Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
In the aftermath of last month’s mysterious chalkings, a member of the elusive Book and Key society reached out to us. He chose to remain anonymous and will be referred to as “Evan” in this article.
Eduard Saakashvili: Hi, Evan. You claim to be a member of the Book and Key society. How did you become involved with it?
Evan: So, there’s a lot that I can’t tell you about what we do, who we are. But, what I can tell you is that I’ve always been inclined towards the types of activities that Book and Key — the magically-inclined version, mind you — considers under its purview. From a very young age, I was involved in various clubs concerning rituals and magic, and I’ve always been fascinated by that stuff. Was it real, was it not? I didn’t know at the time, I had fun with it. And then as I got older I suspected that it was real, more and more, even as all my friends said “no, not a chance.” And then, Book and Key. It seemed like they shared my views, and we look at the stories, we look at the things you can’t quite explain and we look into that and we organize around that. It’s different from the Book and Key of the 50s, but in some ways it hasn’t changed.
ES: It’s interesting that you say “these days.” For the past 50 years, Book and Key has been considered dissolved, nonexistent, and now it resurfaces. What changed?
E: You know, the part of us that was dissolved was the part that the campus knew about, and I wish I didn’t have to do this now, but I don’t like the direction it’s going in. I don’t like this, there’s more opening up going on. If it’s going to open up it’ll do it on my terms, let’s put it that way. If there’s going to be information released to the world I’m going to be involved in it in some way. I don’t want the leadership just making decisions on their own, the way they have been. I care about this club too much.
ES: You say you’re disgruntled with Book and Key opening up. Is this just for recruitment or is there some other purpose?
E: Oh, there’s definitely another purpose. We have more members than you know, I’ll tell you that much right now. If we wanted to attract new members, that’s a piece of cake.
ES: How would you advertise? You don’t post flyers, you don’t advertise in the RSD.
E: If we contact you, you’ll know, that’s about as much as I can tell you. This doesn’t count, by the way. Maybe.
ES: What are your membership criteria?
E: Criteria? You know, it’s different from person to person. Some people are more interested in the physical aspects of the magical world that may or may not exist, some people are more interested in the knowledge pursuit, and some people are more interested in the rituals and actually carrying out the magic. Some people are just interested in writing about it, some people just wanna draw it, some people meditate. We’ve got one girl, really talented, who taught two computers to waltz the other day. There are plenty of members of Book and Key who don’t get the full story of what the club does, if only because they don’t care to know. If you don’t look for it… It’s one of those things that finds you, and it finds you because you’ve been looking for it. It’s very much a mutual thing. The criteria vary from person to person, but the interest in the magical world is paramount, that’s how you get there.
ES: Coming to Swarthmore, did you know you were going to join Book and Key?
E: Oh, I had no idea. For all that it seems to be opening up these days – which I’m not happy about but so be it – it’s very good at keeping itself secret off campus. There shouldn’t be anyone who knows about it off campus. I mean, yeah, we have plenty of alumni scattered around the world, and there are plenty of people who know about the – dare I call it – normal Book and Key. But very few people know what we do outside this campus, and most of them that do know were, at some point, a part of us, and still are. Because that’s how a lot of us get our jobs and contacts in the magical world these days… Alumni make connections, and they point us in the right direction, or at the very least provide a path for us to follow. But we’re very secretive.
ES: There have been whispers about a possible resurgence of Book and Key. Is something big on the way?
E: There’s a lecture coming down in a few weeks, and this is more what I’m not so happy about. Book and Key, the leadership, wants to open it up to people from off-campus. They feel that it’s important to remind the magical community that Swarthmore College is, in fact, the bastion of magical research and the pursuit of knowledge.
I think this is a mistake, I think opening up the lecture to people from the outside… If they’re not part of the Swarthmore community there’s no guarantee that they won’t harm us in some way. And there have been a lot of times where… How much can I say? Let me put it this way. Fifty-one years ago, there was a very, very important individual who was coming to speak at Swarthmore College. This was JFK. He was very interested in speaking to students, to the non-magical community, of course, but there were some notes passed, he got in touch with the Swarthmore magical community. He was assassinated four days later. That’s not a coincidence, it’s never a coincidence, this type of stuff. If the president of the United States can come under threat for being in contact with the magical community, that means that there’s someone out there who doesn’t like us.
Someone out there who doesn’t want us to improve our security or to further our pursuits. Most of the people in this club just want to follow their dreams here. And then this lecture’s going down, this professor n is giving a lecture. I mean, great professor, everyone loves him, and he has been remotely involved with Book and Key, though I don’t know he’s entirely sure he’s involved with Book and Key… He seems alright with it, I don’t understand what the leadership is thinking, I don’t understand what he’s thinking. He’s not a kid, he should understand that opening us up to the magical community outside our campus is dangerous. I mean we have magical barriers for a reason, you know?
ES: You mentioned JFK. You seem to be putting Swarthmore at the center of some sort of global conflict.
E: Look, there’s a lot I can’t say here, so I’m gonna try and keep it as informative as possible without betraying Book and Key. I don’t like the leadership, but for all that, Book and Key is my home; home within a home, really. Swarthmore, as much as we try to deny it, we’re part of a larger world out there. And that larger world is a dangerous world. There’s a reason that certain pursuits of knowledge are banned. No one researches necromancy at Swarthmore College, no one researches how to make dragon fire. It’s not something that we do, but it’s something that is done.
We’re worried, because the people who research those things, they wanna see what we do. They’re putting their efforts into other types of research. We’re putting our research into… I’m pretty sure there’s a power source somewhere around Swarthmore College. There are way too many magical people, magically inclined people. We tend to gather, we tend to get subconsciously drawn, magnetically almost, to these loci, to these power sources. And it’s unnerving… The types of beings that we might attract by bringing down the barriers unnerves me. Even for a day, even for a night. I don’t know who Chopp is hiring for security, but they better be some damn good security guards. For all we know, we might have gods descending on this place.
ES: The chalkings that unnerved much of the campus some weeks ago mentioned the 26th of April…
E: That’s the lecture, leadership wants to advertise for it. If they’re opening up to off-campus, they might as well advertise to campus. I’m nervous about a lot of things about this leadership, they seem very foolish to me. The last time that we planned a lecture, we lit the room on fire… We’ve called some nasty weather to this campus before. And we feel pretty guilty about it sometimes, all our friends complained about the neverending snow and we couldn’t tell them…
We don’t really know what we’re doing, that’s why I think publicizing this outside the campus, publicizing it even within the campus is dangerous. But, since we’re already advertising outside the campus, we might as well get as much collateral in as possible. The magical world likes to keep itself secret, and the more people that are only tangentially involved, the less likely anyone is to try something. We hope that it’ll go off without a hitch, but a lecture is big for us, it’s a big step for us… The professor seems excited… He’s been raving about findings recently in the Crum, and that’s great, it’s nice to see that research in that area has improved. But it’s dangerous, you know. A lot of us are concerned about it, a lot of us are making sure we’ve got everything on hand, suffice to say.
ES: Thanks a lot, I know you’re taking a big risk by talking to us.
E: Don’t mention it. Seriously, I mean it. We never spoke.
This article is promotional material for the spring LARP, and while it may contain elements of historical fact, it is entirely fictional.
Featured image courtesy of Eduard Saakashvili ’17/The Daily Gazette