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6 People Who Went to Great Lengths for Their Pranks

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Blog.Hemmings.com

Julie Winterbottom is the former editor in chief of Nickelodeon magazine, where she fulfilled her childhood dream of getting paid to write jokes; her book, Pranklopedia: The Funniest, Grossest, Not-Mean Pranks on the Planet! is on sale now. Julie lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she pulls pranks on her boyfriend and cat.

In honor of April Fools’ Day—which is next Monday—here are six people who went to great lengths to pull some one-of-a-kind pranks.

1. A Garden of Mirthly Delights

Hellbrunn.at

Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus ruled Salzburg from 1612 to 1619. Soon after he ascended the throne, he commissioned a summer palace to be built at the foot of Hellbrunn Mountain. The enormous Italianate mansion was everything you’d expect from a wealthy nobleman—but the garden was another story. Sittikus had the gardens rigged with trick fountains and statues that squirted people with water as they strolled by. A long stone dinner table had nine stools with water nozzles hidden in the seats so Sittikus could give his guests surprise showers. (A tenth stool, reserved for Sittikus, was nozzle-free.) Today Sittikus’s palace is a tourist attraction—and the sprayers still work. So if you end up visiting, watch where you sit.

2. A Rare Breed of Prankster

Feline Historical Foundation

Brian G. Hughes was a New York manufacturer and banker, but according to his 1924 obituary, his true calling was prankster. Hughes liked to hoax prominent people who he believed took themselves too seriously—like the directors of the snooty National Cat Show. In 1895, Hughes bought a stray cat from a hobo for 30 cents, cleaned it up, and a few months later entered it in the show under the name Nicodemus. Hughes told the judges the cat was a rare “Irish Brindle” valued at $3000. Nicodemus won a first prize, at which point Hughes revealed the hoax—and the cat’s real name, Josephine—much to the embarrassment of the judges.

3. Fruit of the Loony

Thinkstock/Bryan Dugan

In 1950, California cartoonist Frank Adams’s wild idea for a prank bore fruit—literally. The National Orange Show had just taken place in San Bernardino, not far from Adams’ home, and there were thousands of oranges left over. Adams managed to get ahold of them and then convinced 25 friends to help him attach all 50,000 oranges to pine trees along a section of the Rim of the World highway. They did the job under cover of night, and the next morning, drivers were amazed to see that the pines trees had magically produced a crop of citrus.

4. All the Way with LBJ

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President Lyndon B. Johnson adored cars and kept a large collection of cherished Lincolns and other vehicles at his Texas ranch. One of his most unusual cars was an Amphicar—it looked like a normal car, but was amphibious and functioned like a motorboat when it entered a body of water. Johnson realized this vehicle was perfect for pranking guests. He would invite his visitors to take a drive around the ranch with him in the blue convertible. When they got to a steep hill at the edge of a lake, Johnson would let the car pick up speed. Then he’d yell, “The brakes don’t work! The brakes won’t hold! We’re going in!” As the car entered the lake, the passengers would panic—until they realized that rather than sinking, they were motoring across the lake. One victim of the prank, Special Assistant to the President Joseph A. Califano, Jr., recalled that his boss teased him later for trying to save his own skin instead of the president’s.

5. A Traffic-Stopping Prank

In 2006, students at Austin High School in Austin, Minnesota engineered a prank that capitalized on the unusual architecture of their school. A busy street separates two buildings on the school’s campus. Students can use the crosswalk or an underground tunnel to get from one building to the other. At an appointed time on the day of the prank, 94 students began filing across the street, using the crosswalk. Then they circled back through the underground tunnel and crossed the street again—and again, and again—creating an endless stream of pedestrians. Traffic was tied up for nearly 10 minutes as cars lined up waiting for the students (including one dressed as a cow and another as a chicken) to finish crossing.

6. Panhandler Party

One evening in August 2012, actor and comedian Gary Lee Mahmoud gave some New York City straphangers the ride of their life. NYC commuters are used to panhandlers coming through the subway cars asking for money or selling candy and other goods. Mahmoud and his co-conspirators took this phenomenon to a hilarious extreme, creating a “panhandler party.” Over the course of four minutes, actors portraying 10 different panhandlers—including an angry Wall Streeter who didn’t get his bonus—invade a single subway car. By the end of the prank, the entire carful of commuters is cracking up.

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Big Questions
What Happened to the Physical Copy of the 'I Have a Dream' Speech?
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AFP, Getty Images

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave a speech for the ages, delivering the oratorical masterpiece "I Have a Dream" to nearly 250,000 people.

When he was done, King stepped away from the podium, folded his speech, and found himself standing in front of George Raveling, a former Villanova basketball player who, along with his friend Warren Wilson, had been asked to provide extra security around Dr. King while he was speaking. "We were both tall, gangly guys," Raveling told TIME in 2003. "We didn't know what we were doing but we certainly made for a good appearance."

Moved by the speech, Raveling saw the folded papers in King’s hands and asked if he could have them. King gave the young volunteer the speech without hesitation, and that was that.

“At no time do I remember thinking, ‘Wow, we got this historic document,’” Raveling told Sports Illustrated in 2015. Not realizing he was holding what would become an important piece of history in his hands, Raveling went home and stuck the three sheets of paper into a Harry Truman biography for safekeeping. They sat there for nearly two decades while Raveling developed an impressive career coaching NCAA men’s basketball.

In 1984, he had recently taken over as the head coach at the University of Iowa and was chatting with Bob Denney of the Cedar Rapids Gazette when Denney brought up the March on Washington. That's when Raveling dropped the bomb: “You know, I’ve got a copy of that speech," he said, and dug it out of the Truman book. After writing an article about Raveling's connection, the reporter had the speech professionally framed for the coach.

Though he displayed the framed speech in his house for a few years, Raveling began to realize the value of the piece and moved it to a bank vault in Los Angeles. Though he has received offers for King’s speech—one collector wanted to purchase the speech for $3 million in 2014—Raveling has turned them all down. He has been in talks with various museums and universities and hopes to put the speech on display in the future, but for now, he cherishes having it in his possession.

“That to me is something I’ll always be able to look back and say I was there,” Raveling said in the original Cedar Rapids Gazette article. “And not only out there in that arena of people, but to be within touching distance of him. That’s like when you’re 80 or 90 years old you can look back and say ‘I was in touching distance of Abraham Lincoln when he made the Gettysburg Address.’"

“I have no idea why I even asked him for the speech,” Raveling, now CEO of Coaching for Success, has said. “But I’m sure glad that I did.”

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Live Smarter
3 Reasons Why Your New Year's Resolutions Fail—and How to Fix Them
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iStock

You don’t need a special day to come up with goals, but New Year’s Day is as good a time as any to build better habits. The problem is, by the time February rolls around, our best laid plans have often gone awry. Don’t let it happen this year: Heed these three simple tips for fail-proof resolutions.

PROBLEM 1: THEY’RE TOO OVERWHELMING

Let’s say your goal is to pay off $5000 worth of credit card debt this year. Since you're giving yourself a long timeframe (all year) to pay it down, you end up procrastinating or splurging, telling yourself you’ll make up for it later. But the longer you push it off, the bigger and more overwhelming your once-reasonable goal can feel.

Solution: Set Smaller Milestones

The big picture is important, but connecting your goal to the present makes it more digestible and easier to stick with. Instead of vowing to pay off $5000 by the end of next December, make it your resolution to put $96 toward your credit card debt every week, for example.

In a study from the University of Wollongong, researchers asked subjects to save using one of two methods: a linear model and a cyclical model. In the linear model, the researchers told subjects that saving for the future was important and asked them to set aside money accordingly. In contrast, they told the cyclical group:

This approach acknowledges that one’s life consists of many small and large cycles, that is, events that repeat themselves. We want you to think of the personal savings task as one part of such a cyclical life. Make your savings task a routinized one: just focus on saving the amount that you want to save now, not next month, not next year. Think about whether you saved enough money during your last paycheck cycle. If you saved as much as you wanted, continue with your persistence. If you did not save enough, make it up this time, with the current paycheck cycle.

When subjects used this cyclical model, focusing on the present, they saved more than subjects who focused on their long-term goal.

PROBLEM 2: THEY'RE TOO VAGUE

“Find a better job” is a worthy goal, but it's a bit amorphous. It's unclear what "better" means to you, and it’s difficult to plot the right course of action when you’re not sure what your desired outcome is. Many resolutions are vague in this way: get in shape, worry less, spend more time with loved ones.

Solution: Make Your Goal a SMART One

To make your goal actionable, it should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. When you set specific parameters and guidelines for your goal, it makes it easier to come up with an action plan. Under a bit more scrutiny, "spend more time with loved ones" might become "invite my best friends over for dinner every other Sunday night." This new goal is specific, measurable, time-bound—it ticks all the boxes and tells you exactly what you want and how to get there.

PROBLEM 3: YOU FELL FOR THE “FALSE FIRST STEP”

“A false first step is when we try to buy a better version of ourselves instead of doing the actual work to accomplish it,” Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch tells Mental Floss. “The general idea is that purchasing something like a heart rate monitor can feel a lot like we're taking a step towards our fitness goals,” Ongaro says. “The purchase itself can give us a dopamine release and a feeling of satisfaction, but it hasn't actually accomplished anything other than spending some money on a new gadget.”

Even worse, sometimes that dopamine is enough to lure you away from your goal altogether, Ongaro says. “That feeling of satisfaction that comes with the purchase often is good enough that we don't feel the need to actually go out for a run and use it.”

Solution: Start With What You Already Have

You can avoid this trap by forcing yourself to start your goal with the resources you already have on hand. “Whether the goal is to learn a new language or improve physical fitness, the best way to get started and avoid the false first step is to do the best you can with what you already have,” Ongaro says. “Start really small, even learning one new word per day for 30 days straight, or just taking a quick walk around the block every day.”

This isn’t to say you should never buy anything related to your goal, though. As Ongaro points out, you just want to make sure you’ve already developed the habit a bit first. “Establish a habit and regular practice that will be enhanced by a product you may buy,” he says. “It's likely that you won't even need that gadget or that fancy language learning software once you actually get started ... Basically, don't let buying something be the first step you take towards meaningful change in your life.”

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