Shocking, because what he found was an enormous cache of nude photographs, thousands and thousands of photographs of young men naked front, side and rear poses.
Disturbing, because on closer inspection the naked looked like the record of a naked body-piercing ritual: The employee who found them was mystified. The athletic director at the time, Frank Ryan, a former Cleveland Browns quarterback new to Yale, was mystified.
Ivy League nude posture photos
But after making some discreet inquiries, he found out what naked man xray were -- and took swift action to burn them. He called in a professional, a document-disposal expert, who initiated a two-step torching procedure. First, every single one of the many thousands of photographs was fed into a shredder, and then each of the shreds was fed to the flames, thereby insuring that not a single intact or recognizable image of the nude Yale students -- some of whom had gone on to assume positions of importance in government and society -- would survive.
It was the Bonfire of the Best and the Brightest, and the assumption was that the last embarrassing reminders of photos peculiar practice, which masqueraded as science and now looked like a kind of kinky voodoo ritual, photos gone up in smoke.
Photos assumption was wrong. Thousands upon thousands of photos from Yale and other elite schools survive to this day.
When I first embarked on my quest for the lost nude "posture photos," I could not decide whether to think of the phenomenon as a scandal or as an extreme example of academic folly -- of what happens when well-intentioned institutions allow posture reverence for the reigning conjectures of scientific orthodoxy to persuade them to do things that seem silly or scandalous in retrospect.
And now that I've found them, I'm still not sure whether posture or laughter is the more appropriate reaction. Your response, dear reader, may depend on whether your nude photograph is among them.
And if you posture Yale, Mount Holyoke, Vassar, Smith or Princeton -- to name a few of the schools involved -- from the 's through the 's, there's a chance that yours may be.