You know all about student pranks – greased pigs in the cafeteria, cows being led upstairs, all of that juvenile stuff. Maybe you’ve even heard about the more complicated college stunts – when M.I.T. students erected a police car on the top of the school’s Great Dome, for example. Its license plate number was pi. Anyway, here are a few lesser-known student stunts. If you’re, um, “inspired” by some of these, I claim no fault… but be sure to take pictures.
Harry Potter and the Scheming Students
In 2007, M.I.T. students pulled two pranks of smaller proportions to commemorate Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Since we’re just a couple of days away from the latest movie, I thought it would be appropriate to mention them. The first appeared a couple of days before the final book came out: a broomstick parking area, complete with broomsticks and appropriate signage, appeared in the Student Street area of the Strata Center. Then on the day of the actual release is my favorite: the Death Eaters acknowledged their presence at the school by setting off an eerie, glowing green Dark Mark on the roof of the Student Center. Awesome. This gives me an idea for Halloween… Photo from Eric Schmiedl.
Caltech is M.I.T.'s biggest rival in pranks, despite being located at opposite ends of the country. They often take potshots at one another and are especially prone to pranks at football games. Although the Great Rose Bowl prank is pretty well known, another football stunt occurred when Caltech wasn't even playing. During the 1964 Washington vs. Illinois Rose Bowl game, the audience of 100,000 was rather bored by a somewhat lackluster game. That is, until they looked up and realized that someone had changed the electronic scoreboard to make it appear as if Caltech was putting the hurt on M.I.T. It happened again in 1984 - although the teams were UCLA and Illinois (again), it appeared as if Caltech was stomping M.I.T., 31-9.
During the Harvard-Yale game of 2004, some students took the Great Rose Bowl Prank to the next level. In case you didn't click the Rose Bowl Prank link above, the story goes something like this: Caltech students handed out a bunch of colored placards to the opposing team and told them that when flipped over at a specified time, it would spell out the name of their team. It didn't, of course, it spelled out "Caltech." Yale students repeated this stunt by handing out similar placards to a group of Harvard students and alumni. When they flipped the cards, which they thought would say "GO HARVARD," it actually spelled out "WE SUCK." Photo from Yale Daily News
In Cod We Trust
Another one from our friends over at the Museum of Hoaxes - the theft of the Massachusetts Sacred Cod. Yes, Massachusetts has a sacred cod, and they really refer to it as such. The pine likeness is about five feet long and can be found hanging over the entrance to the House of Representatives chamber in the Massachusetts State House - at least, that's where it is usually found. In 1933, staff at the Harvard Lampoon decided that the fish was theirs. They simply walked into the State House with clippers and a flower box, snipped the Cod down when no one was looking, hid it in the flower box and strolled on out of there like they owned the place. After a couple of days of drama - allegedly the river was even dragged - the Harvard Chief of Police received a tip that he should show up on a certain road at a certain time and follow a certain car. He did, and when the car pulled into a forest, two disguised men jumped out, handed him the Cod, and fled. Photo from MassMoments.org
Pranks aren't limited to U.S. schools, of course. In June of 1958, Cambridge, England, woke up to find an Austin Seven sitting on top of the Senate House like it was in the middle of a skyward road trip. It took a week for firefighters, police and civil defense units to figure out how to get the thing down - in the end, they decided just to take it apart piece by piece. And the really great thing about the whole prank is that the perpetrators were never caught. That is, until 2008. Fifty years later, 9 of the 12 guys who participated in the prank had a reunion dinner and told the press how they did it. In the middle of the night, they hitched it up to the roof using a makeshift crane of steel cable and scaffolding pieces. Although they had never revealed their identities, the then-Dean suspected the group of men and had a case of champagne sent to them to congratulate them on such an amazing prank. Click the link for a diagram of how they pulled the stunt off. Photo from the Daily Mail.
Rice Gets More Comfortable
In 1988, a group of students at Rice decided that the 2,000 pound statue of William Marsh Rice would probably prefer to face the library instead of having his back to it. So, obviously, they moved it. After a couple of botched attempts, the pranksters got serious. They got plans of the statue from the library to figure out the exact weight, then built some A-frames with one-ton hoists on either side. After practicing with a Toyota a couple of times, they got the hang of things and headed to campus to give Mr. Rice a better view. They were caught moving the A-Frames across campus by some cops, but managed to convince them that they were part of a senior project. They successfully moved the statue, but one of them, Patrick Dyson, was caught and made to pay the cost of moving William back to his rightful position, which for some reason was going to cost up to five times as much as it cost to get him in the new spot. Students rallied behind Dyson, designing t-shirts that said "Where there's a Willy, there's a way," and raised more than enough money to turn Rice back around. Photo from Rice.edu.
Fictional Facebook Fox
Here's a prank in keeping with our social media-obsessed society. There's a moral to this one too, if you're inclined to find one. In 2006, USC basketball player Gabe Pruitt (he's a Celtic now) was the star during a game against UC Berkeley. He had been cultivating a, um, "relationship" with a girl named Victoria from UCLA - he met her over Facebook and not face to face, but they had been IMing and she sent him pictures. The only problem? She wasn't real. When Pruitt got up to shoot a free throw, Cal fans started chanting, "Victoria! Victoria!" and promptly followed that up with Pruitt's personal cell phone number, which he had given to the fictional Victoria. They kept it up for the whole game and Pruitt ended up shooting 3 for 13. There are nine other college sports pranks over at SI.com if you're interested, including the somewhat sordid history of poor Tommy Trojan over at UCLA. Photo from BigGreenMachine.