When Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert weren’t filming Little House on the Prairie, he was a father figure in her life and sometimes did things to make her childhood feel less Hollywood — like pulling Halloween pranks. And one year he got her and another child actor from the show with a gag so “terrible,” they supposedly almost fainted.
What did Landon do to Gilbert that caused such a reaction? And why might she have already been a little on edge? Read on to learn more about Landon’s passion for pranks.
1 ‘Little House on the Prairie’ prank had the child actors running scared
Little House producer and production manager, Kent McCray, once recalled pulling pranks on the kids on set with Landon. And one Halloween, they both tricked the young actors in very different ways.
First, McCray said he dressed up and scared them in a graveyard. “One of the on-set teachers told me that all the kids were gonna go up to an old cemetery behind the motel. That gave me an idea. I ripped the sheet off my bed and took it and hid behind a huge tombstone,” he said (per Medium).
“I could see the kids — Melissa Gilbert [Laura Ingalls], Melissa Sue Anderson [Mary Ingalls], Matthew Labyorteaux [Albert Ingalls], and twins Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush [Carrie Ingalls] — coming up the hill. They got just about 10 feet away from me. I put the sheet over my head and reared up and bellowed, ‘Yowwww!!!’ McCray explained.
“They turned around and ran down the hill,” he concluded. “They didn’t go over the fence, they went through it.”
Michael Landon smeared his ‘undershorts’ with peanut butter and gave them to Melissa Gilbert as a prank
McCray said the kids went back to the motel where the cast stayed and they started trick-or-treating. He shared, “Melissa Gilbert and Matthew [Labyorteaux] decided to take a pillowcase and go from room to room, knocking on doors seeing if they could pick up any candy.”
They got to Landon’s room, and he put something into their pillowcase. But they were in for a surprise when they got their stash back to the room and realized they’d been treated with a trick.
“Turns out Michael had given them his undershorts which he had smeared with peanut butter,” McCray explained. “They nearly fainted!”
“Melissa’s mother told me the next day that Melissa exclaimed, ‘This is terrible, just terrible. Get this outta here!’ They assumed it was something else kinda gross,” he laughed. “That’s the kind of jokester Mike was.”
Melissa Gilbert said Michael Landon took part in the graveyard prank
Notably, she added to the story that Landon was the one who sent the kids to the graveyard where McCray was waiting for them. As they entered the cemetery, Gilbert recalled “from behind one of the tombstones rose this huge white ghost going ‘Ooooooooh.’”
“The ghost raised his arms and the kids started running,” she shared. “I mean like so fast …”
But Gilbert eventually realized who was under that sheet, thanks to one tell-tale feature. “I saw this stomach under the sheet,” she said and concluded, “It was McCray.”