Evidently this joke has been around for many years. I t was first pulled on me almost 30 years ago. I don't know why, but I thought I would do a Google search, and sure enough, the joke still lives on :)
I share my true story below, and followed by that is a much more recent version which was told by a radio journalist in Canada on CBC just two years ago. I shared my version with the radio host.
The second story has a very interesting surprise ending.
You aired a story about the caged mongoose joke back in 2004. I first had this trick played on me almost 30 years ago at a small truck repair facility in Texas. While I was waiting for my truck to be repaired, I noticed this cage, similar to the one described in the story that you aired.
The shop owner was probably around 50 or so and he told me all about the mongoose and it's reputation of killing snakes. He casually mentioned that given it's nocturnal nature, it would look for the nearest dark place to go and hide. He told me that was the reason for the two compartment cage where all you could see was the tail sticking out of the dark part of the cage.
He said he would show it to me after my truck repairs were completed. This gave me over an hour to let my imagination run wild and ponder his comments. I paid my bill and he never said a word until I remembered that he had offered to show me the mongoose. He appeared busy and wanting to get on to the next repair job, but he did agree to take a moment and show me the mongoose. His showmanship was very polished!
I got down on my knees to get a closer look in the cage while the shop owner used a coat hanger to try and coax the mongoose out of the dark part of the cage where I might be able to see it through the screened part of the cage.
All of a sudden I notice some sort of furry animal dart out of the cage as the shop owner screams in alarm and says - "watch out!!! it's loose!!!"
I immediately leaped to my feet and started jumping up and down like a young child throwing a temper tantrum until I noticed that I was the only one dancing around and screaming. I never did notice the other half dozen or so mechanics that had quietly formed a semi circle around me to watch the gag. A gag that I'm sure was repeated many times a month.
I'd been had big time, but it was fun. And 30 years later I still recall and share the story with others, although I have never gotten around to building my own cage.
And thanks to the power of the internet many years later, I now know that this gag continues to live on. Curiosity being what it is, I wonder how far back in time this gag really goes. I would have been in my early 20s back in 1977 or 78. The story about the minister is a classic. I'm sure there are many variations of how to set up the victim. I think now, at 52 that I may have the credibility to pull this off with a straight face. I'm off to the basement workshop...
(aired: September 25 and 26, 2004)
Last year I bought a caged mongoose at a yard sale. Actually, it wasn’t a real mongoose…it was a the cage, or really a wooden box with a spring loaded mechanism… that propelled a discarded fur stole out of the top. The whole thing was much like a jack-in-the box except a small wire mesh in the top of the box gave you a fleeting look at what could really be a vicious mongoose. It was the ultimate practical joke machine. I did my best to sucker-in anyone I could find and pretty much without exception everyone who had a heart-stopping moment when the mongoose was launched from its cage would exclaim, “Oh my god, I think I’m going to have a heart attack.” Immediately followed by,” That’s pretty sick.” And within 30 seconds,”Hey, has my wife (or friend, lover, mother-in-law) seen this yet”.
Friends and neighbours would call and ask to borrow the mongoose machine or ask me to bring the mongoose over after having setup the scene so that an appropriate amount of curiosity was balance with fear of a renowned Cobra–killer. And so it came to pass on one Sunday afternoon when my neighbour was hosting a brunch for some of the members of his church that I got a phone call to bring over the mongoose and show some of his friends my exotic “pet”.
One by one, some as couples, every guest trundled down to the basement to have their wits scared out of them and then, of their own volition, they would go upstairs and set up the next mark. At some point the congregation’s minister arrived and was directed downstairs by one of his parishioners. As he approached the mongoose he said that he had ministered in Southeast Asia in his youth and was well aware of the mongoose’s vicious reputation. Well, I had a live one, he had taken the bait and it was time for me to set the hook. I explained that as he probably already knew, a mongoose is nocturnal so there was little to fear opening during the day and then I added, “But you wouldn’t catch me opening this at night”. I sprung the latch on the cage top and the bedraggled swatch of fur catapulted out the top. The Minister was no young man but in 2 or 3 steps he had put 10 meters between us. As he gathered in the scene he quickly realized it was a practical joke. His stare burned into my very soul and gathering an inner confidence he began his rebuke: “Young man, I find it virtually incomprehensible that you would take delight in preying upon the primordial fears of your fellow man to satisfy your own shallow desires”. A stab of guilt pierced the quick of my soul me and as I struggled to mount my defense, two of his parishioners appeared at the top of the stairwell. The good Reverend turn to them and in a kindly voice said, “Hello Mary, Hello Dave. Have you two ever seen a real mongoose? Here, let me show you something interesting.”