The Museum of Hoaxes
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Sober Sue, the woman who never smiled, 1907
The Berners Street Hoax, 1810
Tourist Guy 9/11 Hoax, Sep 2001
Pierre Brassau, Monkey Artist, 1964
Iceberg floats into Sydney Harbor, 1978
Jennifer Love Hewitt's Disappearing Breasts
Boy floats away in balloon, 2009
The Man-Eating Tree of Madagascar Hoax, 1874
Samsung invents the on/off switch
The Nazi Air Marker Hoax, 1942
Win a Free Book
image One of the great things about having a website is that occasionally people send me free stuff, out of the blue. For instance, a British publisher named Harriman House sent me three copies of The Life & Death of Rochester Sneath by Humphry Berkeley. Since I don't have a use for three copies of the book, I've decided to give the two extra copies away.

But first, what is the book about? It documents a classic British public school hoax from the 1940s. Headmasters at elite British public schools such as Eton and Rugby began receiving letters from H. Rochester Sneath who described himself as a fellow Headmaster from Selhurst School nearth Petworth, Sussex. Sneath had many bizarre questions for his colleagues. For instance, he wanted to know how to deal with an infestation of rats, how to go about 'engineering' a royal visit, or whether it was advisable to provide special 'sex ed' instruction for the school maids. Remarkably, most of the headmasters believed that Sneath was a real person and responded seriously. Of course, Sneath wasn't real. He was the creation of Humphry Berkeley, who at the time was a student at Cambridge. When the hoax was exposed Berkeley was expelled for two years. This book collects together all of Sneath's letters and the responses he received. It's very short, taking about an hour to read, at most. But if you like British humor it's a classic, because Sneath perfectly skewers the pompous self-importance of the British upper class.

So here's what I have in mind. Since the book is about a school prank, post a description of a school prank in the comments section. Perhaps something that you participated in or have heard about. I'll choose the two pranks that I find the most amusing (and original) and send the winners a free copy of the book. Make sure that you include your email address in the appropriate box (though your email won't be publicly displayed... only I can see when people have entered email addresses, so that spammers can't harvest addresses from this site), otherwise I won't have any way of notifying you if you win. I'll let the contest run for a week before I choose the winner.
Categories: Miscellaneous, Pranks
Posted by The Curator on Sun Oct 03, 2004
Comments (38)
I am a high school Latin teacher, and a couple of years ago, our band teacher took the day off to see the most recent Star Wars offering on opening day. I scanned a picture of him into the computer and superimposed his head on Obi Wan Kenobi playing a guitar, with accompanying pictures of Darth Vader and Jar Jar Binks. Then I put a headline on it that said "Wanted, Dead or Alive: Obi Wan Willis (that was his name). Any information leading to the whereabouts of said nerd will result in his apprehension." I then made hundreds of flyers and put them all over the school so he saw them the next morning when he came back. The kids all thought is was hilarious, as did the faculty. He vowed to wreak vengeance upon me, but never did.
Posted by shara  in  Fayetteville, NC  on  Wed Oct 06, 2004  at  02:17 PM
How many practical jokes are we allowed, LOL. You see I married an unrepentant practical joker!

1) He sat on the seat of a toilet which built up it's own pressure, lit a cherry bomb, stood up and threw it into the flushing toilet, then made a quick get away. It burst the pipes on the second floor of the school.

2) He put itching powder in all the jock straps belonging to the football team. (One hell of a practice that evening!)

3) He cut the tips off of the bras in the girls locker room while they played dodge ball.

4) For a revenge prank he put itching powder inside and outside of a condom belonging to his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend. Rolled it back up and put it in the guys glove box. Made for an interesting evening he heard later!

5) On a school field trip to a beach, he and two other guys warmed up tubes of glue in the sun, and would walk up and talk to girls who were sunning their backs while another glued the hooks of the girls bras together. The girls had to cut their bras off to get out of them.

6) On another field trip my husband and a couple other boys picked out a victim. They micky'd the poor victim's water canteen with a bit of a sleeping pill, while the boy was sleeping soundly they glued his penis to his inner right thigh. When he came to my husband handed him a playboy magazine. Then all three left the tent, suddenly the monitors came to the tent to investigate the howling and carrying on by the victim. Poor guy!

18 years of marriage to this man has been an adventure indeed!! LOL
Posted by Myst  on  Wed Oct 06, 2004  at  05:08 PM
At my university, physics faculty, there was the tradition of receiving new students with a prank at their first day of lessons. When I was the new student, some old students toke the role of teachers, starting to introduce the lesson plan in an absurdly hard way (i.e., 12 hours/day of lessons...), while acting like truly assholes, even violently ejecting a "student" for daring objecting that they were smoking in class, under the no-smoking signal... then they gave out an impossible-to-do surprise attitudinal test...before real teachers caming in... raspberry
Another year, we played a bit on the radioactive paranoia, starting going on and on on security procedures, evacuation plans and so on... then we enacted a "radiation emergency" with the aid of top-sided cart with liquid nitrogen, agricultural pesticide suits re-branded as NBC contamination suits, and an electric "emergency bell"... It was a big public success... raspberry
Posted by Fizz  on  Wed Oct 06, 2004  at  06:17 PM
AH, Texas A&M... my father went there, and told me a few stories about the pranks played by various Aggies, along with a whole slew of Aggie jokes. The best one was his account of why the mascot at rival University of Texas (U.T., although the Aggies had called it T.U. to rhyme with P.U.) is known as Bevo.

The highlight of the football season if you live at College Station is the annual Texas A&M versus U.T. game. Whoever wins this one rubs it in the losers' faces until they meet again. One year, Texas A&M won 13 to nothing.

A year passed. The day before the archrivals were to meet again, the chearleaders at U.T. made a very unpleasant discovery. Their mascot was a real steer, not someone dressed up in a cow suit. The Aggies had slipped unnoticed into its pen, armed with a branding iron. Much to the horror of the U.T. students, the mascot now had "13-0" seared into its skin as a graphic reminder of their last game score.

The had to do something. But it's not easy to cover up a brand, and there's nothing much in the way of make-up for cows. Finally, inspiration struck and the U.T. animal handlers made their own improvised branding iron to cover things up. The day of the game, they were able to tell everyone they had given a name to their mascot, and branded it into his side - BEVO!

Did this really happen, or is this yet another college hoax? You decide...
Posted by Matt  on  Fri Oct 08, 2004  at  03:20 PM
I issued a press release on school paper, saying that Nottingham High School was to move from its historic setting in Nottingham to a new multi-million pound campus at a motorway junction. The quotations and facts used in the release are all genuine, all I did was string them together... The Nottingham Evening Post had a team of 2 reporters and an assistant editor working on the story for 48 hours - they were going to run it as their front page story. They only discovered the hoax when they rang the headmaster at school for his comments...

The whole press release is at http://www.dafyd.me.uk/docs/yearbook/pressrelease.pdf
Posted by Dafyd Jones  in  Nottingham, UK  on  Fri Oct 08, 2004  at  03:51 PM
Caltech has an annual event when freshman are given the chance to play a trick on the upper classmen. The seniors lock and booby trap their rooms and leave for 24 hours.

When one senior returned, his room appeared untouched. He went inside and found his brand new Porsche sitting there with the engine running!
Posted by Dana Lipp  in  MA  on  Mon Oct 25, 2004  at  11:40 PM
im in 6th grade in a top school but SOO many pranks and arrests happen... and 6ths graders are like the little kids to everyone in middle and high school and they never do any cool pranks or anything and everyone considers them "the good kids" and me and some friends wanted to change that so we decided to steal some lunch tables after school... first we stole one and had my sisters friend pull his truck up behind the school so we could roll it out the back doors(you can fold the tables easily and they have wheels) the next day no big deal so that night we stole another and still no big deal the next day(we were keeping the tables under tarp in the woods by our house) so we decided the next day we'd steal two more and then there was a big deal but of course no one would think that middle schoolers would do it so there were notes sent to highschoolers and it was a town disscusion at the town meeting, we would steal 2 tables every day (tables were small and round, about the size of a dining room table or slightly smaller) soon all my friends quit the prank except 2, soon one of the friends that quit told someone about it and then the secret was around the whole school and soon my homeroom teacher knew, me and the 2 friends that didnt quit got suspended for 2 weeks, were forced to quit any school funded sports or activities we were on... we did have to pay for the damage to some of the tables.. be not being the "good kids" anymore was priceless...
Posted by Megan  on  Wed Jan 05, 2005  at  08:19 PM
Hey my dad owned a construction company, and I worked with him, so nearing the end of the school year we took a crain and put the principles Car on top of the school, it was a convertable, and then it started to rain, and everybody was frantically moving to get the top down, it was quite amusing
Posted by Jonathan  in  Winnipeg  on  Thu Aug 18, 2005  at  12:59 PM
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