College Pranks—Cows, Mules, and Let’s Fool the Campus Cops

By: Eliot Stein

As area college students begin to transition from backpacks to briefcases, a few will try to immortalize their higher education with something that will be talked about for generations: a legendary college prank. Here are some notable ones carried out at area universities.

Moo-Vee-Ay

When Thomas Jefferson modeled the University of Virginia’s rotunda after the Roman Pantheon, he probably never envisioned a cow on its roof. In 1965, in the most infamous prank in school history, five Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity brothers coaxed a 250-pound calf up 50 feet of winding stairs to the building’s peak. The animal died shortly after it was removed because of shock, dehydration, and an accidental overdose of Valium by veterinarians. The Case of the Bizarre Bovine remained unsolved for 32 years until a man fessed up at an alumni dinner in 1997. He was later asked to pay $1,765 to investigators—the same amount officials had spent trying to solve the case. Who was the jokester? Alfred Berkeley III, then-president of the multibillion-dollar Nasdaq stock market.

“Put Up Your Hands!”

Georgetown University’s stone-clad Healy Hall is more than a National Historic Landmark; it’s a playground for pranksters keen on stealing the hands of the clock in its tower. In the 1960s, students started sneaking through a passageway once used by Jesuits to ring the clock’s bells. In the ’70s, undergrads took things a step further by mailing the clock hands to the Vatican to be blessed by the pope. While increased security has led to a crackdown in clock heists in recent years, the hands are still stolen every five or six years—most recently in 2005 when two students climbed the building’s construction scaffolding and entered Healy through a broken window. They were given a year’s probation.

Spoons on the Quad

In the early ’80s, a group of Johns Hopkins freshmen became so sick of the university’s mediocre food that they stole all of the cafeteria’s spoons over the course of a week. After hoarding more than 1,000 utensils, the students “planted” them in the freshman quad. Faced with shelling out hundreds of dollars to order new flatware, the university decided to “harvest” the buried spoons one by one, leading a cafeteria chef to declare, “This be Spoon Day!” The four perpetrators were never caught.

“It’s Good, It’s Good”

CollegeHumor.com comedian Streeter Seidell was humiliated when his friend Amir Blumenfeld placed a bogus marriage proposal on the Jumbotron at Yankee Stadium as Seidell sat in the stands with his girlfriend. Seidell waited 18 months to get even. In March 2009, he convinced Blumenfeld to compete in a blindfolded $500,000 half-court shot at halftime of the University of Maryland–Wake Forest basketball game. What Bluemenfeld didn’t know was that Seidell had enlisted the help of the 18,000 students and other fans at the Comcast Center. After Blumenfeld blindly heaved an air ball, everyone roared in celebration, prompting him to run the length of the court and fall to his knees in elation. When Seidell finally told him it was a joke, Blumenfeld covered his head as he walked off the court.

Woohoo! Cake-Pong!

In 2005, a group of George Washington University seniors spread the word about a boozy campus party by posting messages to fellow undergrads on Facebook. When the university police busted the rager, the seniors became convinced that campus officials had been monitoring their online posts. To fight back, the students used Facebook to advertise another sudsy soiree. Only this time when the campus cops showed up, they were met with 40 seniors standing around a table of cookies and cake as revelers played cake-pong.

Mule Road Trip

While the annual Army-Navy football game is one of the biggest rivalries in college football, the Naval Academy and West Point have an equally storied history of kidnapping each other’s mascots before game day. In 1990, West Point cadets nabbed what they thought was the official Angora goat from the Naval Academy’s dairy. The joke was on them when it was discovered that the missing goat hadn’t made the mascot cut because it emitted an especially rank smell. The next year, the midshipmen stole four 1,000-pound mules from West Point. They drove the animals more than 250 miles and paraded them around Annapolis at a Navy pep rally.

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