Wednesday, April 05, 2006

From the Economist, priceless pranks

Mr de Jong

The finest prank in history was perpetrated towards the end of the second world war, against a background of gloom and horror that made it all the more brilliant. German and allied airforces were launching bombing raids on each other's factories with ferocious regularity. The Germans hatched a plan to deceive allied intelligence by building mock wooden factories painted in industrial colours, the hope being that the enemy would waste much of its precious ordinance on them. Soon enough the British figured out what the other side was up to, and sent a lone Avro Lancaster to an industrial area near Duisburg. The plane's mission: to drop a wooden bomb on one of the fake factories.

Imagine the looks on the faces of the German army officials, staring at a harmless "bomb" made from wood, and looking up at the sky, where a crew had earlier put their lives in jeopardy for the sake of a jape. Even they must have been touched by the humour of it.

The road-digging prank

The classic version, pulled by students on numerous occasions, goes as follows. A group of mischievous types procures hard hats, pneumatic drills and other construction-related items. They then cordon off a city-centre section of street and start tearing up the tarmac. One of the group calls the city police to report that students dressed as construction workers are ripping up the road-come quickly! A little while later, he calls the state police, explaining that he and his colleagues, a group of road workers only trying to do their job, are being harassed by a bunch of pranksters dressed as policemen. Before long, the city police arrive to arrest the students, and the state police come to arrest the city police. Chaos ensues.


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