Invasion of the Ping Pong Balls: Are You Next?

Emilija Sagaityte

(Photo by Elly Conklyn)

To Radnor seniors, spring is the time for traditions: prom, teary-eyed graduation, adrenalized senior assassin, and the senior prank, which in past years has ranged from simulating a bull run through the hallways to flooding the library with a copious amount of ping pong balls. This year, however, it seems as though the prank has come early and the ping pong balls have returned to haunt us–but now the seniors are also the targets.

Over the past few days leading up to Tuesday, April 17, 17 students (Maybe coincidence? Maybe not?), mostly seniors, were surprised, irritated, and downright confused to find ping pong balls in their mailboxes or around their doorsteps with no explanation and no context. While each ball was embellished with one or two plastic googly eyes of varying sizes, an angry facial expression, and a message stating, “To: (Name of Recipient),” they varied in color and type of glue used to attach the googly eyes, including a glitter-glue variant. Perhaps most interestingly, the handwriting was also different across the samples, suggesting that a consortium, as opposed to an individual, orchestrated this bizarre prank, threat, or whatever it may be.

The event has elicited discussions of conspiracy theories on social media, and classrooms were buzzing with rampant speculation throughout Tuesday. Seeing as students found these unsettling objects directly after school on Monday and Tuesday morning and afternoon, seniors have deduced that the culprits would have had to have skipped school or had free periods on Monday and Tuesday, would need to be free directly after school, and would have to be able to get around; however, with many students, including those accused for having suspicious schedules, roaming around people’s homes, or seeming like the type to have the time and willingness to pull off such a feat, out on college visits, “sick,” lacking cars or a license, or asserting their innocence, everyone has yet to solve the mystery and receive confirmation.

Since senior assassin is officially starting this week and those interested already signed up, numerous students’ first guesses were that the endeavor was some sort of death-by-water-gun precursor or a scheme for verifying competitors’ homes.  A plausible assumption. After all, an eyeball could imply surveillance and gives off an I’m-watching-you Big-Brother style warning, perfectly suiting the mentality of the assassins game when you never know who is keeping an eye on you from the shadows, getting ready to strike. On the other hand, senior Elly Conklyn, who along with her brother Ryan received a ping pong ball Monday, explained, “I gave my money [for senior assassin] seventh period, which means someone would have had to find my address, make the ball, and deliver it to my house before 3 p.m.,” a super short turnaround time, unless the person responsible had eighth free. More importantly, not all the recipients are partaking in the competition, and rumor has it that a junior received one, too, so the overlap with the initiation of senior assassin is possibly nothing but a red herring (or the extra recipients are just meant to throw us off the scent). In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any common thread linking the victims together, adding to the perplexity of the situation, though the majority seem to live in Ithan, suggests senior Andrew Lord.

Conklyn, initially thinking that the balls were from her younger neighbors, said she later considered them to be “either a part of an elaborate promposal, or just a weird troll.” Seniors Scott and David Massey received theirs on Saturday. In Scott’s opinion, the balls may be “someone trying to be obnoxious or cause chaos,” or simply to see everyone’s reactions. Interestingly, senior Glenn Seibel also commented on the legal aspect of the situation, referencing Title 18, section 1725 of the the U.S. Code, which states that items without stamps cannot be placed in others’ mailboxes: “Like any good prank, it’s of questionable legality.” Elly, Scott, and a plethora of other seniors also speculate that senior Nick Adams was involved. Conklyn explained, “Adams is super creative and spent a lot of time creating campaign props when he ran for school president, and he’s pretty clever.” Adams adamantly denied the allegations on Facebook though: “Please stop asking me if I was involved! I was not… I’m just as curious as the rest of you guys are.” Rumors have kept circulating, however, causing many to remain dubious of his claim.

Other conjectures suggest a more academic approach to the issue. Most people in Mr. Dunbar’s sixth period AP European History class agreed that the purpose of the entire scheme may have been solely, or at least partly, to evoke this exact response. The initial shock, the ongoing, frenzied conversations, the automatic tendency to blame and uncover the truth—these reactions may all just be the results of a wild, entertaining experiment. Senior Neal Chan, echoing the aforementioned belief of his peers, surmised, “The purpose has to be to bring about this exact response, perhaps for a Sociology project.” The fact that several people evidently helped make the balls and that Sociology is a class meant for seniors and meets numerous times throughout the day during first, fourth, fifth, and sixth period, giving ample time and possibility for several students to go on ping pong sprees, support the theory of a quite ambitious, high-school social experiment. Not to mention, now seems like the optimal time since Sociology students have been conducting interviews in school. However, Sociology teacher Mr. Mezger asserted, “The mystery has nothing to do with our Sociology class,” leading one to conclude another false lead.

For all we know, the mystery may not even be related to our high school. Oddly reminiscent of an invasion of Earth by plastic cubes that appeared overnight in an ancient episode of Doctor Who, the ping pong balls may have rained down from space, and somewhere, extraterrestrials are drinking their coffee and laughing at us, observing Radnor students through their tiny, ping-pong cameras and preparing to come take us away. Sadly, for now, we have to wait and see what happens, yearning for the minds behind this enigma to reveal themselves soon; meanwhile, several seniors were still expecting another batch of furious-looking surprises to appear in other students’ homes over the past few days, but all has been quiet. Only time will tell who, if anyone, is next, but, conspirators, remember that now, we are watching.