Prank Darkens Sundial's April Fools' Day Edition

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Call it the case of the disappearing ink.

All 9,000 or so copies of the Cal State Northridge newspaper's annual April Fools' edition were snatched up early Thursday--make that stolen--sending staffers on a frantic paper chase.

"My initial reaction is that I don't find it funny," said Joshua Wilner, editor in chief of Sundial, who wrote under the nom de plume Jack Benimble for the April 1 issue. "A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to do some creative work here."

The only clue was a typed ransom note that included such demands as lower condom prices in restroom vending machines, the appointment of a fraternity mascot to a top administration post, and a cardboard cutout of the late actor Vic Tayback.

"If you ever want to see your Sundials again, every one of our demands must be met," the ransom note warned.

Taking responsibility for the theft was a group called the Clock Setters Union--Northridge Militant Faction. Their primary demand, according to the ransom note, was to have all clocks on campus synchronized: "Not necessarily the correct time, just the same time."

The note warned: "Don't call police, or we start editing."

Campus police were notified anyway.

Several hours after the papers were taken, a caller purporting to represent the group confessed, saying that some newspapers were stashed near trash dumpsters behind Monterey Hall. A couple hours later, another caller said more papers could be found at the nearby Prairie Street School.

By early afternoon, the newspaper, renamed Sindial for April Fools' Day, was available campuswide.

Wilner said he had no idea who pulled off the heist, but he theorized that it was someone with more than a passing knowledge of the newspaper's operation.

The ransom note was found outside the newspaper's business office, tucked into the box of flats, which are the original pages used by the printer to produce the newspaper. Someone also knew what time the papers were dropped off at the campus by the printer, about 3:30 a.m.

Included in the issue were just-for-fun stories, including one about a campus takeover by the student body president and meeting announcements for organizations such as the campus chapter of the Branch Davidians--"Ammunition will be provided."

"All I know is that these people called and they said: 'Have a happy April Fools' Day,' " Wilner said.

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