The date was October 8th, 1997. The place, Ithaca, New York. Home of Cornell University. Halloween approaches bringing with it chilly Autumn weather, and a mysterious pumpkin.

Seriously though...

Some unknown wiseass (nobody ever confessed) somehow scaled the 170 foot tall tower holding the clock which is visible throughout most of Ithaca, and skewered a pumpkin estimated near sixty pounds (although later agreed upon as smaller) on the lightning rod. There was much speculation as to how the hell somebody could pull that off at all, let alone undetected.

Within days the pumpkin was a subject of countless amusing sidebars in various publications throughout the country, and even the world (including Scientific American). News anchors were using the pumpkin for an up-beat closing story after the usual day's mayhem, and nobody knew how it got there, or for that matter how to get rid of it now that it was there.

By November 4th, Cornell officials tape off the area of sidewalk immediately below the clock tower to protect the public from the potential hazard of a falling gourd. It's now been almost a month and the pumpkin has not budged. Some say that it must be synthetic, others say that the cold dry weather is preserving it just hasn't rotted yet.

It is now March 13th, 1998. The winter has passed, and the pumpkin has been up on the spire for slightly over five months. The clock tower is about to undergo rennovations with the aim of tuning and performing general upkeep on the bells (there is a full set of chimes in the tower as well). In the process a stray line from a crane dislodges the now desiccated but still somewhat recognizable pumpkin.

The dislodged remains were covered in polyurethane and put on display at Day Hall in a glass case, but even that could not stop nature from taking its course and the pumpkin continued to decay. The "guts" of the pumpkin however were kept and stored in a jar full of chemical preservatives as part of the "Cornell Brain Collection".

In the end a friend of the culprits told the story to the Cornell Daily Sun, and it became clear how it was done. The pranksters taped the locks to the bell room, then came in at night, used bolt cutters to remove a lock from an access hatch to the roof, and climbed up there in the wind and cold and placed the pumpkin, then went out for beers. The ruckus began in the morning when somebody first spotted the pumpkin from the ground.

Go Figure... Nothing beats a good practical joke. I hope for posterity's sake the people who played this prank come forward eventually to be commended. It's one of the better practical jokes I've seen in my lifetime. We now know how it was done, but not who.

For dates and details I consulted the following web sites:

  • The details on how the trick was accomplished come from here:
Other than that the account herein comes pretty much from memory. I've lived in Ithaca all my life, and I walked past that pumpkin pretty much every day on my way home from work.

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