This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands
One of the best things about being young is that you can get away with some godawful behaviour, because your mind, sense of reason and powers of foresight are still developing. You aren't yet capable of fully understanding the consequences of your actions, so it just seems like honest and innocent fun to convince your sister to climb onto and then jump off a roof, or to place bets with classmates on who'll be the first to make the maths teacher cry.
With hindsight, though, it's often clear you were a danger to yourself and others, and that it's frankly a miracle that you and your loved ones survived those years. I asked around among my friends to find out about all the worst shit they pulled as children, and whether they got away with it or not. Here are some of the best stories I heard.
"I'm from a small town where nothing exciting ever happened. When I was ten years old, a friend and I went to the abandoned club house of a defunct baseball club in town to secretly smoke cigarettes. As we sat there, we started burning bits of wallpaper off with a lighter. The paper was very dry, so it burned away quickly. So quickly, in fact, that within seconds the whole club house caught fire. We ran away and made it home without anyone realising it was us. I could see the flames all the way from my house.
"Instead of being devastated, the whole town was actually pretty excited about the fire – finally, something big had happened there. Everybody was talking about it. Most of the firefighters were volunteers, and they were thrilled to be called into action. But as exciting as it may have been, my friend and I never told anyone we were behind it, and nobody ever found out it was us – it was 27 years ago, and still not even our parents know."
"In high school, a bunch of us pooled our money to buy some hash bonbon chocolates. We'd planned to eat them after school, but, annoyingly, someone decided to leave a few in the staffroom. At first, it just felt like a bit of a waste. But as the day wore on, it became obvious which teachers had helped themselves to the chocolates and who hadn't. During French, our teacher suddenly started walking strangely and banging her pointer against the blackboard. Soon after, she complained that the classroom was too hot and decided to open all the windows. She eventually had to sit down, and asked us to just get on with some work on our own while she had a little rest. I heard the chemistry teacher in another class almost collapsed – he'd had a few chocolates on an empty stomach. Getting high without realising he was getting high must have been terrifying for him.
"We were all pretty freaked out about it. But because so many of us had pitched in, it was hard to determine who exactly was to blame for the incident. We all got away unscathed."
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"When I was 14, a friend and I used to call this phone sex line that called you back – but we would always give the phone numbers of unsuspecting friends for the operator to call back. That got boring after a while, so then one day we decided to book an escort, and gave her agency the name and house address of one of our classmates.
"The next night, a lady arrived at our friend's house. He and his family were already asleep, so nobody answered when she rang the doorbell. She apparently waited for a while, until an associate of hers arrived to help. He was really angry and started screaming at our mate's house from the middle of the road, 'She's here now, so you're going to fuck her!' Eventually they left, but not after waking up the whole street.
"The next day at school, we didn't hide the fact that we were the ones responsible, mostly because we didn't realise how bad it actually was. Our friend's parents didn't take it well, either – the whole incident had apparently worsened his mum's burnout. My father was furious with me when he found out."
"I was about seven years old when a friend and I got extremely bored watching my dad fix his sailboat by the harbour. Looking around for something to do, we spotted another boat on a ramp, being held in place by some wooden blocks. We decided to kick the blocks away, just to see what would happen. Before we knew it, this 50-foot sailboat was sliding into the water. We ran away in a panic, but since we were the only seven-year-old shits around the harbour, it didn't take long for everyone to figure out who was responsible.
"It turned out the owner of the boat was actually on board at the time, trying to fix the electrics. Initially, he was so pissed off that he demanded that my father was banned from the harbour, but after we helped him tidy up and fix his boat he calmed down and forgave us."
"One night years ago, I was drinking somewhere in Amsterdam with a couple of friends, one of whom had his American cousin over. When the bar closed we didn't want the night to end, as we'd promised to show my mate's cousin a good time. When we walked out of the bar he noticed the life-sized replica of an 18th century Dutch East India Company ship in the water across the river – it belonged to the National Maritime Museum that stands on the bank next to it. 'Can we climb on that?' my friend's cousin asked. We decided to give it a try.
"When we got to the museum on the other side of the river, it seemed more complicated to get on the ship than we had anticipated – it was moored a bit out into the water. We noticed a small raft near us, and we decided to use it to reach the ship. But once we got on the raft, it tipped over and we all fell in the water. Soaking wet, we just carried on and swam to the ship, holding on to the raft in the hope that it would be useful on the way back.
"After we had climbed on board, we thought it would be funny to piss on the deck, before climbing up the masts. Just as we were getting comfortable looking out from up there, we heard a man shout: 'You're coming down right now!' A bit further down the quay, we saw a guy with a walkie-talkie in his hand. It turned out there's a base of the Royal Netherlands Navy next to the museum, so security in the area was tighter than we thought.
"We jumped on the raft, quickly paddled back to our bikes and rode off. Just in time, too, because not much later we spotted a police car heading towards the museum."
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"For a while in high school, I had a skeleton key – a key that could open and lock every classroom at my school. I had got my hands on it, because one time in after-school detention I was made to carry a bunch of equipment to different classrooms. I didn't return it when I was done, because I thought it could come in handy at some point.
"I soon realised I had the power to lock in entire classes – 25 kids and their teacher. Walking through the hallways, I usually waited until it was really noisy in a classroom, so nobody would hear the click of the lock and they would only notice they were locked in when they tried to leave. Every time I did it, it got more exciting.
"It was never more fun than on Wednesday afternoons, when I had maths in a room on the second floor, right next to another class doing history. I had convinced my teacher I had to work in the hallway sometimes, by claiming I couldn't concentrate otherwise. Just before the session ended, I would come back, but not before locking in the history class.
"Apparently, one time, someone literally pissed himself because he couldn't get to the toilet. They never figured out it was me, because I was very careful and didn't do it every week – the element of surprise was very important to me. With hindsight, it was a pretty dangerous thing to do. I can't think about what would have happened if there had ever been a fire."
"I grew up in Paris, and when I was about six a friend and I used to play in a cemetery after school. It was this really dodgy Parisian cemetery, with human remains everywhere, but I don't think we fully understood what it was or what that meant.
"One day, we just started digging and eventually came across a human bone. We found that so exciting that we kept at it, and soon we had found more bones and a couple of skulls. We took the remains to my house and soaked them in one of my mother's large soup pots, to clear off the mud and have them looking nice and clean. When my mum came home and saw the skull in one of her pots, she almost had a heart attack. I was banned from ever playing with that friend again."