Not exactly Cthulu…
Black Squirrels and Universities
The first black squirrel I had seen was at Princeton University. Later that year we travelled to another university in NJ and there was another. So I have always associated black squirrels with university life.
Now the first Black Squirrel I had seen in Salem appeared the same year that Salem State became a university. But it was not introduced at the university but another institute of learning, the Essex Institute or as Lovecraft once called it the Miskatonic University.
In 1923 and 1929 H.P. Lovecraft came to Salem which inspired him to base the fictional town Arkham on it. One of the institutes he borrowed from was the Essex Institute which he renamed Miskatonic University first in Herbert West-Reanimator. It would be in 5 other stories and be described as a university on par with Harvard University. The Essex Institute was behind the lecture series at the Salem Lyceum where Alexander Graham Bell first introduced the phone at.
Here is a history of melanistic squirrels being released in universities. In the United States, the city of Kent, Ohio developed a significant black squirrel population after ten were legally imported from Canada in February 1961 by Larry Woodell, the head groundskeeper at Kent State University.
Another story relates to the founder of Kellogg Cereal company. Black squirrels are abundant in Battle Creek, Michigan, and, according to legend, were first introduced there by Will Keith Kellogg, founder of the Kellogg Company, in an effort to destroy the local population of red squirrels. The story continues that this same population of squirrels was further introduced to the campus of Michigan State University by John Harvey Kellogg for the same purpose. This story was corrected by Wilbur C. “Joe” Johnson, the late chief wildlife biologist at M.S.U.’s Kellogg Biological Station near Battle Creek which includes W.K. Kellogg’s former 32-acre estate at Gull Lake. Johnson, who worked at K.B.S. for 48 years, credited Dr. John Harvey Kellogg for introducing the black squirrel to the Kellogg estate during the 1930s. Johnson said he himself trapped 20 black squirrels at Gull Lake during the early 1960s at the specific request of former MSU president John A. Hannah and released them on the East Lansing campus.
Then, Eastern black squirrels were introduced at Stanford University and can be found on adjoining property in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Now beyond universities, there seem to be some colleges as well that have them as mascots:
- Haverford College where the black squirrel is the official mascot of varsity athletics
- Kent State University which each year holds a Black Squirrel Festival (located in the Risman Plaza during the second week of September) to honor the university’s growing black squirrel population. It features live music, vendors and an overall tribute to the black squirrels seen throughout the campus. Beyond the festival, other businesses and organizations in Kent are named for the black squirrel, including Black Squirrel Brewing Company, Black Squirrel Radio and Black Squirrel Books, an imprint of the Kent State University Press.
- Albion College where the black squirrel has become a significant symbol on campus
Sarah Lawrence College where the campus coffee shop is named for the black squirrel. The black squirrel is also used as an unofficial mascot, with the bookstore selling plush squirrels.
- The College of Wooster where a student on the official website describes an “obsession over black squirrels”  and there is a bed and breakfast nearby campus which is named after the animal.
- Augustana College (Illinois) in the Quad Cities, where ten bronze squirrels are hidden atop buildings around campus and a student film production group, Black Squirrel Productions, is named after the animal.
The black squirrel seemed to be the dominant squirrel when forests were thicker and darker in North America, but as the woods grew thinner and more light came in grey became a better choice for survival. Many people have imported the black squirrel to areas, and at other times there is stories about them escaping zoos. So what is the story for Salem State University or the Miskatonic University; who brought them here?
Read about Ratatoskr who lives in front of the Essex Institute in A Walk Through Salem the fairy tale set in the whimsical magical side of Salem in which you are the main character. Available at Remember Salem, Wicked Good Books, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com Or you can buy it directly from www.salemhousepress.com and give more of the profit to the author. Look for new AR version coming out this Summer.
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Come back every Tuesday at 3PM for new stories about Salem and images from the Salem Trilogy.