From the fire extinguisher in Giles’s oven to the pizza box in Randolph’s dryer, pranks conducted by this year’s freshman class are notorious among underclassmen and upperclassmen alike. However, pranks aren’t unique to the Class of 2019; campus history is scattered with jokes and antics from the very beginning. Here are some of the more notable pranks reported on by The Chronicle in the last 60 or so years.


Located near the West bus stop, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity’s bench was a major target in the 1980’s. It was anchored to the ground and chained to a building to prevent vandalism. Although these precautions helped it survive through the decade, it was targeted again in 1991. The bench disappeared over Fall Break, and was replaced by an exact miniature replica—chained to the building and all. Lost for days, the bench was eventually found intact by fraternity members at the base of the water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina, three hours on the I-85 away from campus.

Though infamous this school year due to various questionable incidents, Giles Dorm actually has a rich history of shenanigans. A Chronicle article from 2006 describes how “a group from Giles Dormitory--self-christened "the G-spot G's"—insist they have initiated the freshman bench wars.” During the 2006 bench war season, Wilson Dorm (Giles’s rival) had their bench stolen, and many benches were turned vertically. However, this hardly compares to the 2004 bench war season, in which benches were suspended from trees.

Vintage Pranks

In May 1953, in the midst of the Cold War, a student pranked campus by flying a red flag over the Allen Administration Building on West Campus. Though less meaningful to us today, at the time The Chronicle reported student reactions ranging from, “They ought to shoot the guy who did it” to “Boy, that’s the funniest thing I ever saw on this campus.”

In December 1957, the freshmen girls of Alspaugh Dorm conducted a bow heist on a group of sophomores. The sophomore target for an unknown reason had a hoard of red hair bows, which the freshmen acquired through distraction on the telephone and walking inconspicuously out of the sophomore dorm. The day after the prank, most girls of Alspaugh sported their loot, donning the red bows instead of their traditional white ones. When questioned about the motive behind the prank, a perpetrator told The Chronicle, “The red bows are so much prettier than the white ones. Besides, the boys get inquisitive about them; it’s a great way to start a conversation.”

Pranks Gone Wrong

Early on a Sunday morning in December 1958, stink bombs were tossed into West Campus Houses H and K. A freshman smelled the odor for too long, and was assigned to bed rest by a doctor.

Eight thousand to 10,000 copies of The Chronicle were stolen from campus bins in February 2009. Though the act may have been organized by a group to prevent the public from reading a negative article, no especially inflammatory stories were reported in that issue. The prank cost The Chronicle $5,000 in advertising revenue and $3,000 in reprinting and redistribution.

In March 1977, a freshman threw a pie at a junior eating dinner in the East Campus Union, now known as Marketplace. Although the pied junior reported embarrassment, she was not hurt in any way. That didn’t stop the pie-r from being found guilty of assault and battery and disorderly conduct by the Undergraduate Judicial Board, even with the prankee testifying on his behalf.

Miscellaneous Mischief

In February 1998, two roommates on West Campus were pranked with over 100 orders for food. Their numbers were printed on a phony restaurant menu circulated around East Campus, offering foot-long sandwiches for only $2.50. Although the pranksters certainly meant it as a joke, most calls were from students who thought the menu was real and actually wanted to order food.

Statues on campus have been the targets of pranks for years. Sometime in the 60s or 70s, the James B. Duke Statue in front of the Chapel was covered in tinfoil and made to hold a cardboard sign reading “Greetings Earthlings” due to reported UFO sightings in Rocky Mount, N.C. In the same decades, the statue was also dressed up as political candidates, sheiks and Charlie Chaplin. The Sower statue—which, like most statues at Duke, is made of metal and is therefore very heavy—was tipped on its face in December 1993 as a result of a prank.