Ah, the 1800s: The era of awesome slang terms and creative euphemisms for the woman’s “monosyllable.” It was also a time where you could be casually steering a horse and buggy and then get stabbed in the face for no reason. We dug up some more incredible 19th-century pranks that are either bizarre or violent … or both. Ashton Kutcher would be proud.
1. Poking random people’s asses with swords.
From Francis Grose’s 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue:
2. Inviting citizens to a fake lion-washing ceremony.
From Gustave Louis Maurice Strauss’ Reminiscences of an Old Bohemian:
3. Ghosts in the U.S. Capitol.
An officer on patrol one night in 1885, aware that his fellow officer was approaching, concealed himself in a corner and groaned loudly. His partner, terrified, opened fire on what he thought was a ghost — and, fortunately, never hit him.
This story, says the House of Representatives’ sweet historical Web presence, became the stuff of legends — along with a “ghostly demon cat wandering House hallways, usually during times of great political change or national upheaval.”
4. Crediting Edison with a food machine.
How come no one’s heard of Edison’s greatest invention, a contraption that transformed soil into cereal and water into wine? Because he didn’t invent it — the New York Graphic did. When other newspapers wrote longwinded editorials praising Edison’s genius, the Graphic‘s next feature was titled, simply, “They Bite!”
5. Filling working cannons with random crap.
In his 1932 book Black Tavern Tales, Stories of Old New England, Charles Goodell writes about his childhood pranks in Massachusetts the late 1800s. He and his pals found an old Revolutionary War cannon and stuck anything they found in it — wet rags, newspapers, grass — along with plenty of gunpowder. One of his friends burned his face off when a blast went awry. Fun!
Also, at midnight on Independence Day, Goodell and his friends would run around his town, taking gates off their hinges.
6. Slashing random people’s faces with knives.
Called “chalkers” in Ireland, certain men stalked the night knifing people in the face. LOL! Wait, no, that’s horrifying. Aren’t you glad you don’t live in King George III’s time, when people just did that shit for laughs, like egging cars or playing Call of Duty? “Hey, Ben, you up for a rousing round of slicing people’s faces?” “Nah, not tonight, I’ve got the consumption.”
Note: Chalkers “are somewhat like those facetious gentlemen some time ago known in England by the title of Sweaters and Mohocks” — see No. 1.