Lou Hoover encounters Stanford’s “Animal House”
College is a time for both refining one’s education as well as gaining important life lessons. Often these lessons consist of doing things that seem like harmless fun until one realizes how incredibly stupid they were in retrospect. Such is the case with former First Lady Lou Henry Hoover’s encounter with the “dummy man.” In late October, 1935, Lou was driving her large car through the Stanford campus. Being close to Halloween, many fraternities were already gearing up with an arsenal of tricks and pranks. One fraternity, in particular, placed a mannequin in the road, just after a sharp curve so unsuspecting drivers would not have time to react. Little did the fraternity boys know that their first victim would be Lou Henry Hoover. They watched as a large car came around the curve. Seeing the body on the road the car’s breaks screeched but the car had already run over the body, cutting it in half. Only when the driver got out to see if the person was injured, did the fraternity brothers realize the driver was the former First Lady. Quickly, they dashed off in a dozen different directions, and what can only be surmised as an amused Lou Hoover just as quickly realized she had not run over a real person but as the media described it a “dummy man.”
Time Magazine identified the Theta Xi Fraternity as the culprits behind the prank. In 2012, a post on the late actor Richard Boone’s Facebook account claimed: “Richard Boone’s time at Stanford came to an abrupt end in 1937, when he and his Theta Xi fraternity brothers devised an ingenious prank. Together the gang of boys fashioned a dummy out of rags and bottles and laid it in the middle of the road. When the next passing car ran over it. Boone cried out, ‘You killed my brother!’ Unfortunately, the car’s driver was Mrs. Herbert Hoover, the wife of the former U.S. President. Mrs. Hoover actually sprained her right ankle during all of the confusion of the prank. For this, Mr. Boone was expelled from Stanford.” The obvious problem with this account is that it claims to have occurred two years after the actual account. Richard Boone attended Stanford and the January 25, 1935 issue of The Stanford Daily shows him on the pledge list for Theta Xi. But he never graduated, although biographical accounts don’t provide a reason. And the details about expulsion and Lou spraining her ankle are nowhere to be found in any contemporary accounts.