This year’s senior class may recall in the fall of 2015 — their freshman year — a mysterious entity widely known as the Cardinal Creeper. It was a person cloaked in a red blanket and skull makeup who stalked various areas around campus and received a semi-obsessive following on Yik Yak, an anonymous messaging app for college students.
While many speculated about its identity, Ivey Vinson, a senior fine arts major from Clanton, managed to keep it secret. That is, until now.
“It was an accident,” Vinson said of the initial creation of the Cardinal Creeper.
Vinson was out late one night with some friends to make sure they were safe, when she put her throw blanket over her shoulders and began goofing off around the empty quad.
“I’m just kind of like skulking around, making raptor noises, pretending I’m a creature of the night,” Vinson said.
Later that evening, on Yik Yak, speculation began about this “thing” on the quad.
Her friends perpetuated the joke by referring to her anonymously as the Cardinal Creeper. According to Vinson, they had their fun, went to bed and were shocked at the reaction the following morning.
“It had completely blown up,” Vinson said. “That’s all everyone was talking about. Going into Saga, I heard multiple people talking about it.
“There was such a commotion about it that we decided I do it again.”
They posted a Yik Yak message announcing that the Cardinal Creeper would be making another appearance that night. Vinson put skull makeup on her face, wore all black, and completed her iconic look by donning her red blanket.
After leaving her dorm, Vinson perched on a concrete structure by the social quad.
“The wind was kind of like picking up my blanket, blowing it in the wind,” she said. “One girl screamed and another guy starts taking pictures as fast as he can and running toward me. Another guy starts running toward me and saying, ‘We don’t want to hurt you; we just want to know who you are’… I let out a big screech for his convenience and ran off before he could get to me.”
After going up to the main quad, she said, she saw at least five search parties of 5-10 people each.
“I felt like Shrek in the first part of the movie when all the villagers have their pitchforks chasing him around,” Vinson said.
“So I would let them catch a sight of me, then I would duck in the bushes and then I’d you know, crawl around the building to escape.”
Vinson admitted she was getting nervous because of a couple of angry threats directed toward the Cardinal Creeper from people who didn’t know she was a woman.
As she headed back to her dorm, Vinson was approached by a large group of men.
“I see them and I hear, ‘There he is! Let’s get him’ and I look up and there’s this giant football player dude who squares his shoulders and starts running toward me,” Vinson said. “I’m really starting to freak out … I’m like running at an angle, so hopefully he doesn’t get me so fast, and bam! He tackles me.”
After wrestling her onto the ground and trying to rip the blanket off, Vinson escaped.
“I’m like struggling as hard as I can, and he’s really strong and I can’t shake him, so out of self-defense, I see an opportunity and I bite him on the neck,” Vinson said.
Vinson said he called her a couple of choice words, which she said is understandable.
“He loosens his grip and at that moment he can see by the street light into my eyes, and is like, ‘Wait, you’re a girl?’”
Vinson responded with a raptor noise before fleeing to the safety of her dorm room.
After that encounter, she decided it was in everyone’s best interest to take a break.
Grant Robinson, a senior exercise science major from Birmingham, had his own experience to tell. Robinson had heard about the Cardinal Creeper around campus and was also in on the search for its identity.
Robinson had met Vinson in person, but didn’t know she was the Cardinal Creeper.
“So I went on Yik Yak and started this like, fan club, of sorts,” Robinson said. “Somehow I ended up in contact with this person who claimed to be the Cardinal Creeper, and I paid them $10 to draw a picture of me and the Cardinal Creeper underneath the moon holding hands.”
Vinson drew him the picture and sent it through a mutual friend.
Things came full circle when Robinson gave Vinson a ride home to Clanton on his way to Birmingham, but he still didn’t catch on, despite suspicions that it was she. Vinson paid him the same $10 bill for gas money, but kept her secret.
“This is going to sound really weird and this is a whole other can of worms, but Troy is like a pocket dimension for ‘The Twilight Zone,’ in my opinion,” Robinson said.