Primal Scream: An Abbreviated History

It’s a night when the whole student body comes together to gawk at just that. It’s a moment of Harvard togetherness, albeit in a voyeuristic way. It’s Primal Scream, natch.

Yet from whence cometh this night of au naturel sprints around the Yard on the eve of examinations?

Noah S. Selby ’95, currently a proctor in Thayer, recalls that the original Primal Scream was just what it claimed to be.

“It was really more about the yelling. People would go out in the Yard or open their windows and just yell.”

Though the young vocal chords of freshmen were usually the most strained, some upperclassmen held on to the tradition.

“When I moved to the Quad as an undergrad, there was a localized primal scream which involved, again, very little nakedness, if any,” Selby says.

Selby adds that the ten-minute long scream-fest was customary before he arrived at Harvard and was still around when he returned to the Yard as a proctor in 1995. But by then, it was all grown up.

“From ’95 on it caught a will of its own and became more and more about the streaking,” he says.

That will is far from diminished. “If anything it seems to have gotten more and more elaborate each year—definitely when I started I didn’t see people being carried around in caravans or shopping carts the way they are now,” he says.

Much to students’ and creepy gate crashers’ delight, the PG days of Primal Scream are gone with Vanilla Ice.