Yesterday, Australian DJ's Mel Greig and Michael Christian made what they deemed a harmless prank phone call to the hospital where Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge (more recognized as the former Kate Middleton, wife to Prince William) was being treated for a severe case of "morning sickness" One of the DJs pretended to be Queen Elizabeth asking about visiting the Duchess and was given some, but very little, information about the Duchess's condition but it did raise some questions about patient privacy and security. Everyone thought that the most tragic part of this story was the questions raised about patient privacy and security but unfortunately we were all wrong.
This morning the nurse who put through the infamous phone call to Kate Middleton's private nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead near King Edward VII Hospital in London. It appears that London authorities are treating it as a suicide and deem the death "not suspicious" The DJ's have taken down their twitter account and are not speaking to the media.
I have to admit that I love a good practical joke and have played more than my share of them on family and friends and some of them are actually still my friends, if you can believe it, but a practical joke has the potential to go horribly wrong and in this and many more cases it does. More often that not the practical joker themselves are many times the "victim" of their jokes and in early Chicago (December 27, 1879) that is exactly what happened.
Moses Brooks Gould was the son of a well to do New York merchant family led by John P. Gould. Gould operated at business at Nos. 263 and 264 Wabash Avenue and lived at the Palmer House Hotel in Room 261. One of his good friends who knew him as a practical joker was General J.M. Waite who was a Civil War veteran and a member of a wholesale brokerage and commission firm doing business at 22 and 24 River St. Gen Waite was out driving Gould's horse and since Waite's home was at 297 Wabash he decided to stop in and see his friend Gould who was still at work. The two talked and then Gould wanted to take a walk over to his friend Waite's apartment. Waite had no idea why he wanted to go but went with him.
When they arrived at Waite's flat, Gould noticed that Waite's apartment door was left ajar and he called out for Waite's servant and cook, "Joe" to see if he was present but nobody answered. Gould decided it would be a great joke to make Waite's servant think that a burglary had occured due to him leaving the door ajar and thought it would be a good way to teach him a lesson as well.
They went into the flat and tossed around light furniture and clothing to make it look like there had been a burglary and then went and hid in the bathroom. They heard Joe return and by the sound of things they decided that their joke had taken root. Joe called out but they did not answer him. Joe checked each room in succession and then knocked on the bathroom door where Waite and Gould were hiding. He tried to open the door but Gould braced his body against the door so that "Joe" could not push the door open. Frightened, Joe ran to the bedroom and retrieved General Waite's Smith & Wesson .32 caliber revolver and returned to the bathroom door. He again tried to push it open but Gould had his body very firmly planted against it. A loud sound similar to a firecracker was heard and Gould fell back and collapsed. Waite didn't realize what had happened until he saw the hole in the door and the blood pouring from Gould's head.
Joe had shot through the door striking Gould just above and behind his left ear! Joe ran out to find a doctor and found a policeman who almost arrested him when he said that he had shot someone but after explanation helped to locate a doctor. They tried at various offices at Adams and State Streets and Madison and State with no luck but finally had luck at the Bennett Medical College on State and Dr. Jay, Taylor, Gunn and Horsey responded. They all deemed the wound to be fatal and while the police took Joe into custody, Dr. Horsey stayed with General Waite and they waited for the inevitable. Gould didn't utter another word and lingered for almost 2 hours until he finally passed away at 6:00pm.
My guess is that there have been practical jokes as long ago as when we humans first discovered that we had a sense of humor and that practical jokes will continue until the end of the world (possibly coming up in two weeks) but urge those who dream up these many times funny and embarrassing situations to use a bit of common sense forethought to try to minimize the amount of damage that could be done.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all those whose lives have been touched by the tragedies of a seemingly harmless practical joke gone terribly wrong. I feel for all of those involved; the Royal Family, the DJs and their families and not least the deceased nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, and her family.