Friday, December 05, 2014


A reader's comment on our post for November 19 about the difference between resin and rosin reminded me of an old Ocracoke Island prank.

Rosin is the solid, amber-colored substance formed from the gummy resin of pine trees. Although rosin has a variety of uses, including one ingredient in inks, soaps, chewing gum, soldering flux and some medicines, most people recognize it as the small, hard block used to rub along the bow hairs of fiddles and other stringed instruments. It is applied to help the bow grip the strings.
Island children of several generations ago used rosin to play a trick on their neighbors. This is how it is done:

Obtain a long thread. A sturdy sewing thread (perhaps one for repairing sails) works well. Tie a wooden matchstick to one end. After dark, sneak up to a neighbor's house (in the 21st century this is best done in a neighborhood not known for suspicious activities, Peeping Toms, or easily spooked or armed homeowners!). Quietly and carefully wedge the matchstick as high as practical between a window sash and its frame.

Sneak away some distance from the house, stretching the string as you retreat. In a well hidden place (in a thicket of shrubs, perhaps, or behind a fence) begin rubbing the rosin on the taut thread. A vibration will be transferred along the string, creating a haunting, moaning sound that reverberates throughout the house.

Some friends and I played this prank a number of years ago (we even dressed in black!). Through the window we could see our neighbor sitting in his living room watching television. When we started rubbing the rosin on the thread he turned off the TV, got up, and began looking around the room. We stopped immediately.

As soon as he sat back down and resumed watching TV we began again.

After several attempts to locate the source of the strange, on-again, off-again eerie sound, he stepped outside. We had fastened the string high enough so we could lift it above his head as he walked around the building.

Of course, we all had a good laugh when we revealed ourselves and explained our prank.

Oh, for the simpler times when children (and adults) entertained themselves playing harmless pranks on friends and neighbors! 

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous8:04 AM

    Oh my, this is perfect for the first episode of the reality TV show called Outer Pranks life on Ocracoke Island.

  2. You should've heard me laugh in the middle of that one.

  3. Peeping Toms? Oh my...

  4. I remember my dad saying he did this as a kid except he used black thread and a small fish hook in the neighbor's window screen. He grew up in the opposite of Ocracoke, Oklahoma.