The Best April Fool’s Pranks of All Time

If you’re looking for a good way to prank your co-workers, there’s no better time than April Fool’s Day. According to a survey, a third of office workers are planning to pull off tricks. I don’t know about you, but I find that something’s funny when it’s unexpected, original and not overly destructive…But it’s not easy to hit that hilarious sweet spot. Here are a few of the most famous April Fool’s pranks of all time:  

The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

On 1 April 1957, the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

 The Taco Liberty Bell

The Taco Bell Corporation took out a full-page ad that appeared in six major newspapers on 1 April 1996, announcing it had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell was housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed, a few hours later, that it was all a practical joke. The best line of the day came when White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale. Thinking on his feet, he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold. It would now be known, he said, as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

 Alabama Changes the Value of Pi

The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the ‘Biblical value’ of 3.0. Soon the article made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly spread around the world, forwarded by email. It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. The original article, which was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was written by physicist Mark Boslough.

The Predictions of Isaac Bickerstaff

The Almanac of Isaac Bickerstaff.

In 1708 Predictions for the Year 1708 by Isaac Bickerstaff was published, laying the groundwork for an elaborate April Fool’s prank for one of London’s most well-known astrologers, John Partridge.  Bickerstaff predicted that astrologer John Partridge would die at exactly 11 p.m. on March 29 of that year. Outraged by the prediction, Partridge issued a reply, stating that Bickerstaff was a fraud, “His whole Design was nothing but Deceit, The End of March will plainly show the Cheat.” All of London waited to see who would be proven right. Would Partridge die on March 29th?

On March 29 Bickerstaff issued a eulogy announcing that Partridge had died and that he had admitted to be a fake astrologer. On March 31st an anonymous pamphlet was circulated around London titled The Accomplishment of the First of Mr. Bickerstaff’s Predictions. It declared that Bickerstaff’s prediction had come true. Given the slow speed at which news in the 1700’s, the word of Partridge’s death became known on April 1st, April Fool’s Day.

But Partridge was actually still alive. On April 1 he was woken by the sexton outside his window who wanted to know if there were any orders for his funeral sermon. Then, as he walked down the street, people he knew stared after him or stopped him to inform him that he looked exactly like a deceased acquaintance.


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