I miss Chicken Man. Sure, we've got a few characters around these days, like that guy who rides a unicycle everywhere and the fellow who likes to practice tightrope walking in the trees near Old Main. Now and then, there are some folks who juggle fire over by the Lion Shrine.
But Chicken Man was something else entirely. That dude was nuts and dedicated. That is, until he got arrested.
For those of you who missed out on his antics and for those who care to reminisce, I'll briefly rehash the relatively short but glorious career of a student with a truly bizarre routine.
His real name, as we learned after several months of nearly complete anonymity, was Greg Gehl. For nearly the entire fall semester of last year, he roamed the campus in a chicken costume, modified with a tuxedo, top hat and red polka-dot tie. He was often accompanied by his pet chicken, Henderson.
At first, most students were confused. Rumors abounded about the story behind the mask.
Some thought that he had lost a bet. Others said that he was being hazed by a fraternity.
As the semester progressed, Gehl gained a great deal of notoriety and grew bolder.
He pushed that joke further than anyone could have imagined possible, walking into lecture halls and performing weird stunts during the day and frequenting the downtown bars at night.
One time, Gehl walked silently to the front of the room during a class in Forum Building and dropped a raw egg on a running overheard projector.
He made the daily grind more exciting. He had thousands of friends on Facebook. Many professors even enjoyed his exploits, or at least tolerated them.
Unfortunately, the Chicken Man walked into the wrong classroom one morning in mid-November, and a pissed-off professor called the police. He was fined $300 for disorderly conduct and bringing a live animal into an academic building.
Shortly after, Gehl decided to put the act to rest for good.
After slipping out of the chicken costume, and subsequently out of the public eye, he graduated in the spring and left Penn State.
What's the former Chicken Man is doing these days, out in the real world?
It turns out he's doing pretty well for himself. I called him yesterday afternoon and spoke to him for the first time since I did a Collegian story about him last October.
He's an officer in the navy and living at his own place in Norfolk, Va. He said he has a steady girlfriend and that he recently bought a new Corvette.
Despite it all, he said he'll never forget his stint as Chicken Man.
"I've settled down, but I miss the life," he said. "The chicken life."
Gehl also said that he'll be doing a six month tour in the Middle East sometime in the near future.
But first, Gehl said that he'll be making one more appearance in State College, for one weekend, so keep your eyes peeled. His yellow chicken suit shouldn't be too hard to miss.
As for his faithful, feathery companion, Henderson, Gehl says they parted ways shortly after his retirement.
"I mysteriously returned him back to a random farm where he can be accepted back into his own community," he said. "Hopefully, he's doing well. I miss him."
I told Gehl that I have yet to see a joke executed on such a grand scale this year.
"It's too bad," he said with a laugh. "No ones going to top me."
That's a challenge if I ever heard one.
Jim Tuttle is a senior majoring in journalism and is a columnist for The Daily Collegian. His e-mail is email@example.com.