In 1953, the rivalry between Harvard's two student newspapers was spiced up when Crimson partisans stole a statue that sat atop the Lampoon's office. Not content with Level One mischief, the Crimsonites contacted the Soviet embassy and offered them the statue as a peace offering between nations. The USSR accepted (and was probably somewhat confused). In a brilliant response, Lampoon staffers contacted Senator Joseph McCarthy and demanded that he launch a full investigation of the Crimson for its Communist sympathies and dealings with the enemy. Sadly, McCarthy crashed and burned before he could inadvertently help the students close the Prank Circle of Life.

In 1896, Auburn students prepared for the arrival of the arch-rival Georgia Tech football team (I guess Auburn vs. Alabama was not yet a thing in the 19th Century) by covering several miles of railroad tracks into the campus with lubricants. When Tech's train came rolling into town, it helplessly slid several miles out of town in the opposite direction. Legend has it – although this part may be apocryphal – that the Yellowjackets had to walk back to town in the heat and, exhausted, lost 45-0.

In 1961, Caltech nerds sabotaged the preparations for the Rose Bowl. When fans in the stadium held up cards that were supposed to spell "Washington" (whose Huskies were competing in the game) the TV audience saw "Caltech", which has no football team let alone one that would play in the Rose Bowl.

This week I overheard a group of undergraduates talking about pranking our arch-rival, coincidentally also Georgia Tech, before this year's football clash. One proposal involved swiping the beloved Ramblin' Wreck (a golden 1930 Ford Model A, the school's unofficial mascot) and parading it down the Interstate to our stadium. Ultimately they concluded, and I had to agree, that they'd probably all end up in jail, buried under a hundred charges for trespassing, theft, damage to public property, and so on.

I don't want to get all Andy Rooney "Ya Can't Do Anything Without Someone Suing You Anymore" on you, but I do think it's somewhat sad that college students are no longer encouraged to express their creativity like this anymore. Instead they grew up in a post-Reagan America in which the threat of every incident being blown wildly out of proportion by law enforcement ("Tough on crime! Grr!") is greater than their sense of fun. I mean, can you imagine the Auburn-Tech prank today? Good lord, those Auburn kids would have Homeland Security and a dozen SWAT teams all over them for sabotaging the nation's transportation infrastructure. When we do see "pranks" today they look like malicious acts – like the idiot Alabama football fan who poisoned and killed Auburn's 150 year old oak trees – as often as they look like fun.

So please, restore my faith in humanity and convince me that all is not lost. Use the comment section to recount great pranks from recent years – whether or not you were involved – as well as any clever hijinks you may have observed or engaged in during your college years. I need to believe that the beautiful art of being a clever bastard while doing no real harm is not yet dead.

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56 Responses to “NPF: PRANKING BAD”

  1. Jado Says:

    I worked at a firm with some guys who were best friends, and inveterate pranksters. one guy had to buy a new car because the other guys would remove the removable doors from his Jeep Cherokee…in winter. He got sick of driving home in 20 degree weather with no doors.

    But the best was the photo pranks. Scotch tape really does turn almost completely invisible on pharmacy-printed photos, and these guys had (respectively) a photos of the one guy's wife, and a photo of the one guys small children in the tub (from the waist up – no police action necessary, thank you).

    Well, the one guy's wife had a mole on her lip like Cindy Crawford. And she was plenty hot like Cindy Crawford as well. One day the guy is looking at his wife's picture, and he realizes…she has TWO moles, one on each side of her mouth. The best friend had applied a small piece of Scotch tape and drawn a duplicate mole. The one guy was apoplectic, and the best friend was doubled over in laughter.

    Things evened out when the best friend discovered what his children were sporting on the photo of them in the tub…

    Nipple rings.

    Scotch tape is really good for photos.

  2. David Says:

    I know this is an old post, but I've just learned of this blog, and I feel compelled to share my own couple of pranks. Thankfully, the statute of limitations is long past on these…

    My first girlfriend in high school went to a fire-and-brimstone Pentacostal church (why a teenage boy would subject himself to such a thing is a mystery, since all any teenage boy wants is to See Some Boobies, and that was Not the Right Venue). This place had money coming out its ears, but was always begging for more. They took a "missionary" trip to the Bahamas, and that pretty much said it all for me. All in all, I did not have tremendous respect for the place. So, one night my friends and I were driving down the highway that passed by this church, and we saw a sign… and we felt a calling…

    The second time, we couldn't come up with anything that made logical sense given the available letters, so we just went with vulgar. It was still entertaining:

    The second time, I forgot my camera, and had to run home to get it. When we came back, there was a police officer in the parking lot. My friends were in a panic, asking me to please just drive away, but I drove right up to the police car, got out, and asked if we could take a picture of the funny sign we had seen from the highway. "Well, I don't think it's very funny," he said, "but fine, go ahead."

    A couple months later, one of our fellow students tried to emulate the prank and ended up with quite a bit of community service. Oops!!

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