Incident in the Bide A Wee Memory Gardens:
A Story of Retributive Justice Gone Wrong
Back in the 1950s, before the word party changed from a noun to a verb, before the term peer pressure became a convenient explanation for human conduct, and before people were marginalized and had to be empowered, college students had two main complaints. No matter the institution, a small liberal arts college or a large state university, students would gripe about the food in the cafeteria and the lack of anything to do on weekends. “There's nothing to do here but go to the bars on the weekend” became a rallying cry among many young people seeking an education in the hallowed halls of academe. In the 1980s the cry was changed to “You only go around once in life and you have to grab for all the gusto you can get.” Sadly, gusto could be obtained only in certain places. But this story takes place on the Heliotrope University campus back in the 1950s.
At this time, Weeder's Clump, the home of Heliotrope University, was a “dry” town, so the students were denied convenient sources of gusto. If you were a male student and you didn't have a motor vehicle or a steady main squeeze, then entertainment on weekends could be a problem despite the fact that the university had athletic events, theater and musical performances, a library, and a student center with a variety of activities. But for the men of Hunter Hall, entertainment was not a problem. Among their number was a young man named Bulgar Hillsboro, who created entertainment by playing tricks on people and telling the scariest ghost stories you would ever hear. Bulgar had played football in high school, but he decided college football was a level beyond his ability. Bulgar was a big lad but not monolithic by any means.
Bulgar would tease the college girls by giving them nicknames. He dubbed one girl “Diamond Lil” because she reminded him of a dance hall girl in a Gun Smoke show. He called another girl “Shotgun” because she seemed determined to get married and would use any strategy she could. He seemed to delight in teasing the sorority girls. But all girls had to watch themselves at all times when Bulgar was around. No one could rest easy in his presence. He was unpredictable and as sex-starved as a hibernating grizzly.
This was the time when Robin Hood was a popular early evening TV show. There was a Korean student named Kim Wong who loved that show. After the evening meal he would go to the lounge and watch his hero outsmart the sheriff of Nottingham. Bulgar decided to play a trick on the likeable Korean youth. Bulgar drafted two freshmen to accompany him and set up an ambush for Kim. Their plan was to hide in Kim’s room and frighten him when he came in.
After watching TV following the evening meal, as was his wont, Kim came to his room singing
Robin Hood, Robin Hood
Riding through the glen
Robin Hood, Robin Hood
With his band of men.
When Kim entered his room, Bulgar and his thugs shouted and leaped upon Kim, pretending to attack him. Kim thought his life was in danger so he responded with karate and judo. He could have done serious damage, but finally the three miscreants made him aware that it was a prank. It was a close call, for Kim could have seriously injured Bulgar with his martial arts expertise. But it did not stop Bulgar from playing tricks on people.
One Friday evening Bulgar and three friends from Hunter Hall—Tyler McCoy, Scott Sellers, and Brad Clugston--decided to take in the movie in the town’s only theater, a black and white film called The Wolf Man. The theater was crowded, but the four friends found seats behind a row of junior high school kids.
In the movie a man named Duncan Marsh suffers a minor injury in an automobile accident and is taken to a doctor for treatment. The doctor is actually a mad scientist who injects Duncan, without his knowledge, with a serum that will turn him into a wolf. As a human Duncan is chased up a mountain. As he runs through the snow he makes tracks of an ordinary human. Then he dodges behind a pine tree. And when he sticks his head out, he has been transformed into a snarling, ferocious wolf man, a terrifying sight.
It was at this moment that Bulgar reached forward and grabbed the kid in front of him around the neck. The poor kid was so terrified he rose two feet in the air out of sheer fright. Then he turned around to face Bulgar and delivered a stream of curse words that would have impressed a pirate or a construction worker. It was the most appropriate use of foul language the college lads would ever hear.
Tyler McCoy, a pre-Law major, was offended by Bulgar’s frightening the junior high kid, who was not bothering anyone, just enjoying the movie with his friends. To Tyler, what Bulgar did was completely uncalled for, an act of gratuitous cruelty, and he had to be punished for it. So Tyler talked Scott and Brad into helping him devise a payback for Bulgar’s trashy behavior. .
There was to be a partial eclipse of the moon in two weeks, and Tyler organized his revenge plan around that event. He, Scott, and Brad talked up the event to Bulgar. Tyler explained that they could get the best view of the eclipse at a vantage point in the south end of the Bide A Wee Memory Gardens, Weeder’s Clump’s famous graveyard.
Those who have not visited Heliotrope University need to know that the Bide a Wee Memory Gardens is just south of the campus. The cemetery has a north entrance and a south entrance. Mom’s Family Restaurant is located near the south entrance, and a college fraternity house is a block farther beyond Mom’s. College students going from campus to Mom’s would walk through the cemetery as would fraternity members going to and from the campus. The road through the cemetery was the most direct route for the students and the safest because there were no sidewalks along Route 117, a main thoroughfare that parallels the Bide A Wee.
So Bulgar was not suspicious when Tyler announced they would view the eclipse from the southern part of the cemetery at about 10:00 o’clock on Thursday night. Bulgar would never have gone there alone, but he was not afraid if friends were with him. Brad was planning to lie in wait about midway in the cemetery and then do something to terrify Bulgar and pay him back for scaring the kid at the movie..
As the three friends entered the cemetery Tyler joked around with Bulgar and asked him if he knew that 30 years ago a college student had fallen into an empty grave in the Bide A Wee one night and, unable to climb out of the grave, was found the next morning, changed by fear into a raving lunatic. Over the years people who lived near the Bide A Wee reported hearing blood curdling screams from time to time. Police were summoned to investigate but found nothing to account for the screams.
Tyler’s story made Bulgar uneasy because he did believe in ghosts, vampires, and werewolves. When the three friends had reached the bottom of the hill, in the darkest part of the Bide A Wee, where the caretaker’s building was situated, suddenly a dark figure staggered out from behind a large tombstone onto the road and uttered a loud, piercing scream, followed by an insane laugh.
Brad’s act was so convincing that Tyler and Scott, even though they knew something was coming, were momentarily paralyzed with fear. Bulgar was so terrified he ran in pure panic off the road among the tombstones. He literally crashed into tombstones and bounced off others in his wild effort to escape. Finally he made it back to the road and raced out of the cemetery. But instead of turning right and going back to campus, he turned left and ran toward Route 117, and then he turned south, heading for Mom’s. Tyler and Scott had never seen anyone as terrified as Bulgar was that night.
“Catch him or we’re in trouble,” Tyler shouted to Scott. Although Scott had lettered in track in high school, he could not catch Bulgar, illustrating the truth that fear can outrun track stars any time.
Unfortunately for the pranksters, Bumpus Badger, the city policeman, was having coffee at Mom’s when the terrified Bulgar burst into the restaurant. By the time Scott arrived, Bulgar was gesturing wildly and speaking gibberish to the policeman.
When Tyler and Brad arrived at Mom’s, it was too late. Bumpus Badger decided that he was going to take the boys to the police station and book them.
“On what charges?” Tyler, the pre-Law student, asked.
“Disturbing the peace,” Bumpus announced gleefully, enjoying the situation because he had given Bulgar a ticket a month earlier for passing in a no passing zone, and he bragged about harassing college students.
“You can’t disturb the peace in a cemetery; it’s impossible,” Tyler argued.
Bumpus Badger was crestfallen, “Your point is well taken. Ok, then! How about vandalism?” Bumpus was not about to let this delicious opportunity go by.
“But it was a prank, a college prank. We were just trying to give this 200-pound, sand-kicking bully a taste of his own medicine. We didn’t destroy any property or vandalize anything,” Tyler replied, hoping that Bulgar had not dislodged any tombstones in his mad flight to flee the cemetery.
Bumpass Badger ended up by phoning Dr. Scully Beatty, the President of Heliotrope University, and reporting the incident. Dr. Beatty promptly called Dean Forcas, who arrived at Mom’s and glared at the four miscreants like Charles Laughton in Mutiny on the Bounty, then grinned wickedly, and said, “Be in my office at 8:00 tomorrow morning.”
The next morning, at 7:45, the four worried college students waited for the dean to arrive. But he was already there, ready to dispense justice. He began by expressing deep sympathy to Bulgar, whom he clearly saw as the innocent victim in this cruel affair. He denounced the other three for a prank that could have caused poor Bulgar to have a heart attack or suffer crippling injuries in his frightened condition. He demanded that Tyler, Scott, and Brad apologize to Bulgar. And they did.
Then the good dean launched into a stern warning that the university would not tolerate any further deeds of a similar nature. He went on and on about the need for mature behavior and consideration for other people.
Then, trying his best to scowl like Charles Laughton, Dean Forcas concluded his diatribe, “If you three are ever one inch out of line in the future, you will find yourselves wishing you had never set foot on this campus. I will place you on social probation.”
Tyler McCoy, the pre-Law student, asked for clarification. “Social probation is not mentioned in the college catalog, not in the student handbook, and not in the faculty handbook. What does social probation mean?”
Dean Forcas smiled happily at Tyler and said, “It means whatever I want it to mean. You gentlemen have a good day now.”
Moral of this cautionary tale: In the words of Grant Clements, attorney at law, “Retributive justice is sweet, but you should never take the law into your own hands to make it happen.”