Before The Jerky Boys, There Was ‘Longmont Potion Castle’
When you think of prank calls, you typically think of the puppets from Crank Yankers, the mischievousness of Bart Simpson, and of course, the Jerky Boys, who were a bona fide cultural phenomenon in the 1990s after being featured on Howard Stern, and whose calls still whizzed around in MP3 form on KaZaA and LimeWire in the early aughts. Still, no matter the crafter, most of these prank calls followed a similar formula, including an irate participant with an outlandish accent, actively goading the person on the other end of the line.
But as far back as 1986, there was another singular voice in the art of the prank phone call taking a more unique tack. One delivered in a straight, calm, if sometimes artificially modulated monotone, and who inspired rage not through volume, but pure, uncut confusion. To this day, his real identity remains completely unknown, outside of a few details, like an involvement in the music industry, his long hair and a childhood in Colorado. He’s known only as Longmont Potion Castle, and he has 22 albums of prank calls to his name, including one released just this year, and fans that include The War on Drugs, Jimmy Eat World and Rainn Wilson.
Here are five of his best prank calls…
Both relatively short and relatively straightforward, the ballad of Buck Pucker, publisher of Golf Wolf magazine, is still a classic. Connected with an impressively amiable customer service worker at a copy machine store, LPC, as per usual, spends minimal time on the niceties before diving straight into his strange, bordering on unsettling needs: new machines to publish his magazine, Golf Wolf (on a quarterly basis, of course.)
This is part of what makes his calls so great, and also what helps them not end in the immediate hang-ups that you might expect coming out of the gate with a weird, aggressive voice. Could a confused publisher have been connected to the floor of a copier machine store instead of the business sales department? Does a quarterly magazine called Golf Wolf exist? Is there a man in the United States with the god-given name of Buck Pucker? The answer to all these questions is “maybe”? Outside of a threat to come down there with his clubs, LPC talks the whole time like he’s the reasonable one, and it ends, as many of his calls do, with a threat to get the police involved, but Buck Pucker is already in the wind.
Another thing that makes Longmont Potion Castle a pioneer in the prank call genre is his choice of victim. Though his process is, understandably, kept mostly under wraps, it seems he’s not punching numbers into a phone at random and hoping for recordable results. The businesses and people he chooses are prime prank-call targets, like a loamy field already prepared to bear fruit. Call a Hilton and start telling them you need a couple rooms to spread out with your weights, and you’ll get a polite click. However, call the World Famous Clown Motel in Nevada and by nature, they’re probably already ready to talk to an unconventional customer.
The bargaining that ensues between one serious bodybuilder and a beleaguered motel manager isn’t only entertaining, but starts to give you fascinating insight into what the day-to-day business of the Clown Motel is like. For example, the fact that a guy would like to reserve three rooms for the purpose of pumping iron doesn’t seem to be as much a point of concern as the noise he’ll make or the possible damage to the rugs and upholstery.
LPC, as he’s so incredibly good at, manages to twist the call into things like the discussion of whether a room with two queen beds will have space to lift weights, instead of the more natural questions, like “what the fuck is going on and who are you?”
Game Stop 2
As time went on, another staple of the Longmont Potion Castle discography was a use of audio effects, though not to disguise the voice that’s calling, but instead just to make the experience on the other end even slightly stranger than before. This call runs the gamut from what seems to be an avid Counter-Strike player thinking he’s being invited to a local tourney run by a GameStop for the prize of a 2018 Dodge Neon, to him seemingly understanding this is a prank call, to getting genuinely angry about the prank caller’s accusations that he would “dissolve” him in a 1v1 despite himself.
Blueberry Bag, in the vein of the Clown Motel, starts with a call to a guitar store with what is a completely absurd, but in some timeline, possible problem: A guitar he’d bought inexplicably had a bag of frozen blueberries in the case. The confusion and curiosity is enough to keep a stalwart employee, Peter, on the line with Schneider (spelled just how it sounds) while trying to track down his purchase, maybe chalking it up to a less-than-thoroughly inspected used guitar sale. His desperate attempts to get a full name out of Schneider, or at least clarification on whether that’s his first or last name, just result in more complaints about the guitar’s “sour” sounds and the expiration date of the blueberries in question.
It’s when Longmont Potion Castle “offers” to connect him to his brother Wade, who he bought the guitar for, that things fully derail, and he starts doing what he’s called “audio juggling,” where LPC starts connecting one victim to another and sitting by to watch them try to figure the situation out. “Wade” seems to be at least two different previous LPC call recipients, both of whom answer the phone in states of rage and/or despair realizing who just called them.
For maybe his “audio juggling” magnum opus, I recommend the call where he connects a Radio Shack with an Orange Julius, and the two employees spend minutes in a state of complete confusion.
If the man named Alex in the previous call who answers the phone with a defeated “hello” sounds familiar, you’re not imagining things. It’s a voice you may have heard before, one that hosted the television game show Jeopardy! for more than 20 years: Alex Trebek. Getting the genuine, personal numbers of celebrities is something Longmont Potion Castle also seems to have some sort of ability to do, and his calls to said celebrities are some of his best.
His call to a delightfully patient Alex Trebek, in which he explains that he has a delivery of hundreds of pounds of sod that requires payment, is seven minutes of perfection that will only make you love the dearly departed Trebek more. The famous patient, but disappointed tone that Trebek would use for an incorrect Final Jeopardy is the same he uses to try to rectify what seems to be a miscommunication with “Thrasher” of the United Parcel Service.
Any doubts that it’s truly Trebek and not a talented impersonator should also be put to bed right at the two-minute mark where the classic host explains, after being told that the origin of the package is Siam, that “Siam is no longer a country, it’s Thailand now” in a clip that could have come straight from Jeopardy!.