As you can tell from the picture, there wasn’t much effort put into this message. But then again, you have to think of what it must have been like to write on the study carrel at such an awkward angle. In order for the writer to pen this message on the cubicle, they probably would have been leaning forward, maybe even sitting up out of their seat a little. Who ever wrote this, they had to have meant it. So I decided to do a little digging.
Welcome to Kenyon Conspiracy Theories, where we uncover a Kenyon mystery, week by week. This week we explore a message scrawled on the second floor of the library that reads, “Agnew was framed.” If you are reading this now and haven’t read our first post, I’m going to go ahead and say PLEASE STOP NOW and go back to episode 1. There are a lot of details involved with the building of this case, so in order to solve this mystery with me it will be easier if you read in sequence.
When we last left off, Vice President Agnew was indicted on bribery charges in 1973. As I explain all of this, there should be a big flashing headline in your mind’s eye reading, “WATERGATE”. While Vice President Agnew was charged before the Watergate scandal led to the President’s resignation in 1974, both Nixon and Agnew were just as adamant of their own innocence. And that innocence might be something that someone at Kenyon found it important to defend.
You may have heard President Nixon’s famous speech where he announced to the American people, “I am not a crook.” Nixon didn’t seem concerned about scrutiny at the beginning of the Watergate scandal. In fact, he seemed to welcome the investigation with open arms; he sat it on the couch; offered it a cup of tea and maybe some biscuits if it was hungry. “I could say, that in my years of public life, that I welcome this kind of examination,” he says in a speech, “because people have gotta know whether or not their President is a crook.” But what about Agnew, then? Where was he when the tea and biscuits were being served? If we are to believe Agnew in his own words, he was told to “Go Quietly…Or Else”.
In his book, “Go Quietly…Or Else”, Agnew insisted that he had been threatened by the White House to step down, in order to save face for President Nixon. When I first came across this book published in 1980, I wanted to follow the lead as far as it could go. I ordered the book on OhioLink, so I could see for myself if this conspiracy would be convincing enough to inspire someone to reference it in a study carrel.
What I found was nothing short of absurd. For starters, the book was dedicated to Frank Sinatra;Old Blue Eyes himself. Sinatra will become more important later on, but suffice it to say for now that I had a hard time believing that this dusty old book from the College of Wooster Library had enough credibility to actually prove Agnew’s innocence. But I guess that doesn’t matter. What matters is that someone found Agnew’s story interesting enough to turn it into graffiti. And that is the part that still stumps me today.
The rest of the book reads like you would expect any exposé written by a scorned Vice President would read: in one chapter, Agnew even describes how Nixon would brush him off when they tried to talk in person.
But were these the musings of a man who had been wrongly accused? While I wanted to believe in Agnew’s story, this was beginning to look like a dead end. These appeared to be the sad cries of an old ex-Vice President who wanted some kind of recognition many years after he had been pushed to the side. I kept coming back to that word: recognition. It was what seemed to drive all of Agnew’s actions, and if you think about it, it might have been what the student was looking for when they wrote “Agnew was framed” in scratchy black pen.
It wouldn’t have been so unnatural for a Kenyon student to uncover this conspiracy in relation to one of their classes and convince themselves that the world had to know about it. It might even make sense that what they wrote had nothing to do with their studies at all. Maybe the student didn’t even care about Agnew’s testimonial plea hoping that someone…anyone, might believe that he is innocent. Maybe the student was just looking for attention when they wrote, “Agnew was framed.” Maybe they had comps due and they were severely procrastinating. Maybe this, maybe that…
It is important to note that this is just one theory of what the study carrel scrawl could have meant. As our own readers have suggested, there are other possibilities beyond Watergate as to why someone would write “Agnew was framed” in the midst of their studies in the library. While “Go Quietly…Or Else” was a long journey down a dark and complicated conspiracy path, this might be painfully more simple than we’re making it for ourselves. But more on that next week.