April Fools, a History of Pranks

“Ha!  Your meatloaf has ground up glass in it!  April Fools’!”

~The World’s Best Prankster (now serving 25-to-life at a Federal Penitentiary)

Enjoy the seizures

The America Fun Fact of the Day office loves April Fools’.  That probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to those of you who started reading while anxiously waiting for a terrifying monster face to pop up on the screen like those pranks that terrify little children on the youtube videos.  You, the reader, don’t have to be too concerned about any pranks in today’s post of course- we save most of our energy messing with local law enforcement and personal enemies.  Though, we did contaminate one batch of California grown spinach with a pretty nasty case of E. Coli, so next time you want to make spinach dip, and you start feeling like you need to go to the hospital, then April Fools’!  Ha ha!

Is it worth the risk?  Probably, that shit’s delicious

So don’t worry about being pranked while reading this, unless you’re reading this while peeling open a fresh naval orange (just one poisoned batch, that’s all it takes to panic the shit out of people).  And the ambulances might be tied up, depending on where you are, since most of our local branches have been performing “Shit the Joker did in The Dark Knight” type “pranks” all day long, so the emergency crews are going to have their hands full.  God, we love this day.

Ha haaa!

But we are not here to cause mischief to you, loyal readers.  In fact, we’re here to give you…

The America Fun Fact of the Day Guide to April Fools’ Day:  A History

There are many unfounded origin stories for where April Fools’ Day began.  We know it’s also called “All Fools’ Day” because people like to make themselves sound like assholes sometimes.  While The Simpsons have their own discussion of the first April Fools’ Day (“NOW who’s laughing, NOW who’s laughing?”) one of the more widely accepted explanations is that New Year’s Day used to fall in Spring, usually on or around April 1st, and when Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian Calendar in 1582, many people chose to ignore the new fangled “January 1st is when the year begins” business, and those who continued to celebrate New Year’s on April 1st would be made fun of, and sent on “fool’s errands” on that day, or just basically tricked (see also: lied to).  We can only assume that these fool’s errands included “tricks” like “Quick, run into that burning hut, your family is inside there! Ha!  April Fools’!  They’re already dead for being Godless heathens!”  Man, the 16th century was messed up.

GOD, that place is a mess.

This explanation suffers from the fact that there’s no actual evidence to support this, people just guessed, “eh, this could be a good reason” and rolled with it.  England, for example, has a rich history of celebrating April Fools’ Day, but the Gregorian Calendar wasn’t adopted there until 1752.  Plus, there are earlier instances of April Fools’ Day showing up in history, so, much like an upside-down mathematician, it doesn’t add up.

Another explanation came from Boston University professor Joseph Boskin, who in 1983 claimed that April Fools’ Day began during the reign of Constantine, who on April 1st, name his Jester, Kugel, to be the king for one day.  Kugel then pronounced an edict, calling for absurdity on that day.  While as you were reading this, you clearly said out loud, “Kugel is the fakest name I’ve ever heard, this was obviously made up as an April Fools’ Joke” (and you would be right), the Associated Press ran with it, because it sounded like a cool story.  A few weeks later, when the whole “Seriously you guys, how can you possibly fall for that?” thing made itself apparent, the newspapers everywhere probably had a good laugh about it and fired dozens of fact-checkers.

Obviously, despite its origin, April Fools’ has taken on its own meaning and definition, which America has fully embraced and revolutionized with the use of the internet throughout the years.  We’re only going to take one second to discuss what the French call April Fools’, because French people are worth every single insult we can hurl at them.  Apparently, April 1st is called Poisson d’Avril which google languages informs us translates to “April Fish.”  French children will tape a picture of a fish to other kids’ backpacks, and scream, “APRIL FISH!” when the classmate discovers the picture there.  This is such a lame use of such a great holiday that Jerry Lewis just apologized to America for unwittingly making movies that French people would like.

“I had no idea this would play so well in Paris, I swear!”

Anyway, to help us forget about that absurd waste of time (seriously? FISH?  Goddamn it, France, we hate you so much) let’s just run through a list of the best April Fools’ pranks of all time.


Proving that France doesn’t understand shit about pranks, while also confirming that French know nothing about how to do a war, a World War I French pilot flew over a German camp and dropped a bomb, causing all the German soldiers to flip their freude or whatever the hell Germans do when freaked out.  But it wasn’t a bomb, it was a large football that had “April Fool!” written on it.  Just think about this for a second.  A French pilot was flying a World War I plane, which was basically as air-safe as sitting in a cardboard box and letting it slide off a roof, decided to risk his life to go into enemy territory, to the enemies camp, and instead of taking out an important strategic position in an incredibly bloody war, decided to play a little joke on the Germans.  Ugh.  France, you guys suck, you get no more mentions on this list.  Goddamn it.


The Madison Capital Times announced that there had been an explosion in the Wisconsin capital building, and this hilariously doctored photograph ran with the article.  We might not listen to our photoshop department ever, but we would have to say that we’re pretty impressed that they were able to manipulate this picture so well back in the days before computers.  A lot of people thought it was true, and got really pissed off about it, but we fully endorse this satire (it was making fun of the contentious debates going on in the capital at the time, not that anyone really cares about that sort of stuff today).  And just to help you feel bad for agreeing with us that this was a pretty hilarious hoax, here’s an actual article from 50 years before this occurred about an actual collapse in the Wisconsin capital building, with a full list of the four people who died and the dozen or so people injured.  Enjoy!


A series of American newspapers ran the above image, purporting to show the first ever device that would allow man to fly by their own lung power.  Even the New York Times was fooled by this picture, which shows how jaded Americans have become, since if someone actually made a device that could fly from lung power today, as soon as the youtube demonstration videos came out, the comments section would be flooded with people saying, “FAKE!”


In 1962, Sweden only had one television channel, which really doesn’t do anything but confirm that America is better at most things, and that Sweden had their priorities incredibly out of whack.  To make matters work, the TV station did not broadcast in color.  On April Fools’, the station’s technical expert, We-Aren’t-Going-To-Put-Silly-Swedish-Sounding-Names-On-An-America-Fact-Website, announced that you could turn your black and white broadcast into color by putting nylon stockings over it.  Thousands of Swedish residents fell for the hoax, which proves how incredibly gullible the Swedes are.  Everyone knows that nylon stockings over a TV set doesn’t turn your black and white broadcasts to color broadcast, it only makes your standard definition TV channels come through in HD quality, without having to pay the HD costs.  Duh.



Proving that people in Alaska are both American, and have an incredible amount of time on their hands, a Prankster named Porky Bickar (seriously, if you name your kid Porky, he’s going to grow up to be known as a “prankster.”  That’s like naming your kid “Jeeves”- it pretty much sets up his career path for the rest of his life) decided to fly hundreds of tires into the crater of a dormant volcano and set them on fire, making everyone in the neighboring town basically lose their shit.  Because if there’s one kind prank that’s always funny, it’s the one that causes thousands of people to think that they are moments away from certain death.  Zing!


The Daily Mail released a news item about malfunctioning bras, saying 10,000 locally made brassieres were defective, having been made with a copper underwire that was interfering with radio and TV signals.  This was hilarious for several reasons.  First of all, most of the staff members of AFFotD are pretty juvenile, and we giggle when bras are mentioned (because that’s where boobies go!) but primarily, it was hilarious because people believed it enough that the chief of British Telecom demanded all of his female employees had to disclose what kinds of bras they were wearing, which probably lead to one of the more awkward “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace” seminars of all time.


Dick Smith, an Australian millionaire, decided to participate in a surprisingly American waste of money by creating a fake iceberg by covering a barge with white plastic and fire extinguisher foam.  He claimed he had towed it all the way from Antarctica, and while we don’t know why that would be such a big deal, we applaud Smith for throwing a shitload of money to fool gullible people.


Usenet, which we guess was an “old timey Internet,” claimed that a Soviet Union site would be created, called Kremvax.  This is a painfully nerdy prank in retrospect, but it does a good job in showing how far along we’ve come, since this is considered the first ever “Internet” based April Fools’ joke.


Sports Illustrated, in a now-famous hoax, wrote a fake story about Sidd Finch, a Mets pitching prospect who pitches with one bare foot and throws 168 miles an hour, who trained to learn the “art of the pitch,” and who worked with a Tibetan Monk/baseball guru named of “We’re not bothering to look it up, but you can guess it’s a fake as shit sounding name.”  Mets fans got incredibly excited about this, until Sports Illustrated had to respond to all the excited letters about this by saying, “…Dude, seriously?” and laughing uproariously.  The first letters of the subhead spelled out “Happy April Fools’ Day” but this is America, we’re not going to bother to spot out these damn codes unless it’s blatantly obvious and involves profanities, thank you very much.


A “horror film” is released called April Fool’s Day.  This movie had a budget of $5 million, and actually made more than double that in the Box Office.  According to imdb, the synopsis of the film is, “A group of nine college students staying at a friend’s remote island mansion begin to fall victim to an unseen murderer of April Fool’s day weekend.”  There isn’t much of a prank to this, we just think that the concept behind this film is pretty laughable, even for a stereotypical 80’s horror film.  The real genius behind this was that millions of people got tricked in seeing a movie in theatres used the above image as it’s movie poster…


Taco Bell, taking a rare break from serving as outstanding generals in our battle for American obesity supremacy, posted full-page ads in most major newspapers to inform the public that they had purchased the Liberty Bell, and had renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell.  Everyone freaked out, and began calling the park service to ask if that was really the case, and some critics claimed that they knew it was a hoax, but they thought it was in poor taste.  To those critics, we at AFFotD humbly call bullshit, because that’s exactly the same thing someone says when they get tricked and are trying to gain face.  “I mean, well, yeah I knew it was a joke…yeah, totally…didn’t go over my head at all, but still man, bad taste.”  Sure, critics.  We believe you.

While some might think that AFFotD would be against a company selling Mexican food pretending to buy an American landmark, we would have to point out that Taco Bell is Mexican food in the same way that Arby’s is a horse processing plant.  Yes, Taco Bell might be Mexican food in theory, but really it’s just a pound of beef flavored trans fats meant to help get us fat quickly, which is decidedly American.  The metaphor gets a little strained, since Arby’s still primarily uses horse meat, but you catch our drift.


In 1998, the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter wrote how the Alabama state legislature had passed a bill to change the mathematical value of pi to exactly 3, since this was the “biblical value.”  Such declarations caused uproars in various animated cultures, and was the perfect April Fools’ joke because it was just crazy enough to be true.  We at AFFotD also like the concept of making pi equal exactly 3, since all those numbers after the decimal are confusing, and any chance we have to stick it to math, we take it.

Also on that year, Burger King helped prove that American fast food companies are really good at exploiting how easy it is to trick the average American consumer.  They announced the release of the “Left-Handed Whopper” where the condiments were rotated 180 degrees to accommodate left-handed citizens.  If this were the 1950’s, we’d probably say something like, “That wasn’t the only whopper for that day,” because apparently whopper means lie in “Cold War” speak, but instead we really like this prank because it helped a lot of left-handed people gain a lot of weight.  Also, it showed that right-handed people are idiots, since thousands of people ordering at Burger King demanded that they receive the normal, right-handed burger.  This prank proved that America knows nothing about Geometry, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

2000 onward

Much like rabbit porn, April Fools’ pranks have multiplied exponentially ever since the mainstream use of the Internet became increasingly prevalent.  While you used to be able to find one or two notable pranks pulled off in any year, now there are entire websites devoted to mapping out each website’s April Fools’ pranks.  In 2010, there were 623 alone.  AS a general rule, you know youtube and google are going to do something crazy, and most comedy sites will go out of their way to do something foolish, to the point that no one can trust anything that’s posted on the internet on April 1st.  The President of Spain got shot?  Has to be a hoax.  Charlie Sheen died?  April Fools’, he’s been animatronics ever since season 2 of Two and a Half Men.  AFFotD was just purchased by AOL and will merge with Huffington Post within the year?


That one’s actually 100% true.  We’re using the money as insulation for our vodka swimming pools, so we’re pretty excited about it.  We feel we got a bit lowballed a bit, their initial offer was $20 million, but we got them up to $50 mil.  So, look for that in the future, as a few months from now we begin phasing out original content, and just start reposting links from left-leaning news sources, and change our name to “AOL Presents Huffington Post Presents America ‘Fun’ ‘Fact’ of the ‘Day’ You’ve Got Mail!”

3 responses to “April Fools, a History of Pranks

  1. Pingback: America Fun Fact of the Day 7/8- AFFotD Presents a Week of American Holidays (Part Five) | affotd

  2. Pingback: AFFotD News Item of the Month: The Huffington Post Can Be Quite…PUNNY When Talking About a…HOT DOG of a Tale in the WURST Way and Oh God Just Kill Us Now, It’s A Fucking Story About The World’s Largest Bratwurst Okay? Not a Fucking

  3. Pingback: An April Fools’ Message From Our Editor-in-Chief | affotd

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