Pranks, gags & Pratical Jokes

The maliciousness of my youth.
September 16, 2008
There lives a joker in all of us. There is something intrinsically cruel about human nature in that we readily laugh at other people's fright, pain, shock, surprise, embarrassment, etc. Maybe it is a self defense mechanism because we know we are just as vulnerable and we are secretly glad it is them suffering and not us.
No one knows this better than a adolescent boy both how to reap joy out of other people's misery and also how to dish it out. Ahh boredom... the birthplace of ingenuity. Enter practical jokes.

***DISCLAIMER*** most jokes you may have gotten away with as a youth will get you punched, charged, sued, arrested, or shot as an adult. The words criminal mischief, destruction of property, propelling incendiary devices from a moving vehicle, throwing missiles, criminal trespassing, possession of explosive devices, assault, mayhem, etc. come to mind.
When I was a kid we used to make dry ice bombs among other things. Now-a-days it is a felony at least where I live to possess or manufacture any explosive device whether it is a chemical reaction explosion or an incendiary one.

The level of our pranks rose to a whole new level of Machiavellian scheming and cruelty the older I got through high school and then college. I am not here to tell you about all of the mean things I did to others some of which I truly regret and others of which are sure to land me a spot in Hades. Remember a joke is not funny if someone actually gets hurt. I want to tell you about the more innocent times and pranks of my youth. So if you lack a conscious and your moral compass is not always pointed to true North follow me into the realm of joke shops, gag stores, and Magic shops to buy some of my favorite pranks and some of the more common tricks of the trade. Let's start out simple...

Fly in ice cube

In actuality the plastic cube did not look anything like an ice cube unless it was frozen cream soda or something. It was usually a sickly yellowish color but some of the better ones actually had a real fly corpse inside. They would have fooled no-one except the legally blind and most people quickly snatched them out of their glass not because of the fly but because of the yellow cube. It was the idea that counted though after several failed attempts with the store bought gag we eventually started making real ones by collecting dead flies from windowsills and freezing them in ice cube trays. It was a mixture of feelings as some never even got noticed in the glass, and some actually got swallowed, but payoff when one was noticed with a disgusted, "Eccchhhhh!!".

Disappearing Ink

This prank would have had a much more practical use in a Victorian setting when people were still using things such as quill pens. However kids could still come up with ways to make it work. The premise is simple spill the ink on someone or something and giggle fiendishly as the owner worries endlessly about never getting out the dark blue ink stain from the rug or favorite shirt. Then watch after a few minutes as the stain slowly disappears by itself usually just in time to save the prankster from a beating. Coupling it with a squirting pen to be able to propel the ink onto unsuspecting classmates or victims is always fun. Not to be confused with invisible ink from spy pens that needed UV light to be able to read the secret message.

Itching powder

Itching powder is great fun to sprinkle down the back of some unsuspecting victim's shirt or dump into the cast covering the broken limb of some unlucky or clumsy kid and laughing uproariously as they attempt to scratch the itch in a hard to reach place. I never did get the desired effect on the package of growing an extra limb but I'll bet the victims were wishing for an extra arm to scratch with. Be careful however because some people can have allergic reactions to rosehips or cloves (common ingredients in the powder) and a trip to the emergency room is never fun.


Not truly a prank so much as a necessary accessory to pull off other pranks to appear as if you are not observing the results of the prank and could not possibly be the guilty one as the victim looks for someone to blame. These glasses had mirrors on the outside edges of the lenses on the side toward your face allowing you to use your peripheral vision to see behind you. My favorite application was the dollar bill attached to a nearly invisible fishing line carelessly dropped on the floor of the mall or other public place and watch as people would stoop to pick it up and you would jerk the line to whisk it out of reach. I had it down pat so that instead of looking for the prankster they thought it was a gust of wind blowing it away from them and they would stoop again and again to pick it up. Some of them chasing it for several yards at nearly a dead run. Others doing the one leg tango down the walkways as they attempt to stamp on the bill. Meanwhile you sit serenely eating your pretzel at the nearby food court using your glasses to look the opposite direction. You could stand at the corner of a building with your back to the wall and use the glasses to see around the corner, great for acting as look-out while more elaborate pranks were being set up by your cohorts in crime.

x-ray specs

The prank will be on you if you purchase these worthless specs. The lure of actually being able to see through clothes or walls is undeniable and you probably bought a pair and were duped out of your money also. In reality they usually had fuzzy lenses that distorted your vision to something like being knocked senseless by a prize fighter. The double or triple images of whatever you were looking at would produce a sensation that you could see through the outside images to what was behind or that the image in the center was darker and skinnier and the outline of the object say your finger became the bone in your hand on the outer image. You can produce the same effect by holding a finger close to your nose and staring directly at it. Your dominant eye will see the finger while your other eye will see the background behind it.

Never ending candles

Happy birthday to you!!! Make a wish and blow out a candle oh wait they sparkle then relight. Ha you must be getting really old you can't even blow out all of the candles. Mostly entertaining for very young children.

Trick gum

They made gum that was blazing hot for a second or two that you could offer to your friend. Better yet was snap gum with a minuscule spring like a mouse trap ready to snap on your friend's finger when he pulls out the stick. The first thing for either trick was to get rid of the lame packaging and put the trick gum into a pack of Wrigley's or Fruit Stipe gum.

Hand buzzers

I guess I pictured something in between the smoking corpse produced by the Joker's ring in the 1989 Batman movie and the static shock produced by walking in socks on carpet and touching an unsuspecting victim. Needless to say I was more than disappointed when I found out all that it really was is a wind up vibrator. The weird thing was that sometimes it actually worked because the sensation of the quick vibration in the handshake actual feels like an electric shock.

Baby rattlesnake eggs

First of all rattlesnakes are viviparous, meaning that the embryo develops inside a fertilized egg inside the animal and then after gestation there is a live birth. Oviparous animals lay eggs, some snakes do but not rattlers. There is your Cliff Clavin fact for the day. For those who never watched Cheers he was a know it all mailman who always spouted random facts. The same actor and same random facts are found in Toy Story from Hamm the pig. But seriously how many people actually know that about rattlers as kids? This little heart stopper was basically a rubber-band with a washer on it that was wound taught and when the package would open it would quickly unwind causing the washer edges to pound the paper envelope and cause a startle response from the "rattle" sound.

Squirting flowers and rings

The flowers never did much unless you were dressed as a clown. The rings on the other hand were easily concealed in your hand to deliver a little jet of water at your prey. The true function of course was to show off your gaudy jewelry or flower hoping someone would lean close and squirt them in the face. I always removed the junk jewelry and just had the squirter. My best one was a small accordion squirter from a cereal box prize that fit inside my hand with the nozzle between fingers. It delivered about three times as much water as the rings and was simply awesome on yearbook signing day when one year my junior high school had everyone also wear white shirts to sign if we wanted. Let me just tell you it was pure chaos as all of the girls in white shirts ran away screaming clutching themselves and wondering where the water came from as you nonchalantly passed by. What were they going to do suspend us? It was the last day of school!

Which brings up Water balloons!

Who didn't chuck balloons at unsuspecting passers-by from a lofty perch or at vehicles on the highway. Now that I think about it that was kind of dumb because we could have caused a major car wreck. However most of the time we never even saw the victims because we had a launcher that could chuck the balloons or eggs about a half block. Our spotter would locate victims: girls laying out on towels, people reading papers, picnics, etc. We would set up the artillery and anything in our predetermined bombing range was history.


Bullet hole stickers were pretty cool if you got the higher quality ones and placed on car windshield looked real. We also used to get fly stickers with a realistic picture of a fly on them and then watch people try to swat the fly.
Remember Lunchables? I remember they came with this little container of Dijon mustard you could squeeze onto your "sandwiches". We always used it to squirt some on peoples' car windows from about one foot above the glass. The color, the little spice dots, and the perfect splat technique made for an excellent faux bird dropping. Man I would be pissed if someone did that to my car today. I was a mean little turd.


Ah these little beauties were worth their weight in gold. Basically an extension of placing a rotting fish in a car or a bag of dog poop in a locker, without the mess to clean up of course and you could throw them for long distance attacks. I still remember the sulfurous smell when you broke the vial. My favorite was to perch on the roof of an apartment building and launch the stink bombs close to unsuspecting victims. There was one guy who used to come out to smoke a cigarette like clockwork. We would pepper his porch and watch from the bushes when he came out at first he just went back in. His wife however would not let him smoke in the house so sometimes he just suffered through it making the most outrageous faces of disgust. Another good one was to wait until your friend bought a pack and tackle him to the lawn then smash them while still in his pocket. Then you had to run as fast as possible to avoid the stench and also his swift retribution if he caught you. A rather mean time we put them on the seat of a UPS truck while the driver was inside delivering packages.

Fake vomit

The rubber fake puke you could buy never really looked real enough although we tried. The only place we could ever pull it off was to place it in the school restroom close to the toilet. It was much better was to fabricate your own fake puke. A can of mashed up beef stew mixed with a can of creamed corn makes great fake puke. You can then deposit it where ever you like. One of my genius friends once thought to enhance the effect by making noises then depositing the fake puke into his mouth to let it fall out to gross people out. Little did he realize the texture and smell of the cold beef stew with creamed corn would really make him vomit shortly after putting it in his mouth. He achieved his goal of grossing people out but didn't expect to be one of them.

Pull string pops

My all time favorite prank was the booby trap crackers also called pull snaps. These little gems were great! You tied one end of the string to something and the other to something else and as they get pulled apart it causes the firecracker in the middle to explode. Oh the possibilities. Screen doors, chairs to table legs, lockers, desk drawers, toilet seats, etc. My favorite was the refrigerator. I tied one end to a shelf and the other to the egg or butter rack on the door. Someone blindly pulling the frige open to get a snack would get a loud boom instead as the explosion echoed off of the enclosed space. What a classic!

Potty Humor

Proceed with ***CAUTION***! Off colored humor and gross and disgusting pranks ahead!

The bathroom is the taboo place of the house for pranks. In fact most potty humor is only funny to 6 year olds and repulsive to anyone else. It is the one place where you are truly exposed and vulnerable while your pants are around your ankles.
We have all heard about the standard Superglue on the toilet seat or the double stick tape. Some other simple ones were to just hide the toilet paper. It can be quite embarrassing to ask for help or to wander around with your pants like hobbles around your ankles in search of relief tearing through cabinets and drawers with desperate abandon.
A more ruthless trick was to put clear Saran Wrap tightly over the bowl of the seat and then put the seat down. The poor victim sits down to relieve themselves and instead of the waste falling to the bowl it remains where it began for a very uncomfortable or wet shock to the depositor.
At a mall or other public place (the mall is best because teenagers treat it like a fashion show) it was uncommonly cruel of certain young punks who will remain anonymous to run into the restroom with a cup full of water and then douse the pants of the person using the stall under the door right in the middle between the legs. They really can't chase you but you better not be wearing recognizable shoes because very angry people will be looking. Also beware the friends who may have seen you run out. Some of the outcomes of this particularly heinous prank were: primarily angry screaming and sometimes crying, people coming out with a jacket wrapped around their waist to hide the embarrassing wet spot, people calling home for mom to bring extra clothes or sending friends to a store to buy a pair of jeans, and one hilarious gentleman was upside-down spread eagle under a hand blow dryer. Why he didn't just remove his pants and dry them standing up we may never know. Maybe he was going commando at the time.

Back at the throne, the toilet seat could be adorned with fake fecal matter either a rubber purchased one or a homemade excrement made from squished up tootsie rolls and molded to perfection.

Two of my favorite potty pranks that were successful were the dollar in the toilet and the parrot episode. There could be purchased this great dollar in a toilet gag that came with a very realistic sticker of a $10 dollar bill. The sticker had clear boarders around the bill for about two and a half inches. The sticker was placed in the bowl of the toilet. No matter how hard a person tried to pick up the bill it was impossible because the actual edges were nowhere near where they were trying. The kicker on this gag was that there was a blue tablet much like the toilet bowl cleaning tablets that you put in the top of the tank it dyed the water blue. The funny part was that the dye was semi-permanent and lasted several hours. Unfortunately the tablet only lasted for about five flushes and stained the bowl blue as well. The idea was to throw a party and have all finger foods from popcorn to candy to pizza. Several guests and also former victims watched carefully as people came out of the bathroom some with their hands in their pockets. One kid came out holding up two blue hands and asked if there was any stronger soap because he had been scrubbing for several minutes and couldn't get his hands clean.

We had purchased a talking parrot toy for my little brother one Christmas. I had an aunt that used to call me and my twin brother Pete and Repeat. She was the target of many practical jokes over the years bless her heart. I can still hear her screams from various different episodes throughout my youth. The talking parrot was noise or voice activated and had a play record mode. We programed the parrot to say, "Hello Auntie!" well actually hello then her name but you get the drift. We placed the bird above the toilet. One thing about my aunt that you could guarantee was that first thing through the door when visiting us she always visited the bathroom first. As usual when she arrived for the holiday festivities she went straight for the bathroom. As she sat down the parrot happily said "Hello Auntie" in her mischievous nephews' voices. She of course screamed thinking that someone had robbed her dignity and invaded her privacy by hiding somewhere in the bathroom. The parrot immediately recorded the scream and screamed back. Suddenly she burst from the bathroom screaming with her screams still echoing from the vacant room she had just quitted coming from the parrot while we busted a gut laughing. Good thing she loved us, although I don't think we were ever really forgiven for that one.

The shower was not immune to pranks either. There could easily be placed a packet of red Kool-Aid or a beef bullion cube inside of the shower head. Shampoo could be diluted with hydrogen peroxide making an impromptu bleached hair dye job.

Possibly the meanest prank I ever witnessed involved a group of kids playing guns in a wooded area of a park, a KFC bucket, and a jogging path. I will not admit participation in this prank but will tell you how it was done. These kids after playing for several hours had naturally needed to use the bathroom. There was found a discarded KFC bucket from some picnic in the area. The bucket became the temporary restroom. For some reason more than one boy used this restroom and it was collectively decided that the portable port-a-potty would be strategically placed upside-down on the jogging path. The squatters were hidden in the bushes on the opposite side of the river waiting anxiously for someone on a bicycle to run it over or for a kid to run up and kick it. Then along came three young men along the jogging path. The middle one ran at the bucket to field goal punt it to the stratosphere or maybe thinking he was Pele going for a soccer penalty kick. He didn't hit it square however and instead of a crunch and a mess sticking to his foot like the boys expected, he hit the top of the bucket and spun it out and away from him. Flinging the filthy contents directly at him hitting his leg, shorts, and shirt and even a few drops in the face. One of the young man's friends started laughing uncontrollably, the other looked around angrily with clenched fists looking for the culprit to defend his friend's honor. The victim tried to wipe his face with a shirt that was unclean which caused him even more distress. He eventually plunged into the river to wash clean. That brought him close enough to hear the laughter of the hidden boys in the bushes. The boys had to run for it before the young man made it across the river.

There were also sound activated or remote controlled fart machines that could be hid around the toilet or in couch cushions.
Along the same lines was the classic Whoopie cushion.

Placed on a teachers seat or under a loved one as they sat down at the dinner table it was sure to get a laugh.

Fake dog doo

I never purchased it but I definitely remember them I think a friend may have had one. You obviously placed them on the carpet or in someone's path where a dog was likely to have been.

Toilet papering

Anyone you talk to will tell you they are a toilet papering expert or that they did the best toilet papering job of history. I may not be that conceited but I will say that my brother and I had it down to a science.
The get away car near by with driver.
Several rolls of toilet paper at the ready. Never throw rolls over the house until you are ready to go lest the thud of the roll be heard inside.
Saran wrap to block the doors and delay discovery and also to wrap up vehicles in the driveway.
If there was a particular grudge against a person it would also entail colored crepe paper streamers placed carefully along the sprinkling system so that the paper would bleed color on the pavement.
We would also dump huge sacks of paper confetti on your lawn purchased at bulk craft stores. Once spread out it made an terribly colorful mess. Reserved for our most bitter enemies was the metallic foil confetti. That stuff never came out of your lawn and I distinctly remember one angry father trying to vacuum his lawn with a shop vac. I swear they were finding foil pieces for years and that lawn always sparkled in the sunlight.
Cars in the driveway if not saran wrapped could be covered with Oreo or Grasshopper cookies in the winter. We would lick one end then stick them to the windshield where they would freeze in place. We stuck Hostess Snoballs to the headlights. We also used Oscar Meyer sliced bologna and stuck it to the body of the car. If the owner did not attempt to thaw the frozen bologna prior to prying it off it would take off a circle of paint with it.

Twinkie incident

One April Fool's Day we had a plate of Twinkies waiting for our friends as we played Nintendo. The ones on top were okay and my brother and I quickly grabbed those. Underneath in the pile the Twinkies had been carefully drained of the creme filling with a straw though the three holes in the bottoms and then stuffed with cotton balls. We tried toothpaste too but it didn't work as well.

Fake Spills

You could purchase awesome fake spills that were one solid piece of plastic from the container to the supposed spill. You would then place them on top of important papers on a desk, an expensive rug or carpet, or wherever you thought it would give your mom the biggest heart attack.

Finger in a box

Well I guess I'll end off with a prank that I have been pulling off since kindergarten. For your own finger in a box you need a small box preferably with a lid. My mom sold Avon on the side so I always had a steady supply of small cardboard jewelry boxes to use. You cut a hole in the bottom of the box and hold the box palm up. You insert your middle finger into the hole and lightly rest it on a layer of cotton to hide the hole. You can use makeup to make the finger as gruesome as you wish but a little dab of fake blood works just fine. You could then take your finger to school for show and tell or to show your friends or adults or whoever. I would usually start off by saying, "Hey check this out" while holding the small box with lid closed up, "I found this the other day but never did find the rest of him, do you want to take a look?". With their curiosity piqued they would approach as I slowly took off the lid. "That's not real" they would say but of course it actually was just not in the way they meant. I would invite them for a closer look if they were not convinced or even a feel if they dared. As they lurched closer to look or even while gently stroking the finger I would suddenly wiggle my finger and they would just about go over backwards with fright. Ahh good times.
The picture does not really do justice to my masterful techniques but it was the only picture I could find on the internet.

Somehow my articles always end up being way too long because I try to be thorough. There are many many more pranks and practical jokes out there I am sure you have a few favorites too, but it is time to end. So before you go doorbell ditching or place a paper bag of burning poop on someone's porch hoping someone will stamp out the fire, before you place a friend's hand slowly into a bowl of warm water to make them wet the bed if they fell asleep first at a slumber party or start drawing all over their faces with permanent marker, whether it is a bucket of water over the door frame or rolls of duct tape in the pant legs of a hair friend waiting for him to get dressed,
+. remember that I am in no way responsible physically or financially for any injury, lawsuit, legal action, criminal charges, etc for anyone who attempts any pranks after the reading of this article.
A joke is never funny if someone is hurt. But they sure are fun to remember when as a kid we could get away with them. If you are now plagued by your conscience for all of the rotten things you did as a kid and think you definitely have earned a place in the hot spot, don't worry I'll save you a seat in the cafeteria when you get there.

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