Biography of Famous Practical Joker Hugh Troy Part 2

About the famous American practical joker Hugh Troy, history and biography of the man.

HUGH TROY (1906-1964). Practical joker.

The fun for Troy really began when he entered Cornell. Some of his celebrated antics involved a phony plane crash, reports on the campus radio station of an enemy invasion, an apparent ceiling collapse, and a cherry tree which one year miraculously bore apples. Troy's most successful stunt at Cornell concerned a rhinoceros. Using a wastebasket made from the foot of a rhinoceros, which he borrowed from his friend Fuertes, Troy made tracks across the campus and onto the frozen reservoir, stopping at the brink of a large hole in the ice. Nobody knew what to make of the whole thing until campus zoologists confirmed the authenticity of the tracks. Townspeople then began to complain that their tap water tasted of rhinoceros. Not until the truth surfaced did the complaints subside.

Troy's antics did not stop when he graduated from Cornell. Shortly after moving to New York, he purchased a park bench, an exact duplicate of those used by the city. With the help of a friend, he hauled it into Central Park. As soon as Hugh and his cohort spied a policeman coming down the path, they picked up the bench and started off with it. In no time the mischievous pair were in the local hoosegow. At that point the clever Troy produced his bill of sale, forcing the embarrassed police to release him and his pal. The two men repeated the caper several times before the entire force finally caught on.

Often Troy's pranks were conceived on the spur of the moment. For example, on a whim Troy bought a dozen copies of the 1932 election-night extra announcing Roosevelt's victory. The papers remained in mothballs until New Year's Eve, 1935, when Hugh and a group of merrymakers rode the city's subways, each with a copy of the newspaper. Other passengers, most of whom were feeling no pain, did a double take at the bold headline: ROOSEVELT ELECTED.

When the Museum of Modern Art sponsored the first American showing of Van Gogh's work in 1935, Hugh was on the scene again. The exhibit attracted large crowds of people who Troy suspected were more interested in the sensational aspects of the artist's life than in his paintings. To test his theory, Troy fashioned a replica of an ear out of chipped beef and had it neatly mounted in a blue velvet display case. A small card telling the grisly story was attached: "This was the ear which Vincent van Gogh cut off and sent to his mistress, a French prostitute, Dec. 24, 1888." The "chipped beef ear" was then placed on a table in the gallery where Van Gogh's paintings were displayed. Troy got immediate results. New York's "art lovers" flocked to the ear, which, as Troy suspected, was what they really wanted to see after all.

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