The woods of Bethel harbors many secrets. A large teepee made of sticks, a golden toilet and a spooky abandoned cross are only a few examples.
By Molly Korzenowski and Bri Shaw
It’s a sticky, hot day and Jim Beilby is hacking up massive amounts of buckthorn with a chainsaw for Bethel University’s frisbee golf course. He brings along his 13-year-old son, Josh, to help remove the invasive tree. While stacking up piles of branches and brush near the 6th hole of the course, Josh yells, “Dad! Look at this!” A cross nailed together with two pieces of plank wood, tacked with a weathered black-and-white photo with the name “Eric Matthew” stood before them. The memorial displayed that this person lived from Oct. 19, 1971 to July 14, 1993. Below the picture it read, “Here he spent his happiest days!” What on earth is that, Beilby thought. Immediately, Beilby took out his phone and researched the name, but hit a dead end. Absolutely nothing came up.
After they finished removing the buckthorn, Beilby left the cross and didn’t return to it until 6 months later. When he came back to the memorial, he found the cross knocked over on its side. Why? No one knows. Luckily he made time to pick it up and pound it into the ground fairly close to where it originally was.
“It’s been in that same place ever since,” Beilby said.
Beilby’s buddy, Joshua Gerth, was helping take out the buckthorn the day they discovered it, too. Gerth had no prior knowledge of it’s existence either since the disc golf hole was completely overgrown with buckthorn, making it well hidden. Ever since that day, they’ve tried to piece together a logical theory as to who this mysterious “Eric Matthew” could be.
“It might be the kid of somebody who was an RD [Resident Director] here back in the 70s,” Beilby said. “The kid would run around and play and have fun, so this was his ‘happy place.’”
They also thought it could be the child of a seminary student since there was seminary housing, so they imagined the child would play and run around on campus. Both Gerth and Beilby haven’t found any evidence that supports either of those theories, though. Beilby and Gerth only mentioned it to one other person higher up, but other than that, they didn’t tell anyone else of its existence.
CAS Registrar doesn’t have any records of an “Eric Matthew” within their student enrollment list, and neither does Student Life. History professor and Bethel archivist, Diana Magnuson, didn’t find any results within Bethel’s archives, and Clarion archivist, Kent Gerber, also found no results within the Clarion’s archives. No “Eric Matthew” shows up in any Minnesota Obituary either.
A creepy memorial isn’t the only thing lurking around Bethel’s campus. A golden toilet inside of a teepee made of sticks has been added to the list, too.
Jacques Perrault and Keaton Shin knew exactly what to do when they saw a toilet marked ‘free’ at the end of a neighbor’s driveway. They didn’t plan to bring home a new piece of furniture from their friend’s cabin in Spicer, MN. Nevertheless, they couldn’t resist the possibilities presented by a free toilet.
Back in their dorm in Arden Village, the toilet became the special seat, the hot spot. But even this wasn’t unique enough for the two sophomores. With the recommendation from a friend, the toilet got a gold paint makeover. Along with the new exterior, dirt was gathered from Bethel’s very own Lake valentine and two beautiful Chrysanthemums were planted in the tank. Now it really appeared like the VIP seat they had intended it to be. But, as the toilet joined the rest of their dorm furniture, problems began to arise.
“We wanted to make our room a little more unique but when we sat down on it, it wasn’t that comfortable,” Perrault, history education major, said.
Since the initial purpose wasn’t very practical, Perrault and Shin decided to change the toilet into something much more reasonable- a fish tank. After covering the hole in the bottom with concrete, the boys filled up the bowl with water and placed two dalmation mollies, Schteven and Mobin, inside. The names were apparently a product of a youtube video everyone in their dorm enjoyed.
After only two days, little Schteven decided he didn’t like his new home and jumped out of the toilet to his demise. Two months later, his companion followed, leading the proud toilet owners to a hard decision.
“He [Schteven] didn’t have a very happy existence. That broke our hearts so much we actually got rid of the toilet,” Shin, neuroscience major, said.
So with that, the boys hauled the toilet down the trail behind their residence hall to the only place they deemed worthy of harboring the majestic seat.
Across the parking lot and down a side trail there stands a mysterious teepee made of sticks. Inside this strange piece of architecture stands a golden toilet, firm and proud. With a bit of dirt in it’s tank and a fishing lure at its base, the toilet still maintains its shine. Something that once was seen as garbage was turned into a Bethel monument.