Watch this: MIT's adorably nerdy hack during 1982 Harvard-Yale game

mit harvard yale hack

Saturday marked the 129th installment of Harvard-Yale, one of college football's most storied rivalries. Known simply as "The Game," the Ivy League series dates all the way back to 1875, and although its national significance has waned with the rise of power conferences and the Bowl Championship Series, it never fails to inspire memorable pranks and frat boy stunts. Yet few are as audacious as what a group of MIT pranksters pulled off 30 years ago, when a mysterious weather balloon suddenly emerged from beneath the field at Harvard Stadium.

On November 20th, 1982, during the second quarter, a black weather balloon inexplicably began inflating along the sidelines, just above the 45-yard line. As referees and coaches gathered in befuddlement, the balloon suddenly exploded to roars of applause, leaving only a cloud of white dust in its wake. Emblazoned with the letters "MIT," the balloon left no confusion as to authorship, with the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity immediately taking credit for the stunt and heralding it as an unmitigated success.

"Tech pranksters steal the show."

As the frat later explained, the prank was part of an operation that had been in the works for several years. The balloon was inflated by a freon-driven hydraulic press buried three feet below the ground, and was powered by a vacuum cleaner motor. Members of the house's "Bomb Squad" planted the device a few days before the game, making eight trips to the stadium during the dead of night. The students were confident that the explosion would cause no bodily harm since it contained only freon, and were courteous enough to attach a note explaining how to properly clean it up.


Looking back at the incident three decades later, what's perhaps most stunning isn't the prank itself, but the general reaction to it. As Computerworld points out, in a post-9/11 world, this kind of on-field demonstration would've likely been quashed with SWAT teams and bomb-sniffing dogs. In 1982, it was only met with a few pulled police pistols and general amusement, as demonstrated in the compilation of lighthearted media reports below. The frat even held its own press conference afterward, where they boasted about successfully eluding Harvard security workers. And although Harvard would go on to win 45-7, a headline in the next morning's Boston Herald captured The Game's greatest highlight : "MIT 1—Harvard-Yale 0: Tech Pranksters Steal the Show."

The Verge
Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Verge username and password

As part of the new Verge launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Verge going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.