Bizarre Bacchanalian Rites Afoot?


The Dunster Goat Roast is a pretty strange tradition, screaming medieval more than 21st-century liberal institute of higher learning. Turns out, the Goat Roast is as puzzling to the public as it is to me. I received the following e-mail from Dunster’s HoCo Saturday morning:

This morning a woman was walking along Memorial Drive and saw the goat carcass in our courtyard. Later she saw two sheep heads displayed in front of Eliot House, and called the Cambridge Police. Your Dunster House Committee is in no way involved in this latter incident, but we are obviously still concerned for our house’s image and that of the university. That said, HUPD is now also involved, but more importantly so is the media.

IF YOU ARE ASKED ANY QUESTIONS OR ASKED TO GIVE ANY COMMENTS, WE ASK YOU TO PLEASE SAY “NO COMMENT.” They are not allowed in the house but they will likely be outside of it, and might try to talk to you as you exit. We want to make it very clear that we ask this of you not because we don’t want you to be able to voice your opinions, but rather because there is information unavailable to you, and we want to give them the most clear idea of what happened.

A camera crew parked on DeWolfe Street tried to interview me, but I refused to give up the secrets of my House. I will say, though, that this article has it ludicrously wrong.

The remains of a dead goat were found hanging on a fence yesterday outside Dunster House, one of the oldest dormitories at Harvard University, but showed no signs of abuse or cruelty, a Cambridge animal control official said.

The animal had already been slaughtered when it was brought to Dunster House on Memorial Drive for an annual goat roast organized by anthropology majors, the official said. …

McCabe said the goat roast is part of a spring ritual at Dunster House, a stately, red-brick building overlooking the Charles River. “My understanding is the anthropology department has a goat feast,” he said. “I guess this is part of what they do. The byproducts get used as a display.”

Perhaps the Goat Roast has its origins in the anthro department, but today, it’s a tradition that’s pure Dunster.