How to Pull Off a Prank

Here you will find tips from the pros about intent, content, and technique to help you be successful in getting your message across.

Blog Posts

Sensitivity Training for Mummers

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Filed under: Hoax Etiquette

Philadelphia requests full spectrum satire…


Mummers seek inclusive tone after insensitive displays
by Errin Haines Whack
Associate Press
December 4, 2016

credit Philly mummers.com

credit Philly mummers.com

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Organizers of the Mummers Parade are hopeful that cultural education efforts will help the city’s annual New Year’s celebration be more respectful and inclusive following a string of racially and ethnically offensive displays.

The initiatives include sensitivity training sessions and online videos that explore issues such as cultural appropriation and privilege, sexual identity and the rules of satire. Mummers’ leaders also published an open letter last week condemning “expressions of hate and bigotry.”

“We want to make this open for more people,” said George Badey, a veteran member of the Fralinger String Band and chairman of Love the Mummers. “The parade needs to evolve and represent the full spectrum of Philadelphians.” Read the rest of this story here.

Joey Skaggs to the NY Daily News, “You Gotta Realize There Are Consequences”

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Filed under: Hoax Etiquette, How to Pull Off a Prank, Legal Issues, Prank News, Pranksters, What Makes a Good Prank?

Call us snobs, sticklers… call us the Emily Post of prankdom. But releasing a bunch of live crickets in a crowded subway car, as Brooklyn’s Zadia Pugh was recently arrested for doing, isn’t much of a prank. When there is so much groupthink and hypocrisy to expose and so many passersby thirst for wonder and delight, it’s not enough to simply scare and annoy people. That’s a sad and boring way to go viral. People are plenty scared and annoyed as it is.

Legendary prankster Joey Skaggs was asked to comment on Pugh’s stunt and to lend some guidance to cavalier young instigators of her ilk. Irreverence is just the beginning.


“Seasoned prankster Joey Skaggs chides rookie Zadia Pugh for unleashing crickets on packed D train: ‘You gotta realize there are consequences'”
by Graham Rayman
New York Daily News
September 3, 2016

crickets4n-2-webAs a prankster, Zaida Pugh — who terrified straphangers in August when she released live crickets on a packed subway train — is no more than a misguided rookie.

And Joey Skaggs should know.

For the past 40 years, Skaggs, 70, a New Yorker who now lives “somewhere in the south,” has conned the media into reporting fake stories as fact.

His elaborate pranks include creating a brothel for dogs and posing as a man who invented a vitamin pill made of cockroaches which supposedly would make people invulnerable to radiation.

The press bought it.

He got the press to buy that he had windsurfed from Hawaii to California. He created a Celebrity Sperm Bank, and a “Fat Squad,” made up of commandos who supposedly physically restrained people from breaking their diets.

He unrepentantly posed as a priest and pedaled a full-size confessional booth around St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and got on the news for that, too.

Author Andrea Juno once wrote that he “uses the media as a painter uses a canvas.”

crickets4n-4-webSkaggs told the Daily News on Saturday even though Pugh claimed to be making a statement about homelessness, her stunt on the Manhattan Bridge on Aug. 24 was “irresponsible and dangerous.”

“To me, the expose’ is the most important part,” he said. “It’s not the ‘hahaha, I got you.’ It’s the ‘Aha.’ When they realize they have put aside critical thinking.

“The goal is to get people to become more media literate and more skeptical about information that’s given to them by governments and corporations. And you have to be ethical and careful in going about it.” Read more.


Aladdin Magic Carpet Prank

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Filed under: Instructionals, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters

Aladdin in Real Life: Behind The Scenes

See how we did it
Directed by Casey Neistat
PrankvsPrank Facebook

thanks Andrea

Roman Atwood’s “Killing My Own Kid” Prank

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Filed under: Instructionals, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters

In what appears to be normal for this family: Just for fun, to scare the living shit out of his wife, Roman Atwood throws his son over the balcony. He succeeds in scaring the living shit out of her, and 10+ million people tune in.

Watch the video

How did he do it? Watch his behind-the-scenes video:

Spreading Fear for Profit

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Hoax Etiquette

Fake news sites are using Facebook to spread Ebola panic
by Josh Dzieza
The Verge
October 22, 2014

They call themselves satire sites, but they’re really spreading scary rumors for profit

There’s a scary story bouncing around Facebook, accruing hundreds of thousands of likes: the small town of Purdon, Texas, has been quarantined after a family of five was diagnosed with Ebola. The story is a total hoax, put out by a deeply cynical site called the National Report. But to the 340,000 people who saw it pop up in their news feed, it looked real enough to share.

“We’ve seen stories on satire sites — fake news sites — getting tremendous traction because they feed on people’s fears,” says Craig Silverman, the founder of Emergent.Info. “It’s really becoming an epidemic now.” Silverman launched Emergent with Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism last month to track the spread of rumors online in real time. Many of the stories he’s seen have been organic rumors, things like the pumpkin spice condom or the 50-foot crab that begin life as jokes, get taken out of context, are written up in news stories, and take off on Facebook before anyone bothers to verify them. But he’s finding that a surprising number, especially when it comes to Ebola, are deliberate attempts to deceive. “I’ve had people emailing me about the Purdon story, very scared, asking if it was true,” says Silverman.

Emergent's chart of the spreading Purdon hoax. Green represents shares linking to the hoax, red represents shares debunking it.

Emergent’s chart of the spreading Purdon hoax. Green represents shares linking to the hoax, red represents shares debunking it.

(more…)

Fame on a Budget

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Instructionals, Media Pranks, Pranksters

From Mark Borkowski:


How to become internet famous for $68
by Kevin Ashton
Medium.com

The secret of online celebrity Santiago Swallow.

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Santiago Swallow may be one of the most famous people no one has heard of.

His eyes fume from his Twitter profile: he is Hollywood-handsome with high cheekbones and dirty blond, collar-length hair. Next to his name is one of social media’s most prized possessions, Twitter’s blue “verified account” checkmark. Beneath it are numbers to make many in the online world jealous: Santiago Swallow has tens of thousands of followers. The tweets Swallow sends them are cryptic nuggets of wisdom that unroll like scrolls from digital fortune cookies: “Before you lose weight, find hope,” says one. Another: “To write is to live endlessly.”

His Wikipedia biography explains why: (more…)

Fake Marketing Company Announces Fake Naked Photos

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Filed under: Instructionals, Media Pranks

Hoax instructional: How to deceive, deflect and scam the scandal hungry media and the all-believing public. Why? Just because.


The Emma Watson Naked Photo Countdown Was The Work Of Serial Internet Hoaxers
by James Cook
Business Insider
September 24, 2014

A mysterious countdown website emerged on Monday that hinted at the imminent reveal of naked photographs of the actress Emma Watson, stolen using the same iCloud vulnerability that hackers used to steal photographs of stars like Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence.

emma-watson-fake-leak-425

As Business Insider reported on Monday, it’s highly unlikely that anyone has naked photographs of Emma Watson (we probably would have seen them by now, because she’s a top target for iCloud hackers). Instead the site seemed like an obvious prank designed to discredit 4chan users.

Sure enough, when the countdown came to an end, the site redirected to the website of a company named Rantic Marketing, which appears to be a viral marketing agency. But here’s where this gets really interesting: Rantic Marketing doesn’t exist. This wasn’t a marketing stunt at all, but a social experiment run by the most notorious gang of pranksters on the internet.

(more…)

Flappybird Photo Hijack

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hoax Etiquette, Legal Issues

In case you think the risque photos on your Android phone are secure…


Hackers plotted fake Flappy Bird app to steal girls’ photos from Android phones
by Graham Cluley
September 6, 2014

Next time you install an app on your phone, you’d best think twice if it asks permission to access your photos.

As The Guardian reports, following a tweet from security researcher Nik Cubrilovic, the very same hackers who merrily collected naked photos of more than 100 female celebrities, including Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, had plotted a variety of dirty tricks to increase their haul.

At least one hacker openly posted on the AnonIB image board, proposing what he called a “genious” idea: (more…)

“Perfect” Fake

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Filed under: Instructionals, Media Pranks

Over 7M views for “29 Celebrity Impressions, 1 Original Song”, by Rob Cantor. Only .5M checked out how the other 6.5M got faked out.


The Guy Perfectly Impersonating 29 Celebrities While Singing An Original Song Is A Fake
by Liat Kornowski
The Huffington Post
July 10, 2014

Remember this incredibly impressive video that popped up all over your Facebook feed earlier this month? You know the one, where one guy does 29 celebrity impressions while singing his original song, “Perfect.” The one that amassed nearly seven million views in under two weeks.

Watch the videos:

Well, this guy, with all his mighty talent and Billie Holiday imitation, is a fake… Rob Cantor, the man behind this well-orchestrated Internet hoax, posted yet another YouTube video Wednesday, July 9, explaining the workings behind the scenes. Read more here.

April Fool’s! Exploring Pranks and Practical Jokes, WNPR Interview

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Filed under: Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, The History of Pranks, What Makes a Good Prank?, Why Do a Prank?

WNPR News presents “April Fool’s! Exploring Pranks and Practical Jokes“, an hour long radio talk show broadcast April 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm & 8:00 pm EST.

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Show features Jeff Pinsker, president of Klutz and VP of Scholastic, Inc.; Martin Wainwright, author of The “Guardian” Book of April Fool’s Day; Tom Mabe, a professional prankster living in Kentucky; and Joey Skaggs, multimedia artist in New York City called The World’s Greatest Hoaxer.

Listen here.

Art of the Hoax – Joey Skaggs on PRI

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Definitions, Media Literacy, The Prank as Art, What Makes a Good Prank?, Why Do a Prank?

Jester_waitscmMarch 30, 2014: Pranks and Hoaxes, produced by Wisconsin Public Radio and distributed by Public Radio International, presents an interview with Joey Skaggs called Art of the Hoax – Joey Skaggs.

Listen here

How (Not) to Fake Your Own Death

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, How to Pull Off a Prank, Instructionals

Bogus death for big bucks: 7 dumbest mistakes
by Celia Seupel
CNBC
17 October 2013

fakedeath-200For years, faking your own death has been an escape scheme of the desperate and a get-rich scam of the foolish. Some scammers hope to get rich quick on life insurance fraud; others try to escape the law when their other schemes go wrong. CNBC Prime’s “American Greed: The Fugitives” reports on one of the latter: Aubry Lee Price, a preacher turned day-trader, defrauded investors out of millions, then allegedly faked his own death by disappearing off a Key West ferry. Although Florida issued a death certificate, the FBI suspects that Price is still alive.

But insurance companies have wised up, according to Dennis Jay, spokesman for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. Not only do they investigate suspicious life insurance claims vigorously; they also find that it’s hard for people to stay off the grid year after year. Here are some of the dumbest ways that the bogus “dead” have resurfaced and gotten caught.

1. Don’t use a corpse of the opposite sex

Molly and Clayton Daniels faked Clayton’s death to keep him out of jail and to collect on his $110,000 life insurance policy. They dug up a corpse, dressed it in Clayton’s clothes, then burned it in a car crash. However, DNA testing revealed that the corpse was female.

(more…)

Lucky Loser: My aborted attempt to kidnap Sam Shepard

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Filed under: The History of Pranks, What Makes a Good Prank?

A reminiscence by Joey Skaggs:


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On April 2, 2013, I received an email from my friend Peter Maloney, director, writer, actor and a co-conspirator in my hoaxes, pointing me to a New York Times article about a fake kidnapping. He said,

“It reminds me of the night that you and your cohorts kidnapped Sam Shepard from the Astor Place Theatre on the opening night performance of his plays ‘The Unseen Hand’ and ‘Forensic and the Navigator’ (in which I played ‘Forensic’). I also remember that actor Beeson Carroll wore as his costume in ‘The Unseen Hand’, your Buffalo skin coat.”

I had caught the news story about the kidnapping on TV a day earlier. I immediately thought it was a prank. A video taken from a surveillance camera showed an abduction with people being thrown into a van on the street. But local police could not find evidence of anyone missing. As it turned out, it was a joke played by friends as a birthday prank.

Stories like this sometimes make it into the Art of the Prank blog, and I considered it. But, being under the weather I wasn’t highly motivated to do anything with it. Later, thinking about it, I realized how lucky these pranksters were. They could have been shot. They could have been arrested. Any number of bad things potentially could have happened because of this relatively harmless joke.

Peter’s email and this story inspired me to tell the story of my attempt to kidnap Sam Shepard, a version of which appears in a book by Ellen Ounamo called Sam Shepard: The Life and Work of an American Dreamer (1986, St. Martins Press). (more…)

Joey Skaggs at Advertising Week EU 2013

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, What Makes a Good Prank?

More coverage:

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  • Mark Borkowski on Joey Skaggs – ‘the world’s biggest prankster’, The Drum
  • Joey Skaggs: novelty silliness and well-packaged rebellion, New Statesman
  • Joey Skaggs on “Loose Ends”, BBC Radio4 – Only two days left to listen
  • How to Wig Out Friends & Family

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    Filed under: How to Pull Off a Prank, Instructionals, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters

    Update from Joshua Darrah, July 16, 2012: The video below is a replacement for the original :30 video posted January 19, 2012. It’s now 6:24.


    Submitted by Joshua Darrah January 19, 2012: Here’s a prank I pulled on my friends and family recently:

    STEP 1: Secretly shave off your two year long hair.
    STEP 2: Glue it into a wig.
    STEP 3: pull it off to freak your friends. 40 of them.


    I had been growing my hair for a couple of years, and wanted to go back to a shaved head, but I wanted to make it a surprise to my brother that i was suddenly shaving my head. I have NO IDEA where the idea came to me from, but i wondered if I would be able to cut off my long hair, keep it, then hot glue it into a wig. I would then wear that wig of my own hair (yes this is slightly serial killerish i know!) and while hanging with my brother, suddenly pull off my ‘hair’ and be shaved headed in a split second.

    I told him I was filming a video project, that way I could film his reaction. And man it went down a treat! I then realised I could wear my wig to every visit with friends and family over the coming 2 months, I eventually pranked over 40 of my close friends and family. (more…)