For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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May 17 2017
by Elizabeth Robinson

Creative College Pranks, Then and Now

By Elizabeth Robinson - May 17 2017

You've likely seen a prank or two during your time in college (if not, you're likely a nerd like me). But did you know that your parents and even grandparents were pulling equally creative pranks back in the day? Don't believe me? Let's take a look at how pranks have changed over the years.

1. (1959) The Beer Pyramid

You would never guess now, but my grandpa was a prankster back in the day. There was a student named Frank in his dorm who decided it wasn't worth his time to get rid of his beer cans. My grandpa recounts his motivation for the prank.

"The cans ... were emptied and stored in the hall closet by Frank. Why save them? he said it was none of my business..."

In response, my grandpa and the other boys in the hall decided to clean up his mess... and put it right back in his room.

"[Frank] was off studying in the cafeteria with a couple of other guys. [My] roommate Tim and I moved a bunch of empty beer cans out of a hall closet into his room and stacked them in a kind of pyramid behind his closet door and then crawled out his window and into the open window of the room on the other side."

A giant pyramid of beer cans (a beeramid, if you will), right in front of the door. My grandpa and his friends snuck out the window and waited for the sound of tumbling aluminum when Frank finally opened his door

"A half hour later Frank came upstairs in a big hurry and burst through the door into his room. The cans flew all over the place making a huge clatter. He blew up, then laughed and told us we had to clean up the mess. Took two minutes and it was worth it."

2. (Late 1960s) The Polished Toilet Seat

Wikimedia Commons

Nowadays, you would probably notice if something was on the toilet seat. After all, it's porcelain white! But back in the 1950's, many toilets still had black seats. All a prankster needed was some black shoe polish and an unsuspecting victim.

3. (Late 1960s) The Nitrogen Triiodide Sidewalk

Kids, do not try this at home! When my dad was in college, several chemistry students sprayed sidewalks and floors with nitrogen triiodide every year.

"Guys would fill squirt guns with alcohol solutions of NI3 and squirt the solutions onto the floor or sidewalk. The alcohol evaporated, leaving behind a well-dispersed shock-sensitive solid. When stepped on, the crystals would produce tiny purple explosions, not enough sound or force to harm but plenty to cause alarm."

Nitrogen triiodide is extremely unstable and explodes on contact. In large amounts, it can take a limb off. But in small amounts, it's just startling and annoying. These students sprayed a light coating of it on walkways, where all pedestrians would be left to wonder why their footsteps were being met with large, purple plumes of smoke.

4. (2013) The Balloon Room

Some things never get old. One of those things is filling dorm rooms with inconvenient amounts of stuff. If it's not beer cans, then it's newspapers and balloons. Also reminiscent of my grandpa's prank over fifty years earlier, these boys needed to sneak out of the dorm room window to avoid prematurely springing their trap!

5. (2014) The April Fool's Baby

In the age of cell phones, every professor adapts differently. This professor at Aquinas College decided that all students whose phones rang during class needed to answer them on speaker phone. One girl decided that April Fool's day was the perfect day to get a call about a positive pregnancy test result. The professor immediately apologized to the girl. But, of course, it was all a prank!

6. (2017) The April Fool's Dino

Nowadays, pranks aren't only expected to be caught on camera — they're often designed for it! At my very own UT campus, on April 1, a student dressed up as a dino. Yep. That was the prank. However, the April Fool's Dino was so popular that he's popped up several places since then (sometimes with a clone!). I even got a photo of him at Austin's March for Science/Earth Day festival.

Elizabeth Robinson

As you can see, creativity is certainly not the sole domain of the age of the Internet. We handle things differently, likely because of the presence of cell phones. Instead of sneaking off in the night to spray a sidewalk with dangerous chemicals, we'll do something crazy or funny in the hopes of going viral. I hope you've all gleaned some inspiration from this article, but don't take your pranks too far!

Lead Image Credit: Elizabeth Robinson

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Elizabeth Robinson - University of Texas at Austin

I'm a sophomore at UT Austin majoring in Dean's Biology. I've loved writing since elementary school and published my first novel in high school. I love reading, writing (obviously), foreign languages, doggos, martial arts, anthropology, theater, and watching far too much YouTube. I dream of being a fiction author and geneticist after graduate school, hopefully combining my two loves to change the world. Follow me on Twitter @MetokaPublishi1, Instagram as BlackPage13, or (best option) visit my website,!

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