Monday, November 12, 2012

Mystery sign prankster confesses 26 years later

A mystery prankster who turned a village into a national laughing stock has finally come forward – 26 years later. In 1986, the welcome sign to the small village of Weston Underwood, near Kedleston, Derbyshire, was replaced with one saying "Vest'n'Underpants". The story was picked up by the national media, but it was not known who was behind it. Now Chris Skripek, an artist living in Ripley, has put his hands up to own up to the vandalism, but said he does not regret it as it "put a smile on people's faces".

Chris, now 48, said: "I was 22 at the time and was dating a girl in Kirk Ireton. I drove through Weston Underwood a lot from my home in Allestree. "After passing through that village so many times, my half-German mind twisted the pronunciation to 'Veston Undervood'. This morphed into 'Vest 'n' Underpants'. Amongst my friends, it became a bit of a joke. "Then one day I thought it would be funny, as young people do, to replace the sign. "I was a graphic designer at the time and I liked clever practical jokes."

And so, in the middle of the night, Chris unbolted the sign and took it home, where he scraped off the original lettering. After replacing it with Vest'n'Underpants, he put it back up. Word quickly spread and the story featured in the tabloids and on national TV. It was even discussed by DJ Simon Bates on the Radio One breakfast show. Chris said: "I was sitting in my car on the way to work listening to the radio when they started talking about the Derbyshire village caper. I couldn't believe it. What I thought was a quiet joke had gone national."

Despite the media coverage, Chris's sign stayed up for a month. He said: "I remember reading in the paper at the time that the local council's chairman loved it because it put the village on the map. So many people used that road so it would have been seen by so many. It wasn't rude. I was just being cheeky and, to be honest, at the time I thought it was something which had to be done.  I just hope the police don't come knocking on my door now for something I did 26 years ago. I know it was an unlawful act and vandalism but it was a good joke which was received well."

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