When Mall Cops Swarm – The Coroner Prank #2

Given the success of our first outing with the prop body bag, it was only a matter of time before we tried it again. During his time off, “Bob” had been upgraded. The three sacks of birdseed had been re-worked into a clothing covered design to better spread the weight and give a more body-like look. In addition, a mostly deflated old basketball was now in place as a head.

To complete the costume look, we decided that nothing says attention to detail like a fake badge that says “Coroner – All Access Pass”. Truth be told, they look more like something you would use to get backstage at a rock concert – and hey, “Coroner” is a fine band name!

This go around, we set our sights on Chandler Fashion Center mall. The plan was simple enough: the four coroners (including one of our newest core group members) were to be dropped off at one entrance, walk straight through the upper level, exit by the food court and get picked up and whisked away by a second driver. Since the reactions of passersby are the goal of this prank, we had stationed lots of covert videographers along the route.

Once we had the word that all of the covert agents were in place, we pulled up to the bookstore entrance and hastily unloaded “Bob”. With each of us grabbing our assigned corner of the bag, we put on our serious faces and headed in. Like most mall locations, the bookstore has very narrow aisles and so we made the most of asking patrons to excuse us to pass which, as you might guess, got us lots of double takes and “did you just see that?” stares.

Right outside of the bookstore is a walled kiddie play area. The kids played on, oblivious, since only the adults were tall enough to see us over the enclosure. And look they did, staring in disbelief as we made our way past. At the halfway point, we passed within a few yards of the mall’s info desk. We hoped that since they were faced the other way, they’d take no notice of us (one of two groups that we really didn’t want to encounter during the prank, for obvious reasons).

Things were going great until we got to the food court walkway. Here, the plan called for us to set the bag down and briefly scan the lunch choices before deciding that we couldn’t decide. We were about to pick the bag back up when a mall security guard, dressed in black and yellow and looking like a bumblebee on a Segway, approached and asked what we were doing. With the bag in hand, we answered truthfully, “We’re leaving,” and proceeded towards the exit, just 150 feet away. We found the exit blocked, however, by two additional mall security guards on bikes.

In situations like this, we fully expect to first be asked to leave the premises and to only have issues if we won’t comply with that order. However, these guys were sure we’d committed “a dozen felonies” (not clear if they meant per person, or like 3 apiece) so they decided to detain us and call the Chandler Police Department. When the officers arrived, we explained our intent and pointed out that we had offered to leave immediately. One of the officers collected our IDs and our extremely fake badges (which he immediately returned to us: sorry mall security guy, not a felony). After verifying that we had no outstanding arrest warrants, he proceeded to debate us about the merits of our endeavors, eventually agreeing that we would just have to disagree. Interestingly, with the police on scene and the body bag sitting there, it probably looked even more like there had been an untimely death at the mall.

A few humorous things came to light while we were standing around waiting. The Segway rider got a call on his radio asking when he’d be back; apparently it was somebody else’s turn to ride it around. There was also a call about some improperly placed balloons in the food court. Hope that got resolved peacefully!

One reaction from the mall patrons really stood out. One of our covert agents was near a kid’s birthday party at the McDonalds in the food court. All of the adults were discussing what was going on with us when the birthday cake arrived. As soon as the candles were extinguished, the adults immediately turned back around to watch our drama with security play out and one was overheard to say “well, I think it’s a prank, but they’re not teenagers, so I’m not 100% sure.”

In the end, the four costumed participants got banned from the mall for three months and we all received little pre-printed Code of Conduct cards that list the activities that are not allowed (we got assigned the same category as “unnecessary staring” and “sexually explicit language”, go figure). A few people have asked why we didn’t just refuse to be detained, since mall security doesn’t have any more authority to do so than a regular citizen. Well, basically, we were trying to avoid a physical escalation to the confrontation. The guards appeared to have Tasers and/or pepper spray and since they were sure we’d committed some heinous crime, we were concerned that they might not hesitate to use them. Our group is all for poking at people’s preconceptions, but not provoking violent reactions.

It has since come to our attention that this particular mall has been having a problem with, get this, gypsies. We shall have to ready the puffy shirts and head scarves for our triumphant return to the mall in June!

Evidence of Body? – The Coroner Prank

During costume preparations for the Epic Superhero Battle, a few of our group saw some Coroner and Crime Scene t-shirts at a local store.  And we said to ourselves, “Selves? If we can’t come up with a prank for this, we aren’t worthy of the name ‘pranksters’.” So we cogitated on the idea for a while until inspiration struck.

In October, we put the finishing touches on the idea and a small group of us headed out to give it a go.  Armed with a weighted and stuffed prop body bag, we donned our Coroner shirts and rode the Phoenix Metro Light Rail into the downtown area.  As we explained it to a few innocent bystanders, our coroner-mobile had broken down and with budgets being tight… public transportation, to the rescue! And while we were out, we thought we’d make a quick stop for coffee. What could be considered unusual about that? We also had two “plain clothes” accomplices along to covertly film.

The reactions were immediate; a few people shifted seats to get a better look or to move further away, others engaged us in conversation, growing ever-more uncomfortable as we described our need to transport our sans-vehicle cargo before the heat caused some issues (for those of you in other parts of the world, yes it is often still hot in AZ at the end of October), most just stared and took out their phones to snap pictures and presumably to text their friends and family.  A couple of guys alternately offered up their thoughts on whether or not we really had brought a body on board the train but when one of our party pulled out a pair of latex gloves — for only genuine County Coroners have access to latex gloves, it seems — that sealed the deal for one of them.  “Oh man, you just gave it away,” he said, “why would you need gloves unless you really had a body in there?” Why, indeed?

Eventually, we reached our intended stop and carried the body bag across the street to the coffee shop, much to the chagrin, amazement and befuddlement of the patrons seated outside.  We had not pre-arranged anything with the shop, but the workers didn’t give us much reaction. Guess they’ve seen their fair share of strangeness at a downtown coffee shop. Go figure. A few phones came out from the other patrons, but only one guy worked up the nerve to ask us if there was really a body in there.  “We can’t discuss the details of an ongoing case,” we replied to him, to which he nodded and said, “I understand.  See… it was my wife that wanted to know”.  Bam, another believer!  We enjoyed our coffee and then got ready to leave, yielding one of the best lines of the day: “No, we did not just spring a leak.”

The ride back to our vehicles was pretty uneventful; very little reaction from the sparsely populated train car. But the ride out was the clincher, as were the stunned “OMGWhatTheHellWasThat?!?” reactions from the patrons in the shop AFTER we left. That’s good enough for us. And we think this one has legs enough to let us do this in a few different venues. Maybe the mall? Will hilarity ensue?

Yeah, it’s in the bag!

Join us for the mp3 Experiment flashmob on Dec 12th

The mp3 and all the final details on where to go and what to do can be found on this post!

Epic Super Hero Battle 2009

Several weeks of planning and strategizing culminated in a fantastic event, when the forces of justice and villainy met near Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall on a hot June evening for a battle that was truly epic. In conjunction with another local group, AZ Cacophony Society, the plan was hatched in early May and the call went out to gauge interest in the idea. Since the response was a resounding “Yes, we want in on this!”, we quickly moved on to the strategizing phase while directing our followers to get started on their costumes. The date was chosen and a scouting mission was done to devise a battle plan that would draw public attention while (hopefully) limiting any security intervention.

On the day of the event, the respective groups began to form up when a snag was encountered. Mall security approached the Heroes and stated that several mall policies prohibited the group from entering. Luckily, cool heads prevailed on both sides and with just a few modifications to the plan, the Heroes were allowed to proceed through the mall to meet the Villains on the other side.

As you can imagine, the sight of two large groups of costumed individuals garnered quite a bit of attention as each made their way to the battle site, a large street corner in full view of all passers by. The Heroes arrived first and took the high ground (as Heroes often do), taunting the Villains who were forced to wait for traffic. Once the Villains reached the area, all manner of mayhem broke out with water soaker guns employed to full effect. Most of the participants were very into character, pairing up with each other for mock fisticuffs and other shenanigans. A few of my favorite characters were Musical Theater Girl and her jazz-hands of justice, Dark Elvis with his menacing patch of removable chest hair, Couch Potato with his “hang back and let others fight” stance and The Zombie who wandered through the crowd oozing on his foes.

As the battle wound down the group posed for photographs and then headed off to reminisce on the event at one of the nearby watering holes. Within minutes of the event’s completion, a hilarious video of the battle was uploaded to YouTube:

And here is a shorter compilation of the event, complete with dramatic soundtrack!

There’s also a growing set of amazing pictures on Flickr, and in the Facebook event! Tag yourself and comment away!