The rumors of the Zodiac: An Iowa State student tradition

The infamous Zodiac in the entrance of the Memorial Union was designed nearly a century ago by architect William Proudfoot.

Courtesy of Iowa State Memorial Union

The infamous Zodiac in the entrance of the Memorial Union was designed nearly a century ago by architect William Proudfoot.

Mackenzie Bodell

Iowa State’s Memorial Union is home to the infamous Zodiac, which many students believe is unlucky to step foot on. 

The Zodiac is located at the entrance to Gold Star Hall in the Memorial Union. 

According to the Memorial Union’s website, the architect and designer behind the Memorial Union and the Zodiac was William T. Proudfoot. 

The classic style architecture of the Memorial Union is intended to reflect the Greek and Roman influences used by many architects both in America and in the western world. The building has columns with Corinthian capitals, Palladian windows and triangular pediments. 

Proudfoot’s design of the Zodiac incorporated the ancient symbols of the zodiac to hint at Greek and Roman mythology for a Greek/Roman-style building. 

The Memorial Union website also claims that Proudfoot planned for the intentional wearing of the design. He placed the symbol above the floor’s surface with the idea that students walking would wear it down to be the same level as the floor over time. 

By 1929, students started the idea that stepping on the Zodiac led to bad luck, and anyone who walked across it would fail their next exam. 

The rumor goes that students created this ‘curse’ because they liked the raised design of the Zodiac. They wanted to preserve the relic despite going against Proudfoot’s original intention. 

Over the years, avoiding walking across the Zodiac became an Iowa State tradition. 

“I walk around it; I just walked around it earlier. I didn’t know about the tradition before coming here, but I had heard about the tradition from other people and just followed along,” said student Madison Ebert.

While some students believe in the myth, others walk around it just for the fun of tradition. 

Another student, Maddie Peyer, said, “I don’t know if I believe in it, but I don’t want to take the risk of it being real, so I don’t walk over it. Plus, I think it’s fun to participate in the traditions of the school.” 

Even if students don’t believe in the myth, some would rather not risk failing an exam. 

“I don’t believe in the myth; I believe my academic success is dependent only on me. I do walk around it because on the off chance I’m wrong, I don’t want to fail an exam,” said student Jacob Friedrich.

Even though most students know about the myth and tradition, some choose to step on the Zodiac purposefully. 

Another student, Nick Goodell, said, “I walk through it every time.” 

If an unlucky student does happen to step on the Zodiac, they can avoid the ‘curse’ by tossing a coin into the Fountain of the Four Seasons. The fountain is located directly outside the Memorial Union.

“Being a spokesperson for the MU, we do not want to encourage students to throw coins into our treasured Four Seasons Fountain because it takes a lot of love to maintain,” said Memorial Union marketing specialist Megan Moore. 

Memorial Union staff encourages students to participate in the fun of Iowa State tradition and walk around the Zodiac.