While it may be a classic, it’s not the oldest phone prank. That distinction probably belongs to some unknown caller in Rhode Island in 1876. It came at the expense of an undertaker in Providence.
“A GRAVE JOKE ON UNDERTAKERS — Some malicious wag at Providence R.I. has been playing a grave practical joke on the undertakers there, by summoning them over the telephone to bring freezers, candlesticks and coffin for persons alleged to be dead. In each case the denoument was highly farcical, and the reputed corpses are now hunting in a lively manner for that telephonist.”
It seems like the operator who connected the call should have been able to say where the calls came from to help catch the prankster. I wonder if the “reputed corpses” in the article could be considered attacking zombies? That would make the story doubly weird.
Buzzblog noted that: “Think about that: All it took was eight years for some 19th Century Bart Simpson to cast aside any respect or wonderment there may have been for this technological marvel and transform the telephone into an instrument of tomfoolery. By way of comparison, it was fully twice that long after the launch of the World Wide Web before someone executed the first Rickroll.”
While it’s not something for the history book, it certainly shows that the more things changes, the more things stay the same.