The must-read story of the day if you’re into practical jokes has to be The Wall Street Journal‘s piece headlined “Walk The Prank: Secret Story Of Mysterious Portrait At Pentagon.”
As Melissa Block and Audie Cornish will explain later on All Things Considered, last year some pranksters hung a portrait on a hall in the Pentagon with a plaque saying it was “Ensign Chuck Hord. USNA circa 1898. Lost at sea 1908.”
There is no such person.
The guy in the frame is retired U.S. Navy Capt. Eldridge “Tuck” Hord III, who is very much alive. His portrait was commissioned by his proud parents after Hord’s 1982 graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy and over the years was copied by the photographer and turned into something of a running joke by his friends.
It is, after all, a remarkable likeness. A dimple-jawed Hord gazes confidently at you. He looks like he could be from almost any decade from the past 100 or 150 years — except, perhaps, for that perfectly coiffed hair.
According to the Journal, one copy attended Hord’s “farewell party [in 2005] when he left the Pentagon office to take a new post in Diego Garcia, an Indian Ocean atoll where the Navy has a base. He left the portrait with his officemates, who placed it on the wall above his old desk.”
Then last July, one of those buddies had the bright idea to put the “Ensign Chuck Hord” plaque on the frame and hang it “on a previously unadorned hallway.”
“I said, ‘you know, it shouldn’t be stuck in this small office here in the bowels of the Pentagon,” says the main prankster, Canadian Lt. Col. Brook Bangsboll tells NPR. “It should be somewhere more prominent.” He and his team embarked on “The Project,” their code name for the secret prank.
The portrait stayed on the wall for seven months, until the Journal “asked Pentagon officials about the long-lost sailor’s suspiciously modern hairstyle.”
So now, Ens. Hord is leaning against a cubicle wall on the floor of an office where Hord once worked. Until, we suspect, he appears in some other mysterious spot.