Construction on an old frat house led to the discovery of a young man living with opossums
Former Psi Beta pledge Jack Graunbeck was found living in abandoned fraternity house (Photo illustration)
Finally, Irvine Valley College has a Greek life scandal of their own. Last Thursday, March 26, IVC student Jack Graunbeck was found living with a family of opossums in the boarded up subbasement of the former Psi Beta fraternity house in Irvine. He had reportedly been missing for five years.
The Irvine Police Department released a statement Thursday night stating that the then unidentified young male, found by construction workers at about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, was alive, however extremely malnourished. He was transferred to a nearby hospital and now seems to be in stable condition, however the full extent of his physical and psychological traumas is currently unknown.
Graunbeck was identified late Sunday night by his sister Jenna Graunbeck after police cross referenced missing person files with past Psi Beta members.
In the fall of 2010, then 18-year-old Graunbeck was a freshman pledge for the IVC chapter of the Psi Beta fraternity. In the spring of 2011 the frat was scheduled to relocate their main residence house from Valley Oak Drive in Irvine to Woodbury. Residents complained that the old property was infested with possums which were copulating and reproducing at an alarming rate and more than outnumbered the human occupants.
“You could hear their mating calls and, well, other noises at night,” former Psi Beta member Jeremy Hotchkins said. “You want to know what the number one mood killer is after you’ve brought a girl back to your room? Hearing two possums get it on before you do.”
On November 15, 2010, the fraternity threw a “Bye Psi Beta” party to commemorate the frat’s final night of residence in the Valley Oak house, past fraternity member Brandon Goehtz said.
“It was probably the wildest party we’d thrown to date,” Goehtz said. “Everyone knew we weren’t responsible for the property after that night so people didn’t have the usual restraint or common sense not to get wasted enough to cause property damage. Some people were chasing the possums around and imitating mating calls. It’s embarrassing to remember.”
Goehtz, then in his third year at IVC, knew Graunbeck in passing.
“He was one of our new pledges, and while we didn’t force pledges to do anything that night, drinking was definitely encouraged. Last I saw him he was double fisting a bottle of Jack and Jäger[meister]. He never harassed the possum’s though, he always said they were majestic creatures.”
Based on what could be pieced together from eyewitnesses, construction records and what little information Graunbeck has been able to provide, it is believed that Graunbeck found his way into the subbasement of the building and passed out for over 24 hours.
In the meantime, construction crews had boarded up the entrance and exit to the basements and begun tearing down certain structural aspects of the building in anticipation of later renovations. It is assumed that if Graunbeck was then conscious, any noise he made was drowned out by construction. After two weeks, construction was halted and eventually the plans for renovation were abandoned.
This spring, renovations began again in the Valley Oak house with the intent of moving the Psi Beta fraternity back into the property. The now 23-year-old Graunbeck was then found by construction manager Todd Buell.
“We knew there were possums living near the foundation of the structure so when we entered the basement, we assumed the movement we heard was them,” Buell said. “Then one of my workers saw a larger mass scurry across the floor and when I pointed my flashlight at it, we saw a man hunched over staring at us. Then he just toppled on his side and didn’t move.”
Workers were convinced that man had died as his breathing seemed nonexistent and his body remained stiff for an extended period of time, Buell said.
“I was told that the kid survived by assimilating himself into a possum family,” Buell said. “I’m not sure what that entails but I guess they kept him fed enough to stay alive, and clearly he picked up some other habits from them.”
When EMTs finally arrived, Graunbeck apparently hissed, bared his teeth, and slashed at them with his claw-like nails. When they successfully sedated and began removing him from the premises, a posse of possums attacked the construction and EMT crews.
One of the female possums, believed to be the matriarch or one of Graunbeck’s “special friends,” seemed especially distressed at his removal and seemingly led the attack.
Four people were sent to the hospital for moderate injuries and one person has since been transferred to intensive care. All were tested for rabies.
“It was downright the most f***ed up thing I’ve ever seen,” Buelle said, “but my heart goes out to him and his family. It’s a miracle he’s alive.”
The Graunbeck family has refused to comment but sources say Jack Graunbeck has been accepted and will be transferring to Cal State Fullerton in the fall.