The “sending stuff you didn’t order” practical joke

The “sending stuff you didn’t order” practical joke
"Excuse me, did you order this? 
And this, and this, and this…"

If you think sending a pizza to someone who didn’t order it is a funny practical joke, meet Theodore Hook. In 1810, he bet a friend that he could make any address in London the most talked about in a week. He won the bet with an outrageous stunt that became known as the Berners Street Hoax.

From an 1832 account in The Book of Days:

By despatching several thousands of letters to innumerable quarters, he completely blocked up the entrances to the street, by an assemblage of the most heterogeneous kind. The parties written to had been requested to call on a certain day at the house of a lady, residing at No. 54 Berners Street, against whom Hook and one or two of his friends had conceived a grudge. So successful was the trick, that nearly all obeyed the summons. Coal-wagons, heavily laden, carts of upholstery, vans with pianos and other articles, wedding and funeral coaches, all rumbled through, and filled up the adjoining streets and lanes; sweeps assembled with the implements of their trade; tailors with clothes that had been ordered; pastrycooks with wedding-cakes; undertakers with coffins; fishmongers with cod-fishes, and butchers with legs of mutton. There were surgeons with their instruments; lawyers with their papers and parchments; and clergymen with their nooks of devotion. Such a babel was never heard before in London, and to complete the business, who should drive up but the lord mayor in his state-carriage; the governor of the Bank of England; the chairman of the East India Company; and even a scion of royalty itself, in the person of the Duke of Gloucester. Hook and his confederates were meantime enjoying the fun from a window in the neighbourhood, but the consternation occasioned to the poor lady who had been made the victim of the jest, was nearly becoming too serious a matter. He never avowed himself as the originator of this trick, though there is no doubt of his being the prime actor in it. It was made the subject of a solemn investigation by many of the parties who had been duped, but so carefully had the precautions been taken to avoid detection, that the inquiry proved entirely fruitless.

The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar by Robert Chambers, 1832, Google Books>>

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