Top 8 Criminal Prank Calls
March 28, 2011 | Lists
Skype and the various web services that let you dial people up for untraceable phone harassment fun have reinvigorated an art that was nearly decimated by the advent of call display: prank calls. These services have breathed new life – heavily, of course – into one of the simple pleasures of youth, or, in the case of sociopaths, taken down a needed barrier to the torment of perfectly innocent people.
Before call display, back in the days when only the FBI would trace the calls of someone taking out suspicious library books and kids needed a distraction from the limited world of 8-bit video game entertainment, crank calling was a popular pastime. It gave callers the rush that comes with bringing someone to the point of boiling anger, while remaining comfortably out of range of that person’s fists/strangling grip.
It was advisable then to call someone you didn’t know, thus lessening the risk of your voice being recognized and you being pummeled at a later point and/or made the target of a juvenile crime investigation. (But that is not a hard and fast rule – another option was to go the non-verbal route, greeting your prey’s “Hello?” with the blast of a whistle typically meant to guide in ships during heavy fog).
But there are those who extended their crank calling careers into adulthood, defying the dictate that says one should put down the crank-calling receiver when you discover the opposite sex (unless you have a really funny idea for a prank).
Here we present 10 pranksters who have graduated to the type of crank calls that result in the suspension of phone privileges beyond an initial call to legal representatives. Dial 1, plus the area code as we bring you our Top 8 Criminal Crank Calls!
It is often the case that grandparents get along with their grandchildren better than they do their own children. Perhaps this is because they are usually not the primary caregivers and can tolerate the little snotnoses, comforted in the knowledge that they’ll be out of the house by day’s end. Also, old age is usually accompanied by hearing loss, so maybe they don’t catch all the dumb shit kids say and are thus more kindly disposed to them.
This bond isn’t universal, however, and some grandkids are such rotten bastards that their grandparents must rue the two bottles of wine downed decades ago that set the events in motion which would lead to such vile beings being inflicted on the world. Based on her actions in this tiny, two paragraph source story, a 21-year-old Minnesota woman would fit that bill. According to reports, she prank-called her 69-year-old grandmother 45 times in one day. That would be terrible even if the calls were funny, but they weren’t, the granddaughter and a friend threatened to kill granny, saying things like “You’re going to die” and “I’m watching you”, presumably without even referencing the Sting tune.
Asked why she did this, the woman said she wasn’t out to kill grandma, but was just “bored” and “wanted to have some fun”.
7. Room Disservice.
Motel 6’s slogan, “We’ll leave the light on for you”, is handy if, like most patrons of cheap motels, you’re circumspect about burglaries and bedbugs. But one South Carolina guest had more to worry about than a rash from a yet to be deloused comforter when someone he thought was a hotel clerk called him up in the middle of the night to warn him of a dangerous gas leak. In such an instance, it’s advisable to hoof it out the door, barrel down the halls –bodychecking sleazy old men headfirst into ice machines if need be – on your way to the parking lot, where you can breathe free… at least until someone in a black smoke chugging shitmobile revs up.
The guest here did as instructed – first placing wet towels at the base of the door and then bashing the room’s sprinkler head to “disable it”. As purists, we’d suggest that in order to be considered a classic, a prank should progress incrementally into absurdity, but this was nonetheless effective. Water gushed out of the sprinkler, soaking the place, and when the guest returned to the phone for further instruction, he was told to break the bathroom mirror where a supposed emergency shut-off valve was located. While he wasn’t fazed by the notion of swinging a toilet lid at a hotel room ceiling, this final request struck him as just too strange and he told the “clerk” he was leaving. Prank University, a Canadian based group renowned for tricking hotel guests into causing property damage and/or disrobing were implicated in the scheme.
This one also has the grubby fingerprints of Prank University all over its mobile phone screen, focusing as it does on the group’s forte – convincing people at hotels and restaurants that catastrophe awaits if they don’t empty a fire extinguisher and/or soak a place with a sprinkler system, preferably while getting naked. A man claiming to be a regional KFC supervisor called up a New Hampshire franchise and instructed the restaurant’s manager to pull the pin on the restaurant’s fire suppression system. Chemicals meant to snuff out grease infernos rained down on the manager and employees. When the manager told the guy on the phone that everyone was covered in the chemicals, he said it was essential for them all to strip off their clothes and race outside. Three employees did so. Only when this supposed manager suggested that they urinate on one another just to be safe did they suspect something was up.
If mob movies have taught us anything (and indeed they have, namely that you will arouse no suspicion digging mass graves by the interstate while puffing cigars), it’s the importance of making untraceable calls. Most criminals use disposable phones or payphones to ply their trades – the latter is risky as even a police department that would consult a psychic on a murder case knows enough to realize that these are only used for meth deals and to call for help after you’ve been robbed, stripped naked and dumped on the outskirts of town. That emergency services would be able to trace phone calls didn’t occur to a pair of 17-year-olds, who were about 10 years too old for this behavior to be explained away by the consumption of toxic glue. The two lads made almost 500 obscene calls to 911 services in their Pennsylvania town, 200 in one day alone.
That they weren’t stopped by, say, call 274, might say something about just how quick the responders in their home town are, but they were eventually arrested and charged with harassment and obstruction of emergency services.
Pharmaceutical ads are required by law to list in excruciating detail the side effects a user could experience by ingesting the drug, which are often far worse than the condition being treated – a drug that cures anxiety while giving you the flop sweats, for example. In the case of the little blue pill giving the oldies a thrill, the commercial warns of “erections lasting several hours”, which could mean looping around the block a dozen or so times following an afternoon brothel romp en route to Sunday dinner.
Florida 911 dispatchers, who are unfortunately unable to ignore cranks in the dismissive way we do the 911 Truther commenters, received a call from a man claiming he swallowed too much Viagra, and that his “wife” (the cops’ ever-so-delicate quotation marks, apparently not believing that this kind of thing happened to married guys) was, and how we shall we put this delicately, trying to ease him of his burden… via a one-way ticket to bl*wjob city.
He did this twice, providing the same address both times. Responders went to the residence and got suspicious when on both occasions they were not greeted by a man with a cowboy hat strategically placed down below. They then played a recording of the calls to the owner of the house, who recognized it as a man who had dated his daughter.
The fake identity prank call is a staple of the genre – indeed, sometime between the two-styrofoam-cups-and-string era and the dawn of telephone communications, the “is your refrigerator running?” gag was prefaced by the caller claiming to be calling on behalf of the electric company.
That might have seemed perfectly reasonable to guileless people who were probably still looking around their living rooms every time they answered the phone, unconvinced that the voices they were hearing could be coming from far away. Today it’s important for crank callers to stay within the realms of credulity. Most people would not, for example, be forthcoming if a stranger called up claiming to be “from the doctor’s office” and asking what the ole digestive tract is up to these days. Most people, we said. A Staten Island woman received just such a call from a 49-year-old construction worker who later confessed to grabbing a phone book, opening it at random and calling people up. Presumably most people would hang up as soon as the topic turned to movements of the non-orchestral variety, but this woman stayed on the line and followed his instructions to perform a rectal exam over the phone. After hanging up the woman then realized that the man “did not represent a medical establishment” and phoned police.
2. Man Busted for 27,000 911 Calls
Crank calling 911 is a terrible thing to do as it ties up resources that could otherwise be used to save lives or help some idiot who got his head stuck in a fence. But it is a popular choice among the crank-yanker set because it’s easy to remember, which is a bonus for those who lose their contact lists every time they wash their hands, and someone is always guaranteed to answer…
That is also true of JoJo’s Psychic Alliance Hotline, but 911 won’t charge you 3.99 a minute to tell you baloney about the stars in a heavy French accent. Indeed, when asked why he crank-called San Francisco emergency services an astounding 27,000 times, a Hayward California man cited cost-savings – “Because it’s free,” he said. Given the rates charged by mobile phone providers in North America these days we can hardly fault that logic. His days of, in the words of the source article, treating operators to “his impressions of bodily noises” – “And now, here’s one I’ve been working on, hope you folks like it, a fart on a bus just when it hits a speed bump” – are over.
This one is a catch-all for several incidents that have occurred at grocery stores, fast-food joints and other places where a slippery floor and a good lawyer offer employees their best chance at financial independence.
The typical scenario is this: a manager receives a call from someone claiming to be a local law enforcement official who says that an employee is suspected of theft, offering a description vague enough that it is likely to match somebody working there. The guy on the line says that the police are too busy to deal with such a minor matter and order the manager to carry out a strip search. The manager does not hang up. The manager got the job because anyone who hangs around long enough at one of these places and is capable of answering a phone gets promoted.
When requested by the manager to drop trou, the employee does so, presumably without taking a moment to consider the dime-a-dozen nature of this terrible job which has just become that much worse. Rather than challenging the manager to a showdown by the deep-fryer, the employee complies and, if nobody has stopped the insanity by this point, the requests from the guy on the phone start getting kinky. Some 70 such incidents involving male and female employees and even customers took place at fast-food restaurants and grocery stores in 30 US states until 2004 when a man believed to be the caller was arrested. He was later acquitted of all charges due to insufficient evidence, despite there being sufficient evidence. His final victim, a McDonald’s employee, won a million dollar-plus lawsuit against the Golden Arches, though in what is sure to be a boon for community PR the company is fighting the ruling in appeals court and the young woman has yet to see a dime.