An Honest Look At Harsh And Good Pranks And Vintage Prank Gift Ideas
The Parade Of Vintage Prank Gifts
Old folks, well they were young folks then, in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and even as far back as the 60’s called it ‘deviling.’ Some called it ‘pestering.’ While others labeled it annoying, irritating, and down-right mean.
I got the term ‘deviling,’ from my wife whose grandpa was named, Mark Winsett, a typical, elderly-but-spry southern gentlemen, who loved to ‘devil’ the grandkids by pinching their arms or acting like he was going to stick them with his homemade walking cane. Winsett was one of the many pranksters in his generation around Hamilton, Alabama, my hometown. And yes, Mark, many days, would walk to town, spend the day ‘pranking,’ telling some lies with his elderly buddies, and on the way home, stop somewhere, according to my wife, and ‘take a nip’ meaning having a shot or two of some homemade whiskey.
How I miss those vintage pranks and prank gifts that would show up at inopportune times like birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas. What fun it was to see the ‘target of the prank’ open his gift only to have a fake snake jump out in his face--making him, or her blush with humiliation. Or see the prankee start to get a cool drink of lemonade only to find out that he or she had drank from a dribble glass. A glass that had small holes that were undetectable to the untrained eye, but allowed whatever drink was in the dribble glass to dribble on a man’s shirt or a woman’s blouse. What good times. Even now, I am feeling depression nudging my heart, so I will gather myself as best I can, and move on. And I said I wasn’t going to cry.
Before I get too involved with this story about “Pranks, Good And Bad,” I would love to go on record as saying that harmless, clean pranks and prank gifts are fun, but when they get out of hand, they can cause hurt feelings, harm friendships and sometimes send the prankee to the emergency room. So do not take this story as a personal endorsement for harsh pranking or harsh prank gift-giving. I wouldn’t want anyone’s pain that I indirectly caused on my conscience. I just love a good, clean prank and prank gift.
Here are some “Harsh Pranks and Harsh Prank Gifts,” that are not around as much today in 2011. I think it does us good at one time or another to stop and take a good, long hard look at ourselves and our histories to see where we have came from and what we have left behind.
“The Flaming Manure Bag” was a huge favorite of high school senior and college classes from way back. The trick is to get someone (who has no self-esteem) to either pick up with his hands or use a shovel (the wiser of the two methods), to retrieve some dog manure from the ground, place it in a common paper bag, pick out the target, sneak up to their door, set the bag on fire, ring the doorbell and run like your life depending on it. This harsh prank was great fun to watch from your position behind the hedge bushes or crouching down in your car, but it was not fun for the man who received the “flaming manure bag,” as he tried to stomp out the flames, he soon realized that the manure was all over his feet and this made him more angry. Sometimes the poor sap would fall down on his porch and sometimes bring injury to himself. This is not a good prank. Nor is the “flaming bag of manure” a good prank gift.
“Sleepy Time, Sam,” easy to do, but you better have a good alibi when the person you do this to wakes up. Just grind up some heavy-gauge sleeping pills, take them to a holiday party, and find the unsuspecting person that you want to slip these ground-up sleeping pills into their drink. Soon, he will start feeling dizziness. You can laugh, slap him on the back and say, “Well, “Todd,” can’t hold your liquor?” And walk off. Bam. He hit’s the floor. Dead to the world. Snoozing like a baby while other party guests point and laugh at him. He will wake up in a few hours--refreshed, but with one question, “What happened last night? I only had one Shirley Temple?”
“Roadside Lawyer,” this one is definitely not one to pull on anyone. Time was, this one was NOT for filthy lucre (ill-gotten gains). It took two people to pull it off. One person, who could take a hit and another person to run up and say, “Seen the whole thing! You, (talking to the scared driver), hit my buddy, “Lanny,” and him just waiting for the light to change!” Of course, the driver, still panicking, wants to settle this fast with some cash, and of course, the “injured” “Lanny,” and his look-out agreed to take cash and not tell a soul. But the prank evolved into just letting the guy who took the hit, lay on the ground, his buddy running up and saying, “Saw the whole thing,” lingo and when the driver bent over to see if the “injured” boy was hurt, he would jump up and say, “Fooled ya, old timer!” And both boys would run off laughing like two hyenas.
“Empty Wallet. Sorry, Charlie,” was a true, cold-hearted prank gift. You, the prankster, stuff a new wallet with strips of paper giving the wallet the appearance of having money inside. Wrap the present and give it to some good soul at Christmas and sit back to watch him be so disappointed at receiving an empty wallet. But this could backfire. The good-hearted guy just might be in need of a new wallet and thank you. It would do any of these two ways, still this is a heartless prank gift.
“Wake Up, “Hermie,” I choke with sadness to share this, one of the lowest, cruelest, prank gifts that is on the Harsh Prank Gift List. Even Scrooge and Grinch would shun this one for being so callus. You buy or find a deceased hamster or gerbil. Spray his lifeless body with cologne to counteract the stench. Wrap him up in a box with holes for him to breathe through--making the con more believable. Let your prankee open this gift and suddenly burst into screams of terror--crying tears like a school boy on his first heart break after he looks into the box and yells, “Wake up, ‘Hermie,“ the name you gave him. The other family members at this Christmas gathering watching this display of a man, you, with a cold heart, will suddenly go from peaceful to hatred in the bat of an eyelash. And you had better not admit that it was you who framed this idea or you will NOT be invited back to the Christmas party next year, the year after and so on.
Now that you have some dark examples of “Harsh Pranks and Harsh Prank Gifts,” let’s take a few moments to pay homage and some needed-respect for some of the funniest, novel, and vintage prank gifts that have made our society more fun as the years go by. And boy, could we use these gifts (see photos at right) in America today to combat the dark economic and unemployment news as well as the news of war and disease.
These vintage prank gifts need to make a huge come back. And now.
Arrow In Head - always a classic prank gift. Legendary comic, Steve Martin, used an arrow through the head gag in his live concerts in the early 80s’ What laughs he got. Can you see Vice president, Joe Biden wearing an arrow through the head at a respectful White House dinner?
Bug In Ice - has been around for ages. And never gets old. What person, man or woman, hasn’t picked up their drink (in a glass with ice) to see one ice cube with filthy bug looking back at them? This is harmless and lots of fun. Ms. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, would you consider pulling this harmless prank at your next overseas diplomatic meeting? Nice ice-breaker, Hillary.
Chattering Teeth - is probably one of the best-known prank gifts. Chattering teeth has been seen in movies by The Three Stooges, sitcoms such as The Red Skeleton Show and more. These are sheer, clean fun for entertainment as any party. You don’t have to first keep them in your mouth before activating them to start their endless chattering. Remember Jack Nicholson, The Joker, in a Batman movie? When Batman had “killed” Joker, the camera zoomed in on a pair of chattering, laughing teeth as the film ended. If it’s good enough for the Joker, it’s good enough for us.
Cigarette Burn - fake, of course. But a neat way to impress girls. Just apply the “cigarette burn” to your upper arm or hand, walk up to any girl and start talking--using the arm or hand with the awful burn to wave around to make your point. She first, will scream, then be sympathetic for you, as the tale you tell goes, “we’re fighting three hooligans who loved to smoke and you, looking out for non-smokers’ lungs and the clean air, received a cigarette burn for your efforts. And of course, you won the fight. Instant date for the night.
Dribble Glass - watch the fun as a party guest tries to drink a cool, refreshing drink only to discover that his drink has oozed out of the glass through small holes onto his shirt. Oh, he might be a little ‘hot under the collar,’ but he will get over it. Just make sure that the person using the dribble glass is not your boss, father-in-law, minister, or police chief.
Fake Barf - can work anywhere--home or office. Simple to use. Have the fake barf under your suit coat, tell your office manager you are sick and have to go to the restroom. Then as you turn the corner out of sight, let out a blood-curdling Aggghhhhhuuhh, the sound of someone vomiting. Then “pass out” near the barf. See which of your friends will be first to remark, “Yuk, dude! Couldn’t you at least crawl to the restroom, dude?” Big fun.
Inflatable Woman - what can you say about this prank gift? You can give ‘her’ to a bachelor in the mail, or have it delivered to your office. The neatest thing about this prank is if you can buy one that will inflate automatically when a string is pulled like a life raft. This will be hilarious to he guy in the office who eagerly opens his “surprise package,” while you and others heave with laughter.
Rubber Chicken - is also a classic prank gift. The rubber chicken has been seen in Marx Brothers movies; The Honeymooners; Three Stooges, and even on M*A*S*H when B.J. Honeycutt (Mike Farrel) and Hawkeye, (Alan Alda), would place a rubber chicken inside Charles Emerson Winchester’s (David Ogden Steirs) teapot. It always gets laughs. And is harmless. And not liable to hurt anyone--feelings included.
Snake In Can - oh now we are getting to the “Cadillac” of prank gifts. On M*A*S*H, during an April Fool’s episode, Hawkeye (Alan Alda), and B.J. Honeycutt (Mike Farrel) used this on (David Ogden Steirs, Charles Emerson Winchester III, and it worked great. All it produces is a gasp of fright and sudden surprise from the recipient. But first check it out to make sure that the one getting the Snake In The Can doesn’t have a heart condition. You surely don’t want a heart attack on your mind.
Snotty Nose Egg Separator - never seen this one, but I can see how it would provide many laughs to some unsuspecting cook who loves to cook from ‘scratch’ using flour, milk and eggs. See the look of nausea come on the cook’s face as he or she tries to separate the egg yolk from the white and see the snotty nose staring back at them. No, you better not give this gift to anyone for you know the old saying, “What goes around comes around.”
Toilet Bowl Mug - great for an office party gift. Imagine drinking coffee or hot chocolate from a toilet bowl? I admit. It would make a real man or woman to withstand this situation, and if there is booze at this party, do not let the person you gave this Toilet Bowl Mug to as a gift, try to relieve himself in it if he’s had one too many. Even that is not funny, but sad.
Whoopee Cushion - the old stand-by. The “King of Prank Gifts,” suitable for all occasions. Even in your own home. Place whoopee cushion underneath the cloth cushion of dad’s chair or your sister’s chair and at dinner, watch the eyes stare at the person who has sat on the whoopee cushion giving the sound of passing gas to the room. Great fun! But know when to quit. Give prank gifts that are clean, fun, and in moderation.
X-Ray Specs - my all-time favorite. As a kid I would beg my mom for money to send off for some of these babies to do as the guy in the ad on the back of the Superman comic was doing--looking through dresses of pretty girls. They only cost $2.95 that was in 1972. But I guess the sad thing was I that I actually believed what the ad said: “See through clothing! See through walls!” With X-Ray Specs, you will be the life of the party. I got to thinking later in life. If my mom had lent me the money for X-Ray Specs, and I had worn them to a party given by my friends, the girls I knew in that day would have beaten me to an inch of my life. FACT: During my entire school years from 1961 to high school graduation in 1972, I was NEVER invited to ANY party given anyone. And you have reasons for being depressed.
I guess at my age now, 57, I am still a kid at heart. Sometimes. I have been both the giver of prank gifts, clean and harsh, sad to admit, and the recipient of clean and ugly prank gifts. It all works out somehow. Time is the great healer. I guess.
But with all sincerity, I have to ask, "Just what kind of nation would it be if there had never been any Prank Gifts or Pranks Good and Bad?"
I shudder to think.
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A purist is someone (like me) who doesn't need fanfare, glitter or fame to survive. And my life is rather quiet, but very streamlined as a purist, I might add.
(Just) talking about meddlers and busy bodies is not enough. It is time I did something about them.
I cannot hide my life any longer.