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 from evil prankster geniuses.
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.
This Exorcist spider-walk prank, devised by the Viral Brothers, is considerably more whimsical and good-natured than many of the other tricks here, if only because it's easy to figure out that it is just a prank early on (What else could it be? Everybody knows a pea-soup splattered Linda Blair when they see her.) Set in dingy subway stations, lonely underpasses, deserted roads under flickering street lamps, and dark parks where people walk their dogs alone at night, it features a white nightgown clad Regan doing her thing as unsuspecting viewers double back, scream, run, and generally descend into mayhem.
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.
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.
Another big hit in prankvertising, as Business Insider calls it, featured a scenario every doll-fearing (or vengeful doll-wielding) child has undoubtedly fantasized about: a real life Chucky bursting out of his own poster, ready to kill.
Devised by Brazilian visionary Silvio Santos (who also made headlines when he made dolls come aggressively to life in a toy store), the gag targets regular folk waiting at a bus stop. A promotional display box stands nearby, and, at the 1:28 mark in the video, the redheaded homicidal ragamuffin bursts out and starts chasing people down the street, wielding a gleaming knife.
Traumatizing and ultra-violent, yes. But also ultra-clever.