Everybody loves splendidly diabolical pranks, especially if they double as ingenious publicity stunts. In the era of viral videos, the bar has been raised: real ingenuity goes way beyond the old whoopie cushion or fake-piece-of-sh*t on the floor gag. Some of the tricks on this list are complex masterpieces; serious mindf*cks that deserve a place in the annals of extremely elaborate pranks people actually pulled off. Here you'll find scary pranks, terrifying pranks, and crazy practical jokes. And not all of them are contemporary. Orson Welles's famous "War of the Worlds" broadcast, for instance, will be remembered forever.
So, whether your poison is an alarmingly realistic baby spitting regurgitated milk at passersby, a drowned horror icon crawling out of a television set, or just a violent murder witnessed in a run-of-the-mill parking lot in the dead of night, read on.
The Fabulous Marketing Campaign For 2013's "Carrie" Remake
Though nobody will ever top Brian De Palma's 1976 masterpiece Carrie, Kimberley Pierce (most famous for directing Boys Don't Cry) tried a remake, with the aid of a bonkers marketing strategy. Just before the film was released in 2013, a team working for Sony Pictures devised a telekinetic coffee shop prank, which they set in popular West Village grub-and-jo spot 'sNice.
According to an article in The Blaze, the production included "a stuntman on a wire, spring-loaded books, and motorized tables to make it appear as if a woman in the cafe was using supernatural powers." When an actor walked by and "accidentally" spilled coffee on a faux-Carrie's laptop and she responded by freaking out and "telekinetically" shoving him up a wall, onlookers reacted in a variety of memorable ways.
In hindsight, many suspect a lot of the people present were paid actors, but there were still a good percentage of genuinely nonplussed patrons in the equation who stumbled in just looking for a cup of coffee or some food.
This Giant Mutant Spider-Dog Prank
This prank, which features an alarmingly large spider-dog that scuttles toward the viewer with horrible speed, is set in out-of-the-way and sinister places, and provoked reactions similar to those seen in the Exorcist Spider-Walk montage. At one point, the trick includes a giant booby trapped "web" designed to snare unwary passersby (who are perhaps actors). A truly fearsome creature (like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers human-dog hybrid) it ain't, but its throwback B-Movie vibe is groovy, nonetheless.
The Devil-Baby of NYC
Is this beautiful, malevolently confident child of Lucifer one of the most artful publicity stunts of all time? In 2014, the marketing team for Rosemary's Baby-esque Satanic-pregnancy flick Devil's Due announced the film's debut by terrorizing unsuspecting New Yorkers. They rigged up a startlingly realistic looking remote control infant, who spent a day wheeling through city streets snarling, projectile vomiting, and uproariously disgruntling concerned passerby.
The reactions of the folk who came in contact with the child are priceless. The best one might be the sanitation worker at the 1:00 mark, a true New Yorker, who simply looks on mildly as the spawn pops up from its buggy and shrieks at him.
This Prank Featuring A Real Samara Crawling Out Of A TV
This fiendish set up accompanied the release of 2002's The Ring, which would go on to become one of the most successful horror remakes (of 1998's Ringu) ever. As Time Magazine explains it, the prank entailed
"... building a fake wall inside a real store in upstate New York, then covering it in televisions... hidden behind one of the lower screens was a hidden compartment where an actress dressed up like the creepy Samara would emerge to scare customers, riffing on the premise of The Ring's video viewings."
As anyone watching the above video can see, the effect was marvelous. Talk about breaking the fourth (or would this be the fifth?) wall.