College of LAS « Illinois

Lincoln Hall

Storyography (Kind of) Solves 30-Year Campus Mystery

Mysterious story submission shows up in the mail.

no bust

Any detective knows that people confess their wrongdoings for countless reasons: Guilt, pride, love, alcohol.

The narrator in A Tell-Tale Heart heard his victim’s heart beneath the floorboards. And whoever stole the bust of Lincoln from Lincoln Hall almost 32 years ago read his copy of LAS News.

The Storyography project recently received an anonymous story submission in which the speaker, his voice altered, provided details of the October 1979 bust heist that ended when police found the statue sitting on a tree stump a few days later at the eighth hole of the University golf course.

Aside from a few newspaper articles at the time, the unsolved prank had gone into the dustbin of history—and long beyond the statue, er, statute of limitations—until the recent renovation of Lincoln Hall commenced and some of the building’s colorful history came back to light. That includes the fact that the bust of Abe had sat there for more than 80 years...except for a few nights in 1979.

The speaker came forward after an article appeared in the Winter 2011 LAS News in which a museum official speculated that damage to the bust (it was recently refurbished) may have occurred during the prank in 1979. Not so, says the eagle-eyed reader and prankster.

“We never intended to harm the bust,” says the speaker, whose full story, including details and motives behind the prank, and how it sparked the Statue Liberation Society and other campus pranks, can be found at www.lincolnhall.illinois.edu/storyography.

“And after a couple of days we put it on the golf course,” says the speaker. “We alerted University police, and certainly we were not responsible for any damage or any scratches that appeared later.”

The story was submitted via CD, and the name and address on the package could not be confirmed. Suffice it to say, however, that after a review of the matter, the staff of Storyography feels reasonably certain that it’s gained authentic insight into one of Lincoln Hall’s more comical moments.

We have questions for the pranksters that, as of the writing of this story, remain unanswered. Perhaps you know how to reach them?

Hear the pranksters’ side of the story.

By Dave Evensen
Fall 2011