The Daily Eastern News has covered some of the most hard-hitting, breaking news events at Eastern since the newspaper’s inception in 1915.
The News has covered the hiring of presidents, budget crises, layoffs, fires and many other big headlines.
But along with the serious news, generations of reporters have also captured some weird and funny news stories.
From tales of streakers running amok on campus to a large gathering of peaceful marijuana smokers to a man dressed as a ninja walking through the South Quad, there have been plenty of unusual stories gracing the pages of The News.
Some of the oddest stories came in the 1970s and 1980s when streakers became fairly common on Eastern’s campus. A former member of The News reported on one such instance during the Greek Sing in 1981.
Sue Ann Rentfrow, a 1982 alum, covered the streaker during Greek Sing. The streaker’s appearance was made more memorable because he was wearing a blue-polka-dotted bow tie.
While streaking was more frequent during the early 1970s, it forever made its mark on Eastern history.
John David Reed, a former faculty adviser for The News, remembers some weird occurrences while he was at Eastern.
“We had a guy who ran for Homecoming queen, and he posed nude,” Reed said. “We had streakers at Eastern Illinois University. People took their clothes off and ran all over the place, and we covered it.”
Reed said The News ran photos of both the streakers and the man who posed nude when he ran for Homecoming queen.
Reed also recalled a time when Eastern used to play basketball against the University of Wisconsin during the 1970s and the coach made some rude remarks about Eastern’s fans.
“At that time, Eastern’s basketball games were packed,” Reed said. “It was jam-packed and some of these really rude Eastern fans would sit behind the bench of the opposing team and just harass them.”
Reed said the Wisconsin head coach had some choice words to say to the fans at the press conference at the end of the game.
“After the game, during the press conference, their head coach said ‘Eastern fans are horseshit,’ so there was a big debate in the newsroom that night about could we print that,” Reed said. “People had to know what this guy’s opinion was like.”
Reed said people in the newsroom wanted to run the expletive in the headline since it would get people’s attention.
Besides streakers running through Eastern, there was also an entire event dedicated to smoking marijuana out on the Library Quad.
Ted Gregory, a 1981 Eastern graduate who was editor-in-chief in spring 1981, wrote about the event in the 1970s known as “Octoker fest,” where at 11:45 a.m., students gathered in the Library Quad and started what was Eastern’s first-ever smoke-in. By 1 p.m., more than 300 Eastern students were participating in the smoke-in.
Police were present on the Library Quad; however, as Gregory reported, they were there to make sure there was no property damage. The event was peaceful throughout.
“Just before I got here, there was a guy who pulled pranks all over Eastern for a couple of years,” Reed said. “He would put some girls’ lingerie on top of the football helmet of (the statute) in McAfee gym.”
Reed said the prankster also hung signs with derogatory comments about the Eastern president at the time.
“The Eastern News covered, and nobody ever actually got the story out about who this guy was,” Reed said. “One of the news editors actually knew who this guy was. (The prankster) was his roommate, and the guy was a student who was in the military before he came here, and he had a sense of humor and thought it would be funny to do these things.”
Reed said the campus police at the time actually caught the prankster but decided to let him go because the pranks were amusing.
“Early on when this kid was doing these things, (the police chief) caught him, but he decided it was so much fun and created so much interest in the university, he let him go ahead and do things,” Reed said.
The police chief’s only condition was that the prankster clear his pranks first, because the police chief was worried the prankster would get hurt, Reed said.
Reed said the pranks went on for two or three years and no one in the general population knew who was pranking the university.
“It was actually sanctioned in a way,” Reed said.
Katie Smith, a 2015 Eastern graduate and spring 2015 editor-in-chief, said she remembers when she heard about a “ninja” walking around campus with a sword on his back.
“I think I heard it over the scanner, and it was a call that some guy was walking around campus with a sword on his back,” Smith said. “That was our main concern so we went out there to where this guy was supposed to be, and it turns out his sword was part of a ninja costume.”
The so-called ninja was Nathan Waller, a senior management information services major.
“Everyone was laughing when we were out there, and the guy who was in the costume thought it was the funniest thing that people were concerned about his costume,” Smith said. “I still think it was weird that he was wearing a ninja costume, but it’s definitely strange to have to approach someone who you think has a sword on their back.”
Smith said the reason Waller was wearing his costume that day was because it was “National Ninja Day.”
“I think he said it was ‘National Ninja Day’ or something, and I think he made that up,” Smith said.
Luis Martinez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]