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This is not a joke! 5 funny Boston-area pranks

Posted by Alex Pearlman  April 1, 2012 09:05 AM

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april fools.jpgBy Angela Stefano

Most Bostonians know about (and have probably seen) at least one of MIT's many (in)famous hacks, but let it be known that it's not just those Cambridge-based beavers who have a good sense of humor. Plenty of locals have pulled some pretty spectacular stunts over the years -- and I'm not talking amateur work like spiderwebbing a hallway or creating a flash mob either.

In honor of this entire day set aside for silliness, here are a few notable pranks that Bostonians have pulled over the years (along with links to corroborate the stories, so you know that I'm not playing some elaborate April Fools' Day joke).

The MFA, narrated by B.J. Novak. Museums aren't always the most exciting places when you're in high school. Apparently Newton Center native Novak (a.k.a., Ryan Howard on The Office) and his friends felt the same way because in 1997, they replaced the audio tour tapes for the MFA's "Tales From the Land of Dragons" exhibit with their own versions, narrated by a friend with a Romanian accent and backed by Asian-sounding music created by Novak's brother Jesse.

"The first three minutes of the tape were completely accurate...but about three minutes in, the tour started getting a little weird," Novak said during a talk at his former high school last November. "The guy started injecting his personal opinions" and told listeners to do things like sniff the paintings and do the hokey-pokey. The full audio is available online, and, yes, it is absolutely worth a listen.

Bombs in Boston? Nah, just Mooninites. On Jan. 31, 2007, the Boston Police Department's bomb squad was working overtime thanks to a (in retrospect) rather poorly executed marketing campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force. A guerilla marketing company placed LED Mooninites in various locations across the city, "set[ting] off a wave of bomb scares across Boston, snarling traffic and subways across the city," according to a story.

The people at Cartoon Network and their chosen marketing agency probably didn't find the whole thing too funny when the police came after them, and Gov. Deval Patrick wasn't very pleased, but some of us thought it was pretty humorous. Dave Willis, ATHF's co-creator, even admits that there's three versions of a scrapped episode of the show, entitled "Boston."

"April Fools' Day expert" fools the media. According to Boston University history professor Joseph Boskin, April Fools' Day began when King Constantine allowed a jester to be king for a day. On his day to rule, the jester asked to be known as King Kugel and created April Fools' Day, and the holiday just sort of stuck around.

If you think the whole story sounds preposterous, that's because it is. Boskin made it up off the top of his head in 1983, when a reporter from the Associated Press -- Fred Bayles, who, in a funny twist of fate, is now a professor in BU's College of Communication -- asked him to speak about the holiday's origins. "Since I was calling New York, where kugel is famous, and it was April Fools' Day, I figured he would catch on," Boskin told BU Today. "Instead, he asked how to spell kugel." The AP never fact-checked the story and ran the fake tale.

MIT puts its mark on "The Game." I wasn't going to include an MIT hack on this list, but when a fraternity one-ups both Harvard and Yale in front of tons of fans in the middle of the biggest game for those schools, like, ever, it's worth a mention.

In 1982, the brothers of MIT's Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter made their school the center of attention in a football game in which they weren't even playing by planting a weather balloon with the school's name written on it and a remote-controlled inflating device below the 50-yard line. During a break in play, with the press of a button, the balloon popped out of the turf and onto the field, rolled around, and exploded in a powdery pop.

Conan O'Brien really "digs" Boston. Before he was our favorite ginger-coiffed late-night talk show host, O'Brien spent his college years at Harvard -- and, as you might expect, the 1985 graduate had a little fun during his time in Cambridge (allegedly, that is; O'Brien admits to nothing).

Armed with a jackhammer, hard hats, and construction gear, O'Brien and friends (allegedly) started tearing up a downtown Boston street. To make things a bit more interesting, O'Brien called the gang into the Boston police -- but he didn't stop there. He also called the Massachusetts state police to report that college kids dressed as policemen were harassing construction workers. "In short order, the Boston police came to arrest the students and the state police came to arrest the Boston police," according to a story by Lee Hudson Teslik. The trickery (allegedly) landed O'Brien in jail for the night.

What other hilarious Boston-area pranks do you know of?

Photo by Sean MacEntee (Flickr)

About Angela -- It's "Ang," if you please -- or, alternately, Bill, Penny Lane, or (begrudgingly) Angus to some. I've been with TNGG since the site started and am now the TNGG Boston editor for I graduated from Boston University's College of Communication in 2009 and am a huge fan of live music, hockey, and Thai food. I'm also a bit of a klutz, but that's only because my mind and body are always going in approximately a zillion separate directions. Twitter: @amstefano988

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