Today holds a special place in my heart: it’s the long standing Caltech tradition known as Ditch Day!
While it started off as a normal senior ditch day, Caltech undergrad culture being what it is, it didn’t stay normal for long.
The original Ditch Day “stacks”-a Caltech euphemism for locks-were devices installed, or measures taken, by seniors to keep underclassmen out of their rooms when they were off campus for the day. Traditionally, there were three different kinds of stacks, each named for the approach required to undo it:
The Brute Force Stack entails exerting physical energy to deconstruct cars or break through rebar-fortified cement, and other such barriers. This stack has fallen out of popularity to some degree because seniors have to make good on any damages.
The Finesse Stack requires solving puzzles and defeating sophisticated electronic, optical, chemical, or biological locks and puzzles to gain entry into a senior’s room.
The Honor Stack is more of a role-playing stack, often mixing elements of brute force and finesse; the “honor” component of the stack requires that a student play along with the creator’s storyline, even when that means dressing up in character and participating in silly acts across campus and town.
By now the stacks are usually a combination of the three and the day has evolved so many customs and traditions that it’s more convoluted and hard to explain than a Hapsburg family tree.
Instead, I’ll try to invoke a smidge of Ditch Day with these puzzles:
And these images: