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Pranks at a Summer Camp (Part Two)

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Good morning, campers! Picking up where we left off yesterday, I am pleased to share with you the remaining two of the Five Greatest Pranks We Ever Pulled.

Numba’ Two: Before we went to camp, we had plans. Mission objectives, if you will. We had pranks already picked out. We had backup pranks if we had to abort the main prank. We had specific targets that we assigned code names. We had GPS, suitcase nukes, Humvees. We were at war, people.

There was a kid on youth staff for a while named Matt. Matt was extremely strange. Part of it was the way he looked. He was “Jeff-sized,” despite being only 15-years-old. Part of it was the way he talked. Imagine Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson, and Diane Rehm all rolled into one. It caught most people off guard for the first time to hear this slow, mousy, lispy voice come from this man the size of a Ford Festiva.

A big part of it was the crippling social effects of being that fat. He was always crying at the mildest slight. He often ate his food in private because he was embarrassed about the size of the portion and he was constantly paranoid about what people were saying about him, his voice, and his size behind his back.

As cruel as teenagers can be, especially boys, we actually never ripped on Matt about his size. In fact, we never ripped on anyone in any meaningful way, for that matter. That’s part of the spirit of American youth camps. It’s a safe place where you can go and be yourself, far away from the judgment of your family, your teachers, and your classmates.

Sure, you would get a good-natured ribbing if we found a New Kids on the Block tape in your Walkman, or if someone recognized your feet under the stall door while you were taking a big, noisy, smelly deuce, or if they caught you holding hands with some girl with braces, but that was about the extent of it. No one got it for being fat, poor, ugly, tall, short, smart, or stupid.

Matt, for all of his oddities that made him a miserable sod in real life, came to camp and was treated with a deference that he likely never received anywhere else. And then he threw it all away.

One camp in particular we lost a lot of ground in the prank war. The staff seemed to know all of our plans. They kept their rooms locked during the day. The night watch kept an unusually close eye on the back door of the boys’ dorm. They peered cautiously from the windows of the lodge during their nightly meeting. They knew everything we had planned. We were disheartened, baffled, and frustrated.

On a Saturday afternoon, a few of us were having a chat with Spiber Man. He was the Switzerland of the war, taking neither side, but he was at least sympathetic to ours. He told us something that explained how the staff had been able to so easily thwart our every scheme. On Thursday night, the staff — damn their oily hides — bribed Matt with junk food in exchange for a detailed account of our plans for the weekend.

All bets were off. I know what I’m about to write is a paradox, but we took our fun seriously. Matt had become a liability. We had to send a message that we wouldn’t tolerate this type of treachery – and it was gonna be smelly.

Matt was known for striking off to the boys’ dorm between activities to “snack.” That is, he would shove unimaginable amounts of junk food down his throat over the course of a few minutes, wash it all down with a few greedy gulps of soda, and return to the fray. He would always try to inconspicuously slip back into the flow of things, but trying to convince people that you stepped outside for some fresh air ain’t so easy when you return with your face covered in Doritos residue, a gummy bear stuck to your neck, and your hands glistening and sticky.

Knowing this habit of his, we thought it prudent to add a very healthy dose of castor oil to his beverage of choice — we had to account for his overwhelming girth by quadrupling said dose — and simply waited for him to retire to the dorm for his post-dinner/pre-lights out snack. We hoofed it to the dorm once we saw him leave and saw that he had polished off the remaining swigs of the two-liter of Mountain Dew we had tainted. Point, set, match.

About four hours later the fireworks began, as we were engaged in the nightly lights-out camper wrangle. It was one of the great traditions of camp. While the staff was at their nightly meeting, it was the youth staff’s responsibility to make their way through the dorm and get the campers in bed.

This mainly consisted of us sticking our heads in the bathroom and showers and yelling, “All right! Let’s go! Lights out! Let’s hurry it up! C’mon! Lights out! Hurry it up in there! Let’s move it!” as well as walking up and down the aisles with that big-fish-in-a-small-pond-mall-security-guard swagger, shouting, “All right! Lights out! Let’s get in bed and get those lights out, people! Quiet! Lights out!” and swinging our arms waaaay out behind us and clapping our hands in front of us.

Occasionally we would pop into the rooms and begin rooting around the campers’ personal effects for candy even though we all had copious amounts of our own. They would object and begin to get out of bed to defend the plunder of their sweet, sweet booty, which we would answer with threats of calling their parents right nowto say, “We are sending your son home because of his bad behavior. We need to send him home right away, so you’re going to have to come pick him up at midnight on a Saturday, way out here in the lower east side of nowhere,” to which most kids promptly shut the hell up and just helplessly watched us eat their coveted confectionaries. We were such jerks.

If they didn’t have any good candy, we would ask if anyone in the room had “scored” so far that weekend. “Scored” means “given or received an awkward peck or sloppy tongue-kiss from a girl.” The responses were inevitably laced with gross exaggerations and/or flat-out lies. We would usually respond with hilariously lame and equally mendacious stories to put the campers in their place, replete with our own gross exaggerations and embellishments.

“Yeah, well, last camp there was this girl on staff, her name was Veronica, and she was like 24 or something, and she was all like ‘Meet me behind the girls’ dorm at midnight’, and so I went out there, and she was all like, ‘I have a boyfriend and all, but I just can’t resist you,’ and then we french-kissed until, like, dawn or something, and I got to touch her boobs, and they were, like, humongous, and now she’s going to homecoming with me.”

Then we would pat the campers on the head like the amateurs they were, as if to suggest, “I am a black belt at scoring with chicks. You’re so young and naive. Just you wait until you’re my age. You’re still not going to get as many chicks as me.”

Anyway, Matt. The rest of the story won’t surprise you. As we were on patrol, he started complaining about a sour stomach and then he disappeared into the bathroom for several hours. All we could hear were bursts of sound – painful moaning, flatulence like thunder, and the dull roar of a stream of liquified waste hitting the toilet water so heavily and steadily that it sounded like Niagra Falls. There was a lot of Matt, so one could only surmise that there was a lot of Matt to clean out.

We told Matt the next morning that we caused his gastrointestinal distress. We explained that we had finished exacting our revenge and we were all good. He could have played it cool, but instead he ratted us out to the staff. Matt never came back to camp after that. I think he knew the next step in the escalation process quite naturally would have forced us to disembowel and hang him Hannibal Lecter-style, but he was wrong. We were just gonna do the castor oil thing again. Except next time, we were going to lock him in the girls’ dorm afterwards.

Numba’ One: The best prank we ever pulled qualifies as such because it was a) so very simple, and b) utterly spontaneous.

There was an enemy faction on the staff of young men and women who we duked it out with one weekend in particular. It consisted of a guy (Jody), a girl (Sherry), Spiber Man, and some other people who were obviously pretty forgettable, because I can’t remember them. The penultimate prank in this particular match-up was of their doing, but the final blow was ours, and it was glorious.

Remember the order of things each night? Staff goes to meeting, youth staff puts campers to bed, staff returns. Each Saturday night after the staff returned, the youth staff went to another building on campus for the “youth staff party.” This will blow your mind – it was unsupervised. Yes, eight teenage boys and eight teenage girls, away from home, filled with a sense of independence and adventure, allowed to cavort in a huge, dark, empty building far away from intervention of adults.

If any of us had ever had the gall to do what we all wanted do to with each other, we would have had our own “little campers” the following year. Instead, it was just a lot of making out and groping in dark corners (or crying about how the person you wanted to make out with and grope was making out with and groping someone else), eating junk food, making prank phone calls, and a whole lot of that emo, Breakfast Club-esque dialog about how everything we do is a cry for help and our parents just don’t understand us, and at least if we cut ourselves we can feel something.

One of those magical nights, locked away in our fortress of debauchery and/or misery, the enemy struck. We returned from our party to find that every single item in our dorm room was gone. The whole room was empty.

The entire dorm was quiet – we couldn’t go on a rampage. We quietly skulked about the dorm, flashlights in hand, wondering where the hell they could have stashed our belongings. Then it occurred to one of us to check the courtyard between the two boys’ dorms. It was all there, laid out very neatly on the grass; and like the grass, it was all covered in frost.

We hustled to get everything back inside, our faces red with anger and embarrassment. How could we not have seen this coming? We began to chide ourselves for our foolishness, but quickly resolved that the past was the past and we were getting nowhere by rehashing it. We had to strike back.

We didn’t know where the enemy was sleeping, but it wasn’t hard to figure out. There were two boys’ dorms and two girls’ dorms. Each one was connected to the other, hence the courtyard, but only one dorm of each gender was used during any given camp. A lot of the staff couldn’t bear the thought of sharing a room with a bunch of smelly teenagers, so they would congregate in one of the unoccupied dorms, and their sleeping arrangements were often co-ed.

We struck off into the empty dorm next door and found a room with a bunch of Abercrombie & Fitch clothes strewn about, a lot of hair care products, and about ten pairs of women’s shoes littering the floor. Boom. This must have been Jody & Sherry’s room – and they were on night watch.

What to do, what to do? We packed the two suitcases, took them outside, and chucked each item individually onto the roof of the dorm. As we rifled through their belongings one piece at a time, we found some very, shall we say, personal items that belonged to Sherry, including some very “special” underwear, lacy bras, and some tampons.

The following morning, as the boys preened and prepared to head to the dining hall for breakfast, we held a public auction of sorts for each of the pilfered items. I think we made a little over $30, and that wasn’t including the bartered candy and food that we accepted as legal tender.

Boys this age (ages 12-14, remember?) have all the subtlety of Tsar Bomba. By noon, they were wearing the bras and panties on their heads or over their own clothes, letting the tampons hang out of the corner of their mouths like cigars, or dipping them in soda to see how much liquid they would absorb. The best part was that Sherry was like a ghost that day. She was nowhere to be seen. She didn’t have the huevos to go and collect her belongings. I would have at least tried for the underwear. They looked expensive.

Ahhh, yes. The glory days of my youth. Pranks that I am involved in today tend to be about as exciting as an oil change. They usually involve farting in bed and fluffing the covers towards my wife. Still, I had a good run. I wish I had done that panty thing more often, though. That was boss, man.

Please comment and share your most cherished pranks, at summer camp or otherwise.

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About Tim Greathouse

During the week, Tim Greathouse is a freelance writer, father and homemaker. Each weekend he dons a suit and performs wedding ceremonies for remarkably cool couples all over his home state of Ohio.
  • Anne

    OMG I LOVED THESE PRANKS

  • Nicole Anderson

    I am the Director, Programming at a Ranch that has a summer camp program for 300 kids…and that means 100 staff and many many pranks. In fact I was googling to find some originals when I found your blog.

    Incredible writing style and topic. It had me laughing the whole way through and it also had me a bit sad remembering the pranks of yesteryear that if to be done now I would find myself in court with some parent and/or camper screaming foul.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Andrew

    Hilarious! That was utterly hilarious! I laughed the whole way through. I’m a 15 year old Eagle scout in Connecticut and I enjoy the occasional prank at summer camp. I’ll be going again in a couple days and I think what I and the other senior boys try will now have to involve a whole lot of plastic wrap!
    Last year, in the middle of the night, we filled the tent of two of our younger scouts with as many branches, leaves, and rocks as we could find. This was done with the utmost care, taking about two hours in total. As a finishing touch, we tied the tent flaps together as tight as possible. Ah, good times. And I look forward to more in the very near future.

  • R. Wing

    Meh. Cliche.

  • Sarah

    that was great, i laughed all the way through it! im a counsellor at an all-girls camp, and this summer was just one great prank after another. the best one was done by our LITs…they stole the LIT trainer’s bike, and hid it in the woods. she couldn’t find it, so they recovered it, and zoomed through the parking lot (right past her), took it to our “long house” (basically a gym) and hoisted it into the air bear hang style. she was obviously not pleased, and retaliated by removing the poles from their tents.

  • Joseph

    That was a great story, i laughed the whole time, im almost done with my Eagle Project and i remember a lot of camp pranks; collapsing tents, Going TP’ing, launching rotten egg’s and potatoes at the Staff Tents, putting all the Weather Rocks (A rock hanging from a tri-pod) on the Mess Hall roof, and the best of all – Saran Wraping 13 of the Staff Members Cars