On one October morning in the year 1997, a Cornell University professor, strolling by McGraw Tower, casually looked up to cherish the placid view of the sky.
But there was something peculiar he noticed, which made him yell:
What the f**k is that thing? And how did it end up there?
Moments later, he was joined by the students and the teaching staff, wondering the same thing.
What they were looking at was this:
The incident sent the whole campus into a state of craziness. The Cornell Chorus and the Cornell Glee Club created pumpkin lyrics for the university. A webcam provided 24-hour live images – a novelty at the time – from Olin Library. Later, the news found its way beyond the university, thanks to coverage in The New York Times in late October. The Cornell Daily Sun ran a daily “Pumpkin Watch” feature through Halloween, and the Sun’s editor-in-chief, Hilary Krieger ’98, was interviewed on campus by Matt Lauer live on the “Today” show. The Associated Press ran a story and the photo of the pumpkin that appeared in hundreds of newspapers. The Cornell News Service did radio interviews from across the United States. CNN and MTV carried reports.
During the spring of the next year, a contest was sponsored, aimed at determining if the pumpkin was real (yeah, it was still there). Some students used a remote-controlled balloon to take samples of the object. In their 30-page report, it was concluded that the cored gourd offered ventilation which allowed the pumpkin to dry naturally, enabling it to cling to the spire for decades.
The media craze had no plans to end there. A report aired on ABC News’ “World News Tonight” in March, added the chorus and Glee Club singing:
Far above Cayuga’s waters, with its waves of blue, stands our noble orange pumpkin, glorious to view.
But nothing lasts forever, right? In March 98, while a crane was being tested, wind blew it directly into the pumpkin, thus knocking the latter off to the ground, intact and unbroken. After being retrieved, it was given to the biologist John Kingsbury, to examine it, who, in front of a large gathering in Willard Straight Hall memorial room, confirmed the object in a four-word executive summary: “It is a pumpkin.”
So what's the unsolved mystery?
Well, even after 24 years of this incident, nobody knows who put the pumpkin up there, and how.