USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘senior prank’
Customs
Humor
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

High School Senior Streaking Prank

IG: Ha, every year in high school in the spring the seniors would go to someone’s house who lived next to the high school and take off all their clothes and then we would run through the high school campus and it was really funny because everybody would leave class to watch us and then everybody would get their grade docked because all the teacher were hella against it and then every year the principal would stand there with just his like arms crossed but also like shading his eyes because it was so weird to look at your students naked but it was so funny because we would wear masks, obviously, so it would be kind of anonymous but then one year (laughs) my best friend fell (laughs) and she was bleeding and then somebody- like her mask like sorta fell off and then somebody in the crowd ripped it off so she had to (laughs) she had to run naked and bleeding and her face was out through like- we have a huge campus because it was a really big public school and it was really funny and then once we got to the end of the route of the run the gates were all locked so we all had to climb over a fence which was so painful because your bare legs are out and everything, but it was so fun and it happens every year so you just have to do it even if you don’t really want to-

VG: Oh my god!

IG: Yeah

VG: Where- Where- Where did you go to high school?

IG: ****** High School.

VG: Is that in ****, ****?

IG: Yeah, it has like 4,000 students.

A: Yeah, sorry, that sounds a lot like ****.

IG: Yeah, totally.

VG: That’s so funny though.

IG: It was rite of passage for sure.

VG: Yeah.

IG: Yeah, but also like so inappropriate. We wer-We were on the streets of Berkeley naked cause we had to get from the house to the school.

VG: So, it’s illegal.

(A laughs)

IG: Yeah, exactly. I know! And people were drinking and…I mean you had to get up some nerve- probably a lot of people, so…it was like extra illegal and then you would have friends who would be the getaway cars, waiting for you, which was so hard to ma- like manage because not everyone can fit. And then one year, it was so chaotic that somebody- my neighbor like crashed into another car- not like badly, but he just like skimmed the side, and everybody’s already trying to get you in trouble that day, so then just to do that next to the school was so bad- but then it was ok because the school was pretty lenient because everybody got in trouble all the time…so yeah. It was great.

 

Background:

Location of story – Northern California  

Location of Performance – Classroom, Los Angeles, CA, late morning

 

Context: This performance was done in a group of 3-4 people after a class in response to a question about potential high school traditions, festivals, jokes, or riddles. IG was unsure at first and then was enthusiastic about sharing once she remembered this story. Hers followed one joke made. IG and I are classmates. I censored the high school name for privacy reasons. 

 

Analysis: There are many obvious and severe breeches of normal social decorum as well as the law in the continuation of this tradition. The fact that it still exists demonstrates how integral this performance is to the school and surrounding community’s identity; if they did not see that it was worth the benefits, they would most likely be able to stop with with increased police force or harsher punishments. I think this performance is particularly interesting because it demonstrates that just because some rituals and traditions may be illegal, they are often so engrained into the identity of the community that it is difficult to stop the practice and nearly impossible to remove the memories from the community’s mind if it continues. I myself have participated in senior pranks, but this was still shocking to me. Additionally, I thought it was funny that other student knew the exact location of where this prank took place. Evidently, this prank was not just fitting to the identity of the high school community but to the identity of the town as well. In fact, the other student was not even from the town and was able to identity its attitude and myth. 

 

Customs
Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Animal Senior Pranks

Piece:

Informant: “When I was in high school, ah…. friends of mine, a year ahead of me, they were getting ready to graduate and there was kind of a tradition of doing some sort of prank, senior pranks. Well that group of guys went out and stole a bunch of turkeys off a turkey farm (laughs) and broke into the high school and put the turkeys in there on like Friday night. So the turkeys are in there wild, poopin’… and turkeys are crazy, they’re out of their surroundings, they just go nuts (laughs). So they are running all over. Of course they got caught and expelled. They finally let them get their degree but they couldn’t attend graduation or something like that. So, you know, they were kind of bragging about their stunt. And I said, ‘you know I hate to tell you but this has been going on for a while.’ When my dad graduated he and his buddies put a cow in the high school (laughs). And it was a four story building and they took the cow up to the top floor because cows will go up stairs but they won’t go down. So the same thing: they left the cow in the school for the whole weekend, cow poop all over… and the top floor was where the offices were, the principal’s office and all that stuff. So cow poop all over the fourth floor they had to get a crane to get it out cause it wouldn’t go down the stairs! (laughs)”

Background:

The informant witnessed the first practical joke mentioned in person, and was told the story of the cow variant by his father. Although he did not engage in the same pranks himself, it was clear from body language and speech that the informant found this highly humorous.

Context:

This excerpt was recorded during a scheduled meeting at my home in San Diego, CA.

Thoughts:

Although I have heard of and witnessed many senior pranks, few of them compare to this one. Pranks at my school were much more tame, such as flipping every piece of artwork on display upside down, whereas these required significant cleanup and even a crane in one case. It was very interesting that both of the pranks were very similar in that they involved animals at school, although it was implied in the story that the kid’s who used the chickens were unaware of the informant’s father’s previous exploits. If I had to guess, either the usage of animals in senior pranks was commonplace in rural schools during that time period, or the kids caught wind of the informant’s dad’s idea and acted as if it were original.

Adulthood
Customs
general
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Senior Skip Day

So Senior Skip Day is a Punahou tradition. So the seniors are required to skip school but we have to meet certain prerequisite requirements before we’re allowed to go, like all your books that are due at the library have to be turned in—you can’t have any library fines, all your work for your classes has to be turned in, etc…

And for some reason if you can’t go or don’t want to go, you have to get a form signed. So Senior Skip Day basically everybody has the same Senior Skip Day T-shirt and is wearing it… and you load up on the buses on the last instructional day of school and as a class you ride out to La’ie to the White Estate and basically have a picnic day…

I mean I don’t know what the fuck to call it… The about-to-graduate mini-vacation for the actual seniors portion isn’t the interesting part… So on that day all of the juniors (because it’s the last instructional day and the seniors are gone), all the juniors make shirts, “senior shirts,” which each group makes and they wear them to show that they’re seniors as well as what group they’re in.

And everybody from freshmen to juniors, that’s when they choose their spot to sit at for the next academic year. So people will sometimes come to school at 6 in the morning or earlier…

What used to happen—it stopped on our freshman year—was freshman prank day and that was when the juniors used to prank the freshmen… Our freshman year we had a crazy bitch, named Ilima (she was captain of the women’s wrestling team, covered in tattoos and piercings, known for her… “intensity” and hate for a certain group of girls in our grade)… and she took things WAY too far, managing to instill fear in all 400 students of our entire freshman class, even though for the most part everyone came out unscathed…

And if you’re wondering about the sophomores, the sophomores basically have nothing to worry about that day; they have zero responsibility. But to ensure that none of the freshmen get hurt (I mean, “pranked”) anymore, the deans set up a popup tent in the middle of the quad… and they take turns watching the Academy and escorting students to class themselves to make sure that nobody pranks the freshmen. Like if you’re known to be “targeted” by that year’s juniors, you can tell a dean and ask for protection… Which means that everyone only gets sneakier, so I guess the new tradition is to try to prank the freshmen without getting caught by the deans. That’s all I remember…

 

How did you come across this folklore: “it’s one of those unsaid traditions, I actually have no idea how I found out about it… you just “hear about it” as a freshman and you participate until you’re a senior when some things get officialized but really everything you do is up to you. You do what everyone else does/has done.”

Other information: “What happened our year, this kind of thing becomes infamous when certain people take it too far…”

I would be surprised if there were a lot of high schools that didn’t have some kind of event like Senior Skip Day, something to ritualize the liminal period between high school and not (graduation/college/the real world, etc.), or the junior-senior bridge (underclassman vs. upperclassman), or something that otherwise distinguishes seniors from the rest of the student population. It’s a time when people are allowed to make trouble, do things they usually don’t, and don’t know which group they belong to… yet everyone else, even those not going through the same transition, play along in a way and mark it as well.

 

 

Humor

Loose Goose

Loose Goose

 

Practical Joke/Senior Prank

 

When discussing pranks by high school Seniors, my informant shared one his friend conducted. The following is a transcript of our interview:

 

Informant: “ It was the closest thing to a decent Senior prank that came out of our school. One time my best friend’s older brother captures a goose when he was a Senior, and there was down by the river, I live close to the Willamette River, and there’s this beach park thing where these giant geese hang out, and they’re fucking mean. You try to feed them but they are really pushy so they’ll attack you unprovoked, I swear to god they want to kill you, so this guy goes down there and captures a goose, I think he lured it into the parking lot over like two hours with a bunch of bread, so in the parking lot they do kung fu stuff and put it in their care and I’m pretty sure it was dangerous and probably a little illegal, so they put it under a blanket and brought it into the school and released it into the cafeteria. No one to this day knows who was responsible for releasing the goose.  It was super angry and ran around and shit all over the place because it couldn’t get out. The custodian had to come out and capture it – it was pretty spectacular I hear. “

 

My informant said that, although he did not partake in conducting any practical jokes as a high school Senior, a large pastime for his group of friends was dreaming up pranks to pull on the school.

 

Capturing an animal to desecrating the school, this prank is an act of rebellion against the school. Empowering the student, this demonstrates the administrative body’s inability to control the student population, and serves as vengeance for the house of work demanded of students. Also, this makes a mockery of an otherwise serious space, defacing the school on a less physical level.

 

Humor
Legends

Crickets

Crickets

Senior Prank/Practical Joke/Story

 

During a conversation about Senior pranks in high school, my informant recounted a Senior prank he heard happened at a neighboring school. The following is a transcript of our interview:

 

“Informant: There were two highschools, lakeridge was across the lake and we were rivals with them, but I had heard for Their Senior prank they got a thousand crickets and released them into the ventilation system and for the next month there were still cleaning up piles of crickets. Apparently it was horrible. Teachers were getting really pissed because they would chirp away in the back of the Class room, so during awkward lectures and speeches there would be crickets going in the back.”

 

My informant said that Senior pranks were often a topic of conversation in school.  Though he did not do any pranks, he said that he and his friends would often talk about them, trading stories they had heard from other schools.

 

This is an act of rebellion, using animals to desecrate the school.  This empowers the students, who are subjected to the authority of administrative bodies. Breaking down the seriousness of the school setting, the crickets chirp in the back of Classes. Often associated with awkward silence or the silence of an unentertained crowd, cricket chirping disrupts the Classroom and criticizes teachers by comparing them to boring things.  The act of a prank of a school illustrates the students’ empowerment through disobeying rules established by the administration and express students’ annoyance.

Adulthood
Customs

Senior Ditch Day

Reminiscing about high school, my informant told me of a tradition/practical joke that Seniors in his high school would orchestrate.

The following is an transcript from our interview:

 

“Informant: Every year, for as long as I’ve known, the Seniors would have a Senior Ditch Day. After the Prarie State Achievement Exam, which all students in Illinois had to take, the Senior Class would skip school for a day. They would all go out to party or just do whatever they wanted. Many would go out somewhere the night before, and celebrate by drinking or smoking, and would use the next day as a skip day to sleep away the hangover.

My year, I spent the day with a couple friends, celebrating like those before me, but we didn’t get together as a group like other grades. Usually they go out to a campsite or someone’s house that’s really far away so they can’t get in trouble, but we just went to my friends house and were sneaky.”

 

My informant said he looked forward to this day for many years, excited by the idea of breaking rules, feeling free, and skipping work for a day. He said that even though the whole grade wasn’t together, he had a great time hanging out with his friends anyway.

 

The first thing to note is when this tradition takes place: because the examination has passed and these are Seniors in high school, they likely will not be punished. Even if they are punished, they won’t have to deal with the consequences for too long since this happens towards the end of their career. Celebrating the end of work (the examination done) the students skip school.  This helps the Seniors through a liminal period, since the administrations rules don’t have as much of an effect on them any more. Almost at the end of their careers as students, the Seniors illustrate that they are no longer children by escaping the confines of school and breaking laws (doing activities reserved for adults).

Simultaneously, this is a practical joke and an act of rebellion. These students break laws and disregard school rules. A show of power, the students, skipping school, demonstrate they cannot be controlled by the school’s authority.

Adulthood
Customs
general
Legends

Exploding Toilets and A Corpse — Senior Prank Legend

My informant goes to high school in Tustin, California, where he is currently a junior. A few months earlier, he had heard of a legend of a senior prank that had occurred perhaps ten or so years back, where they had flushed all the toilets at the school at the same exact time to see what would happen to the plumbing.

They had these stopwatches, right, and all these walkie talkies, and they pressed the stopwatches at the same time and flushed the toilets just as the timer went down to zero. They wanted to see if a pipe somewhere would explode I guess, but then, instead, two toilets just blew up. Uh, I think one was a female staff toilet, and the other was in one of the main guys’ bathrooms. The toilets just like, blew apart, all the porcelain and whatnot. Which was fine and all, except later when they were trying to clean up the exploded toilets, the fixer-upper guy found a hole in the wall of the bathroom and looked through it and there was uh, a dead body in there, like scrunched up and still fresh-looking, like a girl just crawled in there and curled into a ball and died or something. Anyway, he thought she was dead, but then he’s staring at her and he can’t move because he’s so freakin’ scared, and she turns her head towards him kind of, and she doesn’t have eyes, like they’re just sockets on her face, and in the sockets there’s one of those millipede things that comes crawling out. Anyway, the plumber guy told everyone but nobody really believed him because they checked later and it was gone, but still. And they fixed the toilets and stuff, but man. The guys’ bathroom is a freakin’ scary place.

No one knows where this legend originated from, although my informant said that his Latin teacher, who had worked at the school for two decades, does remember a senior prank where the seniors all flushed the toilets at once–though he does not remember anything happening as a consequence. “I’m pretty sure toilets don’t explode even if you flush a whole bunch of them at once,” My informant said, laughing, “but it makes sense that the stories spread because the bathrooms are freakin‘ disgusting here, like really bad. And it smells so much that we probably wouldn’t notice a corpse for a while.”

I feel like the legend is significant because it pits teenagers, most of whom think of themselves as invincible, against death, even if it is a very unrealistic and cinematic depiction of it. School is a place for boredom, for homework and tedious routine–to introduce a corpse into such a scene is jarring, and sets the entire nature of their everyday lives off-balance. That the legend became so widespread, however, is not surprising; people like a good scare, and school is a place of boring routine. Although my informant and his classmates probably thought this legend was very original, there are probably many, many legends of something similar to this in schools all across the world.

 

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