“I desperately need to know which one of y’all had a crossbow in your dorm room,” Sam Joyce wrote in the Facebook group “UChicago Memes for Theoretical Midwest Teens” last month. His post shared a screenshot of a campus police incident report for “Found Property” at the Campus North residence hall: “Staff member found a cross bow / Turned over to UCPD for safekeeping.”
Sam, meet M, the self-described “Wardeness of the North.”
In an exclusive interview, M, who asked to be referred to by her abbreviated first name, describes her shock upon returning from spring break to learn that her treasured crossbow had been confiscated from her single dorm room.
Realizing that her love of whimsy had led her to violate the campus policy on dangerous weapons, she voluntarily turned in a second weapon—a sword, given to her as a parting gift from her ex-boyfriend, which she refers to as “Dark Sister.”
M hopes to recover the crossbow and sword from UCPD once she moves out of University housing.
“I’m going to try my best to get the weapons back at the end of the quarter,” she said. “And from my conversation with housing I think that it will be possible, as long as they are not on campus ever again.”
In response to request for comment, a University spokesperson confirmed that a dangerous object was confiscated from the dorm room and affirmed the University’s commitment to a safe campus.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Chicago Maroon: What happened? What was the timeline of events? Walk us through what was ultimately confiscated, and what the University said.
M: Housing does room checks over break, and I didn’t really fare well as the most well-armed woman in North.
Essentially, I had a Barnett Ghost 360 crossbow sitting at the foot of my bed. It’s pretty menacing—three feet long and 1.5 feet wide. I’d actually taken it for granted as room decor, but clearly it had a very striking presence when someone from the Housing staff came in.
I had just come back to campus, and I was running an errand when my RH caught me by chance and told me to check my e-mail. That’s when I saw the summons from Housing and realized it had been confiscated by the UCPD.
CM: Was it just the crossbow at that point?
M: At the time, it was just the crossbow. It kind of felt like a Horcrux being destroyed. So I ran all the way back to North campus to check on my beloved “Vorpal sword.”
CM: Vorpal sword? Can you tell me what that is?
M: It’s actually nonsense. I just call it that because I love Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. It includes a poem about beheading the Jabberwocky with a “Vorpal sword.”
My sword’s actual name is “Dark Sister” because it suits me, but also because that’s what Visenya Targaryen named her sword when she was conquering Westeros with her brother Aegon the First from Game of Thrones.
CM: So this is a sword named after both Alice in Wonderland and Game of Thrones?
M: It’s named after these two fictional swords, yes. So I check to see if Housing confiscated Dark Sister as well, and I see that she’s draped in clothing. The most use that it has gotten all quarter has been to let my laundry dry, unfortunately. I realized that since it was covered in clothing, it was probably overlooked. And I realized that I probably would have to turn it in the next day if I wanted to comply with housing rules.
It was a short and serious visit. I volunteered my sword immediately to demonstrate that I am not a threat to the students at this school.
I acknowledged that students are not allowed to have weapons in their dorm rooms. I also reassured them that since the crossbow didn’t have arrows or arrowheads—and since it didn’t even have a string to pull back the arrows—it was essentially as useless as a plastic toy. I meant no harm; I could do no harm.
The sword, however, could do some damage. I did swing the sword at a block of wood earlier in the year to see if I could dent it, and I did.
It’s very blunt, however. I’ve gone sword fighting with it before—without armor on—and I was never afraid of getting skewered, nor was I afraid of someone else getting skewered. So I promised Housing that I was an ally to humans, and to wild bunnies, and to feral cats everywhere running around campus.
CM: What did they say to that?
M: They took me at my word. I’ve never had a history of causing any trouble, and the sword and crossbow had barely been in my dorm for very long anyway. I explained to them that I’m not a threat, that I’m just a collector of small and special things that make the heart feel warm. Weapons are sexy in general.
There were definitely consequences for my actions, though I’m not sure if I should disclose them here. I was not given preferential treatment. And I want to establish that I did not break any Illinois laws.
CM: The sword was on your wall?
M: Yeah, the sword was mounted on the wall. I purchased two clothes hangers from Ace Hardware—I got the ones that can really support over 20 pounds each—and I just laid the sword horizontally on the clothes hangers. I draped scarves over the sword to add a little flavor. The crossbow was too heavy to mount, and it just sat there.
CM: At the end of your bed?
M: Yeah, by my dresser at the foot of my bed. I didn’t really know what to do with the crossbow, truthfully. I’d never really intended to bring it to campus at all, or to my dorm, at all.
CM: How did you end up having the crossbow?
M: I actually bought the crossbow in New York, on eBay. It’s surprisingly easy. Before it came to campus, I went in camping in upstate New York with a boy I was seeing. It was only our third date. For protection and hunting, we decided to bring the crossbow along with us.
We drove out to the middle of nowhere, explored during the day, slept in a tent in an open field at night surrounded by howling coyotes, with the crossbow by our side. I think we both had this desire for something more than daily life; we felt like storybook characters, and we wanted to be well-armed like all our favorites were.
I don’t really get to go on adventures here as much, so we agreed that we should continue exploring, trespassing, and scavenging together in Chicago. He took it back home to his very impressive personal arsenal of other weapons. He had many swords, many daggers. Certainly a weapons enthusiast.
I had always been interested myself. I loved reading about modern missile interception and battle scenes. So the fact that he had swords—I thought it was something else, you know, very special. We would go dueling at the middle of the night; I’d take his lightest one, which just ended up being the one that I ended up keeping. Easier to swing with.
CM: What do you mean by “dueling”?
M: We’d go to an open space so we could move around, outdoors, with grass, only at night. War paint on our faces. I’ve never gone fencing before but I imagine it was like that. We would just kind of tap each other.
CM: You’d duel with real swords?
M: Yes. But they were very blunt, as I said. We were never afraid. Unfortunately, he had to move to California in the middle of winter quarter for his occupation and that was very hard for both of us. While I never intended to bring my crossbow to North in the first place, I had to take it back from him before he left, as it was mine.
The sword was a gift from this very sweet transaction we had at the end, when I told him I had always wanted a sword as a young girl. I built him a website for a product that he was working on in return, because it’s within my skill set.
CM: Do you think the University’s confiscating the weapons was warranted?
M: Completely warranted. Once again, I never meant to bring the weapons to my dorm room, though I do like to have them, and I do think there’s something inviting about a room that’s strewn with weapons. I do like that aesthetic.
But given everything that’s happening right now, I feel protected knowing that the University is looking out for its students and paying attention.
I think it was in my favor that the crossbow was unusable, that the sword wasn’t sharp enough to slice flesh. But still I’m completely with the University; they were very kind to me.
CM: How do you feel about being featured on the meme page?
M: It suits me.
But there are so many pretenders tagging each other! I am the sword in the darkness, not you. I am the watcher of the wall. I am the Wardeness of the North (campus).
CM: Do you plan on putting your weapons back on the wall in the future? If you move off campus, for example?
M: No. I mean, I think I’ll return to that phase somewhere else in life, when I’m not living in close proximity to so many people, and when there’s more time to use them. But here there’s really no point.
The only boy that I know who would go sword-fighting with me has a katana, and it’s too sharp.
So, maybe later in life.
CM: What do the weapons mean to you personally? Why are they such a big part of your identity?
M: The crossbow is important to me because it is functional as well as extremely powerful. As I said to you before, I want to live life largely, and I read way too many fantasy books as a kid, so I kind of expect…something more exciting, I guess. And things get a little bit mundane here for me.
I figured that since the U.S. has its own missile defense system and since Israel has David’s Sling, that I just need my own gizmo that can shoot at 350 feet per second, at over 40 yards, to fill me with a sense of might.
You know, if I wanted to defend myself practically I would probably put keys between my fingers while walking down Kimbark or Woodlawn, or I would carry mace with me, or I would walk with a man—being a 5’4” female and all. But this was kind of just to feel whimsical and a little bit larger than I usually do.
And there’s not much I can do with a blunt sword, but it’s beautiful and important to me because the person who gave it to me was important to me.
Update, February 20, 2020: After being notified of threats directed at the person interviewed for this article, The Maroon has removed a photo and abbreviated the first name of the article's subject.
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