Cards lead to birthday surprise

Tuesday, October 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:42 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Eric Troolin’s 29th birthday was a surprise party one year in the making.

But the surprise wasn’t for him but for his guests, a couple of hundred students who went to Francis Quadrangle at MU at noon Monday.

The students didn’t know what was coming — they simply responded to a series of playing cards placed in random spots around campus during the last year.

“They said things like, ‘All systems will topple’ and ‘There’s beauty in destruction,’” MU sophomore Jonathan Hammons said.

The cards also included a date and a place: noon Monday, Oct. 18, 2004, on the quad.

The source of the commotion was Troolin, dressed in an all-white suit and hat with a rope tied across his midsection and his arms. Without saying a word, Troolin introduced himself to the curious crowd by tossing presents to them — notes, markers, signed pictures and playing cards among them.

Troolin, a master’s student in MU’s art program, set up the stunt to mark his birthday. The notes accompanying the packages said the celebration was his art.

Catherine Blackwell, a senior art major and a friend of Troolin’s, said she knew about his plans.

“I was surprised by the reaction of the people on campus,” Blackwell said. “But I think he was trying to get people to notice the small things.”

MU Police were aware of the messages, too. Capt. Brian Weimer said the department “looked into the matter before today, and we had an idea of what was going on.” A detective was there at noon, he said.

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