April Fools’ Day is a treat for jokers around the world, as they are given an annual free pass to play practical jokes.
The unofficial holiday, which lands on April 1 every year, is consequently one of the weirdest in the calendar.
This day frequently involves everything from spontaneous pranks to the most elaborately planned of hoaxes, all with variable degrees of success.
So as the first of the month approaches, read on for some of the most famous April Fools’ Day practical jokes and scandalous stunts.
History’s Strangest April Fools’ Day Pranks
Rob Weiner, Popular Culture Librarian at Texas Tech University, believes there is a rich tradition of playing April Fool’s pranks over the centuries, although some of these backfired disastrously.
He told Newsweek: “Some of the common early jokes including tying shows together, wild goose chases, putting kick me signs on people’s backs, pinning paper fish on friends without their knowledge.”
1. Tower of London Lions Wash
“In 1698, it was advertised that the Tower of London was going to “wash the lions” which caused scores of people to show up on April 1st to see the spectacle which didn’t happen.
2. Constantine’s King For A Day Joke
“A Boston University Professor in 1983 convinced the press that Constantine, when he ruled the Roman Empire, allowed a group of jesters to make one of their own a king for a day.”
3. Spaghetti Tree
Weiner added: “Perhaps the most famous was the 1957 broadcast by the BBC program Panorama, showing a family in Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from a ‘spaghetti tree’.”
4. John Partridge Death Hoax
Weiner said: “Satirist Jonathan Swift predicted the death of one of his rivals John Partridge, who Swift regarded as a fraud (for publishing false information in almanacs).
“Swift published Partridge’s death notice on March 29 1708. Partridge declared he was alive, but the public didn’t believe it until they saw Partridge alive.”
5. Man Squeezes Into Bottle
“In 1749 London, it was advertised at an upcoming show that a man would squeeze into a bottle. The show filled up, but no one was there to entertain and the audience rioted.
6. The Masked Marauders
“In a parody of the so-called supergroup phenomena, rock journalist Greil Marcus wrote a positive review in 1969 of an album by a non-existent group the Masked Marauders (featuring Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and George Harrison).
7. Taco Bell’s Liberty Bell Take Over Prank
“In 1996, Taco Bell announced that it had bought the Liberty Bell to help with the U.S. national debt.
8. London’s Big Ben Clock
“1980 saw the British Broadcasting Corporation announce the clock on London’s iconic Elizabeth Tower, better known as Big Ben, would be going digital.
9. President Richard Nixon Runs For Office (Again)
“And in 1992, NPR ran a spot announcing former President Richard Nixon was running again for office.”
April Fools’ Day Origins
How people celebrated April Fools’ Day a long time isn’t dissimilar to how it’s done today.
The exact origin of April Fool’s Day is, however, no joke, as no one really knows how the strangest of traditions started.
Alex Boese of the Museum of Hoaxes, established in 1997 to explore “deception, mischief, and misinformation”, claims “there’s no clear-cut or specific origin of the day.”
However, a statement on its site reads: “The most popular theory about the origin of April Fool’s Day involves the French calendar reform of the sixteenth century.”
France changed its calendar in 1564 and moved the start of the year from April 1 to January 1, where it remains today.
Those stalwarts who refused to embrace the change and still followed the old calendar had pranks played on them between March 15 and April 1.
Another of the most popular theories concerns Italian followers of the cult of Cybele.
These people celebrated the festival Hilaria at the end of March, which involved much dressing up and making fun of others.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism