Status: Prank Last year in April
a group of Caltech students pulled off a series of pranks at MIT, including handing out t-shirts to prefrosh that read "MIT" on the front and "because not everybody can go to Caltech" on the back. The gauntlet was thus thrown down, and this year MIT responded by stealing the 130-year-old, 1.7 ton, Spanish-American War Fleming cannon
from the Caltech campus and transporting it all the way to MIT, where it can now be seen "pointed toward Pasadena and adorned with an oversized MIT school ring. A plaque refers to Caltech as 'its previous owners.'"
(And wow! That guy posing on top of the cannon sure is pasty white.) View more photos of the cannon here
. Caltech has already posted a response
to the prank, stating that "Caltech is prepared to continue the pranking tradition."
In order to pull off the heist, MIT students created phony work order forms from the "Howe & Ser Moving Company," which allowed them to get past the Caltech security guards. They then used a real moving company to transport the cannon across country. The Times reports
Caltech’s security chief, meanwhile, said that his staff had initially stopped a flat-bed lorry carrying the gun. The men in the vehicle said that they had been hired to move it across campus. “The people that stopped them were presented with some very valid-looking documentation,” said Gregg Henderson. “The person who was the spokesperson or foreman of the job was very convincing.” The security staff watched the young men unload the cannon and leave. When the guards returned, however, it was gone.
Stealing cannons is a venerable tradition amongst college pranksters. As Neil Steinberg notes in If At All Possible, Involve A Cow
(the definitive guide to college pranks), the "Cannon War" between Rutgers and Princeton was probably the most celebrated college prank of the late nineteenth century. It involved nine Rutgers students sneaking onto the Princeton campus on April 26, 1875, stealing a massive Revolutionary War cannon, and transporting it back to Rutgers. The police eventually made Rutgers return the cannon.
And as it turns out, the Fleming cannon itself has been stolen before. Twenty years ago Harvey Mudd College pranksters took it from Caltech, but eventually returned it in "an 18ft gift box, decorated with streamers and balloons."
On Monday, April 10 the Fleming Cannon was "rescued" from MIT
by a group of Caltech students: "On Monday morning, a group of 23 Caltech students and seven Caltech alumni arrived at the MIT campus to take back the cannon. The rescuers left a miniature replica under glass in the place where the Caltech cannon had rested at MIT."