In this episode, I give a brief history of April Fool’s Day and 5 of the most amusing pranks ever pulled.
So, let me tell you about 5 amusing pranks, 5 of the best I have come across ever pulled
- National Geographic in 2016 surprised the world when it announced via Twitter that National Geographic would no longer be publishing photographs of naked animals: “The media group says that it will no longer degrade animals by showing photos of them without clothes.” Readers who clicked through to the story were greeted with “April Fools” and a gallery of adorably dressed puppies and kittens.
- In 1905, the Berliner Tageblatt, a German newspaper, reported that thieves had dug a tunnel underneath the U.S. Federal Treasury in Washington, D.C., and stolen America’s silver and gold (this was before the U.S. built its Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky). The Berliner Tageblatt said the heist was organized by American robber barons, whose burglars dug the tunnel over three years and made away with over $268 million; and that U.S. authorities were trying to hunt down the thieves while publicly covering up the fact that the country had been robbed. The story spread quickly through European newspapers before people realized that it was an April Fools’ Day prank by Louis Viereck, a New York correspondent for the Berliner Tageblatt who published the joke article under a fake name.
- One of the most famous April Fools’ Day pranks of all time is the BBC’s famous “spaghetti harvest” segment. On April 1, 1957, a news broadcaster told his British audience that Ticino, a Swiss region near the Italian border, had had “an exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop” that year. The camera cut to footage of people picking spaghetti off of trees and bushes, then sitting down at a table to eat some of their “real, home-grown spaghetti.” At the time, spaghetti wasn’t necessarily a dish that British people would’ve known about. That doesn’t mean that no one realized the segment was a prank—some viewers were upset the BBC had aired a fictional segment during a serious news program. But other viewers reportedly asked about how they could grow their own spaghetti at home.
- In 1959, students in São Paulo, Brazil, who were tired of the city’s overflowing sewers and inflated prices launched a campaign to elect a rhinoceros to the city council—and won. The rhino’s name was Cacareco (Portuguese for “rubbish”), and she was already a popular figure in São Paulo when the students launched her campaign. The four-year-old had moved to the city from Rio de Janeiro when São Paulo’s zoo opened, and was scheduled to return to Rio soon. When the students looked at the 540 candidates vying for São Paulo’s 45 city council seats and feared that none of them would address the city’s problems, they decided to make a point by asking people to vote for the popular rhino instead. Cacareco won a city council seat with a staggering 100,000 votes, far more than any other candidate (the closest runner-up got about 10,000). Of course, she didn’t end up serving on the city council because the election board disqualified her. But she remains one of the most famous protest votes in Brazilian history.
- In January of 1749, London newspapers advertised that in an upcoming show, a man would squeeze his entire body into a wine bottle and then sing while inside of it. The ad promised that, “during his stay in the bottle, any Person may handle it, and see plainly that it does not exceed a common Tavern Bottle.” The ad promised the show would feature other tricks as well, including communicating with the dead. Legend has it that the ad was the result of a bet between the Duke of Portland and the Earl of Chesterfield. Reportedly, the duke bet that he could advertise something impossible and still “find fools enough in London to fill a playhouse and pay handsomely for the privilege of being there.” And apparently, he was right. The night of the show, every seat in the house was filled, but no performer ever showed up. Realizing they had been duped, the audience rioted.