Mysteries of the Secret Society Living Under the Courtyard are Finally Revealed

Students pass through the courtyard, unaware of the secrets living under their footsteps.

Lily Barber

Students pass through the courtyard, unaware of the secrets living under their footsteps.

After months of thorough investigation, a team of student investigators has uncovered history buried underneath the Cherokee High School courtyard. What they found there was shocking; they found the headquarters of a secret society dedicated to stealing from students. 


Since Cherokee’s south building was constructed in the early 2000s, there has been an area connecting the two buildings known as the courtyard. After a gate was added to separate the outside world from the protected area of the courtyard, students were allowed to eat their lunch in the sun. 


Throughout the last decade, students have noticed strange occurrences within the area. Over the years, and although witnesses saw everything from shadowed figures to odd footsteps, everyone said the same thing; their condiment packets disappeared from their table when they looked away. 


In the fall of 2022, a student-led organization called the Student Led Court Yard Investigation Team (SLCYIT) was created by two passionate students who wish to remain anonymous. SLCYIT has collected thousands of eyewitness accounts, soil samples, footprints, and other traces of strange activities within the courtyard. 


When students buy lunch from the cafeterias or kiosks, they have the option to select free condiment packets. These include the popular choices, ketchup, and mustard, along with the less popular ranch and mayonnaise. When the SLCYIT began to conduct interviews of the students who commonly sit in the courtyard, Dr. Jason Buckzo, an important statistical manager, found that 73% who had their condiments stolen were missing their ketchup packets. At the same time, 24% reported their mustard disappearing, while only 3% reported any other type of condiment being stolen. 

This graph represents the popularity of each condiment that was reported to be stolen since 2013. (Lily Barber)


On the matter, Dr. Buckzo stated, “I think it is a mix between ketchup is their favorite item, and also ketchup is the most accessible. So that’s why they have sadly fallen victim.” 


After conducting interviews, the team moved on to conducting more scientific research on evidence they collected in their intensive field studies. Grace Garofola, whose official title is “The coolest biological researcher known to Marlton New Jersey,” used Cherokee’s microscope equipment to examine dirt residue left behind by an unusual footprint found after a chase between the SLCYIT and a shadowy figure.


“We can definitely tell for sure that these are who we are looking for because in their footprints we were able to actually find mustard and ketchup and other condiments… obviously they have stepped on a few of them down where they are… These are the people we are looking for, and we know for sure that they are the ones stealing our condiment packets.”


On March 14, 2023, the SLCYIT gathered together so they could all share the evidence they found in their research. The convention lasted 4 hours, with recreations of the crime scenes, a presentation of images and data, and a review of interviews taken over the last year. As all the members presented what they found, they realized there was only one possibility as to why the student’s condiments were disappearing: There were people living underneath the ground. 

One of the lead investigators, Nick D’Antionio, explains the design of the tunnels to the SLCYIT convention on March 17, 2023. (Lily Barber)
The SLCYIT recreates and examines the disappearance of a mustard packet from January 2022. (Lily Barber)

Although this theory has not been confirmed to the public, the working theory brought up at this convention was that the tunnels under the courtyard were created in the summer of 2013. As members graduated, the society had fewer members, until the resurgence in 2019. The tunnels were closed during the pandemic as members quarantined, leading to a lower amount of thefts recorded during that time period.


SLCYIT held a stakeout on March 17, 2023. Although they can not disclose most of what they learned for legal reasons, they can reveal that the secret society refers to itself as “The Ketchup Society of Cherokee High School.” They were formed as a way to protest Cherokee’s switch from the large condiment pumps to individual packets, stating the packets didn’t provide “the same enjoyment” that the dispensers brought. 


“Using the dispensers back in 2013 was the highlight of my school days,” stated the founder of The Ketchup Society of Cherokee High School. Although they wish to remain anonymous, they went on to say “I would wake up every morning excited to get the sweet delicious ketchup out of the pump… it just isn’t the same.” 


A little over a decade ago, when the change in condiment dispensers occurred, a group of 30+ students gathered in the courtyard for a peaceful protest. They carried signs proclaiming “Your convenience < our lives” with used condiment packets glued to the board. The staff of Cherokee dismantled the protest and gave everyone involved dispensary action for skipping class. 


Cherokee’s Administration chose to forget this occurrence, which allegedly was what sent the members of this protest underground. Feeling discouraged, they turned to vigilante justice to protest the condiment change. 


Many critics feel that the reason for the society’s existence does not justify their actions. “They can be mad about it,” an important condiment critic said, “but… they decided they didn’t like it, so they took all the condiments away. No one has the joy of getting condiments anymore, so they took all the joy out of it.” In the end, the society created more of what it rebelled against. 


The SLCYIT’s statistics sector analyzed the number of reported thefts since the society’s alleged origins in 2013. The pandemic saw a low point in theft due to the half-day schedules terminating in-school lunch. 

After interviews the SLCYIT created a graph on how many thefts were reported each year starting in 2013. (Lily Barber)

The rise in thefts in 2023 was unexpected. Dr. Buckco explains, “I think that the underground folk…were just so starved of those ketchup packets and the mustard packets and the mayonnaise packets and etc., etc. that I just think, they went into overdrive, they just needed it so badly that they kept stealing it and can’t stop. It’s tragic! It costs a lot of money to get these packets. And the students need the packets!”  


The Ketchup Society of Cherokee High School created an underground tunnel system to quickly travel from table to table in their quest for the packets. These tunnels are extremely complex and lead the society from the courtyard to areas off of school property. It is uncertain if the society had outside help in creating these tunnels. 


Nick D’Antionio, a lead investigator at the SLCYIT believes that the creation of the tunnels have all been done by the underground society. “There’s been a lot of work that’s obviously been put into this project, I feel like if they had outside help we would have known about it more. So I feel like they are trying to make it more secretive by only including themself… So I feel like they are only trying to do this by themself, not necessarily [asking] for help.”


The rest of the case is still being dealt with in court. It is unknown to the public if these society members will receive repercussions for their thievery or who these members are. 


Lila Zink, a very important condiment critic thinks “[repercussions for the society are] deserved. Because they are stealing… things and they are living illegally on school grounds. They should be arrested and put into jail for life.” 


The important statistical manager said, “To all the underground folk of Cherokee, you need to stop. It is only March 22, 2023, and the amount of thefts has been the greatest we have ever seen.” 


Other students feel differently about the society, although many people have little to no opinion, many side with the underground dwellers. “They are just doing what they think is right!” an anonymous source said. 


Many students that fell victim to the society’s crimes are angry and hungry for justice and their condiments. Olivia Zink, a helpless citizen who had their ketchup, mustard, and honey mustard stolen on January 17, 2022, said that she “was crushed, to be honest, and I’m honestly disgraced that the officials aren’t doing anything. It’s taken this long to do anything about this.” This concerned citizen remains hopeful in the face of tragedy, saying “I know my ketchup, mustard, and honey mustard are still out there somewhere and I believe that justice will come one day.”


The SLCYIT has been nominated for a Nobel peace prize for their research, making Cherokee history, as the second student-led group to be nominated for this honor. Members of the FBI have given the founders of SLCYIT medals of honor, though critics of the team feel this is overkill. 

“It’s ridiculous.” A very important condiment critique, Lila Zink, stated on the team’s recent awards and recognition. “They did not deserve it, they are just a group of students who just decided to show up after school one day [and decided] ‘Hey! There’s tunnels under the ground!’… that helps no one except the students at Cherokee High School… they could get condiments elsewhere, the rest of the world can not benefit from the discovery of these tunnels if they were even to exist.”


Readers of the Cherokee Scout should expect an update with the court revelations on April 32.