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Hugh Troy (1906-1968)

Posted by Jen on Monday, 11 June, 2007

Hugh Troy is best known as a practical joker, and judging by the pranks he’s pulled, I’d want to be friends with him.

A few of his practical jokes:

– He and a few friends dressed as construction workers and started to dig a hole on Fifth Avenue. Policemen came by and directed traffic around the hole. At the end of the day, the “workers” up and left, never to be seen again.

– He and a friend stole a sign that said “JESUS SAVES” and put it in front of a bank. It’s said that the bank got a lot of business that day.

– Using a wastebasket made of a rhinoceros’s foot, he stomped tracks across the campus of Cornell and into the reservoir. Campus zoologists confirmed they were indeed rhino tracks and thought a rhino had escaped from a nearby zoo. People started complaining that their tap water now tasted like rhinoceros.

– He and a friend were caught by police stealing a bench from Central Park. When they were at the police station, Troy presented a receipt proving that he did indeed own the bench. He had bought a bench identical to those in Central Park, placed it there and waited for a policeman to go by before he attempted to “steal” it.

– In 1935, the Museum of Modern Art held an exhibit of paintings by van Gogh, the first American showing. Figuring that people were only there to know more about van Gogh himself and not his paintings, Troy made a fake ear out of beef, placed it in a velvet case along with a sign stating that this was the ear van Gogh had cut off and sent to his mistress, and put it on display at the museum. Sure enough, the ear got more attention than the paintings.

– During WWII, he was on desk duty. He created “flypaper reports” and sent them to the head office, stating the number of flies that were caught on the hanging strips of flypaper. They were soon asking other offices to send in their flypaper reports.

Museum of Hoaxes

Image from Museum of Hoaxes (it was the only image I could find of him)


3 Responses to “Hugh Troy (1906-1968)”

  1. Frank Troy said

    These and many great stories about Hugh Troy have been hadned down through my family-Hugh Troy was my Great Grandfather’s cousin. His uncle, Constantine Troy, taught at Cornell and has published a book about Hugh’s life entitled “Hugh Troy (The Worlds Greatest Practical Joker)” Thanks for sharing those stories.

    Frank Troy

  2. Elettra said

    I heard the street excavation episode with the following detail:
    Signs were set up showing Con-Ed, then ‘Phone Company,
    and Highway Dept. for a time, until nobody could be found responsible.
    You can imagine each entity kicking it around to no avail
    with the Jokesters watching on the sidelines.
    One prank I was delighted to observe. The “reach up over a
    doorway or window sill, grab a coin and pay a cab-tip”. It was
    sometime in the mid 40’s. I saw a lot in those days but no- – –
    save something for Memoir.

  3. My father was a chum of Hugh Troy at Cornell, so I grew up with these stories. Here is one nobody has told as yet. Troy was very tall, and could easily extend an arm way beyond anyone else’s. Thus, he managed to plant quarters on sills and ledges on city buildings…and later, out with others strolling between watering holes, Hugh would reach up and pluck a quarter seemingly out of thin air. This was much admired, required no equipment, and dazzled just about everyone. Including my gullible dad.

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