There have been many famous Princetonians, but there have also been a number of famous—or perhaps infamous—imaginary members of the Princeton community. Here we take a look at the nonexistent people who became legends on campus.
Adelbert L’Hommedieu X (Bert Hormone), Class of 1917
The Class of 1917 invented an imaginary member and provided regular updates on his activities for the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Among his exploits, Adelbert L’Hommedieu X (Bert Hormone) was expelled from Princeton after only a single semester, fought in a seemingly endless number of wars, and seduced countless women. In 1941, Harvey Smith included an extended treatment of “Bert” in the fictional book-length account of the adventures of the Class of 1917, The Gang’s All Here.
Ephraim di Kahble ‘39
When they arrived on campus, five members of the Class of 1939 decided to pull a prank on their classmates. They invented Ephraim di Kahble ’39, who “lived” at 36 University Place, where the group rented and decorated an empty room to make it look like his. Ultimately, they aimed to get their imaginary friend elected treasurer of their class. Ads began running in the Daily Princetonian under the name of Ephraim di Kahble, each more fanciful than the last.
The pranksters took things just a little too far, though, when they had young di Kahble take out an ad in the New York Times requesting information about an orange and black guinea pig. The New York Journal then ran a phone interview with “Eph,” discussing his hopes to change the Princeton mascot. He promised to wash all orange and black guinea pigs before he bought them to be sure they were authentic. The University Press Club was suspicious and investigated, finding that no such person existed. Di Kahble then “died” from exposure.
Di Kahble, however, refused to fade from memory. In the 25th Reunion Book of the Class of 1939, apparently resurrected from the dead, he “wrote” that he “was looking forward” to coming back to campus for Reunions, “but something has come up that will probably make it impossible.” In 1968, Princetonians honored di Kahble with “Di Kahble Hall,” a maintenance building near Jadwin Gym that appears only on the map of campus at the Princeton Club of New York. Di Kahble also sent birthday cards to his entire class for many years. In our own Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, di Kahble made his mark by donating a collection of candy wrappers now held in the Graphic Arts Collection.
Joseph David Oznot ’68
In 1964, Princeton University offered 1164 high school seniors admission. 1163 of them were real. The 1164th, Joseph David Oznot, was a figment of the imaginations of four Princeton sophomores. They not only filled out an application for Oznot, but took the College Board tests in his name to provide supporting documentation. An accomplice at Michigan State University helped with the application, supplying fictitious transcripts and letters of recommendation from teachers at East Lansing High School. When the interview came around, arrangements were made to have another sophomore from Columbia be interviewed as “Oznot.” When he discovered that he’d been had, Director of Admission E. Alden Dunham joked, “I was really looking forward to having that concert pianist here next year.”
Not envisioned as a student, but a Princeton legend nonetheless, Henry Fairfax wooed Princeton University freshmen and sophomores (mostly, but not exclusively, women) for a decade. It appears he first arrived on the scene in 1976, when he sent Valentines to nearly every female freshman and sophomore at Princeton (a total of 703 cards). A man claiming to be Henry Fairfax said he was a resident of Franklin Park, but that he had nothing to do with sending the cards. The legend asserted that Fairfax had met a woman at a Princeton party, promised to send her a Valentine, but forgotten her name, so he just sent cards to all the women who might be her. By 1980, the Daily Princetonian referred to the annual distribution of Fairfax Valentines as “a tradition of long standing,” but speculated that “Perhaps he is in some loveless carrel in the bowels of Firestone weaving Valentine verses into a senior thesis” when the cards failed to arrive in 1981. He might also have been delayed; many freshmen and sophomore women received two Valentines from “Henry Fairfax” in 1982. In 1983, he turned his attention to the men of the underclasses, a short-lived digression from the norm. The tradition always had its critics, but when the cards turned a bit racy, such criticism intensified. Meanwhile, some women considered it a slight if they did not receive a Fairfax Valentine. In 1987, Prince reporters discovered the members of Charter Club had been pulling the prank for over a decade. Having been exposed, Charter stopped delivering cards.
Alexi Indris-Santana ’93/Jim MacAuthor GS (James Hogue)
No list of imaginary Princetonians would be complete without Alexi Indris-Santana ’93. A fraud rather than a prank, Santana was the invention of convicted con man James Arthur Hogue. In 1985, Hogue, then around 25 years old, enrolled at Palo Alto High School in California, under the name Jay Mitchell Huntsman. He had already attended multiple colleges under a variety of names. At that point, he claimed to be an orphan who had been raised in a commune. An assortment of aliases and addresses later, Hogue was arrested for theft in Utah. In his application to Princeton, Hogue claimed he’d been self-educated. Following his admission, Hogue asked for and was granted a one-year deferment to care for his dying mother in Switzerland (in reality, to serve time in prison in Utah).
After Hogue was paroled, “Santana” arrived to begin studies as a freshman in 1989. The Trenton Times ran a story on him at that time, detailing his fanciful pre-Princeton life herding cattle at the Grand Canyon with no human contact. “Santana” told his freshman roommate, “I didn’t come here to learn anything. I know more than most of these professors. I just came here to find a wife.” Whether he came to learn or not, “Santana” impressed most of those who had contact with him, and was doing well academically at Princeton. The fraud was discovered in February 1991, when one of his former classmates from Palo Alto High School recognized him at a track meet and realized he was using an alias. Hogue was then arrested for violating his parole.
Hogue pleaded guilty to defrauding Princeton University of approximately $21,000 in student aid in February 1992, then served nine months in a Mercer County prison. Despite his 1991 arrest in Princeton, Hogue created a new Princeton character for himself four years later. He was discovered to be posing as a geology Ph.D. student, this time with the name James MacAuthor, in 1996. Though not admitted this time or attending classes, “MacAuthor” had been eating his meals in the Graduate College’s dining room in Proctor Hall from September 1995-February 1996. He pled guilty to trespassing and was banned from the Princeton University campus for life. As far as we know, he has not since returned.
Admission Office Records (AC152)
Historical Subject Files (AC109)
4 responses to “Imaginary Princetonians”
[…] 16, 1987—The Daily Princetonian reveals the identity of “Henry Fairfax,” ending roughly a decade of […]
[…] September 14, 1964—Thomas R. Reid III ’66 appears on the game show To Tell the Truth with the story of how he and his friends created a fake student who was admitted to Princeton University. (For more on the fictitious Joseph David Oznot ’68, see our previous blog on “Imaginary Princetonians”.) […]
[…] a blog post about Princeton’s imaginary community members several months ago, I wrote about Henry Fairfax, a mythical figure who delivered Valentines to freshmen and sophomores in the 1970s and 1980s. […]
Joseph Oznot still lives! See his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/joseph.oznot?fref=ts