O'Brien: Pranks today aren't as innocent as they used to be

Posted: Mar. 8, 2013 2:54 pm Updated: Apr. 19, 2013 9:15 pm


Whatever happened to innocent pranks?

You'd call up someone and say, "Excuse me, is your refrigerator running?"

"Yes," the prankee would respond.

"Then you better go catch it before it gets away," the prankster would say before quickly hanging up and having a good belly laugh with his buddies.

Another favorite from days gone by was when you would pick on a neighbor by going up to their house, ringing their doorbell and running away. You would hide in a nearby bush as quiet as possible to see them get flustered when no one was at the door. You would repeat this several times until you got caught or the people quit coming to the door.

No harm, no foul. Just a bunch of dumb fun.

If only pranks were that innocent these days. This week, there have been two incidents in pranks gone wrong in our area. The most serious -- and dumbest -- came Wednesday night when someone thought it would be a good idea to call the Macomb Police Department around 6 p.m., and say they saw someone with a gun at a residence near the Western Illinois University campus.

As a result, a neighborhood was sealed off for more than five hours. Members of the Macomb Police Department surrounded the residence with guns drawn and the Illinois State Police provided backup. Nearby residents were evacuated. Officers didn't realize they had been hoaxed until they sent in a remote controlled robot with a camera to survey the scene inside the building.

We've all heard tales of people pulling a fire alarm at school to get out of taking a test, but this seemed to be a bit extreme. On Thursday, Macomb police arrested Alvin Montgomery, 25, and charged with him with disorderly conduct for allegedly calling in the threat.

The Hannibal (Mo.) Police Department on Wednesday let the public know about another prank that isn't as serious as what happened in Macomb, but just as dumb.

Apparently there is something called "gallon smashing" that is a craze on YouTube. In this Internet sensation, people take gallons of milk or juice, slam them on the ground so they'll explode and then flail all over the place. The kids may knock things off the shelves while they make a huge mess of the aisle.

Part of the "fun" of the videos is watching the innocent bystanders react to the kids who appear to be hurt after "slipping" on the spilled milk. This craze was started by three teenagers in Virginia who got more than 3 million hits on YouTube. They're seen duping people into thinking they've been hurt by slipping. They continue to slip around on the wet surface as people try to help them up.

Of course, the craze has created imitators. Stores aren't taking "gallon smashing" lightly either. Ten teens in Utah have been charged with disorderly conduct for their "gallon smash" prank. Law enforcement authorities across the U.S. are warning store owners of the pranks and telling shoppers to be on the lookout. Hannibal joined that group last week when it announced that officers had arrested five teenagers for doing the prank at three Hannibal stores.

If you see some kid acting like he's fallen down in the milk aisle next to a punctured jug, tell him to straighten up and cut it out. Then ask him if his refrigerator is running and see what he says.




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