By now, so many groups have pulled off successful flash mobs, it's hard to believe the very first one was a bust. Bill Wasik, an editor at Harper's magazine who's known as the "inventor" of the flash mob, sent an e-mail to about 60 friends and acquaintances in May 2003, asking them to meet up at a particular time in front of a Claire's Accessories store near Astor Place in Manhattan to create "an inexplicable mob of people in New York City" [source: Wasik].
Calling this social experiment "MOB," Wasik intended to poke fun at the fleeting, collective whims of hipster culture, and he planned out every detail of the event, down to having attendees synchronize their watches and approach from all four cardinal directions, so they'd all arrive at the same time. But there was one problem: Somebody tipped off the cops. When MOB participants showed up at Claire's that spring day, police blocked their entrance to their store, making Wasik's first flash mob attempt a failure [source: Wasik].
Since then, of course, flash mobs have taken on a life of their own, occurring all over the world and for a variety of reasons: to bring awareness to good causes, to commemorate cultural icons, to stir up buzz about products, and even just to create acts of public silliness. Some have involved tens of thousands of participants and been viewed many times over in video form.
Many flash mobs could be described as mind-blowing, but for this list, we'll look at a few that have received millions of views on YouTube, and a couple, like the first one on our list, that were pivotal in the development of the fad.