Testudo the Terrapin Monument
College Park, Maryland
The official mascot of the University of Maryland is a bronze statue of a Chesapeake Bay diamondback turtle, an animal best known for its ability to bite off the hands and feet of the unwary.
The statue's name is Testudo, an oversized replica of the University's original turtle mascot, Gorham. Maryland adopted Gorham in the early 1930s as the university's symbol because Chesapeake Bay diamondbacks are tough. Still, nothing lives forever, and the Class of '33 decided that a permanent reminder of Gorham was needed. So they saved their money -- they even held their senior prom on campus -- to pay for a 300 pound heroic bronze statute of Gorham, who in life was only five inches tall.
The statue was unveiled at the 1933 commencement. Gorham, already suffering the indignity of having his statue given another name, had two holes drilled through his shell to which was attached a huge cloth. At a prearranged moment, Gorham crawled away from the statue, dragging the cloth and unveiling it to the appreciative oohs and ahhs of the assembled dignitaries.
Gorham's statue, Testudo, spent his first 15 years in front of Ritchie Coliseum, where he was frequently vandalized by rival schools. He was kidnapped by Johns Hopkin's University in 1947, which caused a campus riot and forced the statue into hiding.
Testudo reappeared in 1949. This time the U. of Maryland was ready. They anchored Testudo with steel rods to a pedestal in front of the Theodore R. McKeldin Library, and filled him with 700 pounds of cement. Future kidnappings thus thwarted, he has overlooked the Quad ever since. Students rub his foot-chomping beak for luck before exams, and also reportedly to ward off parking tickets.
It turns out that the Class of '33 was right: Gorham eventually died, although when, exactly, is unclear. The university, however, has preserved more than his memory. He is stuffed, mounted on a board (complete with the holes in his shell), and sequestered in a vault for safe keeping (much like the lucky ashes of Jumbo the Elephant).
According to tipster R. Wood Miles: "There is a legend that if a virgin ever graduates from the University of Maryland Testudo leaves his pedestal and flies around the quad. There is another legend that he has never flown."