The First Prank Call Was Deadly

Nov 26, 2016
central NC

(Public Domain)
In 1884, the telephone was only eight years old. The story below, described in the February 2, 1884 issue of the journal Electrical World, supposedly relates the first prank phone call ever received. It goes like this:

An undertaker sits at his desk at a funeral home in Providence, Rhode Island. Suddenly, his telephone rings, splitting the silence. “Mr. Smith is dead,” gasps the voice on the end of the line. "Please come quickly.” The voice gives an address, and the undertaker rushes out, loads up his tools, and speeds over.

When he arrives at the prescribed location, though, who should answer the door… but Mr. Smith himself! The undertaker has been fooled. He hangs his head and goes back to his office. And the next time the telephone rings, he thinks twice before he trusts it."

According to the journal article, “Some malicious wag… has been playing a grave practical joke on undertakers, by summoning them over the telephone to bring freezers, candlesticks and coffins for persons alleged to be dead. In each case the denouement is highly farcical, and the reputed corpses are now hunting in a lively manner for that telephonist.”

I was surprised to read that prank calls to funeral homes are still fairly common. It seems while the identity of that first prank caller has been lost to history, the morbid trend he started may never die.


Jun 27, 2017
Southeast Missouri
I saw a story the other day about an early telephone was set up in I believe a Penn., town, at an undertakers, and he had a line set up to the cemetery, and he got calls all during the night from cem. no one was on the line, except strange voices. He eventually went mad. According to a newspaper accounts the calls were assumed to have been from the dead. All of the stories on this show were taken from newspaper articles.