Throughout my life I’ve played a lot of really stupid (yet usually fun) pranks on friends, relatives, strangers, schools, businesses and anyone else I’ve encountered. Here are a few of the more memorable examples.
1989: While playing around with my new Tandy 1000ex that I’d recently purchased from the theater I worked for, I was experimenting with the modem’s terminal program and noticed that I could redial a number over and over until I got a computer tone. Since I hadn’t yet discovered any local computer numbers I decided to play a prank on our assistant manager at work.
Every Wednesday our regular manager took the day off and this old guy named Sherman would come in his place. Sherman wasn’t too skilled in discipline and we were always playing jokes on him. My favorite was to call the pay phone in the theater’s lobby which was right outside his office. He would come out and answer it and using different voices I would keep him on the phone as long as I could while I hid under the counter. After the conversation ended he would come over to tell us what an idiot he had been talking to and in the end we would start laughing at him and let him in on the joke. He’d always give his patented, “Goddammn it, Brad! You’re REALLY on my shitlist now!”
So right before work I set up my computer to call the theater’s pay phone and set it to redial the number 9000 times. Since I didn’t know how to turn off the modem’s speaker I opened the top of the computer and shoved a wash cloth on top of the modem to muffle the sound so my parents wouldn’t walk by my room and hear Sherman screaming into the phone.
That night at work I was on the floor laughing for about an entire 4 hours straight. Sherman was already pissed by the time I got there because of the ringing phone. He had assumed I was calling from home to bother him but when he saw me come in the door he figured it couldn’t be me. Then he started watching the girls I was working with thinking it must be them. Nearly every time the phone rang he would pick it up and just yell “HELLO!?!” into it and eventually he would slam it down muttering, “Goddamn idiot…” After an hour he came up with the idea of leaving the phone off the hook. This worked for about 20 minutes until someone came out to use the phone and then replaced the receiver. Almost immediately the phone rang back and Sherman went into his rage again.
I can’t really explain why this was so hilarious to us. He just kept ranting and ranting and asking us why this was happening. Why would someone spend all evening calling a pay phone over and over and never saying anything? Who could be doing this?? How can we stop it??? By the 2nd hour of all this I’d let my co-workers know that it was my computer doing the calling and this just made everyone laugh at Sherman even more. At one point he came over and told me he KNEW I was responsible and made me stay away from the telephone behind the counter.
Our night of fun finally ended when we decided that we were going to go insane if we heard the phone ring any longer. So I called my mom at home and asked her to PLEASE go in my room and turn off the computer immediately. If you want to see pictures of good ‘ole Sherman you can view them at my Eastgate page. I don’t think we ever did tell him I was responsible for the phone calls.
During my grade school years a friend and I had an unusual obsession with tying strings across the road, hiding somewhere and watching the reactions of passing cars. Most would crash through the strings without noticing until they had hit them. Usually we’d use fishing line (nearly invisible of course) and tie a toy or leaf or some random object right in the middle of the road. Then when a car approached, me & a friend would be holding the other end of the string and start pulling it to make it appear that the object was flying around in the middle of the road. When we did this the car would always stop and sit there for awhile and if we got lucky a person would get out of the car and try to grab the object. After awhile we learned to tie the strings high enough so that nobody could reach it if they tried. (And also so they couldn’t follow the string and find us.)
When slime became really popular (you know, the slime you bought in the gum machines for 25 cents) we started tying a stick in the middle of the road and then putting a big glob of slime hanging off the stick so when a car drove into it, it would splat onto their window. You can imagine the reactions especially since nobody knew what the hell had hit the window. Another time we were tying action figures to the string and making a Spiderman jump all over the road while cars came by. But while a guy was riding his bike by I didn’t get the string down in time and it got stuck on his bike without him realizing it and it pulled Spiderman away and we never saw him again. This was really devistating for both me and my friend.
Another thing we did was to each stand on opposite sides of the road across from each other and when a car would approach each of us would pretend to be holding a string while actually we didn’t have anything in our hands. We’d both stand there pretending to hold a string and the cars would slow to see what we’re up to. Some would tell us to drop the string so they could pass, some would just look at us and keep going.
Probably the coolest thing we did with fishing line was when I loop a peice around a telephone wire and ran it back to my bedroom window on the 2nd floor. Then I took an old Simon game (it was a large plastic circle with four different colored clear panels on the top of it.) and hung it from the string upside down. During the night I lit up the panels with some flashlight bulbs and by pulling one end of the string managed to pull the simon game across the neighbor’s yard and then directly above the intersection by our house. My intent was to start a big UFO scare with passing cars but we only managed to make a few cars slow down but none stopped and got out or anything. And none of the tabloids came to our neighborhood so I guess I failed. Eventually the fishing line broke off of the telephone pole and I had to drag my Simon game back up to safety.
In grade school my friend came up with the idea making merchandise in the local corner store (Sever’s Market in East Alton) talk to customers. We started out my sticking our walkie talkies behind items and as a customer was browsing we would encourage them to buy us. “Hey, buy me! I’m Snuggles and I’m Snugglely soft! HEY!” or maybe a, “Corn Flakes are gross, why don’t you buy Froot Loops instead!” A few times we actually brought in empty cereal boxes and stuck the walkie talkies inside the boxes but the store owners eventually asked us to cut it out.
Years later I purchased one of those miniature FM transmitters from Radio Shack that let me tune into any blank radio station and broadcast anything I wanted. So I started tuning in the display clock radios and stereos at local department stores to my frequency and waiting for someone to walk by. “Hey what the heck are you looking at?? Haven’t you ever seen a radio before??” Once I actually got a lady to scream when we turned up all the radios in an isle to high volume and when she walked through I screamed at her. I hear she’s still recovering nicely, though.
During my 8th grade year in school I was the proud owner of a TRS-80 with 64k of memory. I also had a “speech card” for it which allowed me to compose complex 8-bit music and it made the computer talk. Of course I immeidately put this to good use by writing a program to annoy Domino’s Pizza with. I had a big menu up on my screen of all the different things I would need to say to Domino’s when I called them such as “Cheese Pizza, Thin Crust, Pepperoni,” etc. They thought it was the weirdest thing when a computerized voice called them constantly to order pizzas.
After awhile the fun wore off because they refused to deliver pizzas to anyone without a human voice. So of course I turned to calling up pay phones with the computer. Just a few blocks from our house was the East Alton 7-Eleven and every single night a group of about 4 or 5 kids hung out there next to the pay phones. So one night after I’d written down the numbers to each of the pay phones I started calling them up and talking to them with my computer. And since I was using the computer voice, these morons believed every word I told them.
I would sit at the computer for 3 or 4 hours at a time talking to these guys and had them convinced that I was an advanced military computer system sitting on a desk in the White House. They would ask why I called their pay phone all the time and I would reply that I was bored, sitting there on the desk all day. I would throw in random bits from my favorite movie Short Circuit like, “Malfunction, need input!” and “Number 5 is alive!” and these guys would just eat it up. This went on for several months and I even managed to get a few of their home phone numbers and call them at home. One of the guys on the pay phone told me he had to run into the store to buy cigarettes so I hung up and called the clerk inside the store and made the computer say, “Hello, this is number 5, a top secret military computer. I would like to talk to my friend who is in there to buy cigarettes. He is only 13 years old.” And I heard the clerk get kind of annoyed at the guy and he finally hung up on me. Later that night the kid asked me to please not do that again.
I have an uncanny way of making the phone company come to me for the littlest things even when what I’m doing seems harmless enough. I believe it was during my 6th grade year in school my parents decided to get me a set of Radio Shack CB walkie talkies for my birthday. They came with CB channel 14 preinstalled and let me add up to 2 more CB channels by plugging in crystals. I picked channels 19 and 35 and I’ll go into more detail about all the havoc I caused in a future section of this page.
Another guy who was a year or two older than me (his name was Artie Smith and he used “Crazy Knightrider” as his CB handle) figured out who I was and started broadcasting my name and home address over and over and over for days just to annoy/scare me. It didn’t bother me too much but this guy was using illegal amplifiers on his radio equipment and it turned out that he was broadcasting my name and home address to many telephone subscribers as well. A guy from Illinois Bell security showed up at our door wanting to search my room and look at my CB “equipment.” Since I was so young I never really got to hear exactly what happened but I’m pretty sure my dad convinced him that we didn’t have any high powered equipment in our house. I had to explain to him about this guy on the CB broadcasting my name all over the place.
In 7th grade I came home from school to an empty house so I did what I always did, plopped down on my parents bed where they had the convenience of a push button (but pulse-dial) telephone and starting making random prank calls. This happened to be our first push button telephone (yes, I know I’m fucking old) and as I was clicking the hangup button in between calls I noticed that the dial tone would stop. After a bit of playing around I realized I was actually dialing the number “1.” After some more practicing I figured out that I could dial any number I wanted by clicking the hangup button the appropriate amount of times. Sadly it took me almost a year to figure out that I had to click it 10 times to dial a zero. I just figured I couldn’t click a zero.
For the next year I nearly drove my family insane by dialing every single one of my phone calls with the switchhook. The other phones in our house were all Bell-issued rotary-dial phones and when I used the switchhook technique on these it was loud enough to wake everybody up. Come to think of it I think my parents threatened to ground me if I didn’t cut it out.
Dialing with the switchhook caused a lot of misdialing and sometimes I would screw up and have to redial. I guess after a year of this I triggered Illinois Bell’s trouble system so many times that they finally decided to call up and grill me as to what was going on. My parents weren’t home so I spent a good 15 minutes on the phone with the guy answering questions and playing dumb. He kept wanting to know if we were using any non-Bell issued phones and I was afraid to admit this because I was under the impression that using a non-Bell phone was illegal. He said he’d call back when my parents were home but I never heard anything more about it. This definately curbed my switchhook dialing habit though.
Sometime during my later years in high school I had my own phone line and when I wasn’t home I would forward my phone calls to various telephone company test lines. My favorite was the local Wood River number that simply said, “The call you have made requires a 25 cent deposit. Please hang up, deposit 25 cents and try your call again.” and hung up on the caller.
Apparently this caused quite a bit of confusion because somebody calling my line assumed that this was a major problem with their own line and called Illinois Bell repair to come out and check their lines. After checking these people’s lines and finding nothing wrong they started investigating OUR lines and when they called my house and got a pay phone recording they were totally stumped.
When I got home from school one day my mom asked me what I’d done to my line because the phone company had been calling all day trying to figure out what was going on. I explained it to her and she actually thought it was pretty funny. I had to call up the phone company and make up a story about it being my answering machine which seemed to satisfy the lady I was talking to. They never called back about it. Maybe they felt stupid.
In 1995 I began experimenting heavily with the phone company’s call forwarding features. Not only was I playing with it on my own line but I was ordering remote access call forwarding for other peoples’ lines. We figured out that when you call forwarded someone’s line to AT&T’s 1-800-CALL-ATT number we could call their number, be connected to AT&T and use illegal codes to make free phone calls that could only be traced back to that person’s phone rather than us.
After awhile I started forwarding people’s lines to 900 sex lines and psychic lines so we could call these local numbers and be connected to 900 numbers for free. Or so we thought. In the end we figured out that any line owned by AT&T would not be billed to us but a line owned by MCI would pass along our number and the 900 companies would unknowingly double-bill us. So not only would we get billed for the calls but so would the person whose line we forwarded. But this was confusing for the phone company because they couldn’t figure out how I could possibly be calling 900 numbers from my line when I had a 900 number block on the line.
So one morning some guy from Southwestern Bell calls me up and he’s stuttering the whole time because he’s so confused and doesn’t know exactly how to ask me what’s going on. I played dumb (as usual) and they eventually removed the charges from my line since I had the block on my phone. But they called me several times after that to question me more about the incident and they were apparently REALLY confused about it. I just had to learn which 900 numbers were owned by AT&T and which were owned by MCI.
I went to East Alton-Wood River Community High School in Wood River, Illinois. I hated it. Looking back on it, I see it as a complete waste of 4 years of my life. If I had to do it all over again, I think I would drop out as soon as I got a drivers license. Anyway, I was a horrific burden on the school, the teachers and the students. In this section I will attempt to explain why.
After getting a drivers license, I would regularly go across the river to Missouri to stock up on fireworks. One day I decided that it’d be a good idea to set off a pack of 100 saturn missles in the school’s basement. Oddly enough, I couldn’t get any friends to help me out with this endeavor. So one day at lunch I opened up a locked door to the auditorium for an escape route and then quickly ran around the school to figure out the locations of a few of the teachers that monitored the halls.
After assuming it was safe, I ran to the basement near a student lounge, set the missles on the ground in the middle of a hallway, lit it and ran for my life. I didn’t set up any kind of delay on the fuse so I only had a few seconds to get away. As I ran into the auditorium, I stripped off my gloves (wore them to avoid fingerprints on the missles), threw them in my backpack, stashed the backpack in a props area, came out of the auditorium on the opposite side of the school and quickly made my way to the cafeteria. Before I even got in the auditorium the missles began to go off. If you don’t know what saturn missles are – they make an insanely loud whistling noise as they shoot into the air. Now imagine an insanely loud whistling noise 100 times in a row. They could be heard all over the school and anyone happening to walk into that hall was probably shot by plastic missles.
About 5 minutes later I was roaming the halls near the cafeteria, listening to people talk about the missles. One of the lunchtime hall monitors, Mr. Perry, saw me and started signaling for me to come over there. He asked if I knew anything about the fireworks and I said no. He took each of my hands and sniffed them, hoping to smell the firework residue. Luckily I wore the gloves so I guess there wasn’t a smell. He let me go and that was the end of it. A lot of people knew that I was responsible for it so I’m really surprised I never got nailed for it.
During high school me and a few friends really managed to piss some people off with food coloring. The funnest thing was to squirt it on the hand rails as we got into school, then we’d go sit in the cafeteria for awhile and watch as students would walk in holding their blue and green hands up in disgust. After the humor wore off on that I started squirting the doorknobs of my classroom before I went in, then shutting the door so students’s (and sometimes the teacher’s) hands would be covered with it. A lot of times they wouldn’t even notice it until later during class after it was all over their books and papers.
Ah, and I can’t forget the pay phone at school. We would squirt a little on the ear and mouth piece, then dial the number that makes your phone ring back at you. After a few minutes a curious student would come by and pick up the phone, covering their ear and sometimes getting it on their mouth too. We did this a few times at other public pay phones but it was always the most fun at school.
I failed health class 3 times on purpose. The reason was because health class was a substitute for P.E. class which I hated. I figured if I just keep failing health class every semester, I’ll never have to take P.E. again. Occasionally our health class teacher would take us to the basement of another building on campus where they had a big screen TV for us to watch videos. I guess he did this when all the regular TV/VCR carts were checked out. One day, I got the bright idea of forging the health teacher’s handwriting and putting a note on the door, telling students that health class would be held in that room today. My health class was held right after lunch so the teacher was usually the last one to class.
So I did a really good job on the note. It said something along the lines of, “Today’s class will be held in room #B102. -Mr. Carter.” This was the room in the basement of another building. It was usually locked but during lunch I opened the door with a cafeteria knife and turned on the lights. I got to health class before anyone else did, shut the door and put up the note. Then I stood by the rail, looking into the courtyard and waiting for Mr. Carter to arrive. As soon as I saw him, I ripped down the note and headed for the basement of the other building.
About half of the class showed up in the basement. The other half went to regular health class. The basement room was complete chaos without the teacher and it lasted for about half of the class. Somehow Mr. Carter eventually figured out where we were and sent a student down to get us. I don’t remember exactly what happened when we got back but I know the one guy in class who knew I did it, hinted to Mr. Carter that I was responsible. Instead of punishing me, he took 30 points off of my grade. Which seems a little unfair. But who cares, my goal was to fail that class again anyway.
My first year in high school was the beginning of the Channel 1 TV service. Channel 1 put a TV in every classroom so that they could play advertisements at the students for 15 minutes every day. They disguised these ads as a news show. Anyway, I took out service for half of the school by cutting random coax wires around the school with my wire cutters. Service stayed out for the entire year. They repaired it once and I cut the wires again. You’d think I would be happy to have 15 minutes a day to watch stupid TV ads and public service announcements. But ruining their forced advertising was much more amusing.
This whole event spanned over a couple of years but I’m pretty sure it was most active during 1984 when I was in 5th or 6th grade. I loved talking to people on the CB Radio and more importantly I loved to annoy people on the radio. Whenever my parents would leave somewhere I would stay home and get my dad’s truck keys, hide in the front seat and bother people until they got home. Then I’d have to sneak back in without being seen.
I finally convinced them that getting me a set of CB walkie talkies would be a good thing. Me and my best friend had a blast with these because the range was virtually unlimited in East Alton and most of Wood River. The walkie talkies both came with a channel 14 crystal which just happened to be the city’s most active channel. About a dozen hard-core CB operators hung out on channel 14 yacking away all evening. I eventually installed channels 19 and 35 into them which were also active channels in the area.
The locals took an immediate disliking to our sense of humor especially since our intentions were mainly to irritate them. We started out by inturrupting their conversations and making remarks about every little thing they said. Then I brought a tape recorder into our fun. I would tape their conversations and then later edit out one side of the conversation. A few days later I would use the tape so that I could talk to the locals in their own voices and surprisingly it almost always worked.
I’d play a tape of one of them yelling, “Breaker breaker! How ’bout ya Blue Ribbon!?” and Blue Ribbon would immediately give him a friendly answer and I’d play the next part of the tape. We’d go on and on like this until finally my tape recordings stopped making sense to them and they’d either say, “Didn’t we talk about this yesterday?” or “Dude, you’re not making any sense! What’s wrong with you?”
One guy in particular vowed to forever find us and bring us down but apparently it wasn’t too easy to track down a couple of low powered walkie talkies. His CB handle was Lead Foot and he was on a mission. I don’t remember exactly how but we eventually figured out who he was and where he lived and could easily recognize his car if it was coming. Him and his CB friends hung out just a few blocks from where my parents lived.
One day after school we were doing our usual tormenting and suddenly Lead Foot yells, “Hey asshole how you doing??! I’m sitting in front of your house asshole! It’s a yellow house and there’s bushes on either side of it! How about if I come in and say hello??” Needless to say I was shitting my pants because he had just described my house to me. After I fianlly got up the courage to go downstairs and peek out of the front window I didn’t see anyone although he was still ranting about me. Finally I looked out a different window and see his car parked in front of a house at the other end of the block. The house description was the same and it had a huge CB antenna on top of it.
Since me and my friend had similar voices and were equally annoying I think he had a hard time tracking us down since we were both at our own houses at the time. The house Lead Foot ended up at was more in the direction of where my friend lived. I was relieved to see him going up to this guy’s house to yell at him. They stood on the porch talking for quite awhile as we kept quiet and as soon as Lead Foot drove off past my house I said, “Wrong house Lead Foot, sir.” and he went a little insane on us then. He always was a little high strung.
Eventually the fun of our CBs wore off a little and we turned to calling up people on local payphones and bothering them instead. We still had occasional moments on the CB and Lead Foot was always ready to scream at us but we eventually got back to using our walkie talkies for useful things like tormenting shoppers at Sever’s Market.