Belated April Fools: Psychology Department Antics

This year, April 1st fell on a Sunday.

So, naturally, the psychology department decided to celebrate Belated April Fools the following day.

What resulted was nothing less than genius.

Part of this included a revenge plot that had been brewing for years.

Dr. O tells her side of the story below:

Weeeeeell… It all started many moons ago, in Spring 2014, when Dr. Nichols was on his way to do an optical illusion demonstration in his Research Methods class and got the bright idea to don his George W. Bush mask (a prop in the demonstration), his trench coat, and his fedora (all together, a rather intimidating combination), and slowly peeked around the doorway of my office in an attempt to get me to pee my pants.

It very nearly worked.

After I recovered from my extreme fright, I told Dr. Nichols in no uncertain terms that wearing a mask in public on a non-Halloween day was highly illegal behavior (which we later confirmed), and that I wouldn’t tolerate it in my workplace. I also vowed, privately, to seek revenge upon him at the first opportunity.

Months passed.

Years passed.

And I bided my time, quietly, patiently. Until one day, in February 2018, I walked into Life Science 502 a few minutes before the start of my Quantitative Methods class and noticed atop the “technology tower” in the corner of the room… The Mask, completely unattended (and very creepily staring at the ceiling with its vacant, soulless eye-sockets). Immediately, I grabbed The Mask and ran back to my office to conceal it until April 1st.

A close-up

Over the intervening weeks, I discussed with esteemed colleagues on what prank I might involve the mask. Many excellent ideas were put forward (e.g., perhaps we could dangle the mask by a string from the ceiling; perhaps one of us could put on the mask and startle Dr. Nichols as he had startled me), but eventually, we landed on the following plan:

We would construct a lifelike “scarecrow” from garbage bags, recycled paper, and dress the scarecrow in the mask, trench-coat, and fedora (the latter of which Dr. Nichols usually leaves in his office). We would sit the scarecrow in Dr. Nichols’s desk chair, and Dr. Buchholz would construct a complicated pulley system connecting the office door to the desk chair, so that when Dr. Nichols entered his office, the chair would spin around to face him, and hopefully cause Dr. Nichols to shout in alarm.

The plan went off without a hitch, but I found Dr. Nichols’s reaction somewhat underwhelming. So, over the course of that  fine Monday, the scarecrow moved around from office-to-office, scaring a number of colleagues (including myself, somehow), and I came up with one final step in the plan.

At the end of the day, Dr. Nichols was teaching his Neuroscience lab, and a few minutes before the end of class, I donned the scarecrow’s disguise, and seated myself, perfectly still, in Dr. Nichols’s chair. When Dr. Nichols entered his office, he thought it was just the scarecrow, and was not alarmed until my hands sprang into the air like scary claws and I yelled “RAAAAWR” and Dr. Nichols said “Ah!” and it was my very favorite moment of my entire life.

And that is the story of the mask.

Test One:

Dr. Nichols confirmed the events of that fateful day, telling his side of the story:

The mask is something that I use in PSYC 202 to tell a hopefully amusing story about some silliness my friends and I did in college. However, I scared Dr. Osterman with it in her first year at Roanoke College when I wore it down the hall on my way to class. Since then, I include in class a life lesson that apparently wearing a mask in public outside of Halloween is illegal in many states, including Virginia. Apparently, the last time I used the mask in PSYC 202, I left it in the classroom and Dr. Osterman found it, planning a frightening surprise when the chance arose.

On Monday morning, April 2nd, I came into the office a little bit later than I usually do since my kids were on Spring Break and I didn’t have to get up as early as I normally do. I said ‘hi’ to Dr. Buchholz, who ‘just so happened’ to be out in the hall on my way in. I opened my door and noticed that someone seemed to be sitting in my chair with a hat and trench coat on and remembered thinking something like ‘That’s weird that there is someone sitting in my office chair in the dark. Huh, how about that?’. Then when I opened the door completely, the chair swung around and it looked quite realistic. I started slightly before realizing it was my mask. I was quite impressed by the system of fishing line that was rigged up to get the chair to move that way!

Then, at the end of the day after the dummy had been moved around to the offices of other department faculty, I came back to my office after my afternoon class was over. The day had not gone well at all because of technical difficulties preparing for Neuro lab, so I was feeling exhausted but glad that the lab had gone alright in the end. Dr. Allen was waiting out in the hall and took out her camera to film me entering my office, which seemed suspicious. I remember saying something like ‘I’ve seen it already’ because I expected the dummy to be back in my office, though suspected something else to possibly be going on.

When I entered the office, the dummy sprung to life as it jumped out of my chair! I started on the inside but didn’t have too much of a physical reaction, though it was a very good set-up with Dr. Osterman inside a padded suit so that it looked pretty much just like the original dummy, even though someone was now inside it.

I very much appreciated the thought and planning that went into both surprises! It’s great to work in a department that enjoys one another so much. 🙂

The Real Dill:

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