As October comes to a close, Thacher’s supernatural and paranormal entities creep their way back into the bounds of Perimeter Road. The stories and accounts are numerous – and although the validity of the eerie explanations can be questioned, Thacher’s ghost scene certainly warrants a closer look.

The most well-known and oft-recorded ghost that allegedly inhabits the Thacher campus is the infamous Upper School Ghost. The tales and lore surrounding this ghost evolve and differ depending on the source. It is confirmed that Mr. Marvin Shagam – former Upper School dorm head, teacher of a multitude of classes and suspected intelligence operative – would buy a steak dinner for any student who could last an entire night spent in Upper School over vacation.

The numbers are again varied and differing, but general consensus is that the number of those successful in this endeavor is low. Michael Mulligan, Head of School, reported that Rachel Oxley, CdeP 1989, was among the few and also had a personal encounter with the ghost. According to Mr. Mulligan, while she was sleeping in one of the rooms a ghost came into the room at around three in the morning and held a pillow over her face, holding her down for a significant amount of time.

Mr. Mulligan has his own interesting relationship with the paranormal. He is vehement in his belief that ghosts do exist, and stated, “I know I’ve seen two ghosts.” He elaborated on his paranormal theories – including that ghosts are people who don’t know that they are dead and that trauma locks them into this plane of existence. He also described his two run-ins with the dead: one ghost at his ex-girlfriend’s house and the other who appeared as an old woman with a stroller he saw on a run.

As far as the school is concerned, Mr. Mulligan was hesitant to disclose all of his knowledge regarding the supernatural presence at Thacher, as he fears it would be too unnerving for students. In particular he would not clarify which room in Upper School is the haunted room, but did confirm its existence. Mulligan stated that he was aware of many incidents in Upper School involving furniture moving, windows opening and closing, clothes being rearranged and most frightening of all; a number of students who reported being held down whilst asleep – much like Rachel Oxley’s experience.

Other members of the Thacher community have reported similar activities around campus. Mr. Doyle communicated that whenever he is alone in the Development Office the building’s doors open and close themselves. He speculated that it was possibly the Upper School Ghost demonstrating some migration while the Upper School boys are at sports and riding.

Mr. Hooper reports an even more substantial account of the paranormal at Thacher. He claimed that he often sees ghosts, “Casper-like and spooking around campus.” He says the appear to be about seven years old, and are just “doing normal ghost things near the Pergola, Middle School and the Commons.”

Conversely, some students completely reject the idea of any haunting at Thacher. Truman Hanks, when asked whether or not he has seen any ghosts, responded, “No. But, I have been woken up by boys looking for the ghost.”


It’s 5:05 on a Tuesday. Groups of girls leave the dance studio in leotards and spandex, ready to beat the crowd to the showers and get dressed for formal dinner. But not all. Four huddle around the fruit stand, chowing down on apples and pears. Another joins them, already tired and hungry from her tennis practice.

These girls won’t be going to formal today. They have rehearsal.

On October 15, Ms. Vickery, Mr. Haggard, Carrie Eastburn ’16, Grace Bingham ’15, Morgana Van Peebles ’16, Hayley Kong ’15 and Wesley Liang ’15 will be leaving for Beijing, China. They are headed to a university in Chongqing, for a music and dance festival that they have been rehearsing for since preseason this year. These dancers and Ms. Vickery have been rehearsing about 5 hours a week, in addition to living the rest of their busy Thacher lives.

“We have a 20 minute piece that goes from musical theatre (Steam Heat from the Pajama Game) to jazz with a little hip hop, and then the song Blower’s Daughter in which dancers have solos, and finishing with a contemporary ballet piece. The jazz and ballet segments are to original music written by Mr. Haggard,” reports Ms. Vickery, who has choreographed the entire piece.

The dancers sing in three of the four segments, adding another element of complexity to the piece, and requiring more rehearsal time.

The opportunity to travel to China and perform is certainly fantastic.

“I never imagined I would have a chance to travel anywhere out of state for dance, let alone across the pacific ocean to China,” says Hayley Kong, who has been to China before, but did not imagine she would be back so soon.

Morgana Van Peebles, one of the two sophomores, says that when she was asked to go on the trip she automatically said yes. The group will be gone for 7 days, and while they are there able to perform multiple times, at the opening ceremony of the festival and again the next day.

Obviously, putting this whole event together takes a lot of work. You would think that the dancers would be overwhelmed by the amount of work that they have, but all are maintaining a positive attitude.

“The extra rehearsals inconvenient can be at times, but going to China is worth it,” says Morgana. “There are so many more upsides than downsides.”

Still, everyone involved has had to make sacrifices. Morgana notes she was not able participate in the production of Our Town, because she would miss too many rehearsals.

Ms. Vickery, who as well as choreographing and teaching the four routines has continued to teach Fall Dance, in addition to her duties as a math teacher, advisor, and dorm faculty. It is understandable then that she made the decision that there would be no additional performance by the Dance Ensemble this fall.

We all know that the prospect of missing school at Thacher can be terrifying. Still, the dancers are not too worried.

“I know we will be working closely with our teachers to bring work with us so we won’t be too far behind,” says Hayley Kong.

Since Ms. Vickery and Mr. Haggard will be going to China as well, substitute teachers have been arranged for Mr. Haggard’s music classes and Chamber, and for Ms. Vickery’s math classes and Fall Dance.

It is obvious that Thacher is moving in an increasingly international direction. In the past few years students have traveled with the school to Cuba, China, Haiti, and this summer a group led by Mr. Jacobsen will be going to Cambodia. This spring break, the Chamber Singers will be heading to Puerto Rico to attend a choral festival. Every year Thacher send juniors to School Year Abroad programs. As a school containing students from all over the world, it is encouraging to see groups “pop” the Thacher bubble.

On Oct 1 after formal, the dancers had a 9 minute preview of their 20 minute show. They performed Steam Heat, the jazz/musical theatre number, and Yes In My Feet, a jazz/hip hop combo. This was also a test for the microphones, which the group will have to bring to China with them in a cumbersome 3×3 foot case. New costumes, red leotards and black shorts, props, and bowler hats that the dancers use during Steam Heat, were also tested out.

The performance drew raves reviews from students and faculty members.

As the five girls and two teachers prepare to leave, excitement runs high. We will all be wishing them well.


Following the 2014 Spring Sports Season, Thacher athletics will leave the Condor League for bigger and better things.

Although Thacher sports teams will succeed in any forum, their departure from the Condor League is bittersweet. Their move to the Tri-County Athletic Association, where they will join the Frontier League, is extremely beneficial. The league competes at a much higher level than most of the members of the Condor League (both Nordhoff and Carpinteria are members), and the icing on the cake is that Thacher’s longtime rival Cate will make the switch as well.

Although the higher level of competition will only work to make Thacher athletics perform at their peak potential, Head Coaches of different sports stressed that one thing from the Condor League will be deeply missed: great sportsmanship.

Pete Fagan, Head of Athletics and Coach of Varsity Girls Tennis, believes:

These days, you’d be hard pressed to go to an opposing gym and not get heckled or jeered on during play. That just isn’t the case with the Condor League.

When Jason Carney, Head Coach of Varsity Boys Basketball, was asked which school demonstrated the best sportsmanship he said, “I don’t know if any one school necessarily stands out. That’s not to say that the other schools don’t have it, I just think they’re all at a high level.”

No matter how great the sportsmanship was however, the opportunity at hand was one that Thacher could not turn down. Arriving in a new league where most schools know nothing about us, Thacher will find itself with a lot to prove. Previously the Condor League’s Goliath, the Toads now must build a new reputation for themselves as contenders not just in the classroom, but on the field as well.

But that’s a year away, and right now we have Condor League games to win.


A hot Saturday, sweat and grime, three flags, a barbecue, and sixty missing freshmen. You guessed it—Big Gymkhana.

Starting several hours earlier than previous years, the extra time certainly did help. Up bright and early, for some even earlier than they usually get up, the freshmen headed to the field, bleary-eyed and tired, though nervousness penetrated their dazed looks. I remember sitting on the back of my horse with the sun already warming my back, having only been on the field for an hour. It was going to be hot.

Before anyone had any extra time to reflect though, all riders were immediately plunged into the ceremony. Going from most to least points, Green team entered first, followed by Blue, and rounding up was Orange. Representatives proudly carried flags of their team colors and the flags for the flags ceremony. Parents were hushed, cameras were taken out, and the teenagers would’ve been more embarrassed if it wasn’t for the looming task ahead of them. As each of the teams filed in, I couldn’t help wondering how a year had passed so quickly. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was getting on the back of a horse (not the first time for me personally, but that is the exception, not the rule). And suddenly, an amazing amount of parents and horses are standing all around, ready to celebrate one of the greatest accomplishments of a freshman’s year.

And so it begins.

For those of you who remember, when Gymkhana season first starts, everyone is a bumbling mess. No one is at their race when they’re supposed to go and most people are clueless about the rules. Things are very different now. After almost an entire trimester of preparation, the freshmen know the rules of the game and they’re certainly ready to play. Jackets have already been passed out and the top ten wear them proudly, knowing that they have earned their place. The music kicks up and look at those horses go!

Races pass in a blur. By the time you and your horse have crossed the finish line, someone’s calling your name for the next one and just when you think you can relax, the teams switch around. It’s an eventful day and suddenly, the nervousness vanishes. Not because you think you’re going to win or that you’re set, no. It’s gone because there is too much to focus on and too little time to waste.

The day concludes with the Silver Dollar pickup. As Mr. Okin says, there are three things necessary to pick up the dollar. “Skill, guts…and luck.” Three of the many eager attempters managed to find the perfect combination: Nick Johnson ‘16, Colly Smith ‘16, and Peter Callan ‘16. As the contestants raised their fists in the air, sand trailing behind them and loping onwards, you could see a look of pure exhilaration in their faces and a beautiful ending to a long, stressful, but amazing day.

Finally, at the end of a long, hot day, the awards are presented. The team rankings have not changed, with Green Team in first, Blue Team in second, and Orange Team wrapping up the season with third. Individual awards are also announced. Daniel Kruth ‘13, Lachlan Nutting ‘14, and Alex Morris ‘14 proudly take their place on the stage as the top three overall riders of the year. The top three freshmen–an achievement just as great or perhaps even greater than top three overall–are taken by Serena Warren ‘16, Alessandro Lorenzoni ‘16, and Nick Johnson ‘16.

All too soon, it has ended. A year that was both everlastingly long and unbearably short at the same time and a year that will be remembered, but never quite relived. Years from now, people will recall fondly the memories on horseback and laugh at the naivety of their freshman year and horses and Big Gymkhana are certain to be part of it. Why this experience is so magically unique is difficult to define, but Serena Warren, top freshman of the year, puts it this way. “Gymkhana really brought our class together. The competitive aspects gave our classmates motivation work hard, although it was quite frustrating at times. The best part of Big Gymkhana,” she adds, “was how much fun all of the teams had. I felt so much pride entering on Big Gymkhana riding with all of Orange Team!”

A conclusion then, to the first chapter of high school. But then again, as they say, every ending is the start of a new beginning. May the next year be the best year yet.


“…and I’m gay.”

In April (2013), Washington Wizards’ center Jason Collins became the first active openly gay player in history from one of the four major North American professional team sports.

A mediocre basketball player, Collins’s announcement will forever be his claim to fame, but what an impact his announcement made.  Met with unwavering support from the biggest names of today (from Kobe Bryant to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama), Collins has definitively demonstrated positive changes in America’s acceptance of homosexuality and cleared a slightly smoother path for future athletes to take on their journey out of the closet. While a number of bigots criticized Jason Collins, their voices were mostly drowned out by the waves of support following the announcement.

Collins announcement came between seasons, when his career was uncertain, and while it may have been suspected America was ready for the announcement, there were no certainties. Reminiscent of Jackie Robinson, Collins has taken the first crack at a barrier of intolerance in professional sports.

While being a gay athlete certainly merits a Sports Illustrated cover story, hopefully people like Jason Collins will continue to test and build America’s tolerance until coming out isn’t a big deal.

Taylor Bacon ’15

Ever since the slew of school shootings in the American neighborhood, American awareness of gun control issues have skyrocketed.

On either side there are compelling arguments: Pro-Control advocates articulate that by removing the tools of the trade from possible criminals, we’ve eliminated some of the most dangerous ways to kill someone. Pro-Rights advocates refute that by saying the Second Amendment protects the lawful right of citizens to bear arms during a time of conflict. By having guns, citizens are able to protect themselves and create a safe space within American society when law enforcement (LE) isn’t around…The argument goes on and on, with no end in sight.

I believe that before an individual tries to make a comment and pitch in, he must have sufficient general knowledge about firearms – how they operate, the capabilities of each type of firearm, and most importantly, gun safety. Naturally, you have to have touched, seen, smelled, and shot a firearm to do so. If an individual does not understand all of the above, then I believe they are unfit to take a side and contribute to this delicate issue.

The current “hot topic” is the issue on whether to ban semi-automatic assault weapons from the general populace. Using the definition of “assault weapon” under the Assault Weapons Ban passed under the Clinton administration (which has recently expired) – a semi-automatic, full size rifle that possesses two or more of the characteristics of a fully automatic weapon OR a Title II weapon – we can then discern the pros and cons of each side. Currently the term “Assault weapon” is undefined by the federal government.

The Assault Weapons Ban functions on restricting cosmetic features on certain high powered weapons. However, the features and restrictions described have no effect on the actual destructive power of the gun itself. Restricting firearms based on cosmetic features will do nothing for reducing crime rate. A bullet .308 inches in diameter is still a bullet .308 inches in diameter. Changing the medium of firing the round will not alter the destructive power of bullets.

Hence, the point is moot already. In no way does it lessen possible crime using guns. Thus, we arrive at the conclusion – restricting weapons will not affect crime rate. By taking away a highly effective medium citizens can use to counter a gun-wielding attacker, the government is merely raising the possible casualty rate in an incident.

But, let’s look at the issue in a different light. National Review states that the relationship between gun regulation and homicide is by no means straightforward. Switzerland, which has a gun in every household (required for military service) has a lower homicide rate than heavily restrictive countries, such as the UK. Cuba, with very strict gun laws, has a higher homicide rate than the US – 5.0/100,000 vs 4.8/100,0000.

“Gun deaths” is also a misleading term. About two thirds of all gun deaths are suicides. The “assault rifle” also accounts for only 358 counts of homicides in 2010. Legally owned fully automatic weapons have been used in exactly two homicide cases in the modern era, one of them by a police officer with a department issued gun.

Once again, crime and guns are not interrelated. There are some places with very strict gun laws and lots of crime, some places with very liberal gun laws and very little crime and vice versa.

What about those shootings we’ve all heard about? Almost all of them were committed by an individual with severe mental issues. One way to prevent such incidents is placing proper precautions – intensified background checks to root out possible mental illness, proper education on how to handle a gun, and ensuring there are law abiding citizens around the nation can help prevent such incidents. The idea that a guy can just walk into a gun store and simply buy a gun is revolting, and yet Congress has just shut down a bill that simply required more in depth background checks.

One interesting aspect of American gun laws is that there are non-uniform laws across the 50 states. This makes even thinking about control and altering laws next to impossible, and individuals have to worry about different gun laws in different states. If this is one nation, then there should be one set of gun laws that everyone abides by. Not 50.

Gun control is clearly a sensitive issue, but I would imagine that the issue would be resolved a lot quicker if all citizens were educated in how guns work, how to use them safely, and what they are capable of. Additional laws will help, but only in making it more difficult for unsuitable individuals to own and purchase a firearm. For the rest of us, there should be no obstacles in having the freedom to own and operate a firearm. It may even contribute to a safer neighborhood.


CXO EU Graphic by Tiffany Farrant / CC BY 2.0

On March 1st of this year (2013), a group of students at Phillips Andover Academy wrote a letter to their school newspaper commenting on the low number of female student body presidents elected since the school became coeducational in 1973.

Since then, this letter has stirred up heated debate across the well-groomed East coast campus, almost upending a student council election, and received considerable media attention, including a recent article in the New York Times. These Andover students have joined a raging controversy that has overtaken the nation surrounding feminism and its place in the modern world –a world where women seem to have succeeded in securing legal equality, but where the disparity between men and women in leadership positions is undeniable.

Their letter addresses this exact issue, stating that the lack of female representation within the student governing body is indicative of deeper flaws in Andover’s underlying attitudes toward gender and challenges their claims of “progressivism” and “forward-thinking ideals.”

The students state, “Strong role models create a positive cycle through which young students, male or female, are inspired to become role models themselves. Boys have myriad opportunities to look up to the established, visible—and male—student leaders at this school. Sadly, our current female students lack these public figures.”

They go on to say that this has resulted in the real reason female students aren’t being voted into office –they aren’t running for office. Last year at Andover, only two of the fourteen candidates were female, a trend that echoes the theories of a recently released and controversial book written by the female COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg.

Sandberg’s debut, Lean In, a title that also lends itself to her new nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and training women to become leaders, has amassed critique for its appraisal of women in the workplace, which, Sandberg says, “hold [themselves] back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising [their] hands, and by pulling back when [they] should be leaning in.” Sandberg is currently ranked number 10 on Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Women and is worth almost $1 billion, but her success has failed to win over many feminists to her beliefs.

Many women and men have been up in arms over these statements, describing them as “blaming the victims” and undermining decades of feminism by placing fault in women for the still rampant disparities. Sweeping generalizations of female passivity, they say, do not account for statistics such as the $0.77 a woman makes for every dollar a man makes (US News & World Report) or that women only make up 3% of the Forbes Fortune 500 despite the fact that more women graduate from college than men.

Others view Sandberg’s ideas as inspirational and a much needed call for women to push for success rather than let it take a backseat or give up on corporate stardom before they have even had a chance to prove themselves. Sandberg suggests that women too often hesitate out of fear of seeming overly aggressive “ice queens,” a stereotype that has dominated conversations regarding female leadership ranging from The Devil Wears Prada to Hillary Clinton.

Interviewed Andover students also spoke of another, more malignant, stereotype – that girls do not make good leaders.

“Right off the bat, it’s not a meritocracy for girls,” said one Andover senior, “they’re starting behind because we don’t associate leadership qualities with them.”

Other students theorized that girls see less success in their student council elections because they have to “act seriously to be taken seriously”, a tactic that puts them at a disadvantage in a race that is most often won by the most outgoing or entertaining candidate rather than a stern one.

Although these events may have taken place on the other side of the country, they uncover issues that are pertinent to all schools and governing bodies – including Thacher. Following the controversies of the election, Andover’s new school presidents (both male) plan to lead multiple discussions regarding gender equity next school year.