Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 22, 2013

Va student’s invisible driving video gets him seen

By RASHOD OLLISON
The Virginian-Pilot

NORFOLK, Va. — Growing up in Virginia Beach, Rahat Hossain had a knack for building things - houses and spaceships made of cardboard and lots of duct tape. He even thought of one day becoming an engineer.

These days, Hossain, 24, still finds imaginative ways to use cardboard and duct tape, and he’s gone viral in the process. The senior criminal justice major at Old Dominion University recently became an Internet sensation after he uploaded a video of his elaborate invisible driver prank on YouTube.

The clip has received nearly 29 million views, making Hossain one of 2013’s first viral stars.

In the clip, Hossain, disguised as a seat in a car, pulls up to drive-through windows of local fast food restaurants, dumbfounding servers who see a vehicle without a driver. One woman is so stunned she cries. Another tells a co-worker with a camera to “Instagram dat joint.”

Hossain captured it all on a small camera rigged in his car.

The instant stardom from the resulting video has, in the past week, led Hossain to appearances on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “Fox & Friends.”

Hossain is following other viral-video sensations, like various choreographed wedding proposals; David, the kid who babbled after a dental exam; and even Korean pop star Psy, whose “Gangnam Style” music video went viral before he became a surprise radio star of 2012.

Though he’s tight-lipped about the details, Hossain sounds like he wants to parlay this viral video into something more.

He said that several offers for appearances, most of them paid, have been pouring in. Enough to compel him to take a semester off at ODU to concentrate full time on his budding magical prankster career.

“This isn’t some kind of one-hit wonder kind of deal,” Hossain said, calling from Los Angeles, where he’s shooting an appearance for the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” No air date has been set.

Hossain said the idea for the car-seat prank was sparked from an image he came across while surfing the Internet.

“I’d seen an image of a guy who’d actually had a car-seat costume similar to what I built,” Hossain said. “He was sitting in the driver’s seat with the disguise on, and in the caption it said, ‘Keep your arms low, keep very still and enjoy all the looks you’re gonna get.’

“I thought, ‘Wow. That’s a very good idea. How can we implement this into a prank video?’ “

Hossain, who has posted close to 100 other prank videos on YouTube under the name “Magic of Rahat,” immediately went to work on the car-seat costume. After it was completed, Hossain realized that driving in it could be dangerous.

“My vision was reduced to 20 to 30 percent,” Hossain said. “I didn’t want to jeopardize anybody’s life with a prank.”

Once he widened the visibility of the costume’s face piece, Hossain was ready to try the prank. He figured pulling up at a drive-through window, a short distance, would be safe.

With several cars ahead of him, Hossain positioned the costume so that he could easily “throw it on” after he placed his order. Hossain aligned the steering wheel, moving it a little to the right in case the car veered left, so that he wouldn’t sideswipe the building.

But in case he needed to grab the wheel, Hossain had made a special “trap door” compartment for his hand. Meanwhile, his foot was on the brake the entire time. He lifted it once the cars ahead of him were gone and coasted to the drive-through window.

“This is his best prank video out of all the ones he’s done. It’s hilarious,” said Andrew Patchan, an ODU senior criminal justice major and Hossain’s roommate for the past three years.

They share an apartment in Norfolk.

“Living with him, there’s all this stuff around,” Patchan said. “In his room, there’s this deck of cards in a bottle - all kinds of stuff that makes you do a second look, like, ‘What’s that?’ “

Hossain said he’s confident in his burgeoning career as a prankster, thanks to all the attention his YouTube clip has received. He’s open to where it all could lead him.

“I love Hampton Roads,” Hossain said. “Moving will be heartbreaking, but a lot of big things are coming, so who knows what it’s going to look like?”