20 of the Craziest Historical Facts We Could Find

Ivy League Nude Photo Scandal. New York Times Magazine

18. Ivy League Universities Used to Take Nude Photos of Their Students

In the late 1970s, a Yale employee unlocked a long unused room in one of the university’s buildings, and boy, did he find a surprise inside: thousands upon thousands of photos of nude young men, showing their fronts, sides, and rears. To add to the oddity, there seemed to be sharp metal pins sticking out of the naked men’s spines. What could it be? Was it the trove of some weirdo, with a niche fetish for BDSM voodoo porn? As it turned out, it was nothing that juicy, but still, plenty odd in its own right.

From the 1940s to the 1970s, Yale, plus some other Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Vassar, and Brown, required their freshmen to pose nude for a photo shoot. The goal was to furnish material for a massive study into how rickets developed, and that involved sticking pins to the backs of the subjects, male and female. Generations of the country’s elite who went to the Ivy Leagues posed, and the archives included the naked photos of well known figures ranging from George W. Bush to Hillary Clinton to Diane Sawyer to Meryl Streep. The photos were burned after news leaked and the study was denounced. However, it is possible that some might have escaped the flames, and are still circulating out there, to potentially end up on the internet someday.