Police raid the US student society that inspired 'Animal House'

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More than a dozen police officers spent five hours searching the Alpha Delta house at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. They hauled away two duffel bags and 10 crates full of evidence, including a computer tower, a videotape and two sledgehammers.

They also arrested one 19-year-old student for drug possession - marijuana, according to local press reports - but said the focus of the investigation was on something other than drugs.

The university authorities at Dartmouth issued a statement saying that they were co-operating fully with the investigation. All documents relating to it - including affidavits and warrants - are being kept under seal.

That suggests the offences being investigated are serious and highly sensitive.

Alpha Delta became synonymous with spoilt, upper-class students getting drunk, staging pranks and throwing toga parties, thanks toAnimal House, the film released in 1978 starring John Belushi. One of the writers of the hit film, Chris Miller, graduated from Dartmouth College in 1964 and was a member of Alpha Delta, which was the basis for the story.

Fraternity members are depicted dropping fizzy candies into the college swimming pool, having corpses from the medical school delivered to an old boys' dinner, decorating the trees with underwear and causing the lavatories to explode.

Fraternities across the United States are periodically excoriated for their debauchery, their elitism and the cruelty of their induction practices, known as hazing.

Alpha Delta's website made no mention of the police raid yesterday, sticking instead to a longstanding statement that it values "the principles of leadership, scholarship, service and philanthropy, diversity, accountability and brotherhood".

Scholarship may be a stretch - the only truly eminent alumnus of the fraternity was Salmon P Chase, an early chief justice on the Supreme Court. Otherwise, its most famous old boy is probably Mr Miller.

The fraternity website's one allusion to its wild reputation came in a story about its mythical origins as a houseboat. "Alpha Delta may not look much like a boat any more," the site commented, "but it's still been known to rock every so often."