April Fools’ Day is a worldwide phenomenon, yet its origins are uncertain. Some theorize the holiday is related to the turn of the seasons, while others believe it stems from Pope Gregory XIII’s 1592 order to switch to a new calendar (which shifted the observance of New Year’s Day from the end of March to the first of January.) No matter the reason, it’s been with us ever since, and jests and pranks abound.
Everyone is familiar with old school pranks, such as the door ambush, where a disposable cup is placed on the top of a partially open door, or poking pinholes in a plastic disposable cup, or the classic placing-of-Saran-wrap-over-a-toilet-seat. But that’s amateur hour.
It takes commitment, skill and cunning to reach the status of Boss Level Pranks. Click ahead to see 15 of the Most Epic April Fools’ Pranks, and you’ll see why they’re remembered even years after their debut.
The Sydney Iceberg
In 1978, a local businessman announced he’d succeeded in towing an iceberg from Antarctica to Sydney, Australia. He planned on mooring the iceberg and then selling ice cubes to the masses for ten cents each. The prank worked until it started to rain, revealing the iceberg was none other than firefighting foam and shaving cream. Said the businessman, “I just do these things for kicks. It takes the boredom out of everyday work.”
Who knew NPR had a sense of humor? In 1992, its “Talk of the Nation” program announced that President Richard Nixon, he of Watergate and resignation infamy, was going to run for president again. His slogan? “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” NPR revealed the prank after only a few minutes.
Talk about small-town pride. In 2012, the residents in this town built the first “crop square humanity has ever seen” which resembled a Quick Response code. But instead of a coupon for a giant iPhone, the likes of which we've never seen, this was really just a PR stunt for Butterfinger. Once the giant crop square appeared, the Nestle candy bar released a statement linking the crop squares, missing Butterfingers and the Mayan prophecy about the end of the world that was so popular back then. The real mystery at the end of all this is how a crop square stunt helps to sell candy bars.
Alabama and Science
In 1998, physicist Mark Boslough (writing under the pseudonym April Holiday) — hint, hint — in the issue of "New Mexicans for Science and Reason" said that Alabama was redefining pi as 3.0 instead of 3.14 in order to keep it closer to “biblical value.” It was intended as a parody of attempts by the state to ban the teaching of evolution.
This tech giant is notorious for its April Fools’ hoaxes. Some of their hoaxes include “Google Romance” (2006), in which it offered a “Soulmate Search.” In 2007, it announced TiSP, the Toilet Internet Service Provider, a self-installed, ad-supported online service … connected to a local municipal service system.” In 2011, it released “Gmail Motion” that let users type emails by using gestures. (Interestingly, what began as a joke later became reality from the Institute of Creative Technologies.)
In 2012, Google came up with “Google Racing,” in which it teamed with NASCAR to create a self-driving vehicle to compete in the world of stock car racing. The same year, Google released an 8-bit version of Google Maps, temporarily replacing its standard version. We happily anticipate what Google has in store for its billions of users this year.
In 1998, Burger King announced in a full-page ad in "USA Today" that it had created a Whopper for nearly 32 million left-handed Americans. The new Whopper had all the same ingredients, but condiments were “rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers.” According to the company, people requested the old “right-handed” version (abcnews.go.com). Maybe some pranks reveal how gullible humanity is; either that, or how stupid.
Wisconsin State Capital Collapses
In 1933, the Madison "Capital Times" ran a picture of the collapsed State Capitol dome under the headline, “Dome Topples Off Statehouse: Officials Say Legislature Generated Too Much Hot Air.” Not a bad photo, considering this was before the days of Photoshop. Even though the article ended with “April Fool,” a lot of readers were still upset.
The Republic of San Seriffe
In 1977, the British newspaper "The Guardian" published a seven-page supplement dedicated to the heretofore-unknown (and made-up) islands of San Serriffe. Apparently meant to appeal to the grammatically inclined, the islands were in the shape of a semicolon and details about the island alluded to printer’s terminology. The newspaper was flooded with calls from readers who wanted more information about this unique vacation spot.
Richard Branson, the charming Brit billionaire, announced in 2012 that he was launching a journey to the center of the Earth through Virgin Volcanic, and that Tom Hanks would join the first expedition. Its press release read: “Only 500 people have been to space, only three people have been to the bottom of the ocean, but no one has ever attempted to journey to the core of an active volcano. Until now.” While still an April Fool’s prank, it sounds cool to consider.
Taco Liberty Bell
In 1996, "The New York Times" ran an ad from Taco Bell. It read: “In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell … it will now be called the ‘Taco Liberty Bell.’” With our national debt still in crisis, this same prank could be pulled today.
Two friends have been engaged in a prank war for years. In an effort to up the ante, Amir Blumenfeld took his friend Streeter Seidell skydiving, only to have the skydiving instructor tell Streeter that his cord was broken while mid-air and that he was plummeting to his death. This breaks a central tenet of the Man Code: Don’t make him think he’s dying.
Maybe not the most epic, but it shows that no one is immune from pranksters. In 2012, while running for president, Romney’s campaign staffers set up an event room where Mitt was going to meet with voters. His staff warned him that turnout at the event was lighter than expected. Said Romney, “I go in there and it’s completely empty. There’s nobody there! I thought, Oh boy, this is going to look really bad on the evening news, let me tell ya.”
In 1974, residents of Sitka, Alaska, got panicked when they saw their neighboring and long-dormant volcano, Mount Edgecumbe, throwing up clouds of black smoke. People ran from their homes, worried that the volcano was gonna blow. The Coast Guard sent out a chopper to investigate, only to see spray-painted in the snow in 50-foot-high black letters “APRIL FOOL.”
Turns out it was a prank by Porky Bickar, who had flown hundreds of old tires into the volcano’s crater and then lit them on fire. Amazingly, Porky was never charged. Alaska Airlines liked the prank so much, it included it in an ad campaign the following year. When Mt. St. Helens erupted six years later, Porky received a note that read, “This time, you little bastard, you’ve gone too far.”
As reported in the April 1985 edition of "Sports Illustrated," Sidd Finch was a rookie pitcher who could throw a baseball at 168 mph, and he planned to play for the Mets. Supposedly, he’d mastered his skills in a Tibetan monastery under a great Lama. Mets fans went nuts with excitement, only to find it was a hoax.
The article read: “He’s a pitcher: part yogi and part recluse. Impressibly liberated from our opulent lifestyle, Sidd’s deciding about yoga — and his future in baseball.” The first letter of each of the words, when taken together, spelled “Happy April Fools Day – AhFib.” (musuemofhoaxes.com).