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Fraternity House Shark Burial

Posted By Maria Peltekova On May 14, 2013 @ 8:58 pm In Initiations,Legends,Narrative,Rituals, festivals, holidays | Comments Disabled

Interview Extract:

Informant: “We have this story in our frat, about the shark. So apparently, one of the classes back in the 70s had a full-grown shark in their house. Like they kept it in a tank or something, I don’t know. But it was huge. And when it died, they had to carry it down to the beach, down to here in Dockweiler, and they buried, a full-grown shark, right under those crossing palm trees over there. They had to do it at like, the middle of the night obviously, but can you imagine, just a bunch of guys somehow carrying a giant shark and burying it, and they buried it properly, like six feet deep and everything,”

Me: “Do you really believe that?”

Informant: “I don’t see why it can’t happen. Our frat was really crazy back in the day, you know. They did stuff like this all the time. Now our class just has to figure out how to have a shark.”

Me: “So this wasn’t some hazing activity, it was just what the frat guys did?”

Informant: “Yeah pretty much. And the actives in the house all told us about it, and this goes back for a while, but they always talk about it. It’s well-known history of our frat.”

Me: “Do the other houses know too?”

Informant: “No, I’d doubt that. It’s probably actually illegal, you know, what they did and all, so um, it’s just what we all know, in our frat. It’s our own history.”

Analysis:

My informant realized the implausibility of his story as he was telling it to me, but he wouldn’t admit that it was untrue. He was still firm in his belief that it actually happened. As a new pledge member to his  fraternity at Loyola Marymount University, he proved to be very loyal to it, despite having just told me horrendous acts they had to do because of hazing. It sounds to me like a story the older members of the frat would tell the younger ones, in order to impress them, intimidate them, and ultimately initiate them into the house. Perhaps because the new members desperately want to believe they are joining an exciting and extraordinary organization, and that their hazing high-jinks will ultimately be worth it, the students willingly believe any such incredible story about their house. Additionally, maybe because I am not in the same situation as the members, I don’t often go to the beach where the shark is buried and I don’t personally know the actives who claim this is true, I don’t have the same contextual belief in the legend.

I was quite taken aback by how long this legend has survived. It’s obviously important they keep it a secret if it really did happen, and yet, through almost forty years of passing it on, it’s been contained to only this specific fraternity. They take pride in the fact that their brothers owned an adult shark of some kind and actually buried it on the beach. Incidentally, Dockweiler happens to host many of the frat’s meetings and activities, so the members have the opportunity to acknowledge the shark nearly every week, thus keeping the story in their memories. I wonder if there will come a time when the members try once again to house and potentially bury a full-grown shark, thus making a tradition of this legend.


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