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Congratulations on making it this far.

It may have been a little sneaky of me, but that sleeper-cell fingerprint scanner somehow ingeniously embedded in the mouse you used to click on the menu tab that got you here.. has worked like a charm.

If you’re reading this, it means you’re now very close to knowing what you came here seeking. And like a just-graduated-from-spy-school fresh recruit itching for a piece of the action, you can puff your chest out and start to breathe in the rarefied air of mystery and intrigue.

Hush now, for you are about to bear witness to the unveiling of a mystery that has stumped some of the best university-educated minds around for the last twenty years.

7In New York, there exists an institute of higher learning by the name of Cornell University. It has operated since 1865 and past notable alumni include Bill Nye (The Science Guy), actor Christopher Reeve (Superman) and novelist Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five).

For more than twenty years this esteemed ground of higher learning has been enshrouded, like a low-lying, early morning mist, in a classic whodunnit of to-date unsolvable proportions.

Until now.

Journey with me as I take an investigative ball hammer to the hermetically sealed and thus-far impenetrable outer casing of this more-than-two-decades-old mystery and crack it open like a split candy egg on Easter morning.

Let’s begin by taking a look at this picture of one of Cornell University’s iconic buildings.


Bypass the photoshopped-in dragon. It’s the clocktower you want to focus on.

McGraw Tower is 42 metres tall, visible for miles around, and during semesters it’s 21 chimes ring out morning, afternoon and night. The structure has been described as the heartbeat of the campus, one that community members use to meet up with friends, give people directions and generally anchor themselves.

So on October 8th 1997, as students walked to their Wednesday morning lectures, they were understandably surprised to discover that their beloved landmark had grown an appendage. In a near-physically impossible feat defying almost all attempts to explain how it was done, someone had managed to impale on the very top spire… a pumpkin!


The massively proportioned pumpkin, estimated to have weighed upwards of 25 kilograms, stayed intact atop of the spire for 158 days, until University administration finally ordered a crane bucket be used to remove it.

The identity of the prankster has never been established, thus helping the incident to enmesh itself in campus culture over the decades. Also assisting the legend-proportioned dimensions of the tale was that it had all the hallmarks of a classic prank –

(1)   attention-getting

(2)   not easily accomplished 

(3)   it wasn’t crude or vandalistic and no one got hurt

(4)   enduring mystery

Given the immense impracticability involved in affixing the ‘gourd’ to this lofty resting place, not only is this a classic who-dunnit but also equally a mind-tripping how-dunnit. Bear in mind, the mid to late nineties was well-before the general availability of drone technology, which might have provided at least one possible explanation of how the vegetable could have been deposited in such a precarious position.

So now to the big reveal. 

Just who was responsible?

Having come this far ploughing through the detail, I think it wise I delay no further and come right out and tell you it was..

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Allrighty, back with ya!

Now as I was saying, over the years a number of false confessions have emerged from people claiming they were the mystery prankster, including one from three college friends going under the aliases “Kennedy”, “Reagan” and “Nixon”. All of these bogus accounts lacked the plausibility and detail only the prankster him or herself would have been able to provide.

So here it is.

Time to unveil the truth.

Time to end the mystery.

Time to unmask the phantom.

For the first time anywhere, I can exclusively reveal the name of the Cornell University Pumpkin Prankster was …

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If I do that one more time someone’s gonna reach through the screen and slap my face so here it is …

It was Rob.

You mean you were after a last name as well?


You don’t get that.

Not here at least.

But if you’re curious to know the ‘how-dunnit’ part, read on.

‘Rob’ at the time was not a student at Cornell University but rather a pro rock climber. This was not Rob’s first pumpkin prank atop of a tall steeple, having previously arranged for one to appear in a likewise elevated position at a college in Montana.

On the day in question back in ’97, Rob arranged to attend a chimes concert that took place inside the tower that morning. Rob carried the pumpkin with him in a box and found a hiding place for it an accomplice had picked out at the bottom of the south clock face. Rob then returned later that evening to attend a night-time chimes performance, at which time he took the opportunity to hide in the interior clock well. After everyone had left and he had been locked inside, Rob then looked through the playing desk for keys to the master lock on the bell cage. After some time searching by torchlight he found a key ring but then discovered that none of the keys fit the lock. At this time he decided to abort the mission to try again the following night.

try again

The next night Rob again attended the evening chimes concert and when no one was looking took the opportunity to secret himself in the same hiding spot. When everyone had departed and the place was plunged into darkness, Rob emerged but this time carrying a hefty pair of boltcutters he had disguised up his trouser leg during the concert.

Rob then descended the 161 concrete steps of the tower to let an accomplice in through the front door. The accomplice was a friend of Rob’s who was living on West campus and who had previously been arrested for illegally climbing the Gorges. Once back at the top, the two then proceeded to use the bolt cutters to clip the ring that the main padlock to the upper deck went through and once done, simply climbed up into the bell cage, hauling the pumpkin behind them on a rope.