some people took apart a VW Bug piece by piece, took it into the Good Library, and reassembled it in the lobby … So when the librarians came in the next morning there was the car.
Not a new style of modern worship music
This is a veteran prank … a tradition. We stole a lot of knives from the cafeteria and put them in the bindings of the hymnals in the Church-Chapel, and so when they would get up to sing the first song, they’d open up the hymnals, the bindings would loosen up, and the knives would fall out and hit the floor and make a lot of noise. But we got caught and most of the knives were taken out. But there were still about 20 that fell out.
For whom the bell tolls
At some point during GC’s history, some students accessed the controls to the Union bell tower. Somehow, they figured out how to play a tape through the bell system – they chose Pink Floyd, according to some. There are also rumors that the volume control was adjusted to an unnecessarily high level. However, no one seems to know exactly where the controls are for the bell tower anymore.
That’s not Santa, that’s the president!
At the Goshen College Christmas dance, one of the girls saw a man dressed up in a Santa Claus suit. She was feeling a little crazy and went up and goosed him. He turned around and she found, to her horror, that she had pinched President [Victor] Stoltzfus! (Dr. Stoltzfus was president of Goshen College from 1984 to 1996).
—from “The Cow in the Science Hall: A Collection of Goshen College Folklore,” edited by alumnus Kyle Schlabach; Pinchpenny Press, 1994