On the superstitions, legends of W&L

Xiaoxia Yin

As a historic school, Washington and Lee has many superstitions among its students. Most of them are not just random jokes, but have strong a connection to the history of W&L.

One of the most popular superstitions in recent years is that students who walk through the central archway of Graham- Lees Hall will fail their next test. There is another similar tradition that says putting an apple on Traveller’s (General Lee’s favorite horse and also the name of the party bus system on campus ) tomb outside Lee Chapel will get students a good grade on their test. With two superstitions about test grades, many students might wonder what grade they would receive if they did both at the same time.

However, most students don’t realize that the superstition of Traveller was completely different several years ago.

When Traveller was alive, General Lee called Traveller a spiritual animal, allowing him to roam free on campus. Students agreed; they all liked Traveller and believed seeing him could bring them good luck. Traveller was still allowed the freedom to roam around campus after General Lee’s death in 1870. However, he joined his master soon after.

Traveller was buried in the ravine by Woods Creek behind the main buildings at W&L. According to legend, Traveller

did not rest in his grave for long. He was disinterred in 1876 for several displays. In 1907, which was the 100th anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s birth, Washington and Lee had Traveller’s skeleton mounted and exhibited in the university’s museum, which is the Science Center today.

At that time, students began writing their names on the bones of Traveller to receive good luck. As a result, at that time, Traveller’s bones in the exhibition were covered in names written by students.

In the 1960s, when Traveller’s skeleton was too deteriorated to be displayed, the school buried it just outside of Lee Chapel. Since students could no longer write on the bones, the superstition evolved into the one we have today.

The evolving superstitions of Traveller resemble the history of W&L. The superstitions also represent the student body’s recognition and endorsement of the history of W&L. When people put an apple on Traveller’s tomb, they may not really do it to get a good grade, but to recognize the culture of Washington and Lee. Whether people believe the superstitiona or not is irrelevant. The superstitions, the history, the stories and the culture behind them make up rich tradition of W&L.