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Pranks
Officials at the Houston Zoo report that they're being inundated with thousands of phone calls as a result of a prank text message circulating via cell phone. From click2houston.com:

"It's an enormous annoyance," zoo spokesman Brian Hill said. Thousands of people have received a message that someone has been talking about them. Some of the messages read: "Hey y is someone calln me and lookn for u n askn me where r u at n where u live heres tha # 713 555 650 tell then to stop calln me"
"It's scaring a lot of people," the switchboard operator told a caller. "We are working with the FBI and the major cell phone providers." Hill said that anyone who receives a similar message should trash it instead of calling the zoo.
"Chances are that if you get a text message, 'somebody's looking for you,' or 'I'm getting calls from somebody looking for you,' and our phone number is at the bottom of it, you'd be pretty safe to just ignore it and delete it," Hill said.

I think the message, translated from text speak into english, says: "Hey, why is someone calling me and looking for you and asking me where are you at, and where you live? Here's their number: 713 555 650. Tell them to stop calling me."

This is a new variant of the classic "phone the zoo" prank, which is one of the most popular April Fool's Day pranks of all time. Usually the prank involves tricking someone into calling the zoo and asking for "Mr Lion" or "Mr Fox". The prank used to be so popular that many zoos would have to shut down their switchboards on April 1st.

The prank is as old as telephones themselves, and actually traces back much further, deriving from the even older prank of fooling people into going to the Tower of London to see the "washing of the lions."
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue May 06, 2008
Comments (2)
Three pranks that recently made headlines:

Riding the elevator
Elizabeth M. "Betsy" Ormsby's state Supreme Court lawsuit against Michael W. Behling, her former supervisor at the Washington Street office building, continues. Mrs. Ormsby, wife of Jefferson County Legislator Barry M. Ormsby, alleged she was duct-taped to a chair while working at the building in April 2006 and then, while bound, sent to several floors on an elevator. She claimed she complained about the incident to Mr. Behling, the building's superintendent, but was told by him to keep the matter quiet.

Gorilla Chases Bananas
Last week ten students in larger-than-life banana costumes ran through the halls of the Zion-Benton Township high school with an eleventh student dressed as a gorilla giving chase. "The boys entered the school's main entrance around noon last Thursday and made their way through the English and science hallways before running into a crowded lunch room and then out a back door. All the while they flailed their arms and yelled "Seniors '08."" School officials have responded by giving the bananas and gorilla a seven-day suspension.

Prank or Art?
Potted plants were taken from the atrium of the Center for the Arts at Luther College and moved into a single room, where they blocked students from moving around and accessing projects. This sparked a debate about whether moving the plants was a prank or an artistic statement. Jeff Dintaman, professor of theatre and head of the art and theatre/dance departments, noted: “Artists will always push the boundaries, and if we’re not doing that, we’re not artists.” But Kate Martinson, Professor of Art, said: "I think ‘prank’ is the word whether it’s artistic or not."
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 24, 2008
Comments (10)
Neil Steinberg's classic advice about college pranks was that "If at all possible, involve a cow." The zebra (named Barcode) that was found locked inside Seney Hall at Georgia's Emory University this morning is a novel substitute. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Campus police were still trying to find out who put the zebra on the third floor of Seney Hall sometime Tuesday night...
Putting animals inside Seney Hall has passed for a dry wit on the Emory at Oxford campus for decades...
Bowen said it was unlikely the responsible party would be punished. "We're not launching a major manhunt" he joked. And whoever put Barcode in the building made sure it didn't get hurt. "They lined up a row of chairs so the animal couldn't get close to the windows and injure itself," Bowen said.

Good for the pranksters for making sure the zebra wasn't harmed in any way.

I found out about the prank because I received an email this afternoon from the pranksters themselves. Or someone claiming to be the pranksters. Here's what they had to say. I didn't correct for spelling:

So i was looking at your top 10 college pranks and i think that you are missing one.. last night some friends and i locked a Zebra in a building at Emory University. here are the details.

I was deeply disappointed when i read what the press had wrote about the Zebra incident at the Oxford College of Emory University. Quite frankly everyone has it wrong. I know, because i organized it and the executed the prank with a group of friends and lookouts.

First of all, the prank had no intentions other than to raise a certain spirit in the Oxford College community. The was no malice what-so-ever.

To the detail that you can varify that I am , in fact , the one whom the credit is due. -I cut a chain around a gate that contained the Zebra that was accompanied by only a donkey. This "pasture" is off of Collingsworth drive after the dead end. - then i unhinged the second gate with a wrench because that chain was too thick to cut. - I then proceeded to transport the Zebra on foot down Collingsworth to Wesley street and then down a power-cut that leads behind the college off in the woods. At approximately 0455hrs I left the Zebra in the care of my cohorts as i met another accomplice that had slept in Seney hall in order to let me in from the inside. We prepared the 3rd floor by placing chairs and tables by the windows so that the Donkey would not be tempted to go near them. We also moved picture frames so that they would not be hurt. Lastly we barricaded the doors using 2"x2"x4' board that extended over the door frame and then were secured to the door with duct tape, zip-ties, and 11/2 inch U-bolts. Once the buildings was prepared we then moved the donkey through the front doors of Seney to the elevator to the 3rd floor. We then unloaded the donkey and took the elevator back down to the first floor. (now this is a good part) we sent the elevator back up to the second floor (which was also barricaded from the inside) with a Chair, books, and a small shelf leaning against the doors of the elevator so that when they opened on the second floor, the chair would fall prohibiting the doors of the elevator to close for use. As a back up we removed the elevator call key panel from the 1st floor lobby and Removed, NOT Cut, wires from the back of the button. The most damage this may have caused is a blown fuse. All in all I believe that once people see the brilliance behind this prank and get off their high-horse they may be able to see that college is about relationships and memories, not a grade on a test or your attendance record. - Seney hall was discovered to be locked down at approx 0735 and it took until 1115hrs to remove the Zebra. - Ultimately this was a HARMLESS prank, NOT vandalism. - and when all is said and done, it may have been one of the greatest pranks ever pulled off in history of American academia... A zebra was barricaded into the most historic building of one of the highest ranked universities in America... thats awesome!!

Regards, The Emory Pranksters
Categories: Animals, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 24, 2008
Comments (34)
From Pakistan comes a report of an elaborate stunt that seems to have been an early April Fool's day prank... though it didn't happen on April 1st, so it can't count as one. Around 300 people were conned by fake margarine salesmen into showing up for what was supposed to be a free breakfast. From the Pakistan Daily Times:

Around 300 students were fooled on Sunday into going to Model Town Park for a free breakfast supposedly arranged by a well-known margarine brand. On arrival however, students found there was no breakfast or officials of the margarine brand. Students of three private schools received the invitation cards several weeks ago from unidentified people posing as officials of the margarine brand, who came to the schools to distribute the cards... the people posing as officials of the margarine brand seemed authentic, as they wore badges and stickers carrying the brand name.

Sounds like a harmless enough prank, though officials are taking it seriously, noting that "terrorists can call students to some place and harm them." So watch out for terrorists posing as margarine salesmen.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 01, 2008
Comments (5)
In the city of West Hartford there's a statue of the lexicographer Noah Webster. For years, it was a tradition among local high-school students to place a condom on the statue's pointing finger. But then someone removed the finger.

West Hartford resident Nan Glass, who's written a book about the statue, says that "One myth about the finger is that it was broken off by high school students, or that it was broken off by police officers who were tired of taking condoms off of it."

It may never be known who removed the finger, but Webster didn't have to remain permanently fingerless. A replacement digit was added last year. And with the return of the finger has come the return of the condom prank. Courant.com reports:
Town historian Tracey M. Wilson says she heard that a condom was found on the finger earlier this month. Police, though, said they can't confirm reports of any pranks on Webster recently.

I'm sure West Hartford students won't need much encouragement to fully embrace this tradition once again. (via Legends & Rumors)
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 11, 2008
Comments (3)
The "Rick Rolled" prank involves tricking someone into clicking a link that takes them to a video of Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up."

A new variation of this is to "Flick Roll" someone. You trick them into viewing this image on Flickr:



Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 29, 2008
Comments (9)
Following the release of a company's quarterly earnings report, analysts get a chance to participate in a conference call with the company's management. When I briefly worked in a pr firm, years ago, I had to listen to quite a few of these calls. I thought they were usually mind-numbingly dull. But it sounds like someone has figured out a way to have some fun with them. The Wall Street Journal Reports:

At least seven times just the past three weeks, a mystery caller has cleverly insinuated himself into the normally well-manicured ritual of the quarterly calls. As top executives of publicly traded companies respond to securities analysts’ questions about their balance sheets, he impersonates a well-known analyst to get called upon. Then, usually declaring himself to be “Joe Herrick of Gutterman Research,” he launches into his own version of analyst-speak.

“Congratulations on the solid numbers — you always seem to come through in challenging times,” he said to Leo Kiely, president and chief executive officer of Molson Coors Brewing Co., on February 12, convincingly parroting the obsequious banter common to the calls. “Can you provide some more color as to what you are doing for your supply chain initiatives to reduce manufacturing costs per hectoliter, as you originally promised $150 million in synergy or savings to decrease working capital?”


The question is: Is Herrick a prankster who's trying to mock the corporate-speak of conference calls, or is he just a nutcase who's obsessed with grilling CEOs about corporate efficiency?

Giving weight to the nutcase theory is that Herrick's questions don't seem designed to be humorous. They're excessively focused on obscure details, but they are serious questions. One CEO speculates that he's "'some minion' at a consulting firm trying to do clandestine research on companies’ use of Six Sigma techniques." So if Herrick is intending to poke fun at corporate-speak, he's doing so in a very, very deadpan way.

The Wall Street Journal article has a link in a sidebar to an audio file of Herrick's exchange with the management team of Molson Coors Brewing. So you can listen for yourself and try to figure out just what Herrick is up to. (via Art of the Prank)
Categories: Business/Finance, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 20, 2008
Comments (5)
Quite a few blogs are linking to these fake eyeball stickers, though I haven't been able to track down if any company is actually selling them. Nevertheless, they're a good idea if you want to take a nap at work while pretending to be working. Just place the stickers over your closed eyes, and no one will be the wiser. (via J-walk).



Update: If you really want to buy some eyeball stickers of your own, Roylco sells them. They're not exactly the same as the eyeball stickers in the picture above, but they're close. (Thanks to Becca for the heads up about this.)
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 14, 2008
Comments (22)
Engineering students at the University of British Columbia continued their pranking tradition of placing a red Volkswagen in an unusual location. This year they dangled it from Lions Gate Bridge. Canada.com notes that, "In years past, engineers have hung VWs from the Alex Fraser Bridge and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, and have even put one atop UBC's 15-storey Buchanan Tower."

In If At All Possible, Involve A Cow, Neil Steinberg provides a fuller description of UBC's tradition of college pranks:

The University of British Columbia engineers are famous for their pranks, a yearly tradition during winter engineering week. Some of their pranks are wonderfully subtle, such as wiring the lights on the Lions Gate Bridge to blink "UBC Engineers" in Morse code. They once changed the chimes of the UBC clock to sound out the engineers' theme song. The engineers have a ritual involving the shell of a red Volkswagen beetle, which is deposited at some challenging spot around Vancouver, such as atop the 15-story Buchanan Tower, at the summit of a downtown clock tower, or suspended under a bridge (in a tour de force, one year the bug was suspended between the Granville and Burrand bridges). In 1992, it was floated on empty beer kegs to the middle of Stanley Park's Lost Lagoon, and the fountain -- which had been activated for the occasion -- was redirected so it shot out the car's sunroof.

Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 06, 2008
Comments (3)
Rory Emerald is a serial prankster who's modus operandi is placing fake classified ads claiming to have found bizarre items. Some of the things he's claimed to have found include "Laura Bush's gold cigarette case and lighter, a two-headed kitten, Eva Peron's inauguration gown and diamond scepter, Leonardo da Vinci's original paint brushes and palette, an ice sculpture of SpongeBob SquarePants and a life-size wax figure of Herman Munster." I posted about him two weeks ago when he claimed to have found H.G. Wells' time machine, but he's back in the news, in two different cities.

He made headlines in the Monterey County Herald for an ad claiming to have found Doris Day's pearl necklace and the pillows from the movie Pillow Talk. Simultaneously, there's an article about him in the Yuma Sun, describing how he placed an ad claiming to have found an original Babe Ruth uniform on Madison Avenue.

Emerald says that he never tries to make any money from his fake ads. For him, they're purely a form of artistic expression.

I suspect we'll be hearing more of Emerald. He seems to have a talent for getting himself in the news.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 05, 2008
Comments (12)
In order to educate the bus-riding public about the physics of sneezing, Science World created a Sneezing Bus Stop. Watch the video to understand:



They also created posters that can be wrapped around trees to demonstrate how much beavers can eat.



Categories: Pranks, Science
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 28, 2008
Comments (6)
SpySite.com is selling a prank gadget that seems like it would have the potential to drive someone crazy... such as a boss you intensely dislike. Unfortunately the gadget costs $89, which is a bit steep. From spysite's description:

It causes calls made from the target phones to reach wrong numbers! Think about how absolutely maddening and frustrating that would be if it were to happen to your phone. Now, you'll begin to appreciate the devastating effect that this device can have.

Just to toy with their fury and confusion even more, it is engineered to allow about 25% of the calls dialed to go through correctly. (Note: calls to 911 will always go through.) And, as is the case with all of the devices in this section, even once the target realizes that something very weird is going on, they'll be hard-pressed to stop it; replacing their telephones or even getting a new phone number won't do any good since they would have to locate the actual device and remove it. Installs anywhere along the telephone line;


(via OhGizmo)
Categories: Pranks, Technology
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 24, 2008
Comments (5)
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