Tag Archives: snakes

Punk’d – Ancient Rome Style!

24 Sep

Everyone loves a prank, particularly when they’re not on the receiving end.  Whether it’s putting cling wrap on the toilet seat, bubble wrapping every item in a colleague’s office, or telling your parents that you’re dropping out of high school because you’re pregnant to your maths teacher, pranks can be amazing things.

Last week, a bunch of New Zealanders pulled off a brilliant prank: they rigged the taps of a friend’s house so that they poured beer instead of water.  When their friend and his partner left their home, the pranksters got under the house with a toolbox and several kegs of beer.  With some serious plumbing skills, they connected every tap in the house to a keg, and installed 14 hidden cameras to watch the couple’s reaction when they returned home.

The prank was gold – as was the liquid that poured from every tap the Aucklander turned on.  Whilst this meant that the victim enjoyed a few cool glasses of ale, it also meant that taking a shower didn’t really help him get clean.  Also I’m not sure how the lawn fared, although I imagine running through the sprinkler would have been fun (and a little unhealthy for the kids).

That’s some elaborate pranking, sure, but when it comes to executing pranks on a grand scale, and with no concept of sanity, no one quite did it like my favourite prankster of all time: Elagabalus.  Don’t know who that is?  Well let me paint you a picture.

Elagabalus was creative, so his pranks had never been done before.  He was rich, so cost was no barrier to their execution.  And he was thoroughly insane, so the pranks were always bizarre and often dangerous.

Oh, and he was a fourteen-year-old Emperor of Ancient Rome.

In 217 A.D., Roman Emperor Caracalla was assassinated and replaced by prefect Marcus Opellius Macrinus.  Caracalla’s devious aunt, Julia Maesa, successfully plotted to have Macrinus overthrown and to instate Caracalla’s cousin – her grandson – as Emperor instead.  That person happened to be Elagabalus, who was fourteen at the time.  What do you do when you’re fourteen years old and your grandmother makes you ruler of the most powerful Empire in the known world?

You use your newfound power and riches to become the craziest prankster that ever lived.

Now, it should be pointed out that some modern historians are a little sceptical about the truth of some of these stories, but all of what you are about to read comes from texts such as the Augustan History, and contemporaneous accounts such as those written by Cassius Dio, a Roman senator.  So as far as I’m concerned, they’re all true.  Please be all true.

Elagabalus was eccentric – he often had flakes of gold sprinkled over his food and he liked to dress as a woman – so it’s no real surprise that he liked to pull pranks.  For example, he created a device that he slipped onto the chairs of his dinner guests that when sat upon, made it sound like the victim had let off wind.

Yes, a Roman Emperor invented the whoopee cushion.

Property of Elagabalus.  Patent pending.

Property of Elagabalus. Patent pending.

That’s not all Elagabalus invented.  His eccentricities and insistence on imposing his unorthodox religious beliefs on the Roman populace made him start to become an unpopular ruler.  So to win the people back, Elagabalus created a lottery, thought to be the first ever in Europe.  He gave away tickets to the public, and some of the recipients won prizes just like in modern lotteries.  Well, maybe not exactly like modern lotteries; sometimes the winning prize was a slave.

However this soon got boring for Elagabalus, so to spice things up he began distributing the lottery tickets by catapulting them into crowds and watching them fight amongst each other to claim them.  Even that got boring, so next he decided to prank the citizens by firing something else into the crowds at the same time as the lottery tickets.

Poisonous snakes.

Way to win back the people, Elagabalus.

He didn’t stop there.  Soon he began pranking the lottery winners themselves.  The winners would receive a prize, not knowing what it was.  Sometimes they would open the prize box to see that it contained money.  Other times, the box would contain a dead dog or a swarm of wasps.  Every now and then it would contain an order for the winner to be executed.  Classic!

It wasn’t even safe being friends with Elagabalus, as he loved nothing more than to prank his dinner guests as well.  Of course there were the whoopee cushions, but he had other tricks up his sleeves.

Way before Heston Blumenthal had his cooking show, Heston’s Feasts, Elagabalus served food to his guests that looked like one thing, but were in fact another.  Unlike Heston’s Feasts, though, his prank foods weren’t things like meat prepared to look like fruit, or cutlery that was edible.  Rather, he presented rocks disguised as food.  Apparently he loved nothing more than to watch his guests bite into what they thought was an apple, only to break their teeth on a rock.  What a jester!

It was said that during one of his dinner parties he had installed a mechanism that dropped hundreds of thousands of rose petals on an unsuspecting guest, only for the guest to suffocate under the mountain of petals.  Just a guess, but I’d say that’s probably the only time a coroner’s certificate ever read, ‘Death by petals’.

Perhaps the prank Elagabalus is most famous for is this one.  Elagabalus’ guests would be invited to stay the night after their feasts, his palace’s many bedrooms available for all.  What his guests wouldn’t know is that he would place a special surprise in a few of the random rooms.


Yes, it filled Elagabalus with no end of joy to know that some of his guests would open their bedroom door to receive the shock of their life.  A life that would no doubt end a few seconds later.



Given his propensity for insane hijinks, it’s no surprise that in 222 A.D., just four years after coming to power, Elagabalus was assassinated.  Was a disgruntled prank victim behind the plot to kill him?  No, it was Julia Maesa, the same grandmother that made him Emperor in the first place.  Lil Ol’ Granny Julia: destroying Emperors and stereotypes!

So next time you are thinking about pranking someone, remember the fine tradition that Elagabalus set many centuries ago, and try to emulate his creativity.  Just remember to not take things too far, else you might find yourself killed by your grandmother.

Random Objects Saving Lives

21 Aug

Life is a funny thing.  You could be going about your day the same as any other, when danger suddenly decides to pay you a visit.  Next thing you know you are faced with an armed robber, a runaway train, or a horde of sharks pummelling down at you from a tornado.

When confronted with unexpected life-threatening danger, there’s usually only one thing that can save you: dumb luck.  Here is a collection of people who survived near-death experiences with no thanks to skill or quick thinking, but to random objects saving their lives.

The first story takes us to Brazil, where 58-year-old Ivonete Pereira hopped aboard a bus in Salvador, the capital of Bahia.  There had been frequent bus attacks in the region, so Pereira decided to hide her money.  Her caution was justified when two men announced that they were about to rob the bus.  A shootout ensued with a police officer on the scene, and a stray bullet hit Pereira in the chest.  It would most certainly have been a fatal blow…

…except that the bullet struck the wad of bank notes Pereira had stuffed into her bra.

Pereira’s secret wad of hidden money absorbed enough of the impact of the bullet that her life was saved, although she still had to be taken to hospital to have the bullet removed.  It seems that money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a reprieve from death.  It’s also an alternative to surgery when looking to achieve a fuller, perkier look.

This smart lady is taking sensible measures that could save her life.

This smart lady is taking sensible measures that could save her life.

Amazingly that isn’t the only case of money stopping a bullet.  Elizabeth Pittenger, 22, had just stepped into her truck on campus at Middle Tennessee State University, US, when a man pulled a gun on her and demanded her phone, purse and laptop.  Pittenger refused to give up her possessions, and in an unorthodox move to avoid danger, got out of the truck “to keep a struggle going”.

She got what she hoped for, the man shooting her with a .38 calibre revolver, before fleeing the scene.  Even though she was shot from just four feet away, Pittenger survived, thanks to a random object.  Like most women, Pittenger was carrying an oversized purse chock full of an assortment of items (most of which she probably never uses – am I right?!).  Thanks to being so full of junk, the bullet was lodged in her purse and didn’t even make it through the other end, acting, as it were, like a bulletproof vest.  Some of the contents of her purse included a calculator, umbrella, a sunglasses case, and a bullet.  Accessorising can not only make or break an outfit, but also the trajectory of a deadly projectile.


A typical woman's bag.

A typical woman’s bag.

Juan Camarena was also shot at close range and lived to tell the tale.  Camarena, 54, was sweeping the floor of an apartment building in Harlem, New York, after being hired by the building’s new superintendent.  Unfortunately for him, the building’s old superintendent was not happy about being fired, and showed up to the building to confront his replacement.  Seeing Camarena instead, the man kindly suggested that he, “Get the [fudge] out of here.”  Camarena continued with his work, and so the man pulled out a gun and shot him from 5 feet away.

Camarena didn’t have an oversized purse over his shoulder, or a bra to stuff a wad of notes in (probably) so how did he survive?  The bullet struck his mobile phone.  Talk about a close call!  The gunman fled without capture.  Camarena would have called 911, but…

David Fitzherbert of West London was enjoying a spot of skiing in Switzerland when he almost suffered an untimely death.  He was skiing down a glacier on Switzerland’s Matterhorn when the snow gave way beneath him, causing him to plummet 20m down a crevasse.  He was about to fall through the bottom and plunge to his death, when the gap narrowed.  The gap was just large enough that Fitzherbert would have fallen through, but he survived.  How?  He had his BlackBerry mobile phone in his jacket pocket, and it caught on a ledge, preventing him from falling.  No doubt it was the only time Fitzherbert had been happy to be put on hold.

We've all been in this situation before.

We’ve all been in this situation before.

The BlackBerry was sturdy enough to keep Fitzherbert safely wedged within the crevasse for two whole hours until he could be rescued.  Not only that, but after being taken to the hospital (Fitzherbert broke his jaw, cracked a rib, smashed his teeth, and almost had his nose completely torn off) he was able to use his phone to call his wife and let her know that not only was he alright, he had never been more grateful to be stuck on the phone.

Perhaps the greatest example, however, of being saved by a random object happened in 2011. Israeli “model and actress” (if you know what I mean) Orit Fox was appearing on countryman DJ Shmulik Tayar’s radio show.  As part of the show, Fox was fondling and licking a poisonous snake (as you do).  It’s not clear whether the snake realised it was being handled by one of its mortal enemies – the Fox – or whether it was aroused by the fondling and thought it would reciprocate, but the snake lashed out at the model.

And latched on to her breast.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, that’s hilarious.  But it was also life threatening; or at least it would have been had Fox not been saved by a random object.

Her breast implants.

Yes, Fox’s ginormous, perfectly shaped breasts were not, as it turns out, natural, and the extra padding bore the brunt of the snake’s fangs, leaving Fox’s breasts untouched (a situation that doesn’t occur very often for Fox I’m sure).


The tale does have a sad ending however.  A few days after the incident, the poor snake passed away, dying from poisoning.  In a complete turn of the tables, the snake was poisoned from a most unlikely source: Fox’s silicone implants.  Yes, the snake punctured Fox’s implants and the leaking silicon killed it.  Talk about having a killer body.

If only the snake had a wad of cash or a phone in its mouth it might still be alive.  Perhaps its memory lives on – as an oversized purse.