Pranks a Million
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Car-snatching incidents over the decades have taken many forms. In the 1950s, mechanically minded students would sometimes dismantle a car and reassemble it in the owner's dorm room—and on one occasion over Sigma Alpha Epsilon's front porch, according to George Lyon '53.


More common was simply picking up a small car—VW bugs especially lent themselves to this sleight of many hands—and putting it where it didn't belong: on the sidewalk (guaranteed ticket), in a dorm hallway, buried in snow (the housemother who owned it was convinced the snowplow had carried it away), or on its roof under the T-Hall arch (the pranksters paid for damages). In 1963, recalls Dwight Sherman '64, a group of Sigma Beta brothers managed to carry a VW bug up many steps and over two terraces and several high hedges to deposit it at the front door of their house. Frederick Langevin Jr. '51 says a similar caper went awry in the late '40s when several pranksters tried to get a Crosley station wagon owned by Dick Birch '51 through the front door of Hunter Hall, where it got stuck.

There was only one time, however, when a car heist—or at least hoist—could have been viewed as a public service project. In 1991, several members of Alpha Phi Omega, the coed service fraternity, came upon a car parked at an angle across four spaces. "Six of us lifted it into its proper spot," says Paula St. Louis '93, "completely within the confines of one parking space."

We Want Pants!

Of all the prank genres, none may be so tied to a particular era as the panty raid. An alumna from the Class of '28 recalled an incident when, as a throng of men marched on Smith Hall, the befuddled house mother inadvertently unlocked all the ground floor windows, to the delight of the female residents. The phenomenon, however, didn't really come into vogue until the 1950s.


Historians have pegged the fad to an early attack on parietals and curfews in women's dorms. Brian Mitchell '66 has a simpler explanation: A panty raid was a "trophy quest." Women students not only unlocked doors for the marauders, but also sometimes tossed items from upper-floor windows (with contact information attached, no less). Still, there was always the potential for embarrassment. After a panty raid at the beginning of the school year, Carol Quimby Sudol '66 had to call home to report that she was, um, fresh out of underwear and nightclothes. "It was rumored that one of our bathrobes was found flying from T-Hall," she says, and some recovered items—this was the era of girdles—had been tried on and stretched out in the process. Since her mother had sewn her name into her clothes, "after only two days at school, my name was all over the campus." And not in a way her mother would have approved.

It was on a warm spring night close to finals in 1959 when Nancy Bere Janus '59 thrilled to the sound of a mob of fraternity brothers, including her boyfriend, outside Sawyer Hall chanting, "We want Nance! We want Nance!" Moments later she was slightly disappointed to recognize the words as "We want pants!" Eventually, the police and fire department were called in to quell "the disturbance" with fire hoses. The incident, notes Janus, gave UNH its 15 minutes of infamy, when photos of some of the perpetrators, who were later disciplined, made it into local newspapers.


The Humungus Has Spoken

Student attempts to take over the Durham airwaves date back to at least 1912, when a freshman rang the T-Hall bell to stage a false fire alarm, thus disrupting the sophomore class banquet at a time when many pranks were simply skirmishes in ongoing class warfare (freshmen vs. sophomores, that is). In a 1925 incident, two cider jugs were lodged in the clockworks in such a way as to cause the bells to ring continuously. But advances in electronics and broadcasting opened new avenues of mischief making.

At Alpha Tau Omega, several brothers wired a bush with two-way speakers in the late '50s, says Walt Ayre '61. Their opening gambit for young women passing by on Main Street: "This is the bush talking!"

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