I confess that I was complicit in a freshman-year prank that involved the infamous Toilet Paper Bomb: Take a roll of toilet paper, plug up one end, pour in powdered explosive, plug up the other end, and bore a hole for a twisted-paper fuse — and voilà, you had a device that would explode with a deafening boom but only spray paper fragments, making it (relatively) harmless.
The evil genius behind this was classmate Jim O’Neill, who devised the formula for the explosive, which was basically gunpowder. We pulled this off several times in Holder Court late at night with gratifying success: a thunderous report, followed by hordes of angry students milling about and proctors running in from all directions.
The final episode was a near-disaster. We had just lit the fuse when a proctor appeared. Jim quickly snuffed out the burning fuse, grabbed the bomb, and we ran into the nearest dorm entry. When the proctor had left, we decided to launch the bomb. But there wasn’t much fuse left, and Jim barely had time to toss the bomb when it exploded.
We scattered in a panic, knowing the proctors would show up. I barged into a dorm room and begged the resident to let me hide. I barely had time to wriggle under the bed when a proctor burst in and asked if anybody had come in, which the student denied. Still, the proctor took a look in the bedroom; I watched his shoes pass inches from my face. The hair on Jim’s arms and eyebrows had been singed off, so we decided that we would do no more bombs. If that student had ratted me out, I’d have been on the next train home.