PRANK YOU VERY MUCH: ON BEYOND TP-ING
by Cynthia MacGregor
What does Halloween mean to you? To little kids (and a few bigger ones), anticipating a haul of goodies, the holiday means a chance to dress up in costume, get out and ring doorbells, and see what kind of sweets they can fill up their goody bags with. To teenagers, celebrating Halloween often means binge-watching the scariest movies they can find. And adults, if they’re not staying home handing out candy, might opt for attending a costume party, or hosting one of their own.
Ah, but then there are the pranksters—primarily kids and teens, although there are some adults like “Amazing Grace” (as she asked to be identified) of West Palm Beach, an inveterate prankster, for whom Halloween is a wonderful opportunity to pull a few good ones on unsuspecting friends.
Amazing Grace seems to be in the minority, however. Two requests for descriptions of Halloween pranks, one in the form of a mass emailing to almost 80 local residents, and the other a notice in a newsletter called HARO (“Help A Reporter Out”), failed to turn up anyone in the Tri-County area who recalled ever pulling a Halloween prank or having one pulled on them—either in their childhood or their adult years.
Fortunately, however, questioning people who hadn’t received the mailings and don’t read HARO resulted in two positive responses—from Amazing Grace and from Grant Houser of Palm Springs.
Amazing Grace says she has a 6’ 2” butler statue that she calls “Uncle Fester.” The eyeballs shift and move, and the chest goes in and out, but only when activated by a clap of her hands. She brings “Uncle Fester” out of storage every Halloween and, when people come over, they are surprised to see the “butler” standing there. They are even more surprised when, at the clap of her hand, “Uncle Fester” starts breathing (chest moving), his eyeballs roll…and he talks. “Huh – huh –huh – hello,” he says. “How may I serve you?” And then, “The master will serve you now.”
Also clap-activated is a “spiritual ball” that, when Amazing Grace claps, lights up, displaying a face inside. This bit of trickery also has a voice. It says, “Good evening. How are you? Are you looking for guidance? Ho ho ho. Go to the nearest store and find it.”
Finally, this inveterate trickster has a fake phone that she can cause to ring on command. She’ll ask the person who’s about to be her prank victim, “Can you please answer that?” and, when they do, a spooky voice emanates from the receiver, saying, “Come with me to the grave. I know what you’re doing.”
Grant’s two pranks, both memories from his childhood, were far tamer by comparison. One was the evergreen prank known variously as “ring and run,” or “ding-dong ditch,” in which the prankster rings someone’s doorbell, then quickly runs out of sight. When the home’s occupants come to the door with a bowlful of candy, expecting to dole some out to costumed trick-or-treaters, there is no one there.
His other remembered prank, though, required a little more ingenuity—and the aid of his stepfather. Grant’s stepdad would take all the thread off a thread spool, then notch the spool all over with a workshop tool. They would approach a home and stealthily go to the window. They would run the notched spool down the windowpane, which made a “terrible, awful, raucous noise” that brought the home’s occupants rushing to the window to see what the cause of that horrible sound was. The residents usually arrived with so much haste that Grant and his stepdad would not have time to make a clean getaway, as Grant did with ring and run, and they wound up face to face with the prank’s victims. But as no harm had been done, there were fortunately no repercussions.