Over and over again, the ritual is repeated. A handful of smiling girls stand outside ornate doorways, often dressed in matching shirts or identical dresses. They smile, beckoning visitors inside their sorority houses. Then, the doors open.
There, filling the portal, is a singing, clapping, cheering wall of young pledges, ambushing you with spirit. Their heads undulate like a roiling sea. Their fingers flutter in perfect synchronicity. Congratulations, you’ve found a door-stack.
This morning, Twitter woke up to a viral message from University of Texas at Austin sorority Alpha Delta Phi; before being deleted, the Instagram video of a door stack got picked by outlets like BuzzFeed and New York magazine. But that was by far the first time that a terrifying posse has lurked behind an entryway. It’s actually been banned by colleges in recent years.
Do they doorstack at the gates of Hell?— Kimberly Conklin (@kimannconklin) August 9, 2016
Door-stacking (also known as “door songs”) is a sorority tradition wherein new pledges form up in a pyramid or bulwark of Greek solidarity in the doorway of the house, singing welcoming songs to visitors and senior sisters. It can involve clapping and movement and any other sort of jazzy choreography, but the one essential component is SPIRIT, and obedience.
According to a post on Sorority Girl 101, at some schools, pledges can be fined for such minor infractions as stepping out of the door frame, making sound before or after the doors open and close, or saying goodbye to onlookers.
It’s an occasion for incoming sisters to celebrate their pride and solidarity in the sorority, but apparently it’s also dangerous.
In 2014, the practice was banned by USC’s Panhellenic Council, the group in charge of all sorority activities. An article on The Odyssey Online describes a certain amount of relief among the affected sisters. “Many have reported receiving minor injuries while partaking in the door-stack,” author Karina Farris writes. “While they would frantically assume their position, girls would get cut and bruised. Also, singing and hair-flipping within the bounds of the doorway allowed for girls’ heads to collide with others.”
In a 2015 article over on The Atlantic about the dangers of sorority recruitment, one former pledge describes young women banging their heads on the door frames as well, concluding, “Door-stack concussions are among the plethora of physical risks women face when joining a sorority.”
The aesthetic effect is also distinct. Where some see solidarity in the oscillating pile of sisters, others are struck by its resemblance to a many-headed hydra, or an undifferentiated mass. As one Atlas Obscura editor put it, “I believe door stacks meet Freud’s definition of the uncanny.”
Luckily, the Internet is full of door stack videos, so you can judge for yourself.