By DALEY JENNINGS
On Feb. 4, the message “MEET HERE 2/22, 12, Midnight” appeared on the spirit rock. The message caused speculation among students who wondered what it could mean.
Leading up to the mysterious event, posts on the Facebook page “The M in UMW Stands For Memes” joked about the impending doom that awaited students who were brave enough to venture to the rock, with one asking the students who were going to comment so the school would have a list of bodies to look for.
Before the clock struck midnight, the rock was surrounded by 120 people. The crowd stretched all the way from Monroe Fountain to the entrance of the tunnel. A group of students sat on the rock, one student standing next to it with a keyblade from Kingdom Hearts, but these students said they had nothing to do with the painting on the rock. Also unrelated to the painting on the rock, five minutes before midnight a student wearing a horse mask raced through the crowd and slammed into another student.
Finally, at midnight, a student climbed onto the rock to address the crowd, phone in his hands recording them. His name was Ryan Lloyd.
“Hello everyone,” he said. “I have brought everyone here through careful planning, painting the rock weeks ago, and I have no plan. I brought you here for no reason.”
This proclamation was met with loud cheering from the crowd, everyone seemingly ecstatic that they had been bamboozled into doing nothing with their Friday night.
Lloyd, a transfer sophomore, said he wanted to leave his mark on UMW before transferring out again. He had the idea to paint the rock and hoped that he would be able to think of an idea of what to do before the actual day came.
“I think when someone sees something like that, especially five weeks ago it just became kind of like self-promoting itself, especially when everyone talked about it,” said Lloyd. Lloyd said he felt the pressure to figure out what to do once everybody saw the rock.
“I couldn’t figure out what would meet everyone’s expectations for it.”
Apart from the few who had helped him paint the rock, Lloyd had kept his plan a secret from his friends, some whom did not believe him even when he did tell them. Freshman Paige Harrington said she did not believe it was Lloyd up until thirty minutes before the event.
“Ryan was like ‘yeah, I painted the rock,’ and I was like ‘no you didn’t, no you didn’t,’” Harrington said. “I was like ‘that’s not your handwriting.’”
Lloyd had broken the news to her earlier in the day as well as telling her again at Vocelli’s before they went to the rock. Harrington had joined in the discussion of what the painting on the rock could have meant, people having guessed the worst of all outcomes.
“People were talking like ‘Oh my God we’re all going to die, this is going to be like some mass murder, like what kind of cult did we just join,’” Harrington said. “They thought it was the Mormons on campus too.”
When Lloyd arrived at the rock he very surprised when he saw the crowds his message had drawn.
“I could barely contain myself, I was dying laughing,” Lloyd said. “Every time you looked back towards the tunnel, or back towards the fountain there were just crowds of people coming, and I was like it’s still growing, and everyone’s like Ryan, what have you done?”
But as the numbers grew, he began to worry about what might happen when the students got more excited and what they would do.
“I didn’t come forward at first, especially before 12, because I knew like the energy was so chaotic so if I came forth, I knew I would kind of be responsible for whatever happened,” he said. “I did see someone run down in a horse mask and totally bodied someone, and I felt bad for that, because in a way I felt responsible.”
Aside from the horse mask incident, Lloyd’s concerns were alleviated. The excitement died down and students returned to their weekend plans.
The Saturday following, posts on the meme page appeared comparing it to Ja Rule’s Fyre Fest and TanaCon, two viral events that also had no real outline or plan.
Javon Jones, a junior theater and music major had mixed feelings about how the night panned out.
“Part of me felt frustrated for wasting my time,” Jones said. “Another part of me found the fact that one person managed to get a good portion of the campus to come to the rock at midnight with nothing more than some paint and ominous words as a funny way that showcases the power of the herd-mentality.”
Jones added that he much preferred nothing happening to something bad happening.
“I mean a bunch of people called into one spot at midnight without any indication of what it could be screams a bad idea in my book,” Jones said.