Prank – United States of America

For this prank to work, you need one very gullible person. It also helps if you have several people around who are quick on the uptake. Everyone should be seated at a table—preferably at a social gathering where there are objects such as salt, pepper, and butter on the table. The person performing the prank turns to the gullible person and says, “Did you know that butter lets off heat?” At first, the gullible person is pretty doubtful of this phenomenon, but the other people around the table will feed off of what the prankster is saying, ad libbing comments like, “Oh yeah, I’ve felt it before! It’s really weird. You know, I think margarine actually works better for this than butter…etc.” Eventually, the gullible person concedes and places their hand over the top of some butter, attempting to feel heat radiating from it. The prankster tells the gullible person that their hand needs to be just a little bit closer to the butter. When the prankster has hold of their hand, pretending to move it gradually downwards in order to feel the imaginary heat coming from the butter, the prankster smashes the victim’s hand into the butter, and everyone at the table laughs at how gullible the person was, and how ridiculous the claim had been: butter does not emit heat.

Sam picked up on this sometime during high school. I actually got the chance to see him perform this at a church gathering—I could kind of see it coming, and it was really funny when the girl had her hand covered in butter. I was also able to witness his brother perform this prank on three different people while on a school trip in France.

I recall hearing another version of this prank, although it is very similar. Rather than telling a person that butter alone emits heat, the prankster tells the gullible person that putting salt on butter results in an exothermic reaction, releasing heat that you can feel with your hand. I think this version would work especially well if the prankster is someone who is known as being good at science (specifically, chemistry). This way, the victim and the onlookers have reason to believe his claim. However, Sam was able to make this prank work without the inclusion of any “extra ingredients.”

A major factor of this prank is peer pressure. Especially if the prankster is able to get the onlookers to join in and make the claim that butter emits heat more plausible, the victim will feel more compelled to try it so that he or she isn’t viewed as “weak” or even distrustful by the rest of the group. Trust is important in this prank. The victim must trust the prankster enough to believe that he or she will not be made a fool by believing that butter emits heat; what the victim doesn’t know is that she or he will certainly not be made a fool by believing or disbelieving that butter emits heat—the victim becomes a fool when she physically trusts the prankster to adjust his or her hand positioning above the butter dish. Essentially, two kinds of trust are evident in this prank: mental and physical. The framework of the prank involves building up both of these trusts, then breaking them. Mentally, the prankster gets the victim to believe that butter does let off heat. Physically, the victim must trust the prankster when he or she guides their hand so that it is in the “optimum” position for feeling the heat from the butter. By the end of the prank, the victim knows that butter does not emit heat, and the victim’s physical trust is (at least temporarily) broken with the prankster.