If you've ever stumbled across a group of people with shockingly inappropriate names like "Barefoot and Stupid" or "Revolving Whore" or "Lays There and Takes It," wearing garbage bags and duct tape and following a trail of flour, chances are you've just met the Charleston's Happy Heretics Hash Hound Harriers. If it's not the Heretics, then run away fast. You're in trouble.
The Happy Heretics are a group of hashers, most commonly known as Hash House Harriers. Their game is simple: players are divided between a group of hounds and a hare. Hounds spend three to five miles chasing a hare by means of a flour trail. The chase usually lasts about an hour and takes participants across fields and parking lots, through neighborhoods and woods, and even across streams and rivers. Both groups are equally rewarded at the end of the hunt with beer.
The Happy Heretics leader, Shit Happens, a.k.a. Chuck Magera in the 9-to-5 world, has been hashing for 20 years. Magera holds the title of the 8th most traveled hasher in the world and has taken his love of the sport to 37 states and 18 foreign countries, including Australia, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. The way he sees it, hashing is a great way to see the world, meet new people, and have fun while exercising.
"I used to be a good runner," Magera says. "I knew that if I started hashing, drinking beer would deteriorate my running, but hashing is more fun, so my running went out the window."
While hashing may sound fairly intense, don't be fooled. Magera says that the group is split between runners and walkers. "We don't want serious runners," he says. "In fact, the people who finish first (called front-running bastards) are punished and have to down a beer at the end." We're not really sure if that's an actual punishment or not, but it sure beats a lashing.
So you must be asking, if someone can't finish a mile, how do they do up to five? One word: cheating. Since we're not in grade school anymore, this isn't frowned upon and is actually encouraged. Short cuts, bicycles, driving to scout the course ahead of time, and pure guesswork are completely legal. Magera says that he's even seen someone show up on a horse. The emphasis is not on a race but instead the experience and the camaraderie of the event. "This is the total opposite of a race," Magera says.
What's most exciting about hashing is that if you show up more than once or twice, you're likely to get named by the group. Individuals have no say in the nicknaming process, and if you object, you're guaranteed to end up with a worse name than before. While there are many strong sexual overtones, the names are in good fun and are often given out by officers based on an incident or performance.
Magera recounts the story of a team member that goes by the name Indecent Penis. "We were in Tybee Island for a hash. We went out that night, and he stopped to pee in the middle of the street. The cops showed up and threatened to arrest him for indecent exposure," Magera says. "Within five minutes of the incident, he had a new name."
If you haven't caught on by now, hashing is all about having a good time while exercising and drinking beer. The Happy Heretics have been hashing strong since 1997 and recently celebrated their 100th run. They have about 20 consistent members and mark their trails all over downtown, Mt. Pleasant, and West Ashley. The group is open to anyone that's at least 21 years old. "Right now we've got kids in grad school, lawyers, firemen, policemen, retirees, nurses, and ditch diggers," Magera says.
The Happy Heretics meet up about every two weeks for a run and host a number of special events. One of their most notable ventures is the Cooper River Bridge Run Pub Crawl, which drew 200 people last year. After running the race in red dresses, the group takes hashing downtown, visiting about eight to 10 bars throughout the evening.
All participants are encouraged to have a DD and are never allowed to drive under the influence. "We don't encourage drunks," Magera says. "If we think you're just there to get drunk, we'll run you off."
The concept of hashing, formerly known as Hares and Hounds, has been around since the 1800s. The sport began in Warwickshire, England, as a schoolboy game. From there it became an adult sport in 1867 and changed to Paper Chasing, as participants would follow a paper trail instead of flour.
The modern day Hash House Harriers were founded in Malaysia in 1937. The sport coined its name after the dining room where a number of players took their meals called the "Hash House." Since then, hashing has spread to 1,700 active groups in 180 different countries. The United States alone has over 350 groups.
For more information about Happy Heretics call (843) 478-3452 or visit happyhereticsh3.com. Runs are every other week. The price is $5 for vets, and it's free for newbies.