Brent Matheny ’19 discovered the mysterious “CR” last February. The morning after he attended “Party Pete’s Lonely Hearts Club,” an Old Kenyon party hosted by the Peeps O’ Kenyon and WKCO radio station, he found a small, paper cube stamped with the letters “c” and “r” in his coat pocket. Inside the cube were 16 words and punctuation marks written on slips of paper.
Matheny showed the object to his friends. “We looked at it for a while,” he said. “We couldn’t really make anything cohesive out of it.”
How someone had managed to put the cube into his pocket was not rocket science; in the cold of winter, Matheny had, of course, taken his coat to the party and left it unattended after he arrived.
The real questions were: Who did this, and why?
Matheny and his friends set out trying to find a message in the miscellaneous words, but rearranging the slips of paper brought no clear answer. “I think we settled on ‘If You Spoke Like Me, You’d All Have Hammers For Teeth. Ha!’” Matheny said. Unsatisfied, they searched the internet for posts containing the string of words. They even looked into cryptography.
Matheny did not yet know that this was just one of many instances over the course of the semester in which CR — which some students, like Kayla Rogers ’18, believe stands for “Campus Riddler” — would wreak mischief at Kenyon. And he did not know that, at least for most of the student body, the mystery would remain unsolved.
Matheny soon learned of other students, like Hannah Farr ’19 and Eli Redburn ’16, who left the party with the same paper cubes in their pockets. Olivia Lindsay ’19 said she picked one up from the floor of the party.
He also heard about CR-tagged cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer hidden around campus early in the semester. “There was even one in someone’s mailbox,” Matheny said, although he could not remember whose.
A week after the party, while Hannah Wendlandt ’19 sat in her Olin Auditorium chemistry lecture, she noticed a CR-labeled CD propped up on the room’s acoustic frames and showed it to Matheny. The disc, and others found around Kenyon, contained a four-minute and 33-second long track — perhaps a reference to John Cage’s entirely silent composition, “4’33” — featuring the disjointed noies of benches moving, coins dropping, voices and a single piano.
Matheny focused on the piano melody. “We tapped that out, figured out what it was,” he said. “That didn’t lead anywhere. It wasn’t any song or anything that we recognized. But it was in the key of C.”
After former Collegian Arts Editor Bailey Blaker ’18 heard about the CDs, she scoured campus and found two of them in Storer Hall.
“I think, at least a little bit, [whoever made them] would have to be involved in the music department, just because the sound quality on the CDs was really interesting,” she said. Blaker had no other leads.
She, Matheny, Rogers and Wendlandt were all stumped. But before the end of the semester, the Campus Riddler would strike twice more.
To be continued next week…