In View Of The Large Number Of Recent Postings Of College Practical Jokes, I'll 'fess Up That Some Friends And I Were The Instigators Of Many A Prank While Undergraduates In College.

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In view of the large number of recent postings of college practical
jokes, I'll 'fess up that some friends and I were the instigators of many a
prank while undergraduates in college. The following are some of the better

1. I lived in a three-story dorm during my freshman year. Most everyone
listened to the same radio station, which played the National Anthem at the
stroke of midnight every night. It occured to my roommate and I that there
should be some kind of stunt that could be arranged which could use the
playing of the National Anthem as a coordinating cue. Finally, we hit upon
the answer: at the stroke of midnight everyone in the dorm would flush their
toilet! Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon your point of view),
all of their toilets were of the tank variety so that a simultaneous "flush"
would guarantee a copious discharge of water into the sewer.
We really didn't know what would happen when The Time arrived; bets
ranged from "no event" to blowing the basement rec room toilets off the
The Time was a Monday evening, and I figure we had about a 90%
participation rate. The results were not disappointing: a cleanout plug
(which upon retrospection must not have been properly secured) blew out
of the floor in a basement utility room, resulting in about 1/2 inch of
water over the basement floor.
The campus maintenance people went apeshit the next day trying
to figure out what happened; as far as I know, no one ever told them the

2. It somehow came to our attention that most of the campus street
and walkway lighting came on _simultaneously_ each night, the actual time
being based upon the actual level of ambient light. It was obvious that
there was a central control point with a photoelectric sensor somewhere.
After a few exploratory tours of the campus, we came upon a likely
location: two photoelectric controls mounted on the roof of a service
building directly across from the campus electrical substation.
After "borrowing" an extension ladder from a telephone company truck
(which was always left parked near a service building), one Friday night
about 10:00 PM (peak campus traffic time) we climbed on the roof of the
service building and taped flashlights to each of the two photoelectric
sensors. Instant blackness!
Actually, the most amazing part was that it took OVER ONE HOUR for
the campus maintenance people to restore the lights! I would have thought
there to be some kind of manual override for the photoelectric cells, but
perhaps the maintenance people thought there was some kind of underground
cable fault so they didn't rashly restore power.

3. My father managed a soap manufacturing company ever since I was a
little kid, so I grew up with some knowledge of soap formulation chemistry.
There was a civic building near the campus with a large outdoor fountain,
and it occurred to be that the water in this fountain needed "treatment"
when the fountain was turned on in the spring. While home for spring
break, I swiped from my father's plant two gallons of a surfactant called
Triton X-100 (a tradename of Rohm & Haas). This surfactant _really_ foams;
like a few drops will fill a bathtub with suds.
So one night, some friends and I carefully filled some thin plastic
bags with the surfactant, and then casually threw the bags into the fountain
(the bags broke upon impact). The next morning, the fountain was a mass of
soapsuds. The next evening, the picture of the fountain made the front
page of the local newspaper. The caption beneath the picture attributed
the soapsuds to college "spring fever". Since we weren't caught, I wonder
how they knew that???

4. The father of my dorm roommate worked as a repairman for the Otis
Elevator Company. One weekend, I stayed with my roommate at his parent's
home. While talking with his father, we learned an _amazing_ fact: almost
all escalators are reversible for use in breakdowns or emergencies; there
is usually a key-operated reversing switch located under the handrail at
each end of the escalator. We also learned a second _amazing_ fact: most
all Otis elevators and escalators use the _same_ key. While my roommate's
father went out for the evening, we swiped his work keys, and were able to
get many of them duplicated.
As soon as we returned to campus on Sunday evening, we went in
search of an Otis Elevator (we didn't have to go far - our dorm had one).
Sure enough, we had The Key. Over the next few days, we found that The Key
worked on every Otis Elevator that we tried on campus.
We were now ready for en escalator (there were none on campus), and
we readily found one in a five-floor department store in the heart of the
downtown shopping district. It was an Otis, and sure 'nuff it had a reversing
switch at each end beneath the handrail.
We came back on Wednesday night, which was the peak shopping night
of the week. There were two pairs of escalators - one at each end of the
store. After nervously waiting for the right moment when no one was on
the UP escalator, and no one was looking, my roommate inserted The Key, and
turned it. Grrr-klunk-grrr. The UP escalator came to a halt, and reversed
direction - it was now going DOWN! We quickly went to the other escalator
pair, and I got the honor of inserting the key.
We now had an increasingly crowded department store with four
escalators on the main floor, all going down! We tried to act inconspicuous
as possible (not easy with half dozen 18-19 year-olds sporadically going into
fits of hysterical laughter!) and watch the action. People would step on the
UP escalator without looking at direction, and then step back in shock.
Then shock would change to disbelief: an UP escalator going DOWN - impossible!
People in the store were forming an oval as they traveled from the front
escalators to the rear and back, trying to figure out how to get to the
second floor. After about ten minutes of this, with the main floor crowd
growing larger, a _very_ agitated person wearing a suit (must have been the
manager) came by with a big ring of keys, frantically trying each key in the
escalator until he found the right one to operate the key switch. Since
the manager was eying us suspiciously, we didn't stick around to find out any
more about the situation.