Travelling gnome prank
The travelling gnome prank is the practice of returning a garden gnome "to the wild". It involves stealing a gnome, taking it on a trip, and photographing it at famous landmarks, with the photos being returned to the owner.
There are many clubs and organizations dedicated to the prank. The best-known of these is the Garden Gnome Liberation Front.
The earliest record is in Australia in 1986, when the following text appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 24 September: "An Eastern suburbs gnome-owner was distressed when she discovered her gnome had been stolen at the weekend. A note was found in its place: 'Dear mum, couldn't stand the solitude any longer. Gone off to see the world. Don't be worried, I'll be back soon. Love Bilbo xxx.'" The tradition of travelling gnomes dates back earlier, with Henry Sunderland sending gnomes around Antarctica.
Perhaps the most well-known instance of a travelling gnome prank happened in the spring of 2005 when a group of friends from Redmond, Washington, took a gnome, "Gnome" Severson, on a trip to California. During their time there, the gnome was photographed with Paris Hilton and a photo of the gnome was published in People Magazine. The gnome was also photographed around Hollywood, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Upon returning the gnome to its owner, the story turned into national news and an interview on Good Morning America. The owner of the gnome sold it for nearly $400 on eBay, but it was secretly purchased by the owner's friends, who continued to take the gnome around the world.
References in popular culture
Churn Labs, a firm which makes software for mobile devices, created a game app named Gnonstop Gnomes for Android and iOS. It lets users attach a virtual gnome to travel photographs and use GPS to share the gnome with friends as users travel.
In the film Amélie, the title character wants to shake her father out of depression and reawaken his dream of traveling the world, so she steals his garden gnome and has a flight attendant friend take pictures of it with various international landmarks.
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