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Slob on the Cob: The Dark History of Morrow Plots’ Secret “Gay Corn”


Fake moon landings, grassy knolls, government experimentation, and reptilian shapeshifters — these seem far-fetched and removed from our everyday lives, and thus make most people scoff in their ignorance of the concrete credibility associated with these hypotheses. But what if I told you something just as explosive went down in our own maize-filled backyard? I’m talking about the gay corn that was once produced in Morrow Plots.

The Morrow Plots have always been hailed as the country’s “oldest continuous experimental fields.” But the story of gay corn doesn’t start until 1935. In this year, a student by the name of Thaddaeus Smith was pursuing his PhD in plant pathology. His dissertation centered on implanting microorganisms into various vegetables in order to make them taste better for kids.

As this was long before appropriate science protocol, Thaddaeus began eating his own research, and to his bewilderment, Brussels sprouts didn’t taste like nut sack anymore. Ironically, in the coming days, the PhD student’s craving for nut sack grew exponentially.

Smith’s advisor quickly caught on to his pupil’s flamboyant behavior, and like most straight white men do, he quickly adopted the idea as his own. Up until World War II, the gay corn was being grown in a small corner of the Plant Biology Greenhouse, the same part where ne’er-do-well students grew “special” herbs from the Devil himself for non-academic purposes. But he realized the potential of the experiment and began pitching university officials the idea of allowing him to grow a few gay stalks in Morrow Plots. While there was initial pushback against the idea, the gay corn fever swiftly took hold over the campus.

Then Illini football coach, Ray Eliot, was an early adopter of the gay corn, believing that his team would steamroll opponents who had ingested the plant. He was right. And by the time the team won the Rose Bowl in 1952, the entire field of corn adjacent to the Undergraduate Library was as straight as the Foellinger dome.

The psychology department began running clinical trials on students, and while they did disclose the potential side effects in the consent forms, students then, as they do now, simply skipped over those. During the height of the Vietnam War, administrators even utilized the formula in the hopes that it would render student protestors docile.

The project was finally discontinued during the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic drove fear, misunderstanding, and judgment throughout the country. The final yield of gay corn was sold at the Urbana Farmer’s Market, advertised under the name “sassy frass.” Though if you searched for any confirmation of it throughout our vast system of libraries today, you’d only come across a few documents that mirror a nervous freshman studying notes with black highlighters. But when has a lack of evidence ever trumped your own gut feeling?

Let me make one thing clear: homosexuality itself is not a conspiracy theory. No one would willingly choose to face that kind of beratement, and anyone who thinks otherwise are the type of people to blame their own mental lapses on vaccines. What I intended to highlight is the fact that the university conducted heinous experimentation with public funds and used the student body as guinea pigs. I’m asking my readers to join me in urging those responsible to come out of the closet on this deplorable undertaking.


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