Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools' Day 2010: The Best Pranks Throughout History

April Fools' Day or All Fools' Day is a day celebrated in many countries on April 1. The day is marked by the commission of hoaxes and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members, enemies, and neighbors, or sending them on a fool's errand, the aim of which is to embarrass the gullible.

Traditionally, in some countries, such as the UK, Australia and South Africa the jokes only last until noon, and someone who plays a trick after noon is called an "April Fool". Elsewhere, such as in Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, and the U.S., the jokes last all day. The earliest recorded association between April 1 and foolishness can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392). Many writers suggest that the restoration of January 1
as New Year's Day the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the holiday, but this theory does not explain earlier references.

Here is a partial list of several noteworthy pranks:

Thomas Betson, the prankster-monk, pulls off one of the earliest documented practical jokes when he hides a
beetle inside a hollowed-out apple and fools his fellow monks into believing that the mysteriously rocking apple is possessed.

1835 The Great Moon Hoax is the first big media trick. The New York Sun prints an article claiming that astronomers have discovered life on the moon. More articles appear over the next few weeks, and the country is gripped by moon fever.

1938 Orson Welles's radio broadcast of War of the Worlds convinces millions of listeners that earth is under attack by aliens. Many flee their homes, pray in houses of worship, and, eventually, curse Welles's name.

1957 A BBC News documentary about the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest depicts farmers pulling strands of spaghetti from trees. The network is deluged with callers asking where they can buy a spaghetti tree.

1959 Prankster extraordinaire Alan Abel dreams up a campaign calling for animals to wear clothing, and the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals is born. Spokesperson G. Clifford Prout appears on Today to promote the group's catchy slogan: "A nude horse is a rude horse." Eventually, 50,000 concerned citizens sign its petition, and even Walter Cronkite gets hoodwinked—until it's discovered that Prout is actually comedian Buck Henry.

1962 Dick Tuck, the grandfather of political high jinks, arranges for an adoring crowd, holding signs in Chinese, to greet gubernatorial candidate Richard Nixon in Los Angeles's Chinatown. Halfway through his speech, Nixon is informed that the signs read "What about the huge loan"—a reference to a controversial loan Howard Hughes had made to Nixon's brother.

1962 The broadcasting technician for Sweden's lone television station appears on the news to announce that, thanks to a new technology, viewers can convert the existing black-and-white broadcasts into color. All they have to do is pull a nylon stocking over their TV screen. Thousands try it.

1985 Sports Illustrated runs a story about Sidd Finch, a Mets rookie pitcher with odd training methods who can throw a baseball 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy, even though he's never played the game before. Instead, he mastered the "art of the pitch" in the mountains of Tibet. In reality, Finch exists only in the mind of the author George Plimpton.

1996 Taco Bell announces it has bought the Liberty Bell and is renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Outraged citizens complain to the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, where the bell is housed.

1997 The chemical compound DHMO is "colorless, odorless, and kills thousands of people every year" through "accidental inhalation," reads a widely circulated e-mail, calling for a ban. Furthermore, it's now "a major component of acid rain" and is "found in almost every stream, lake, and reservoir in America." One California town becomes so alarmed that residents debate banning foam cups, which are shown to contain DHMO. They nix the idea upon learning that DHMO is actually water.

1998 Burger King introduces a new item to its menu: the Left-Handed Whopper, specially designed for southpaws. According to the company, the new Whopper includes the same ingredients as the original version, but all the condiments are rotated 180 degrees.

1998 Alabama Changes the Value of Pi: The April newsletter of New Mexicans for Science and Reason contained an article written by physicist Mark Boslough claiming that the Alabama Legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi. This claim originally appeared as a news story in the 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, however see also the actual Indiana Pi Bill.

On the 20th anniversary of the Bhop
al, India, chemical plant disaster that killed thousands, Jude Finisterra, a representative from Dow, tells a BBC audience that the company finally accepts full responsibility for the tragedy and plans to compensate victims to the tune of $12 billion. Only after Dow's stock plummets does the BBC or anyone else realize that Finisterra is not connected with Dow, but with the Yes Men, a political prankster group.

2004 At the annual Yale-Harvard football game, Yale students, dressed as the Harvard pep squad, distribute placards to their rival's fans. On cue, the Harvard faithful lift them up and unwittingly spell "We Suck."

2007 Google introduces TiSP (Toilet Internet Service Provider), which supplies free broadband via the sewer system. A user flushes one end of a fiber-optic cable down his toilet; an hour later, it's recovered and connected to the Internet by a team of Plumbing Hardware Dispatchers. Chat rooms are filled with interested parties asking, "Can this be true?"

2008 Days before the U.S. presidential election, a Canadian disc jockey is able to reach vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin by phone and convince her that he is French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Palin fails to pick up on any of the hints that the conversation is a joke, even when he says, with an exaggerated, Pepé Le Pew–style accent, "From my 'ouse, I can see Belgium." (But we still love you, anyway, Sarah!)

2008 DT Day: Fliers were handed on Brigham Young University campus, saying that the last in a series of dorm buildings being torn down was scheduled to be imploded on April 1. Hundreds of people eagerly turned up to see the implosion, but to their disappointment it never happened. The culprits of this prank remain unknown.

Decimal time
: Repeated several times in various countries, this hoax involves claiming that the time system will be changed to one in which units of time are based on powers of 10.

On the Web:
April Fools' Day Origin & History from
April Fool's Day from

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