New York October 17, 2018
The Great New York Pumpkin Mystery Still Remains Unsolved 20 Years Later
Whatever the reason may be, the month of October is often a nostalgic one for New Yorkers. Whether it’s the crisp fall air knocking the cobwebs off of old memories or some other reason, something within us ignites the action of reminiscing. With that said, many of you may remember that it was just over 20 years ago that Cornell University was struck with a pumpkin prank that remains an unsolved mystery to this very day.
Need us to refresh your memory on this unique year in Ithaca? Then keep reading below.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
On October 8th, 1997 when students began walking to their classes on that Wednesday morning, some began to notice something was off about the scenery at Cornell University.
With the cool October breeze flowing through the air and Halloween just weeks away, things on the Cornell campus were already beginning to feel spooky and mysterious.
As students looked upon the famous McGraw Tower, they noticed that something wasn't quite right.
Out of all the buildings that are on Cornell's campus, the 173-foot-tall McGraw Tower is one of the most well-known and photographed structures. So when such a familiar view was slightly altered, it took no time for students to notice that something was off.
Situated on top of the tower was a pumpkin, which no one knew how it had gotten there.
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a basketball? No folks, it's just an ever-lasting pumpkin that somehow made its way onto the top of the McGraw Tower. Somehow a student presumably had made their way up the long staircase to the top of the tower, navigated their way through the tricky bell cage and managed to situate a pumpkin at the very top of an over 170-foot-tall tower with an incredibly steep roof. Who knew such a prank was even possible?
As all the other pumpkins in town began to rot away, the McGraw Tower pumpkin did not. Which drew in the question - was it even actual pumpkin up there?
Considering the fact that no one had actually gotten an up-close look at the object, many students and staff began questioning whether or not it was actually a real pumpkin up on McGraw Tower!
After 147 days of being on top of the tower, Cornell University held a contest for students to determine if the pumpkin was real or not.
On March 4th, 1998, Cornell University students began the adventure of finding out what exactly was at the top of McGraw Tower.
The winners of the contest put together a weather balloon that had an electric drill attached, allowing them to take a tissue sample of the orange object.
Wielding together a modern-day drone, the students were able to determine that it
was indeed a real pumpkin! With the factual discovery made that it was a pumpkin on top of the tower, the University ordered it to be removed. On March 13th, 1998 after sitting on top of the tower for over 155 days, a crane was set up and the pumpkin was taken down.
After the pumpkin was taken down and freeze-dried it was first put on display in a glass case in the Visitors Center on campus.
After changing locations around the campus, the wilted pumpkin would find its forever home in Professor Barbara Finlay's office and would eventually completely decay. But no matter how long ago the pumpkin may have technically decayed, the McGraw Tower pumpkin continues to live on more than 20 years later.
While some have tried to take claim for the great pumpkin prank, the details on how the McGraw Tower Pumpkin came to be still remain a mystery.
The pumpkin prank was one that would take the entire campus by storm. At one point while the pumpkin was still on the tower top, students began forming a ring of pumpkins as the base of a tower as a celebratory homage to the prank above them.
At one point while the pumpkin was on top of the tower, the University had set up a Pumpkin Cam to keep an eye on things. To see what the historic Pumpkin Cam once looked like,
Do you remember when Cornell’s pumpkin prank happened? Make sure you share your memories with us in the comments! To learn about other real-life stories that’ll get your attention, read about how
This Disturbing Murder In New York Was So Creepy It Inspired A Movie.