Pranks and Revenge


Residents of the Northeastern U.S. may be familiar with the concept of shunpikes. Though I lived in Massachusetts for five years and just learned of their existence recently.

A 'shunpike' is a road deliberately built, or taken, to avoid a toll road. It's short for 'shunning a turnpike'. This differentiates a shunpike from a 'freeway' which also doesn't have tolls, but wasn't deliberately built to avoid an existing toll road.

More info: wikipedia

image source:

Shunpikes are like the engineering equivalent of spite houses. Their purpose is to give the finger to someone else (the owner of the toll road). As such, they often inspire bitter grievances and feuds. Details of one such feud was reported in the Poughkeepsie Journal (June 3, 1962):

Dutchess Turnpike Co. was chartered in 1802 to build a new road from the Courthouse in the village of Poughkeepsie over the approximate path of the old Filkintown road for some 35 miles east to Sharon, Conn... The president of the Turnpike Co. was Jesse Oakley who had a storing, freighting and ferrying business at the Upper Landing, near the mouth of the Fallkill.

The principal landowner in the Lithgow area was old David Johnston who called his vast property and home Lithgow, a name borrowed by the little settlement nearby... David Johnson was so infuriated that the new turnpike was laid out considerably west of the old road, and so, quite a distance from his home, that he built the Shunpike on his own land...

Whatever the plans for the Shunpike were at that time, they certainly irked the Dutchess Turnpike Co. It published a notice, signed Jesse Oakley and dated Dec. 16, 1809, in the Poughkeepsie Journal of Dec. 20 telling of its intention of asking the next Legislature to permit to to change the location of its toll gates "from time to time in case any road shall be opened to permit travelers to pass around it. . ."

Residents of the Towns of Washington and Clinton promptly called an "Anti-Turnpike" meeting for Dec. 29.

Posted By: Alex - Thu May 26, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Highways, Roads, Streets and Traffic, Pranks and Revenge

The Eleven Commandments of Revenge

From Spite, Malice & Revenge: The Complete Guide to Getting Even, by M. Nelson Chunder and George Hayduke (1988).

These commandments seem like they would be broadly applicable to many types of criminal activity.

Posted By: Alex - Sat May 21, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Pranks and Revenge

Compost Fence

A dispute between neighbors in Lodi Township, Michigan has resulted in one of them (a farmer) creating a 250-foot wall of cow manure along the property divide. The non-farmers are calling it a "poop wall" and complain that it smells awful. The farmer disagrees, saying that it's merely a "compost fence". Plus, it turns out that it's perfectly legal since it's on his property.

More info: mlive, fox detroit

Posted By: Alex - Mon May 03, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Pranks and Revenge

Strange Personal Checks


Posted By: Paul - Fri Dec 04, 2020 - Comments (7)
Category: Animals, Eccentrics, Food, Money, Pranks and Revenge, 1960s

The Shabby Millionaire

1989: John Barrier of Spokane, Washington went into Old National Bank to cash a $100 check. Then he asked to have his 60-cent parking ticket validated. The cashier refused, saying that merely cashing a check didn't entitle him to free parking. Barrier had a manager called, who also refused to validate the ticket. Barrier suspected that they were refusing because he was dressed in shabby clothes like he had just gotten off a construction job. So he withdrew the entire $2 million he had deposited there and took his money to another bank, Seafirst Bank of Spokane.

The tale of the shabby millionaire eventually ended up being told in Seafirst's company newsletter. From there it made its way to a local newspaper column, and then leapt to the front page of USA Today and national headlines.

Both banks confirmed the basic details of what happened, although a representative for Old National Bank later insisted that they had, eventually, validated Barrier's parking ticket.

Detroit Free Press - Feb 21, 1989

The Akron Beacon Journal - Mar 29, 1989

Posted By: Alex - Sat May 13, 2017 - Comments (4)
Category: Money, Pranks and Revenge, 1980s

Spiteful Checks

An example of the literary genre of the spiteful check was recently in the news.

Scott Dion of Havre, Montana is complaining because the check he sent the city for his property taxes hasn't been cashed. Perhaps because he wrote "sexual favors" in the memo line. Though it's noted that "tax checks he sent in the past with similar memo line notes have been cashed." [NBC Montana]

Some other examples of spiteful checks:

McKinney Courier-Gazette - Sep 29, 1959

Baytown Sun - Nov 14, 1951

Honolulu Star Bulletin - Dec 21, 2015

Posted By: Alex - Fri Apr 14, 2017 - Comments ()
Category: Pranks and Revenge

Penny Payment

In the news recently, yet another case of paying with pennies. This time it was Nick Stafford of Cedar Bluff, Virginia who wheelbarrowed 300,000 pennies into the lobby of the DMV.

In cases such as this, the penny payer is usually trying to get revenge for having to pay a fine, but Stafford hadn't been fined. Instead, he was paying the sales tax on two new cars. His beef with the DMV was that it had resisted his effort to make it share with him the direct phone lines to all the local DMV offices.

Stafford spent $840 to make the spite payment, in addition to the payment itself: $400 for the wheelbarrows, which he left at the DMV office, and $440 to pay 11 people to help him break open enough paper rollls of pennies.

As I've said before, it's the responsibility of the person making a payment to demonstrate that all the money is there, not the person getting paid. So the DMV could have forced him to count out all the pennies. If they didn't, I'm sure it's only because they wanted to limit their interaction with him as much as possible.

More info: Bristol Herald Courier

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jan 14, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Pranks and Revenge

Beirut Spite House

Beirut Spite House

A "spite house" is a house whose primary reason for being is to annoy someone.

In The Hidden Dimension (1969), which is a study of how people perceive space, the American anthropologist Edward T. Hall described a spite house built in Beirut. Although a "spite wall" might be a more accurate description:

Arabs don't mind being crowded by people but hate to be hemmed in by walls. They show a much greater overt sensitivity to architectural crowding than we do. Enclosed space must meet at least three requirements that I know of if it is to satisfy the Arabs: there must be plenty of unobstructed space in which to move around (possibly as much as a thousand square feet); very high ceilings — so high in fact that they do not normally impinge on the visual field; and, in addition, there must be an unobstructed view. It was spaces such as these in which the Americans referred to earlier felt so uncomfortable.

One sees the Arab's need for a view expressed in many ways, even negatively, for to cut off a neighbor's view is one of the most effective ways of spiting him. In Beirut one can see what is known locally as the "spite house." It is nothing more than a thick, four-story wall, built at the end of a long fight between neighbors, on a narrow strip of land for the express purpose of denying a view of the Mediterranean to any house built on the land behind. According to one of my informants, there is also a house on a small plot of land between Beirut and Damascus which is completely surrounded by a neighbor's wall built high enough to cut off the view from all windows!

I think building a massive wall to block a neighbor's view would actually be considered obnoxious in any culture.

There's plenty of other examples of spite houses described online. See, for example, wikipedia or Mental Floss.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Aug 21, 2016 - Comments ()
Category: Architecture, Pranks and Revenge

Penny Payer

Brett Sanders recently did his part to "end the police state" by paying his $222.60 speeding fine with pennies.

Of course, paying a fine with pennies isn't unusual, but Sanders filmed himself paying the fine, so the entire world gets to witness his elaborate preparations.

It's not clear to me if the municipal court accepted the payment. It has the right to demand that the pennies be in rolls.... which is a detail that penny payers, while crafting their revenge schemes, often overlook.

More info: Washington Post

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jun 01, 2016 - Comments (12)
Category: Pranks and Revenge

Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 > 

weird universe thumbnail
Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

Contact Us
Monthly Archives
September 2022 •  August 2022 •  July 2022 •  June 2022 •  May 2022 •  April 2022 •  March 2022 •  February 2022 •  January 2022

December 2021 •  November 2021 •  October 2021 •  September 2021 •  August 2021 •  July 2021 •  June 2021 •  May 2021 •  April 2021 •  March 2021 •  February 2021 •  January 2021

December 2020 •  November 2020 •  October 2020 •  September 2020 •  August 2020 •  July 2020 •  June 2020 •  May 2020 •  April 2020 •  March 2020 •  February 2020 •  January 2020

December 2019 •  November 2019 •  October 2019 •  September 2019 •  August 2019 •  July 2019 •  June 2019 •  May 2019 •  April 2019 •  March 2019 •  February 2019 •  January 2019

December 2018 •  November 2018 •  October 2018 •  September 2018 •  August 2018 •  July 2018 •  June 2018 •  May 2018 •  April 2018 •  March 2018 •  February 2018 •  January 2018

December 2017 •  November 2017 •  October 2017 •  September 2017 •  August 2017 •  July 2017 •  June 2017 •  May 2017 •  April 2017 •  March 2017 •  February 2017 •  January 2017

December 2016 •  November 2016 •  October 2016 •  September 2016 •  August 2016 •  July 2016 •  June 2016 •  May 2016 •  April 2016 •  March 2016 •  February 2016 •  January 2016

December 2015 •  November 2015 •  October 2015 •  September 2015 •  August 2015 •  July 2015 •  June 2015 •  May 2015 •  April 2015 •  March 2015 •  February 2015 •  January 2015

December 2014 •  November 2014 •  October 2014 •  September 2014 •  August 2014 •  July 2014 •  June 2014 •  May 2014 •  April 2014 •  March 2014 •  February 2014 •  January 2014

December 2013 •  November 2013 •  October 2013 •  September 2013 •  August 2013 •  July 2013 •  June 2013 •  May 2013 •  April 2013 •  March 2013 •  February 2013 •  January 2013

December 2012 •  November 2012 •  October 2012 •  September 2012 •  August 2012 •  July 2012 •  June 2012 •  May 2012 •  April 2012 •  March 2012 •  February 2012 •  January 2012

December 2011 •  November 2011 •  October 2011 •  September 2011 •  August 2011 •  July 2011 •  June 2011 •  May 2011 •  April 2011 •  March 2011 •  February 2011 •  January 2011

December 2010 •  November 2010 •  October 2010 •  September 2010 •  August 2010 •  July 2010 •  June 2010 •  May 2010 •  April 2010 •  March 2010 •  February 2010 •  January 2010

December 2009 •  November 2009 •  October 2009 •  September 2009 •  August 2009 •  July 2009 •  June 2009 •  May 2009 •  April 2009 •  March 2009 •  February 2009 •  January 2009

December 2008 •  November 2008 •  October 2008 •  September 2008 •  August 2008 •  July 2008 •