“The most frightening realization hit me: there wasn’t any reason behind what I’d done. I mean, I knew why I’d done it — I just did it because it would be fun. But I knew they would ask, ‘Why the hell did you do this?’ and if I didn’t have a good enough reason, they would probably throw me into a mental institution.”
— Boyd Rice
There’s a bunch of stuff that I’ve collected that belongs somewhere but doesn’t fit well into any of the categories I’ve smooshed together, so I’m just going to pop it all into this salad bar. Some strange apparitions seem to “have no suspects and no motive.”
On Valentine’s Day, 1969, thirty thousand people in New York City received an anonymous valentine in the mail. The valentine was printed up with anti-prohibition marijuana propaganda, and included a joint. “We thought we would give you a chance to make up your own mind. It’s very simple. Just get a match and light up!”
Folks who called the customer service line of one of Britain’s biggest cable television companies probably expected to get a pre-recorded message. But they didn’t expect this one: “Hello, you are through to NTL customer services. We don’t give a fuck about you, basically, and we are not going to handle any of your complaints. Just fuck off and leave us alone. Get a life.”
Ashley Gibbens, who had spent an hour on hold, figured out how to change the company’s recorded message from his phone, and decided to replace the standard “your call is very important to us” with something more accurate.
Don’t miss the alt.shenanigans FAQ.
In the United States, librarians can be forced to reveal to the government
the book-browsing habits of any member of the library-going public.
Furthermore those same librarians are forbidden by law from revealing that
they’ve received a request for information from the government. At
In San Francisco, there’s a government body called “LAFCO” — I kid you not. It stands for the “Local Agency Formation Commission,” which to me sounded like the name you’d give to the seed of a tumor. A commission designed to form agencies! What a wonderful distillation of bureaucracy.
My response was to create a series of announcements promoting the meetings of LAFCO as if they were an experimental form of drama or performance art. I then sent these out to local hipster culture forums and mailing lists. I don’t know how many people attended LAFCO meetings expecting theater, or if any of them left disappointed.
A security company came up with a way to keep youths from hanging out in places where they aren’t wanted — an annoying high-pitched buzz that’s played at a frequency that people generally lose the ability to hear soon after adolescence.
But youthful ingenuity being what it is, schoolkids learned to use the same frequency as a ringtone so they could continue to use their cellphones and other electronic messenging devices where they are forbidden and would otherwise be detected by the grown-up authorities.
James Randi has put his his Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural on-line.
The International Longshore & Warehouse Union introduced a new tactic during their 2002 labor negotiations: fart machines.
Humorist Dave Barry devoted a couple of his newspaper columns to complaining about telemarketers, and casually included the telephone number for a telemarketers group in the columns. Of course, the group was flooded with unwanted calls. Payback’s a bitch.
BoingBoing reports on a prankster’s clever tweaking of the drug company Express Scripts, which is “being sued for [U.S.] $100 million by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer”
Express Scripts was throwing a dance party at the Phoenix Hard Rock Cafe as part of a drug company conference. Between songs, someone handed the lead singer of the Starlight Band a note. “I have an announcement. It’s someone’s birthday today, Eliot Spitzer,” the clueless frontman said… [then they] launched into a version of “Happy birthday, dear Eliot.” One witness said, “It was the funniest thing I ever saw.”
In 1956, Barry Larkin, a veterinary student at Sydney University, “painted a sawn-off broom handle and an old jam tin silver, stuffed some underpants soaked in kerosene into the tin and lit their hoax Olympic flame. Then, he ran into Sydney, well-ahead of the official olympic torch, eventually attracting a police escort and then handing the torch off to the Lord Mayor. “A lot of people didn’t realise it was a hoax. By the time the real torch turned up, half the crowd had gone.”
I hear tell that Russia’s new gangster-capitalism elite are spending some of their wealth to pull elaborate, expensive, and mean-spirited pranks on one another.
The comedy team Penn & Teller created a cookie recipe that takes advantage of the chemical reaction between baking soda and lemon juice to turn your counter top into a foaming mess. Pranksters have inserted the recipe for Swedish Lemon Angels in a number of on-line recipe databases.
Here’s a nice one: You know those ads in the back of some magazines and comic books that invite you to send in your poignant and moving song lyrics — if they’re quality material, you’ll be invited to send in some money so a professional musician will record it and who knows, you could be the next Beck. You know the deal. Anyway, John Trubee wrote up some absolutely horrible lyrics which were promptly judged “very worthy of being recorded with the full Nashville Sound Production.” Trubee sent in his U.S. $79.95 and got a country western take on a song that’s now somewhat infamous in some quarters as “Blind Man’s Penis.”
A Hungarian prankster created a web site to auction off a girl’s virginity, then posted the names, phone numbers, email addresses and letters of introduction sent by the 13 highest bidders.
Someone failed to honor the solemnity of the San Juan Island Pig War Reënactment. Make of this what you will.
Mess up your buddy’s collection of Microsoft viruses with this collection of clever Windows Pranks.
Someone replaced the state flag of Georgia flying in front of the Bartow County courthouse with another version incorporating battle emblems of the Confederacy… let’s see if anyone notices. A police investigator promised harsh retribution for the flag switch: “It depends on what the charge is. It could be interference with government property, which is a felony. We’re looking into it.”
Paul Krassner’s The Realist has been a long-time source of mingled news and fiction. (Does anyone remember hearing about LBJ porking JFK’s entry wound?)
“Bishop Williamson” of the Society of St. Pius X created an impressive library of abrasive communications from this fictional group.
Remember the CB radio? A democratic broadcast medium with plenty of potential for Poetic Terrorism.
In the promising R&D department: Technoparasites (“the Sunday of the Internet! The seventh day of Creation.”)
One Shizzy Joyce impersonated the President and CEO of the coffee chain Starbucks in emails to a new assistant in the company’s human resources department. After a few fairly generic welcome messages, the impostor managed to convince the newcomer to shave his beard, spy on his fellow employees, fire a random employee from a nearby franchise, and purchase and annotate a book on business ethics so the CEO could skim it to give a lecture on the subject.
Off to the side of the “map vs. the territory” argument is the allegation that map companies fabricate towns, roads, and geographical details as a way of detecting when other companies steal their work.
Dictionaries and encyclopedias have their own trick entries — including Lillian Virginia Mountweazel and the word esquivalience.
In the 1940s, reporter Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, gathering information on everything from their membership to their secret code words. Kennedy then gave this information to the producers of the Superman radio show. The resulting episodes, titled “Clan of the Fiery Cross” incorporated actual Klan terminology and rituals, exposing the nation to the inner workings of this “secret” organization.
You know those hackneyed publicity moments where the mayors of two cities whose sports teams are facing off in the championships will make a friendly wager on the outcome? Well, when Ottawa and Buffalo were fighting for the Stanley Cup, a prankster called up Buffalo’s mayor, pretending to be Ottawa’s, and proposed that they wager a night with each other’s wife.
Next, the same prankster switched roles and called up Ottawa’s mayor, posing as Buffalo’s, and offered to throw the game — for a price:
It’s an indoor mall, and there’s no smoking allowed, so how did all those glass ashtrays engraved with the “Arden Fair Mall” name get there?
A clever fellow has rigged up the internet chat/phone service Skype to tangle anglers:
A profile is put up with a girl’s name and picture, and put in “Skype me” mode. Within minutes some seedy guy will invariably try calling/chatting, and there’s a little program I made running the whole time which will partner up people 2 at a time, and send messages from the first person to the second, & vice versa. This way both people think they’re talking to a girl, when they find out, well, they’re not normally too happy about it… It’ll also accept and receive all files sent, and if someone tries to call, it’ll accept the call with an answerphone message and log what the person says.
RFC 2795 (look it up) — The Infinite Monkey Protocol Suite.
During the Falkland Islands war, newspaper stands in Britain announced Penguins Capture the Task Force and such. Professor Revilo P. Oliver asks “Can “Liberals” Be Educated?” using examples of historical frauds, impostors and hoaxes to support his views on the credulity of intellectuals.
|On This Day in Snigglery||August 3, 1997: Mary Schmich writes a column expressing bemusement that another column of hers has been circulating widely on the internet impersonating a commencement address by Kurt Vonnegut. (See Forgeries for more of this sort of thing)|