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Urban Legends

The Foot Test

The Legend

A history professor in a prestigious Philadelphia institution announced that there would be a big test the next week, and told students that they would have to know everything about American politicians of the last 100 years in order to get a passing grade. One student went home and spent the next week cramming herself full of information on election dates, voting records, scandals in and out of office, and anything else she could think of.

The day of the exam came and students filed into the room to find five five large tables at the front of the classroom, each tilted at a 45-degree angle and covered in burlap to cover whatever what was on them. The test started, and the professor went down the line of tables, pulling up the burlap on each just enough to expose the feet of a corpse under each one. He then asked the class to identify each politician based on their feet alone.

The student thought this was ridiculous. She marched to the front of the class, confronted the professor, and said, "This is the most ridiculous test I have ever seen and you are an idiot!"

"I don't appreciate this interruption," said the professor, still managing to remain calm. "What is your name?"

The girl pulled up the leg of her jeans and kicked off her shoe, showing her foot to the professor. "You tell me!"

The professor stared at her for a minute. "Take your seat, Michelle," he said. "This conduct is not becoming of a poly-sci major, let alone one with your excellent GPA."

Taken aback by the professor's quick identification, the student returned to her seat. The next time class met, she found that she was the only student who got less than four correct.


Behind the Legend

The test in question took place in 1999. It was highly controversial and garnered a large amount of press attention. The professor giving the test was convicted of four counts of grave robbing from Federal land and one of kidnapping, torture, and murder, but because he had tenure was allowed to finish out the semester before retiring to prison.


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