During the summer of 1989, Birch Rock's master of all things fun and creative Bob Van Dyk came up with a plan to fake an eclipse for the campers. In other words, he planned the ultimate camp prank to fool every camper at once.
Bob was in his third summer as Head Counselor in '89 and was almost always funny. The camp was small with only around twenty campers and the prank was planned for when the Senior Campers were off campus. A couple of the Sunday staff meetings were used as time to plan and prepare as a group. Bob spent about ten days quickly holding up a newspaper and announcing to the camp that there was going to be an eclipse. Bob would go so far as to read parts of the "article" to the group, an article that apparently never existed.
The plan was to choose a dark night with little stars and to ring the bell and wake the campers up like it was a normal day but do it at 2:15am. The staff adjusted every clock on campus at 2am to 7am so when the bell rang the clocks all read 7:15am. Also a few staff members actually started cooking bacon in the kitchen and running the dishwasher so it felt like breakfast as the campers arrived near the lodge.
It all went off perfectly. The boys poured out of their cabins amazed at how dark it was and the staff continued to act like it was a regular day, telling them to get dressed and go down to the wash house and then head to Flagpole. The boys were still looking up in amazement when the second bell rang. As Bob gathered them up at the flagpole and actually had the boys raise the flag, random staff members were being called away to "help with setup" or "for a phone call" or "Don needs help sliding the dishwasher out." Eventually, Bob was at Flagpole with all the campers and no staff. The staff went around the lodge to the Lower Shop which was right behind the campers and peered quietly giggling through the lattice.
It was Upper Camper Chris Kilburn-Peterson who finally said, "Wait a second, this can't be real, I think I can see a star." The staff poured out of the Lower Shop laughing and started singing "Let's Hit the Hay!"
Watches at Birch Rock
The really amazing thing about the Eclipse prank is that during the planning process, when it was decided the staff would change all the clocks, someone brought up the question of what to do with the camper's watches. It was decided that the watches would be confiscated a week before the prank. The excuse was we wanted to get the campers even more back into nature. After the prank the staff never got around to returning the watches and at the post-prank Sunday staff meeting it was decided that it seemed better when the campers had no watches because they weren't checking them all the time, counting the minutes until lunch and wanting to get out of the water early during instructional swim, etc., and not paying attention to the moment. The watches were only returned at the end of the summer. Since then campers have not been allowed to have watches at Birch Rock.