1The day Hollywood became "HOLLYWeeD"
On New Year's Day 2017, the Hollywood sign, one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, was altered by a prankster to read "HOLLYWeeD," in a likely attempt to reflect California's recent vote to legalize recreational marijuana.
Mt. Lee security footage showed a “lone individual” dressed in black climbing the mountain at 3 a.m., scaling the sign's ladders, and hanging tarpaulins over the O's to change them to E's.
The sign, erected in 1923 as an advertisement for a housing development, originally read “HOLLYWOODLAND" and has been altered several times over the years since. "HOLLYWeeD" in itself is not an original idea—on New Year's Day 1976, the sign became “HOLLYWeeD” for the first time. Then, it was the work of Cal State Northridge student Daniel Finegood, who climbed the mountain with $50 worth of curtains. The modification was his project for an art class assignment on working with scale. He earned an "A."
2A prank saluting 9/11 first responders
Pranks at MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have been part of student life since the university opened in 1865 and are meant to demonstrate technical aptitude and cleverness or to commemorate pop culture and historical topics. On September 11, 2006, a life-sized "MIT Fire Department" truck was placed on the university's Great Dome to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
3An artists puts on his own exhibition in MOMA—for TWO years
In the 1970s, artist Harvey Stromberg deceived New York's Museum of Modern Art “with the help of a friend," by putting on an exhibition himself. To prepare his “photo-sculpture" series, he spent weeks in the museum, disguised as a student with a notebook under his arm, peering at art. At the same time, Stromberg measured and photographed the museum itself: light switches, locks, air vents, buzzers, segments of the floor, and bricks in the garden wall. He printed the photos in actual size, covered the backs with adhesive, and added the 300 images of museum equipment to its walls and floors. Some of his work remained up for two years, and he eventually had an official opening for his "show."
4A car is left hanging from the Golden Gate Bridge
Every year, engineering students at the University of British Columbia hold E-Week. Part of the E-Week tradition is to hang VW Beetles from buildings and other places around Vancouver.
In 2001, UBC students went big and tethered the hull of red Beetle to the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge. Witnesses told the California Highway Patrol that about a dozen people pulled off the prank in the middle of the night. Bridge workers cut the 2-inch-wide nylon webbing and let the car drop into the water during the morning rush hour where it remains to this day.
5The students who altered a game day flip card routine
Caltech students perpetuated the "Great Rose Bowl Hoax of 1961" by altering a University of Washington halftime flip-card routine so that it would spell out the word "CALTECH."
That year, lead prankster Lyn Hardy learned that the away team's band and cheerleaders were staying in dormitories at Long Beach State, where Hardy showed up posing as a reporter for the Dorsey High student newspaper. The cheerleaders, who organized the flip-card routine, willingly shared the details of how it worked with the young "writer." But when they left for dinner, Hardy and his crew, the "Fiendish 14," broke into their room and lifted a card-stunt instruction card. They then had 2,400 copies made. A couple of days later, while the cheerleaders were out, they broke in again and "borrowed" the master instructions. The cunning crew mapped out their own master plans and, recruiting partygoers to assist, stamped out a new set of 2,232 individual instruction cards. The 14 picked the lock a third time and replaced the original master plans where they'd found them with no one the wiser. Of course, they also left behind the new individual instruction cards.
With everything in place, the elements of the plan came together better than they had imagined. The first eleven images of the flip-card show had been left unaltered to allay suspicion. The first real alteration occurred with the 12th image, which had been changed from a husky to a beaver (Caltech's mascot), but the change was subtle enough that it escaped the attention of most everyone. The 13th image had been flipped so that it read "SEIKSUH" instead of "HUSKIES," but viewers would likely chalk that up to a simple error. With the 14th image, the Fiendish 14 unveiled "CALTECH," and the rest is prank history.
6A large scale poop prank for the ages
Oxford geologist William Buckland pulled a well thought out prank that lasted a lifetime while an still undergrad.
Armed with buckets of bat guano (poop), Buckland wrote "GUANO" in large letters on the school's lawn. Authorities were appalled, wanted the feces removed immediately, so the lawn was scrubbed and order restored. Or was it?
Guano is very rich in nutrients. Back in the late 1700's, fertilizers from bird excrement were new to British gardeners. Once applied, Buckland's guano seeped into the soil and did what was meant to do. As the weather improved over the season, a distinct pattern emerged. The college could mow and mow, but some tufts of grass stubbornly kept growing higher and thicker than the rest. From a distance, the word GUANO was seen spelled out on the lawn for several seasons after the initial prank. Bravo, William Buckland!
7A car perched on a Cambridge rooftop gathers worldwide attention
In June 1958, the city of Cambridge awoke to see a car perched at the apex of an inaccessible rooftop. Half a century later, prankster and ringleader Peter Davey admitted that he had hatched the plan while staying in rooms at Gonville and Caius College overlooking the Senate House roof.
In 2008, Davey revealed a ground party put the car into position while a lifting party on the Senate House roof hoisted it up using an A-shaped crane constructed from scaffolding poles and steel rope. A third group, the bridge party, passed a plank across the notorious Senate House Leap (an 8ft gap between the roof and a turret window at Caius) and helped the lifters ferry across lifting gear comprising three types of rope, hooks, and pulleys.
The Rev. Hugh Montefiore, then the Dean of Caius, knew who was responsible for the stunt and sent a congratulatory case of champagne to the culprits while publicly maintaining he knew nothing. The spectacle made headlines around the world and left police, firefighters, and civil defense units scratching their collective heads as to how they should hoist the vehicle back down. They never were able to, and instead took it apart with blowtorches.