All this talk about mischievous college students in the media made me wonder what real life pranks have come close to meeting the legendary status of Animal House‘s horse in the Dean’s office prank. Luckily, Time Magazine and the Huffington Post put together a pretty comprehensive list.
Here are my top 3:
1. 100,000 fans at the 1961 a Rose Bowl game between the University of Washington Huskies and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers were packed by CalTech’s “Fiendish Fourteen”. Washington cheerleaders had planned a a display of the word “Huskies” and the mascot in the crowd through the use of flip cards, but instead at halftime when fans turned their colored flip-cards “Caltech” was spelled out for millions of fans to witness in the stands and on TV.
The “Fiendish Fourteen” later revealed that one of them had posed as a reporter to get a detailed account of the cheerleader’s flip-card system. They later snuck into the Washington cheerleaders’ hotel rooms and switched the instruction sheets resulting in a prank that stunned television announcers, fans, and the band—who actually stopped playing after the big reveal. In 2004, the stunt was taken as inspiration at the Harvard-Yale game, where Yale students handed out placards that later spelled out the message: “We Suck.”
2. Some computer experts believe that MIT pranksters created the world’s first computer virus. Students in 1970 had their work brought to a halt when the word “cookie” flashed across their computer screens. Unless the user immediately typed in the word “cookie” the screen would speed up continuing to display “Cookie, cookie, give me a cookie” over and over again. Eventually after a couple of minutes of panic for students who thought they had lost all of their work, the screen would flash, “I didn’t want a cookie anyway,” and disappear. However, if students had typed in cookie before that the computer would flash and the invasion would discontinue.
3. According to the Huffington Post, in 1930 two editors from the Cornell Daily Sun, the Cornell student newspaper, wrote letters to Republican leaders around the country requesting them to honor Hugo N. Frye, Cornell’s “little-known patriot” who was “deprived of the fame that should have been his fro his part in the Republican Party in New York State.” Of course there was a catch: he didn’t exist. Many politicians responded—including Charles Curtis, vice president during the Hoover administration. Curtis sent his apologies for not being about to attend the remembrance ceremony. He wrote, “I congratulate the Republicans on paying respect to the memory of Hugo N. Frye, and I wish you a most successful occasion.
I was pretty unconvinced that students put that much thought into pranking outside of the fictitious world of colleges in film, but if these lists have proved me wrong.
These are all horse in the Dean’s office pranks in their own way. Do you know of any legendary college pranks?