The Doyle Owl

owl images

imageThe Doyle Owl story is really very simple. There's this three-foot cement owl that everyone goes crazy over. Otherwise reserved and intelligent Reedies will risk life and limb to get the owl all for their very own. Riots break out at its every public appearance. Property is damaged. People are injured. Studying stops. Skeptical? Ah, but until you have seen the owl, you should reserve judgment. You too may be drawn to its irresistible beauty and its unique charm.

The origins of this institutionalized mayhem began somewhere in the mists of a 1913 night. Some Doyle dorm residents slip out and grab a large lawn ornament in the form of an owl. They drag it back to its new home, high atop Old Dorm Block. A legend is born.

Doyle GroupVery soon the owl becomes an object of contention, for those in the next dorm covet the owl in its beauty and attempt to make it their own by lowering it down with a rope. They are detected, apprehended, and punished. The owl is moved inside.

Then the true power of the owl's beauty became known. It is not enough to simply possess the Doyle Owl—the owl must be shown, its owner must flaunt its glory before the desirous have-nots, who then become driven to obtain it. To own the Owl gives time, but to earn the time it must be displayed. All Doyle Owl stories are based upon this profound irony. (Timê, pronounced team-ay, is ancient Greek for honor. You'll learn all about it when you read the Iliad.) At first this phenomenon was associated with the Doyle Dorm formal held every year in the student union, where the owl would be displayed. Efforts to steal the Doyle Owl usually intensified in anticipation of this event. One year saw an unusually vigorous effort by another dorm: first they kidnapped nine residents of the Doyle Dorm one night, unsuccessfully demanding the owl in ransom. Undaunted, several days later they staged an attack on Doyle in the form of a two-hour siege, featuring water, mud, and ammonia bombs. Doyle quelled the attack, however, when it brought its fire hose into play. Antics of this sort began to be regularly associated with the owl.

Beware of imitations! The Owl has been copied several times. At least two plaster casts are currently in existence; a third was destroyed some years ago. The trick is that the true Doyle Owl is a weighty matter—about 300 pounds worth. The plaster copies weigh almost nothing. Real Reedies accept no substitutes.


In the last few years, the real owl has been journeying the globe with a vengeance. Sightings have occurred near Disneyland; in Seattle; in San Francisco; in Lincoln, Nebraska; in Paris, France; in Jakarta, Indonesia; and at bowling alleys. Sightings have occurred near Reed alumni Dr. Demento and Steve Jobs, and near former Reed president Steven Koblik, among others.

The owl is everywhere. A few years ago, the owl somehow made it into the hands of the band Tears for Fears, who put it in one of their videos. Reedies promptly sent out a commando squad to put an end to this travesty. It has been heated until it glows red. It has been covered in Vaseline while being hung off a bridge. It has been chained to buildings and people. It has been slathered with Crisco and thrown, on fire, out of the back of a car. It has witnessed legions of devoted worshippers at shrines built in its honor. Rumor has it that it was even airlifted from the top of the thesis tower via helicopter. An entire senior thesis has been devoted to an oral history of the Doyle Owl.

While it is only a rumor, there are reports that the real owl was destroyed in a freak gardening accident. However, as neither the real owl nor the impostor have been displayed in over a year, this rumor is impossible to assess. If you have any information about the real Doyle Owl or any of its impostors, please feel free to let us know, confidentially if necessary.

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