The qualities we typically look for in a president are things like strength, intellect, experience, and … good at practical jokes? Read on to learn about the most infamous practical jokes some of our U.S. presidents ever pulled (spoiler: some of them are pretty brutal).
1. Eisenhower’s fake “Indian attack”
During Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first major assignment, he decided to pull a pretty serious prank on the junior officers. He planned a fake “Indian attack” in Wyoming — he even staged a pretend argument about how bad things were looking in front of the officers. He put blanks in the guns that were given to his men and then sneaked out in the night to exclaim false war cries. The men were so frightened they about called for reinforcements, but Eisenhower stopped them before they could, finding the entire thing hilarious.
Next: You won’t believe what Abraham Lincoln did to these poor kids
2. Abraham Lincoln’s exploding pig bladder
One of the most respected presidents in U.S. history had quite a knack for jokes. According to The Libertarian Republic, Lincoln once told a group of local children to heat a pig’s bladder over the fireplace. Of course, the bladder exploded, sending coals flying and even set fire to a broom. Thankfully, none of the children were hurt.
Next: The original prank call
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s prank call
A group of White House correspondents were part of a chorus that was invited to perform on NBC. During the show, Roosevelt called in, disguising his famous voice, and offered the group a contract, says The Libertarian Republic. When asked what the contract would be for he replied, “I’m the advertising manager for the Cascarets,” a famous laxative. He revealed that it was actually him on the phone at the next press meeting.
Next: The first of several Clinton vs. Bush pranks
4. Missing W’s
The Clinton administration pulled their fair share of pranks on the Bush administration during the transition between the two presidents. One of their pranks involved removing or damaging every W on every keyboard. According to Ranker, the prank cost about $5,000 to replace all the keyboards.
Next: This seems more criminal than a harmless prank
5. Andrew Jackson’s smashing dinner party
When Andrew Jackson first began practicing law, he attended a dinner party he felt could use some lightening up. As a joke, he smashed the plates, shattered the glasses, and started a fire. On another occasion, he was put in charge of organizing a formal Christmas party. He thought it’d be funny to invite prostitutes. According to Listverse, the guests were offended and the prostitutes were humiliated. Who knew Jackson was such a loose cannon?
Next: Calvin Coolidge was a weirdo.
6. “Silent Cal”
Calvin Coolidge was known for being a quiet guy, hence the nickname “Silent Cal.” He did, though, love pranks. According to The Libertarian Republic, he once asked his aide to fill up a bucket with water and yellow beans, and then instructed the aide to scrub the brown spots off the beans. Apparently, the aide was at it for quite some time until another member of Coolidge’s staff told him that the only way you can get spots off a bean is with a knife.
Next: Another high-school-style prank the Clintons pulled on the Bush administration
7. Missing doorknobs
The Clinton administration strikes again. This time the prank involves removing a large majority of the White House doorknobs.
“The best missing doorknob gag involves removing the knob on only one side, so the victim finds themselves mildly inconvenienced when they try to exit a room they’ve entered,” reads Ranker. “However, doorknobs can be expensive to replace, and that’s especially true in the White House, where many of the knobs are antique and worth some serious money.”
Next: You won’t believe what Abraham Lincoln did to these poor kids
8. Harry Truman forces a man to face his greatest fear
During his presidency, Truman had to take a trip to South America along with a group of reporters. In that group was Tony Vaccaro, a reporter who was immensely afraid of needles. Vaccaro was relieved to find out that he wouldn’t be needing a shot for the trip, but when Truman found out about Vaccaro’s fear, he made up a lie that said a shot was now required. Vaccaro was all but pushed into a doctor’s office, and came face to face (or buttocks to needle) with a horse-sized needle filled with a fake red liquid. When he was asked to drop his pants, the president entered to reveal that the whole thing had been a prank, reports Listverse.
Next: The car crash prank
9. Lyndon B. Johnson’s car crash gag
According to Listverse, Johnson liked to play a trick on guests who’d visit him at his Texas ranch. He’d take them for a ride in his blue convertible, and once they got to the top of a hill, he’d pretend the breaks weren’t working and crash the car into a lake. Little did his visitors know, the vehicle was an “amphicar” — a car that turned into a speedboat, thanks to his friends at James Bond’s R&D department.
Next: George H. Bushed greatly embarrassed Mrs. Bush.
10. George H. Bush punished his wife for looking at porn
When Mrs. Bush found obscene pictures on her computer thanks to one of her grandchildren, Bush took it as an opportunity. He wrote a letter on official stationery from the state of Maine that said, “It has come to our attention that you have been using your computer to go on porn websites.” The letter was signed from the Attorney General of Maine. According to The Libertarian Republic, Mrs. Bush opened the letter in front of everyone and was very embarrassed.
Next: The Clinton administration strikes again.
11. Glued desk drawers
This is yet another prank the Clinton administration pulled on the Bush administration. Every single desk drawer in the White House (imagine how many there must be) was covered in glue. “Even if the glue failed to render the drawers inaccessible, it certainly made them unusable. There were probably a lot of new desks ordered for the White House that year,” says Ranker.
Next: “Jail to the Thief”
12. Anti-Bush stickers
As if the glued desk drawers and the missing doorknobs and W’s weren’t enough, the Clinton administration also covered the White House with anti-Bush stickers. One of the stickers read “Jail to the Thief,” implying that the new president had stolen the seat from Al Gore.
“Unlike regular graffiti, putting stickers on stuff doesn’t involve any sort of skill or creativity, and it takes a lot less time and effort. Thus, it’s no surprise that the Bush administration found the White House absolutely littered,” says Ranker.
Next: An awkward dinner
13. John F. Kennedy taught his friend a lesson
Kennedy was good friends with a man named Lem Billings. One day Billings let it slip that he had begun romantically seeing Greta Garbo. According to Listverse, Kennedy didn’t appreciate his friend’s boasting and decided to play a prank on Billings to teach him a lesson in modesty. So he invited both Billings and Garbo over for dinner, but instructed Garbo to act like she had never met Billings before, despite their romantic involvement. Unsurprisingly, Billings was confused and humiliated.
Next: One of Lincoln’s childhood pranks
14. Abraham Lincoln started pranking at an early age
Before he was a respected president, he was a teenager who loved a good prank. Lincoln had been tall all his life. So tall, his stepmother used to tease him about keeping his head clean so that she wouldn’t have to clean her ceilings. “One day, Lincoln spotted some boys playing in the mud and turned them upside down to leave muddy feet marks on the ceiling,” reports The Libertarian Republic.
Next: Obscene voicemails
15. Prank voicemails
This is the last Clinton vs. Bush prank on the list. Before the Bush administration arrived, the Clinton staffers left some surprise voicemails for the new staff moving in, thinking they couldn’t resist checking if there were any old voicemails remaining. What was on the machine were lots of anti-Bush messages, some of which were obscene and profane.
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