The 10 Greatest Crank Calls in History
5. Canadian DJ pranks Queen Elizabeth II
Source: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Canada seems to have a huge influx of wacky morning DJs with a penchant for sneaking into high levels of power with nothing more than a convincing French accent and a bootleg CD of animal sound effects. I'm sure they probably make up a branch of their national military.
One of their DJs managed to call Buckingham Palace posing as the Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Brassard and not only got through to Her Majesty, but had a 15-minute conversation about "Canadian unity" and her stance on Quebec's independence. The entire conversation was broadcast over the national airwaves and the fact he was able to have an unfettered conversation with a member of British royalty was impressive enough, but the conversation was actually very cordial and polite. Part of me feels it would have sounded more convincing if she went all cockney on the caller and threatened to "gut yaw like a Lilian."
4. Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro prank each other with two Miami DJs
Source: AFP/Getty Images
As we've seen, calling political leaders who are afraid to publicly speak their minds is a staple of the phony phone call but it takes an entirely different set of brass to prank call a political leader who protects himself with an army of covert troops who can kill you in your sleep with a Q-Tip.
Two DJs in Miami, Enrique Santos and Joe Ferrero, not only called and got through to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez but they also used snippets of each others' real voices to make it sound as though they were actually calling. They first called Chavez using soundbytes from a conversation Castro had with former Mexican president Vicente Fox and then used snippets from their Chavez phone call to trick Castro into thinking he was talking to the Venezuelan president.
3. Steve Wozniak pranks the Vatican
Source: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
It's no wonder that one of the founders of Apple got his start by playing around with telephones at a time when you didn't have to be five miles away from the edge of the Earth's atmosphere just to get a signal.
Steve Wozniak was known for using his innate technological prowess to pull pranks, and the tech trend of phone phreaking or hacking computer systems with phone systems eventually found its way into Wozniak's brain. Back in the 1970s, a hacker by the name of Captain Crunch discovered that special whistles emitted a certain note that would allow anyone to make free long distance phone calls over any phone. Wozniak and co-founder Steve Jobs hooked up with the famous phreaker and began experimenting with the technology before building their own "blue book," a device that could manipulate phone lines to allow for free phone calls by mimicking tones. One day, Wozniak got the idea to call Pope John Paul II in the Vatican by posing as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. His "blue box" connected his calls to the highest echelons of the Vatican, all the way to the Pope's personal translator who eventually caught on to the joke after checking with the real Kissinger, even though Wozniak had perfected his German accent by then.
2. The infamous "Tube Bar Tapes"
Source: 20th Century Fox Television
Every joke, crack, and bit about running refrigerators and extricating royalty from sealed food containers had to get its start somewhere in the world. Meet the creators of "Is Heywood Jablowme there?".
John Elmo and Jim Davidson started a series of crank calls to a Jersey City bar in the 1970s called the Tube Bar, owned by forner heavyweight boxer Louis "Red" Deutsch. They would ask the gruff, gravel-voiced owner to speak to various people such as Joe Momma and Al Coholic and have him shout them the names to the customers in the bar. Even after Red caught on to the joke and became angrier and more verbally abusive to the jerks on the other end of the line, he still fell for the gag. The tapes went underground and became instant classics that not only inspired a cult short film starring Resevoir Dogs' Lawrence Tierney and Bart Simpson's signature phone battles with Moe on The Simpsons, but also gave a nation of latchkey kids with little to no parental supervision something to do in between visitation dates.
1. President Nixon gets a prank call in the White House
Source: National Archives and Records Administration
These days, anyone with a phone and a working knowledge of "buttons" can call just about anyone in the universe, so it's not hard to see how some political leaders can get duped into taking a fake call when they shouldn't have. However, long before technology and the Information Superhighway took telecommunications from an expensive, complicated, and inferior system to a slightly less expensive, complicated, and inferior system, pranking the high ranking took some work.
John Draper, better known as the aforementioned Captain Crunch, took his phone phreaking to a new level when he called the White House and pranked President Richard M. Nixon, a prank that he kept a secret for almost 20 years. He and his fellow hackers not only figured out the exact numbers and signals to reach supposedly protected lines for the CIA and the White House, but they also obtained the official codename, "Olympus," used to summon the man himself to the phone. So when a man who "sounded remarkably like Nixon" answered, the phone phreakers announced that Los Angeles was suffering from a massive toilet paper shortage and quickly hung up.