5 Best Harvard-Yale Pranks

 As we all anxiously await the Big Game against Harvard this Saturday, another tradition we’re also pumped for is the infamous war of pranks that ensues every year. Throughout the course of the Yale-Harvard rivalry there have been some truly unforgettable pranks, from embarrassing acts of self-deprecation to carefully orchestrated performances, Yalies and Crimsons alike have proven that even though we may get pretty competitive, we still know how to have fun along the way. Here are some of the best pranks from throughout the years.

1. Harvard Admits it Sucks

In 2004, Yalies got the last laugh when some members of the secret society, the Pundits, dressed up as the “Harvard Pep Squad” and handed out placards to 1,800 Harvard fans on the day of The Game, insisting that when held up, they would spell out “Go Harvard”. In reality, these pranksters had the fan section of Harvard spelling out “We Suck”. The prank gained a lot of media attention and was featured in the ESPN documentary about the Yale-Harvard rivalry.


2. Late Night Marching Band Debacle

In 1962, the Harvard marching band paraded through downtown New Haven at 3 a.m. the night before the game, infuriating the police and sleeping locals.



3. Wait, is That JFK?

In 1961, Harvard’s publication The Crimson distributed parodies of the Yale Daily News with the front page story stating that Harvard alumnus, John F. Kennedy, would be attending the game held in Cambridge that year. The band played “Hail to the Chief” as the president of The Crimson, Robert Ellis Smith, walked onto the field dressed as JFK, with some fake secret service agents along with him. The prank fooled many and it’s been said that JFK himself was listening to the game on the radio in Hyannis Port, MA.

Gail Falk, Amy Peppler and Robert Smith in Courier Office in Montgomery, Alabama while working for the Southern Courier Newspaper sometime between 1965-1968. ( Photo by Jim Peppler)
The Crismon President, Robert Ellis Smith

4. Harvard Crosses Itself Out

In 1992, the Harvard marching band attempted to X-out the Yale Precision Marching Band while the band did its tradition “Y” formation. The Yale band found out about the plan and as the Harvard band approached, they shifted to an “H” formation, thus making Harvard X itself out.



5. And the Real Winner is…

And finally, as much as Yale and Harvard like to go at each other, MIT famously got in on the fun and games in 1982. That year, at the Harvard Stadium, a huge black balloon with the words “MIT” written all over it came up out of the field. Brothers at the DKE house at MIT admitted to sneaking into the Harvard Stadium and planting a freon driven hydraulic balloon device. They wired it to the electrical field under the stadium so that during game, it rose out of the turf, leaving everyone confused about the strange, growing balloon that appeared from the earth.