8 of the Greatest Trolls Throughout History


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Acts of trolling are great as long as you’re not the one being targeted. The very act of trolling pays homage to the spirit of mischief. To troll someone is to throw them back on their heels, and leave them momentarily knocked outside of what they might’ve assumed would be an ordinary day. 

Not all trolls are capable of the same degree of mischief, though. Some acts of trolling are historical milestones — like these eight crafty trolls and their instances of trickery. 

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1. Frank Abagnale Junior

Frank Abagnale Jr. was in a troublemaking, literal law-breaking league of his own when it came to pulling off a steady procession of acts of trolling. If you’ve seen the film “Catch Me If You Can,” you probably already know what we’re talking about. By the mere age of 21, Abagnale had successfully used fake credentials to work as a pilot, doctor, and lawyer. He also ended up writing enough bad checks to get deemed with a jail sentence of over 10 years. 

However, he only ended up serving part of that sentence due to accepting a deal from the FBI, in which he would help them with spotting forgeries. Just when you thought the guy’s luck had finally run out.

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2. Theodore Hook

Theodore Hook made quite the name for himself as being a go-getter amongst trolls. Hook’s claim to fame was the “Berners Street Hoax,” which occurred in London in 1810. 

Hook had placed a bet with his friend, Samuel Beazley, that he’d be able to transform any home in London into the most chatted about address within a week’s time. The method to achieve such stature? Sending out thousands of letters made out from Mrs. Tottenham, who lived at 54 Berners Street, and requesting deliveries, visitors, and assistance. As it goes, a huge chunk of London ended up shutting down as callers flocked to Tottenham’s door. The entire time, Hook and his friend sat and watched the chaos unfold in a home located across the street.

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3. The Spaghetti Tree Hoax

You know we’re really getting somewhere in the list of historical acts of trolling when we arrive at the notorious “Spaghetti-Tree Hoax” of 1957. This was a three-minute broadcast carried out on April Fools’ Day in 1957 by the BBC current-affairs program, Panorama. The broadcast reportedly showed a family in southern Switzerland that was harvesting spaghetti from the family “spaghetti tree.” At this time, spaghetti hadn’t quite soared to an item of common knowledge in the UK.  

As legend has it, many British folks had no idea that spaghetti was made from wheat flour and water. Following the broadcast, numerous listeners contacted the BBC to ask for advice on how to properly grow their own spaghetti trees. Can you imagine? Maybe one day we’ll be so lucky.

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4. Haydn’s Musical Troll

While many folks associate classical music with a more serious environment, there have been numerous acclaimed composers that provided their listeners with light and amusing pieces of music. For instance, we have the 18th-century Austrian composer, Joseph Haydn. Haydn took it so far as to seed jokes into his music. 

The ending of Haydn’s string quarter, “Opus 33 Number 2,” which was subtitled, “The Joke,” was his most notorious example of musical trolling. Haydn implemented multiple extended pauses and fake endings to get his audience to clap at the wrong time. The confusion that Haydn inspired in his audiences lands him on this list of historically recognizable trolls.

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5. The Shed at Dulwich

Talk about pursuing your dream job. In 2017, Oobah Butler successfully launched his own non-existent, top-ranked restaurant in London on TripAdvisor by using the power of fake reviews. If this didn’t end up being a darkly comedic look into the implications of misinformation online, who knows what is? It’s wild what lengths people will go to to eat at a restaurant when they’re told that it’s been booked out six weeks in advance. You can check out the whole story on VICE for the finer details. It does not disappoint. 

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6. John Titor the Time Traveler

John Titor ended up making quite the name for himself as an apparent time traveler. As was implied by Titor’s posts online, he had traveled back to the ’70s to acquire a special computer that would allow for him to time travel. Apparently, he also made a pit stop in the early aughts to live for a while with his family (and also his 2-year-old self). 

It was during that time that Titor claims that he posted crabby messages on various Internet forums. Titor claimed that a civil war would break out in the United States regarding “order and rights.” Titor wrote of the war as beginning in 2005, with much civil unrest encircling the presidential election that occurred in the prior year. He also wrote that the civil conflict would be similar to that of the Waco conflict, and erupt into all-out war by 2008. Titor then claimed that the war would end by 2015, with a brief yet intense World War III.

Another one of Titor’s wild predictions was that the “Everett-Wheeler model of quantum physics,” which is more commonly known as the many-worlds interpretation, was indeed correct. Titor said that this meant that his time travel had actually resulted in the formation of a new timeline, and that in his current timeline, the events that he was describing would end up occurring a bit different from how they had in his timeline.

How convenient.

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7. Carl Siegel Launches Colleague’s Thesis Into The Sea

Carl Siegel and Erich Bessel-Hagen were acclaimed 19th century German mathematicians. A time eventually came when Bessel-Hagen sorely needed someone with enough intellectual prowess to look over his thesis. Siegel agreed, and proceeded to review the prized thesis while on a boating trip — and found it to be inexcusably boring. So boring, as a matter of fact, that Siegel proceeded to chuck that thesis into the big deep blue

As we know, copy machines weren’t around at the time, and that was the sole copy. Big ouch. Siegel apparently told Bessel-Hagen that he did it for his own good, and provided the coordinates of the thesis “drop-off location.” This is definitely one of the more brutal trolls to have been carried.

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8. The Fake Fossils Troll on Johann Beringer

In the early 18th century, Johann Beringer was the head of the natural history department of the University of Wurzburg in Germany. Beringer was deeply convinced that all fossils were “hidden by the Author of Nature for his own pleasure.” Translation? That God had stowed dinosaur fossils away with intentional abandon. Two of Beringer’s colleagues, J. Ignatz Roderick and Georg von Eckhart, took it upon themselves to carve weird, fake fossils and bury them to mess with Beringer. 

This is where it gets wild. Instead of Beringer identifying the very obviously fake fossils as dupes, he took the fake fossils home to further analyze them. Roderick and Eckhart then crafted even more fake fossils for Beringer to discover, ones which displayed Syrian, Hebrew, and Babylonian inscriptions. Beringer still believed these all to be real fossils. Beringer went so far as to publish a book about all of the immaculate finds. 

Roderick and Eckhart tried to let Beringer know that they pulled a fast one on him, but Beringer accused them of trying to shake his faith. Not until after Beringer had published his dissertation “Lithographiae Wirceburgensis” — and discovered another fossil with his own name on it — did he reach final acceptance that he had been trolled.

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