John Young Craft came to Centre College for his first year of college in 1878. He was eighteen, and ready for the challenges of a new life away from the farm he had grown up on. Early on, John had decided to join a fraternity. His brother had been a member of Beta Theta Pi at Centre, so John decided to follow in his brothers’ footsteps. His induction night was set for September 7. As was tradition, the fraternity instituted certain initiation ceremonies for hopeful frat brothers. John Craft would be no different. He would be buried alive, four feet below ground. A tube would be inserted into the makeshift coffin that would stick out of the ground to allow oxygen supply to continue to circulate. John was a little uneasy about his task as the drunken fraternity lowered the coffin into the ground. John climbed into the wooden box and pushed the tube out of the hole that had been made. As soon as the lid closed, dirt was shoveled on top, leaving only the tubing slightly exposed. The frat brothers all laughed, and continued drinking. John was to stay in the coffin for the next four hours, until daybreak. The fraternity began wrestling each other to pass the time. Unknowingly, one of the brothers rolled over on top of the tubing, shoving dirt into the opening. When John’s four hours were up, they began to dig up the dirt. When they reached the coffin and removed the lid, they found John dead. He had suffocated in the coffin. Fingernail marks on the lid attested to his tries for escape. The loud merriment of the brothers had prevented them from hearing his cries for help.
Shortly after the incident, strange things began to happen around the Beta house. Books fell off shelves, windows slammed, and loud scratching sounds would fill the entire house in the middle of the night. Members of the fraternity claimed to have been woken up at night, only to see the ghost of John Young Craft standing over their beds. The fraternity held a meeting to discuss what could be done to stop these events. One brother had an idea. The Craft family received a letter a few days later from the Beta Theta Pi house asking if it would be possible for them to erect their own tombstone for John. The Craft family agreed. The fraternity bestowed their symbol upon the top, making John an official member. The family only asked that the words, “Asleep in Jesus” be added.
Shortly after the tombstone was erected, the strange incidents stopped happening. John had only wanted to be officially recognized as a member. To this day, the Beta Theta Pi house still has visitations from John, but these are only friendly visits. He checks in on them every once in a while to be sure they are staying in line and to meet new members.