SOME FOLKS LOVE a good prank. Others love reading about them. I love both … that is as long as I’m not the victim or, as I call it, the “prankee.”
SOME FOLKS LOVE a good prank. Others love reading about them. I love both … that is as long as I’m not the victim or, as I call it, the “prankee.” The last time that happened was more than 20 years ago. Our son, Jimmy and Dano Mundy had me believing they bought a 65-foot yacht at the boat show in Cleveland. The boat, they said, was docked in Miami and they’d be driving to Florida to take possession. Understand, these two birds were just out of college and even though I didn’t understand how they could accomplish this feat so soon, I nevertheless was proud and told everyone about their success. Imagine their laughter at the egg on my face when they finally revealed their prank.
After that, you’d think I learned my lesson. But I still love a good prank, mostly when I’m behind it. And with the upcoming first of the month, no time of the year warrants one more than April Fool’s Day. But to stay out of trouble, rather than pulling any, I’ll share in a two-part report what I consider to be some of the best April Fool’s pranks ever pulled. Not surprisingly, many of them have been initiated by newspapers.
INDEED THEY DO
When editors run April Fool pranks, do they ever envision egg on their faces? Some do, some don’t. To wit: We all know Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb, movie camera, mimeograph and, among other gadgets, the phonograph. Edison invented so many new devices, the citizens were smitten with this American genius. At one point, they felt there was no limit to his creativity. So in 1877. when a newspaper called the “New York Graphic” reported that terrific Tom invented a machine that could eliminate world hunger by changing soil directly into food, and water straight into wine. Well, you can imagine the sudden increase in the believers of tremendous Tom! Across the nation, newspapers copied the article, piling great praise on Edison. One newspaper in Buffalo was particularly heavy in its praise of the American inventor. In a long editorial, the “Commercial Advertiser” waxed eloquently on Edison’s “achievement.” That’s when the “New York Graphic” reprinted the editorial in its entirety under a powerful but small, simple, two word headline…”They Bite.”
ZIP CODES FOR LIFE
Have you ever wished you could move without changing your address? So have many others. When National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” announced that the post office started a new ‘portable zip code’ program in 2004, it quickly caught the public’s attention.
Inspired by an FCC ruling that allowed phone users to take their phone numbers with them whenever they moved, this zip code program would allow them to retain their zip codes regardless of where they moved. It was hoped that with this new program, zip codes would come to symbolize “a citizens place in the demographic, rather than geographic, landscape.”
Page 2 of 5 - Even the Assistant Postmaster General was quoted as saying, “Every year, millions of Americans are on the go – people who must relocate for work or other reasons. Those people may have been quite attached to their original homes or an adopted town or city of residence. For them, this innovative measure will serve as an umbilical cord to the place they love best.”
SAVING THE LIGHT OF DAY
We all saved lightning bugs in ventilated jars when we were kids…but light? In 1984, an Illinois newspaper announced a contest to see who could save the most daylight for Daylight Saving Time. To make it easy, they simplified the rules. Beginning with the first day of Daylight Saving Time, you saved daylight. Whoever saved the most light would win.
However, only pure daylight would be allowed, which meant no dawn or twilight. While saving light from cloudy days would be permitted, moonlight was strictly forbidden. According to the rules light could be stored in any container. After the contest received a huge, nationwide response, believe it or not, the paper’s editor was interviewed by national media and was featured in papers throughout the country.
‘BEARLY’ SKINNED AND TRIMMED
Are those black hairy helmets — the ones guards wear who protect the queen — alive? In 1980, a military magazine ran an article claiming that the fur on those bearskin helmets worn by the Queen’s guards while on duty at Buckingham Palace keeps growing and eventually needs to be trimmed.
The article stated, “The most hair-raising fact about the bearskins has been discovered by scientists recently. The skins retain an original hormone, which lives on after the animal has been skinned. Scientists call it otiose and it is hoped it can be put to use in medical research … specially into baldness.”
A certain Major Ursa was quoted in the article — I’m sure with tongue in cheek — as saying, “Bears hibernate in the winter and the amazing thing is that in the spring the skins really start to sprout.” Then the magazine strengthened their story by running a photo showing Guardsmen sitting in an army barbershop having their helmets trimmed. The story was soon picked up by the London Daily Express, and, failing to explain it as an April Fool’s joke, they incredibly ran it as a straight story.
ON THE GO
At the end of a rainbow is where you may expect to find a pot o’ gold. But the end of a footprint path is completely different, as the residents in one English town discovered. In 1959, the residents of Wellingborough, England woke to find a trail of white footprints painted along the main street of their town. At the end of the trail were the words, “I must fly.”
WILDLIFE MATING SLOWLY
Page 3 of 5 - Making love is a private, intimate affair and town officials in one German city felt it applied to all. When a German radio station, announced in 1983 that officials in Cologne had just passed an unusual new city regulation regarding jogging, it caught the attention of joggers everywhere. Jogging in the park would require them to pace themselves. Six mph was the jogging speed limit. Going any faster could unnecessarily disturb the squirrels in the middle of mating season.
It’s always been convenient when tea kettles whistle tunes, letting you the water’s hot. So in 2002, when the British supermarket chain published an advertisement in The Sun, it announced the successful development of a genetically modified “whistling carrot.” The ad explained that the carrots had been specially engineered to grow with tapered air holes in their side. When fully cooked, these air holes caused the vegetable to whistle. Surprisingly, very few chefs suspected otherwise.
Is yours a living one?
We’ve all worn clothes that fit haphazardly or have even caused unexpected problems. When an April 1982 periodical reported that a local manufacturer had sold 10,000 “rogue bras” that were causing a unique and unprecedented problem, not to the wearers, you understand, but to the public at largei it caught the attention of women everywhere. Apparently, the support wire in these bras had been made from copper originally designed for use in fire alarms. When this copper came into contact with nylon and body heat, it produced static electricity which, in turn, was interfering with local television and radio broadcasts.
So believable was the story that, upon reading the article, a chief engineer of one British radio company never suspected it was nothing more than an April Fool’s prank and immediately ordered all his female laboratory employees to disclose what type of bra they were wearing.
Solving a mysterious disappearance
Whenever explorers disappear and are never found, it becomes frustrating. That is until an April 1995 issue of an outdoor adventure magazine revealed that a highly respected doctor, a wildlife biologist, found a new species in Antarctica: the Hotheaded Naked Ice Borer. According to the good doctor, these fascinating creatures had bony plates on their heads. Fed by numerous blood vessels, these plates could become burning hot, allowing these animals to bore through ice at high speeds.
Using this ability to hunt penguins, they melt the ice beneath the tuxedoed birds, causing them to sink downward into the resulting slush where the Hotheads consume them. After much research, the good doctor theorized that the Hotheads might have been responsible for the mysterious disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson in 1837.
“To the ice borers, he would have looked like a penguin,” the article quoted.
With a gullible readership, it was reported the magazine received more mail in response to this article than they had received for any article in their history.
Page 4 of 5 - Is it right or is it left?
If something’s made for right-handers, surely southpaws should also be able to enjoy the benefits of an item. Some years back, a national hamburger chain published a full-page advertisement in the April 1 edition of a national newspaper, announcing the introduction of a new menu item: a “left-handed Whopper.” It was specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new sandwich included the same ingredients as the original (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day, the national chain issued a follow-up release revealing that although the “left-handed Whopper” was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants requesting the new sandwich. Strangely enough, according to the press release, “many other customers requested their own ‘right handed’ version.”
Only in ’Bama
Have you ever wondered just how much power state legislatures have? Continued research into the best of the best April Fool jokes revealed that an April 1998 newsletter, “For Science and Reason,” 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 from there, forwarded by email, it rapidly spread around the world. It only became apparent how far the mathematical prank 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 a physicist.
Egads! Not again!?!
Research has also revealed that the April 1, 1992, broadcast of National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” stated that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for president once again. His new campaign slogan was, “I didn’t do anything wrong the first time, and I won’t do it again.” Accompanying this announcement were audio clips of Nixon delivering his candidacy speech. Listeners responded viscerally to the announcement, flooding the show with calls expressing shock and outrage. Only during the second half of the show did the host reveal that the announcement was a practical joke. Nixon’s voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.
… and here we have the Jefferson Nickel Memorial
Sometimes, good pranks add good lines to life. A fast-food taco chain took out a full-page ad that appeared in six major newspapers on April 1, 1996. The chain announced 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, a few hours later, the taco chain revealed 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 and would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
Page 5 of 5 - If only the Tribe would sign him …
An April 1985 issue of a national sports magazine featured a story about a new rookie pitcher who planned to play for the Mets. His name was Sidd Finch, and reportedly, he could throw a baseball at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. This was 65 mph faster than the previous record. Surprisingly, Sidd Finch had never even played the game before. Instead, he had mastered the “art of the pitch” in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the “great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa.” Mets fans celebrated their team’s amazing luck at having found such a gifted player, and they flooded the magazine with requests for more information. In reality, this legendary player existed only in the imagination of the article’s author, George Plimpton, who left a clue in the sub-heading of the article: “He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent lifestyle, Sidd’s deciding about yoga … and his future in baseball.” Taken together, the first letter of each of these words spelled, “H-a-p-p-y A-p-r-i-l F-o-o-l-s D-a-y…A-h F-i-b.”
And what I consider to be the very best of the best April Fool pranks …
If you eat spaghetti, all covered with sauce …
On April 1, 1957, a respected British news show 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 news show officials wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree.
In answer to their query, it was diplomatically suggested that they “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
Comments may be emailed to: Frankweaverjr@aol.com