We’ve researched the most outlandish, over-the-top, and all around epic April Fool’s Day pranks ever! Keep reading for our top ten favorites in no particular order.
1. Orange Growing Pine Trees
What makes this particular prank impressive isn’t the so much the idea as it is the execution. Cartoonist, Frank Adams, came up with a brilliant use for oranges left over from The National Orange Show that had recently been held in nearby San Bernardino, California. Frank and twenty-five of his friends spent the night of March 31, 1950 stringing 50,000 oranges into the pine trees lining a one mile stretch of the Rim of the World scenic highway making it appear to passing motorists on April 1st that the local cedar trees were suddenly producing oranges. While wacky botany might not be the sexiest prank – you’ve gotta give them props for follow through.
2. Reading is Fundamental
Here’s proof that the folks over at NPR are just as funny as they are clever. In 2014, the following post appeared on NPR’s Facebook page:
Immediately, the comments section was flooded by Facebookers who both agreed and disagreed. Some were offended by NPR’s perceived generalization, while other’s argued that this was indeed an enormous problem in the US. The joke was that anyone who actually clicked on the link was taken to a page that said, “Congratulations, genuine readers, and happy April Fool’s Day!” It went on to instruct anyone who had taken the time to read the article to like the original post – but not to comment on it – essentially letting all of their real readers participate in the prank. Pure genius.
3. It’s the End of the World as We Know It
The obsession with the coming apocalypse is nothing new. Prophets and soothsayers have been predicting the destruction of the Earth and the downfall of civilization since…well, the beginning of civilization. On March 31, 1940 a radio station out of Philadelphia, KYW, broadcast the following announcement:
Your worst fears that the world will end are confirmed by astronomers of Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. Scientists predict that the world will end at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time tomorrow. This is no April Fool’s joke. Confirmation can be obtained from Wagner Schlesinger, director of the Fels Planetarium of this city.
Predictably, panic ensued. In hindsight, it seems that the vague nature of the announcement should have raised red flags…but explicitly stating “this is not a joke” is kind of a cheat. Immediately local newspapers, radio stations, and city offices were flooded with calls from frightened residents. As it turned out, this wasn’t the work of an early, radio era Bam Margera. It was the work of William Castellini – the press agent for the Franklin Institute. He thought announcing the end of world and the unavoidable deaths of everyone on Earth was a good way to publicize an upcoming lecture at the planetarium. Unfortunately for him, the only thing that was destroyed was his career.
4. My Kind of Town
Most of the time, April Fool’s pranks are stunts that are relatively quick, easy, and cheap to pull off. In April of 1992, however, workers from Hollywood Park race track decided to up the ante. Located approximately three miles from LAX, staff at the race track had a an 85-foot-long yellow banner printed with the words, “WELCOME TO CHICAGO” written in 20-foot-tall letters. Needless to say, there were some very confused airline passengers landing in LA that April Fool’s Day.
5. We the People
We elect legislators to represent our interests both at the state level and federally. Most of us assume that when those legislators pass laws and resolutions – they’ve actually read them. In 1971, Texas House of Representatives statesman, Tim Moore used April Fool’s Day to demonstrate that this was not always the case. He put forward a resolution to commend an individual for his “…dedication and devotion to his work [that] has enabled the weak and the lonely throughout the nation to achieve and maintain a new degree of concern for their future. He has been officially recognized by the state of Massachusetts for his noted activities and unconventional techniques involving population control and applied psychology.”
The honoree’s name? Albert de Salvo – also known as the Boston Strangler. Needless to say, there were some red-faced cowboys in Texas when the joke was revealed.
6. Dial ‘A’ for Awkward
When I was a student (a thousand years ago), teachers and professors struggled to keep the attention of the class – and that was before smart phones. I can’t imagine the frustration of competing with social media and apps while attempting to inform and mold the minds of the nation’s youth. In 2014, one professor at Aquinas college, Stephen Barrows, thought he had a solution. All incoming calls must be answered on speakerphone.
One of his students saw an opportunity to use this to her advantage. During class that day, Taylor Nefcy received a phone call. When she answered the phone on speaker per policy, the following was heard, “Hi, this is Kevin from the Pregnancy Resource Center. Per your request, I’m calling to inform you that the test results have come back positive. Congratulations!”
The professor – who appears to be a fully decent sort of guy – was horrified by what he thought he’d done to this student and, red-faced, immediately told her that she could shut it down. She replies that she’d been expecting the call and had already picked a name for the baby.
The professor was a good sport about it, and the best part? You can watch it for yourself!
7. Bombs Away
It’s difficult to imagine anything apart from tragedy in Europe during WWI, however, as this prank goes to show it’s hard to keep an impish sense of humor at bay – even during war. According to reports at the time, a French fighter pilot flew over a German camp and dropped what appeared to be a bomb. The German soldiers immediately took cover and awaited the ensuing explosion – which never came. After a time, the Germans crept closer to examine the object finding, not a bomb, but a football. Attached to the football was a note – “April Fool!”
8. Up, Up, and Away
In 1976 British astronomer, Patrick Moore, and BBC Radio 2 teamed up to create an astronomical April Fool’s Day prank. Mr. Moore announced that at exactly 9:47 a.m., Pluto (which had yet to be demoted from planetary status) would pass behind Jupiter in relation to the Earth. This very rare planetary alignment would exert a stronger tidal pull and temporarily counteract Earth’s own gravitational pull. He went on to tell listeners that they could experience the reduction in gravity by jumping into the air at the exact moment that the alignment occurred. At precisely 9:47, Moore declared, “Jump Now!” Within a minute the BBC switchboards lit up with callers wishing to share their experiences with this planetary alignment. One woman claimed to have floated around the room with her husband, while another angry caller demanded compensation because he had ascended so quickly that he’d bumped his head on the ceiling.
9. Bumper Spaghetti Crops
It must be said, the British do love a good hoax. On April 1, 1957 the British news show Panorama aired a three minute segment about the success of that year’s Swiss spaghetti harvest. It was attributed to a mild winter and the “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.” Richard Dimbley, a highly regarded journalist, discussed the details while footage of Swiss families harvesting spaghetti from trees rolled.
Response was swift and enormous. Scores of people phoned the BBC to find out where they could buy their very own spaghetti trees. Callers were told by the BBC to “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
10. When Penguins Fly
Last but not least – and once again courtesy of the BBC – we have flying penguins. In 2008 BBC created a fake trailer for a supposed documentary called Miracles of Evolution. According to the film, the long, cold Antarctic winters have forced Adelie penguins to gain or regain the ability to fly in order to migrate to the rainforests of South America.
While the premise might be silly, the “footage” of these pudgy birds waddling as quickly as they could manage before taking flight is pure genius of the comic variety.
So there you have it. Our favorite pranks. Comment below and tell us about the best prank you’ve ever played (or had played on you)!