Bear with me for a brief preface for the video below. Years ago—like almost 50 years ago—there was a thriving annual “UFO-Flying Saucer” convention out in the California desert that drew thousands of UFO believers from all over the country. (You can read about it here or here.) It was full of full-scale nutters. I know because I went several times as a little kid.
Not to participate in UFO nuttery, but to take advantage of it. My merry prankster father and a couple of his buddies thought it would be great fun to launch a phony flying saucer in the midst of the gathering at night, just to see the riot that might occur. He and his engineer pals rigged up weather balloon with a series of rotating lights suspended below it, giving off an effect much like the Jupiter 2 in Lost in Space. Martinis in hand, the “UFO” was launched upwind of the outdoor jamboree shortly after sunset.
It was so successful in getting the crowd excited that ET was doing a flyby that the next year dad decided that what the convention needed most was a War of the Worlds scale invasion. Launching a fleet of phony UFOs was a bigger technical challenge because a fleet of weather balloons wasn’t practical for various reasons. So after a lot of trial and error, dad came up with a rig that ran a blinking light inside a standard-size party balloon, powered by a triple-AAA battery that hung down below the balloon and connected by a wire through a cork. (The challenge was getting it light enough for a helium-filled party balloon to stay aloft.) Again, over martinis, the invasion was launched three of four balloons at a time upwind of the crowd, to tremendous effect, in part because we planted ringers in the crowd to whip them up with shouts of “Look! Look!” We were never caught.
This all came back to me when I stumbled across the video below that is going mega-viral in the last 48 hours of the clever person who booby-trapped a package to get even with porch pirates. The video is about 10 minutes long, but is totally worth it. The engineering of the prank by Mark Rober is marvelous to behold. If the desert UFO conventions are ever revived, I know who I’m going to want to partner with to design a 21st century fake UFO.