Yale University is renowned for its prestigious academics and rich history, but hidden within its hallowed halls are some truly peculiar and enigmatic treasures. From mysterious manuscripts to arcane amulets, Yale’s eccentricities go beyond the classroom. Here are nine of the weirdest things you can find at Yale:
1. The Voynich Manuscript
Location: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
The enigmatic Voynich Manuscript resides within the vaults of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. This ancient text, often called “the most mysterious manuscript in the world,” boasts 240 vellum pages filled with bizarre illustrations of plants, flowers, and even swimming naked women. But what truly perplexes scholars is its indecipherable code, a cryptic mix of Greek, Roman, Gothic, and Glagolytic alphabets. Despite the efforts of the brightest minds, including code-breakers and linguists, the manuscript’s origins and purpose remain a mystery. It has been attributed to various historical figures, from Roger Bacon to John Dee, but its secrets persist, drawing curious visitors from around the world.
2. Greco-Roman-Egyptian Magical Amulets
Location: Sterling Memorial Library
Deep within the Sterling Memorial Library, amid a collection of Mesopotamian artifacts, you can stumble upon a drawer filled with 74 Greco-Roman-Egyptian Magical amulets. Donated to Yale by Dr. James H. Schwartz, a neurobiologist at Columbia University, these small stones and metal pieces are inscribed with Greek letters, though the text rarely resembles classical Greek. These amulets contain words of magical power, often representing the names of gods and mysterious incantations. They offer a glimpse into the esoteric world of ancient beliefs and rituals.
3. Particle Accelerator
Location: Wright Foundation, Science Hill
Hidden behind a nondescript door in a mound near the Science Hill parking lot lies Yale’s well-guarded secret—the particle accelerator. It’s the most powerful university-based accelerator in the U.S., capable of generating terminal voltages up to 20 Megavolts. German particle physicist Andreas Heinz opens the door to reveal a world of blue and white walls, where particles are accelerated to a significant fraction of the speed of light. While it may sound like something from a sci-fi movie, this accelerator plays a crucial role in medical research, producing radioactive isotopes for disease diagnosis and treatment.
4. The “Saybrook Suicide Suite”
Location: Saybrook College, Wrexham Tower
Saybrook College holds a dark legend within the walls of Wrexham Tower. It is rumored that three consecutive students took their own lives in this suite, leading the university to seal it off. Though some dismiss these stories as mere imagination, the locked room stands as a chilling reminder of a haunting past.
5. The Hedge Maze behind the School of Management
Location: Behind the School of Management
Nestled behind the School of Management, you’ll find not a hedge maze but a serene knot garden. This tranquil spot, with its box hedges and lush grass, serves as a peaceful retreat between classes. It’s a living testament to the Trowbridge family’s stipulation that the garden be maintained in perpetuity, a condition of their gift to Yale.
6. The Comparative Literature Library
Location: Charles W. Bingham Hall, Old Campus
Tucked away on the eighth floor of Charles W. Bingham Hall is the Comparative Literature Library, a “secret” haven accessible only to graduate students and faculty. Despite its off-limits status to undergraduates, some intrepid souls have ventured in to admire the long wooden tables, impressive bookshelves, and the carved fireplace. The library houses a diverse collection, including the works of scholars and the library of deconstructionist Paul de Man.
7. The Peabody Tapeworm Collection
Location: Peabody Museum
For those seeking the truly bizarre, the Peabody Tapeworm Collection awaits. This collection features thousands of tapeworm specimens, including some that were extracted from Yale students in 1896. These parasites can grow up to 16 feet in length and come with a fascinating array of adaptations for survival within their hosts. The collection offers a glimpse into the history of parasitology and human health.
8. Dura Europos Remains
Location: Yale University Art Gallery (off-site storage)
In 1920, British soldiers discovered a remarkably preserved set of wall paintings in what is now Syria, marking the remains of the once-mighty Roman stronghold of Dura Europos. Extensive excavations sponsored by Yale and the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres uncovered a treasure trove of artifacts, including a Mithraic temple, an early Christian chapel, and a synagogue. Yale owns a significant portion of this collection, reflecting the multicultural and religious diversity of the ancient city.
9. Holy Land U.S.A.
Location: Waterbury, Connecticut
While not on Yale’s campus, the nearby Holy Land U.S.A. is a bizarre attraction worth mentioning. Founded in 1956, it’s an abandoned Christian theme park featuring a miniature reconstruction of Bethlehem. Visitors once flocked to hear tales of Jesus’ life, explore catacombs, and purchase souvenirs. Today, the site stands abandoned, a strange relic of religious devotion.
Yale University, steeped in tradition and academic excellence, harbors these eccentricities that add a touch of mystery to its storied history. These hidden gems reveal a different side of Yale, one that combines scholarly pursuits with the peculiar and the enigmatic.