Secrets of the Sphinx Uncovered in a Bathroom Stall

By Will Peisch | 5/5/15 9:55am

When I originally pitched this article, I wanted it to be about something broad that we could all relate to: the wall graffiti in the third-floor men’s bathroom of Fairchild — also known as the beggar’s Yik Yak. In the process of examining these hate hieroglyphics, however, I accidentally exposed a part of one of Dartmouth’s most secret societies, the Sphinx.
For those you who are reading Dartbeat to vicariously experience Dartmouth, the Sphinx is the College’s oldest secret senior society. They have a very prominent meeting space in the shape of an Egyptian tomb on Wheelock Street.

Like the actual sphinx in Giza, no one is quite sure why its there, what purpose it serves or how many dead bodies are hidden inside. The society's name is also a mystery to many on campus, as the building — nicknamed “the Tomb” — has no Sphinx-like characteristics. It would be like if a bunch of college kids 4,500 years from now decided to build a social space in the shape of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and call themselves the Lincoln Memorial.

Sphinx members and non-Sphinx members alike would agree that the most interesting thing about the Sphinx is its secrecy. Yet, as I discovered in the third-floor Fairchild bathroom, some of those secrets are poorly hidden.

I first took notice of a possible Sphinx connection as I was taking notes for this article, which originally was just about bathroom graffiti. As I wrote down the various things that were sketched on the stall walls, amidst the anatomically-generous drawings and numerous random YV’s, it was clear that the Sphinx was getting some serious facetime. Here are some of the affirmations I recorded.

Sphinx is so cool

Sphinx is so so so coooool!

My favorite part of being in the Sphix [sic] is the (dartbleep)*.

If you were in the Sphinx, you would be able to spell Sphinx.

cue dramatic organ music.

I looked at the bathroom walls again to see if there was some visual counterpart, and lo and behold there was. The Sphinx connection was further confirmed, as one of the “The Sphinx is so cool” affirmations had an arrow connecting it to this tri-semi-circle symbol.

I felt like the toilet graffiti version of Indiana Jones. I was unsure, though, of the repercussions of calling attention to the symbol of a faceless secret society with unknown reach and power. I then Googled “Dartmouth exposes secret society” and came across an article from IvyGate regarding a 2007 incident where The Dartmouth outed members of the Phrygian. In contrast, I’m just calling attention to information that has been on the Internet for almost a decade now and may no longer be relevant to Sphinx society — to any Sphinx members reading this, please don’t cut off my nose or yell riddles at me. While the article made no mention of repercussions from the Phrygian, the comment section is where I accidentally came across another Sphinx meme.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, there are many YV’s drawn on the stall walls of Fairchild 3, — at least 6 instances by my count. One YV was actually scratched into the metal, making it nearly impossible to paint over or ignore while in the bathroom.

As it so happens, the comment section of this Phrygian article had similar instances where commenters commented either just the word YV or “Yea Verily”. Though I suspected that this YV thing had something to do with the Sphinx, it was the testimony of one of the commenters that really brought it home for me.

That’s right, someone with the username sphinx07 explained to everyone what YV meant and who it was meant for in an article that mentioned the Sphinx as an afterthought. It’s like someone went out of his or her way to take the secret out of secret society.

There was one last symbol that I spotted in the bathroom that I wasn’t able to make a Sphinx connection with, but is interesting nonetheless.

While there is no direct Sphinx connection, I should also note that the same exact symbol can be seen in the men’s bathroom on the second floor of FoCo above the urinals.

Regardless of whether these symbols are part of Sphinx’s current iconography or not, I think the biggest lesson we can all take away from this experience is this: If you are part of a secret society, don’t permanently scratch your secrets on virtual or actual bathroom stall walls.

Will Peisch