Have any of you heard of a website called Peter Answers? It could be one of the creepiest but most convincing practical jokes anyone has pulled on me. If you don't want to put your closest friends through trauma that may require therapy to recover from, don't use it to pull the joke on them. If this particular problem doesn't bother you, then by all means use it to mess with their unsuspecting minds.
Let me explain.
Last night I was hanging out in one of my friends' rooms, talking and being bored in general. One friend, who I'll refer to as Tyler in order to protect the not-so-innocent, was messing around on his laptop. "Have you guys ever tried this Peter Answers website?" he asked us.
I peeked over his shoulder, seeing what looked like an answer-generator, one of those things you can type a question into and get a random answer that might be vague or amusing. Something on the level of fortune cookies and magic eight balls. Had I noticed the title 'virtual tarot' in the corner, I probably would have backed out right away. I'm not one to dabble with the supernatural. I don't even read my horoscope, just for fun.
Anyway, he explained: "You can ask it any question and it will give you a specific answer," he said. He demonstrated by typing in the question "Who is in the room right now?" The only stipulation? You had to first type "Peter, please answer the following question:..."
The computer answered, "Gretta, Becky and Laura."
Creepy. It was right. "It spelled my name wrong," I said, beginning to wonder if he was pulling a prank. He didn't seem to be typing anything besides the question, and nobody else in the room was sending him a message from their computer. He kept asking it questions, which it answered correctly - about articles of clothing people were wearing, things that had happened to us that day, and a noise outside the room. By this time, I decided it was best to leave the thing alone. I didn't know if Tyler was just messing with us, or if we were really getting into something we shouldn't be.
Then, in response to a question Tyler typed in, it answered with a question: "Are you scared, Orthodox Christian?"
That buzzed me to the core for a minute. Then I realised, why should I be scared? My faith is more powerful than anything that computer could have inside it. I was determined that I was not going to let whatever was going on get me upset, and just to stay away from it. By this time I was on the opposite side of the room, trying to ignore the questions it was answering about Becky, who was convinced it was some kind of trick.
A few minutes later, we discovered that the site was a hoax. Tyler showed us that when you type in the phrase "Peter, please answer the following question:" you first type a period. The cursor appears to type out that phrase, but you can actually type in the answer to any question you have decided to ask, then hit the period again. When you type in the question and hit enter, the answer appears.
So, I learned some things about myself. One, I should be quicker to rely on my faith rather than let weird circumstances mess with my head. Two, I am probably one of the more gullible people others might find it fun to pull similar pranks on. Regardless, I should probably be a little quicker with my practical reasoning skills. And stay away from time-wasters on the computer.
Looking back on it, though, I'm impressed by Tyler's ability to keep a straight face through the whole thing. I bet he found our reactions pretty amusing.