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College campuses are traditionally a site for creative mischief of all kinds, ranging from ho-hum classics such as toilet papering a room to stunts of such ingenuity and large-scale coordination that they raise the bar for the rest of us forever. On this page we shout those instances of this brand of triumph that we are proud to call our own. We keep in mind the need for discretion as we write, lest our champions face persecution for their actions or critical points of access become barred to us.
Pranks represent an ephemeral hole in the fabric of civilization, whose end since the beginning of time has been to create law and order to protect the weak from the strong. A prank is a fleeting triumph of one or a few clever, brutish, or nutty individuals over a naive target, perhaps a whole community, whose faith in the mundane makes prime grist for levity.
But though these characteristics are what make a prank special, celebrated, so also are why a tension has always and must forever exist between between pranksters and authoritarians, between standards of common decency and whispered adulation of violations of those standards. It is a strife as old as Rome and the Visigoths, as Athens and Sparta, as the first time man discovered how to laugh at his fellow man.
Pranks I/Onvolving Computers
She's only programmed to be very nice
But she's as cold as ice
Whenever I get too near
-- Yours Truly 2095, Electric Light Orchestra
- In the middle of October, Brian Hirshman '06 noticed that Johannes Pulst-Korenberg '06 was away from his keyboard. Brian deftly set Johannes's keyboard layout to Dvorak, which is different then the standard QWERTY layout that most people use. Johannes quickly found that his keystroke input was more or less unusable, and demanded that Brian change it back. Johannes vowed revenge, and got some on Halloween (see Pranks involving rooms).
- Williams classic: Many Berkshire Symphony Orchestra parties ended with the host's desktop background set to a tiled image of someone's WSO Facebook picture, guaranteeing confusion when they woke the next morning.
- One time freshman year, Mark Alexander Kelly Matthews '07 left his computer unattended. This was a big mistake. He returned to find Creed playing on a loop on his computer loud enough that his entire entry could hear it. It was his fault for having a Creed song in the first place.
- The sound scheme on a computer can easily be altered so that a a relatively uncommon event (like Windows Critical Stop) or excruciatingly common event (like Menu Open) will be accompanied by a prerecorded sound, preferable one of distinct embarassment.
- Go into Microsoft Word and change the auto correct options. For example, have word auto correct every time it says the word "the" to the phrase "I am the spawn of Satan!" or something to that effect.
- I have only gotten this trick to work on the corner desks in sawyer: if you have a mouse and are sitting next to someone who is working without a mouse at their laptop, connect your mouse to their computer when they get up. it will be quite confusing for them if you can move the mouse in close to, but not quite the direction they are trying to go on their screen
- In December of 2005, Brian Hirshman '06 had to turn in a background chapter of his thesis to computer science professor Duane Bailey. Brian used the random computer science paper generator in order to do so. Good times ensued.
Pranks Involving Rooms
Nothing reminds a mark of the fragility of existence like a well-placed kick in the crib.
- At the beginning of this school year, Brian Hirshman '06 and suitemate Johannes Pulst-Korenberg '06 decided to mirror-image the room of their fellow suitemate Dan Burns '06. Everything that was on the left side of Dan's room was moved to the right side, and even the books on his bookcase were placed in reverse order. Burns decided that it was too much trouble to switch everything back, and his room has remained in the mirror-image configuration ever since.
- Over Halloween night, Dan Burns '06 struck back with a vengeance. He turned Brian's room literally upside down. He took the bed and turned that upside down. He took the bookcase and turned that upside down, then proceeded to take the books on the bookcase upside down. He turned Brian's desk upside down, and everything that was sitting on top of it upside down. To top it off, he even went into Brian's closet and turned Brian's clothes upside down, tying shirts to the hangers to make sure that they would stay upside down until Brian returned.
- Cover the outside of someone's doorframe with newspaper, duct tape, TP, etc. Or stretch a piece of clear packing tape, sticky side in, across the doorframe at chest level. Wait for the victim to wake up and try to leave their room. If newspaper or some other continuous material (i.e. dozens of stretched facebook images of a person feared by the victim) is used to cover the doorframe, the intervening space between the paper and door can be filled with small objects that will spill into the room when the door is opened (note: particularly effective if you happen to unearth your victim's secret cotton ball phobia). This technique was used to great effect by Lisa Lindeke '06 against Esa Seegulam '06 in his freshman year.
- During the Winter Study of 2003, Robert Hahn '05 traveled to the remote Galapagos Islands, leaving his key in the care of trusted suitemate Matthew Spencer '05. Teaming up with nearby friends Justin Brown and Jenny Simons '05, these three filled the room floor to ceiling with red balloons to await. They were sure to make their move only the day before Robert's return, so that minimal deflation would occur before he arrived to appreciate it.
- Steal all of someone's clothes except for their tuxedo and then send them on a campus-wide treasure hunt to locate said clothes, creatively prolonging said treasure hunt so that the victim is forced to wear said tuxedo to breakfast the next morning. For more information, contact Lisetta Shah '06 or Eric Cheung '06.
- Cover the room's floor with dixie cups filled to the brim with water. Leave just enough space for the door to open, but nothing else. The victim will have to remove the cups one by one.
- Wrap every single item in saran wrap. Or aluminum foil. Or wrapping paper. Just like Christmas morning.
A truly good prank is always in season. You don't wait for St. Paddy's Day to drink Guinness, do you?
- Every fall, Dining Services serves an excellent Harvest Dinner, at which the most anticipated and beloved dish is surely the lobster. Though a ticket system attempts to ensure that each student can get only one lobster, in 2002 a few Deviant mischief-makers managed to collect enough from helpful friends to arrange a little tableau at the Log, where a number of noise complaints had been called in earlier that semester. Four lobsters were posed playing a hand of poker, and others were set up playing beer pong (using apple juice in the cups, so as not to break open container rules =) ). The perpetrators called in two noise complaints from public phones, using the names "Red Skelton" and "Rod Stewart." This would have been the end of the story, except that Security looked up the name "Stewart" in the student directory and headed over to Lehman, where they woke up a very confused freshman named Robin Stewart and interrogated him until they understood that he had absolutely nothing to do with the prank.
Williams Pride Pranks
Amherst, Amherst, don't be blue,
Oedipus loved his mother too!
-- Williams Marching Band cheer
Pranks of Rumor and Legend
Did they happen? We'd like to think so, but though stories of the below pranks circulate by the proverbial water coolers, they may be actual triumphs of students, or mere sources of inspiration for future triumphs.
- This prank happened at a high school far away from here, but it is perfect for a country school like Williams. As a senior prank, students released three chickens on school grounds, each wearing a little shirt with a number on it. The numbers were 1, 2, and 4. The rest of the day involved the administrators and facilities people frantically searching every corner of the school, dismantling heating ducts and cooling vents, in a search for the elusive (and nonexistant) chicken number 3. This prank is also rumored to have happened at a seperate high school, except involving rented llamas. Llama 1, llama 2, and llama 4. Llamas just make it so much better.
- This prank also happened at a high school far away from here. The school had recently built a new library that had a large staircase leading into it. The senior class led a cow up the stairs into the library. Cows can only walk up stairs; they are incapable of walking back down. Hilarity ensued.
- This prank happened at the Harvard Football field a couple years ago. Taking a page from the playbook of behavioral psychologist Pavlov, an MIT student spent one summer training hundreds of pigeons to flock to the Harvard field whever they heard a referee's whistle. The student did this by going to the field every day to blow a whistle as he scattered bird seed all over the field. Eventually, just like Pavlov's dogs, the pigeons learned to associate the sound of the whistle with the promise of food. When Harvard's football team eventually came back to train during the fall season, they found that just one whistle-blow would cause hundreds of pigeons to descend onto the field, making the field unplayable.
- This prank happened at a friend's brother's girlfriend's cousin's high school in Alabama. Some creative seniors bought an old car from a junkyard and managed to cut it in half. They then wrapped the two halves around the school's flagpole and welded them back together. Hooray!
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley, [Go oft awry]
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
-- "To a mouse," Robert Burns
Please include only pranks that were actually attempted, though unachieved, and not pranks that were merely planned. Sure, we've all imagined awesome pranks -- the list of those would be endless -- but the real thrill of hearing a good prank story is being, in your mind, right there beside the people who carried it out.
- The Great Pumpkin Steal: During Halloween 2005, a giant pumpkin was placed in each dining hall, each weighing over 150 pounds and over a yard in diameter. Several students successfully stole one of these pumpkins out of Driscoll Dining Hall one evening without the dining staff noticing. The pumpkin was found several hours later in the back of one of the students' cars. While they were unable to place the pumpkin on top of Schow, as was planned, they did manage to amaze Security with their ingenuity and skill. Remarked Dave Boyer, "That's the funniest thing I've ever seen. Don't do it again." The editors note that, technically, the pumpkin was within the "one piece of fruit" limit for dining hall take-out.