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A Moral Quandry About Posting - Advice Sought Answered

Hi all,

I'm having a bit of a dilemma regarding an Instructable for April Fool's Day. I was considering posting an idea I had for pulling the classic schoolboy Flaming-Bag-Of-Poo-On-The-Doorstep prank, only at great distances. It's a thought I had several years ago when a colleague was irritating me, and I thought "I'd really like to leave a flaming bag of poo on his porch. Too bad he lives 2000 miles away."

Obviously, this is not something that I would actually do. It's intended as an amusing article about the theory of the thing, not something to make in real life and use. Mailing combustible materials is illegal and dangerous, potentially lethal, prosecutable under terror laws, and just generally a bad idea all 'round. Also, the mechanism of the thing could be easily repurposed to initiate a much more dangerous payload than a paper bag full of poo. Honestly, the device is pretty much a mail bomb with a joke payload.

My major concerns are 1) there are people out there who would be dumb enough to build it and prank someone, thinking they could do it safely; 2) there are people out there who are malicious enough to build it and use it for intentionally destructive purposes; 3) The mere presence of the article on the site could potentially attract government scrutiny, and if someone actually were to get injured by such a device built from plans found on this site....

On the other hand, Kiteman's 0th.

I have considered redesigning it so that the payload involves something innocuous, like a spring-loaded confetti launcher or a recorded message, but the humor of the thing really depends upon the absurdity of mailing someone a flaming bag of poo. Mailing someone a sound bite that says "YOU SUCK" just doesn't have the same impact. Plus, it costs more to make. Poo is free.

Anyway, what do my esteemed colleagues think? Am I being overly cautious, or am I right in just shelving the whole thing?


What about custard instead? (and no fire)


You mean like the classic pie-in-the-face gag? That would be great, but it does present the problem of getting the mark to stand in the right place to get hit with the custard. Any thoughts on that front?

Yes, the same "in the right place" would apply to anything you're flinging though. Substitute custard for your original payload.


I think the easiest thing would be to package the gimmick in a box with a hinged lid, like a small footlocker. Most people will open that kind of box while facing the opening, the better to see what's in it. That should put them within the appropriate arc of fire.

I wonder how much pressure it would take to push a pint or so of custard through a fan-shaped sprinkler nozzle at about 75 fps....

I neglected to mention that I was thinking of a gelatinous-blob rather than liquid.


I say "post it".  Give stern warnings, and don't mention possible mods to accomplish more dastardly goals.  List it as a "gag",  "joke" or "prank", and hopefully no one will take it too seriously.

I have seen way too many potentially lethal instructables on this site to muster up the necessary level of faith in the common sense of the community as a whole. Most of us are rational people who know where to draw the line, but it only takes one bonehead to blow the whole thing. If I were just saying "send someone flaming poop in the mail - ha ha" it would be one thing, but providing detailed instructions and photos is a whole different ball 'o wax.

.  The main problem I see is that, as you point out, mailing things that explode and/or catch fire easily is illegal (and I'll bet it ain't one of those slap-on-the-wrist-and-a-$50-fine crimes) "and just generally a bad idea all 'round." Can you modify the project so that it doesn't involve the USPS?

It could work with any of the non-government delivery services, but I believe the same restrictions apply. The only other option I can think of is personal delivery, and that sort of defeats the whole purpose.

How about a compressed-gas device to fire cloud of flour over the recipient?  Or soot-like powder for that stylish it-blew-up-in-my-face look?

That would be funny, especially if there was a way to get the victim to put on a pair of goggles first (both to avoid eye injuries and to get that stylish "reverse racoon" look. Unfortunately, I think it's illegal to mail compressed gas devices in the US. I'll have to check into that, though.

It doesn't have to be very high pressure to do the job - a small soda-bottle pressurised with a bike-pump.

In light of this idea.

How about a computer fan pointing out of the box and behind it is a box full of flower attatched. Then you can rig the lid electricly that when you open it it blows flour right in your face...

It would be a box variant of the old "flour in hairdryer and wait t'ill they turn it on kinda thing"

The valve could be as simple as a section of folded rubber tube - opening up the lid could let the tube unfold, letting air rush through into a container of powder with vents pointing at the opening of the box....

Now that you mention it, the same kind of trigger/valve would work for a liquid payload under pressure, much like a Tippmann paintball grenade. A couple of feet of rubber surgical tubing full of pressurized custard.... Now that's comedy. The Wacky Custard Weasel, if you will.

When I manage to put something viable together, you and Lemonie are both getting co-author credits. I love this site.

Good point. When I think of pressurized gas, I immediately go to CO2 powerlets, which would be overkill for for something like a powder launcher anyway.
Come to think of it, I have some pneumatic squibs lying around that might be repurposed into just the thing (or that I could at least steal a few parts from). The only real qualm about using those is that they're not my design, I built them from an instructable by Crosius (with a couple of minor mods of  my own). Does repurposing someone else's design fall into "Thou Shalt Post" territory?

Hmmmm pranks by mail. This needs thinking about :D

When my father was in grad school, he pulled some truly epic pranks, some of which were mail-based. Or so he claims.... Dad's a bit of a leg-puller.

Nevertheless, I strive to live up to his (possibly mythical) legacy every April. He would get a huge kick out of the idea of mailing someone a flaming bag of poo.

I was trying to remember where I'd seen a brilliant one your dad would love. I remembered..... INSTRUCTABLES!