On March 31, 1989, the space-obsessed Branson and a co-pilot took off in a hot air balloon designed to look like a flying saucer, otherworldly flashing lights and all. Their plan was to take a short flight and land in Hyde Park as a promotional stunt, but uncooperative winds transformed their short flight into a War of the Worlds-style public panic. As they hovered over highway M25 the traffic stopped cold, with scores of panicked motorists bailing from their cars to ring the local constabulary from emergency roadside phones. One woman was so taken aback by the "invasion" that she stood in front of the window of her apartment describing the slow-moving craft to a radio station while completely forgetting that she was nude.
Either in hopes of finding additional confusedly naked females or the possibility of breaking out their best one-liners while fending off an alien invasion with their billy clubs ("I guess you won't be ... sticking around."), British police kicked into immediate action. As the UFO came to its eventual landing spot, bobbies timidly approached, truncheons drawn and ready to give E.T. a jolly good whack on his elongated noggin. That's when an honest-to-goodness E.T. did pop out -- accompanied by plumes of smoke -- and the police promptly shat themselves and ran away.
That isn't a joke, by the way. In addition to his co-pilot, Branson had dragged aboard a dwarf in an alien costume (along with shit-tons of dry ice) for the express purpose of scaring the hell out of whoever happened to be nearby after their landing. When your prank checklist includes "hire a dwarf" and "rent a dwarf-sized alien costume," you know you've hit the level of either true genius or horrible, horrible person.