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April Foolish: When Practical Jokes Go Wrong

Spread the word if you like it! 😉

April Fools is a special day. Unlike the other 364 days a year, people will actually think twice before believing what they read online. But sometimes, jokes do fool you, and the results range from hilarious to disastrous! Check out the top 10 craziest April Fools pranks gone awry!


Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind

The threat of aliens came to the town of Jafr in Jordan in 2010 as the front page of Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad jokingly reported a UFO had landed near the desert town, with 10ft aliens sighted.

Reports of communications being affected and neighborhoods lit up by the lights from flying saucers terrified the residents, with parents too scared to send their children to school while the local mayor considered a full evacuation.

One reason why this may have gone badly wrong is that April Fool jokes are not that well known in Jordan. In the US, the prank was likened to the 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds, which some mistook as being real.


Getting Schooled

A schoolgirl prank got out of hand in 1897 when pupils at the prestigious Lucy Cobb Institute in Georgia thought it would be hilarious to play hooky and have a day of fun.

The prank backfired (predictably?) What they were not expecting was for their headmistress to quickly write a letter to all of their parents, asking for their removal from the school to ensure its reputation was maintained.


Cliff is Cracking Up at This One

In 2001, a Brighton, England radio host told listeners a replica of the Titanic was visible off the coast of Beachy Head – Britain’s highest chalk sea cliffs. Hundreds of people rushed to the scenic cliffside, in nearby Eastbourne, East Sussex, only to discover it had all been a joke.

The cliffs developed a five-foot crack under the weight of the crowds, with police urging people to leave before tragedy struck. Two days later, part of the site collapsed into the sea.


Smoke and Fired

Fear spread among the residents of Milton, Massachusetts, after TV station WNAC-TV broadcast a news report in 1980 that Great Blue Hill, a local (and distinctly non-volcanic) mound was erupting.

They backed this claim with footage of Mount St Helens in Washington state, a volcano close to erupting, with an old commentary from President Jimmy Carter.

At the end of the segment, a card was held up saying “April Fool”. But it was too late. Police were innundated with calls from locals, with many considering leaving their homes.

TV producer Homer Cilley was fired for allowing the debacle.


Today’s Horoscope

English astrologer John Partridge was known for his inaccurate predictions – and he certainly didn’t see Jonathan Swift, the satirist author of Gulliver’s Travels, coming for him.

Writing under the pseudonym Isaac Bickerstaff, Swift “predicted” Partridge would die “of a raging fever” in 1708. He didn’t stop there. To confirm the tale, Swift then wrote of Partridge’s death, and made the news public on April 1.

Partridge protested but he never shook the rumours of his untimely demise and his career suffered. When he did die six years later, few believed it.


No Laughing Matter

Tensions in the Middle East in the 80s were no laughing matter. Yet in 1986, an Israeli intelligence analyst created a false April Fool’s Day report stating that Nabih Berri, the leader of the Amal Movement (one of the factions in the Lebanese Civil War), had been wounded in an assassination attempt.

The story spread across Israeli radio before it was found to be a hoax and had to be retracted to prevent an international incident. The analyst was court-martialed and Israel’s defense minister faced questions in parliament.


Scared to Death Do Us Part

A husband literally scared his new wife to death – although you’d like to think John Ahrens did not intend the tragic consequences of his spooky prank.

In 1896, Ahrens, a farmer from near Nashville, Tennessee, decided it would be hilarious to disguise himself as a tramp with a white mask to scare his beloved. When he knocked on their front door and asked Mrs Ahrens to cook dinner, she fainted and died within an hour. They had been married just a few months.


Cooking Up Lies

In 1972 England, The Times newspaper ran an article on travel agent Thomas Cook, celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founder’s first round-the-world tour.

A few pages later, the paper joked that the travel agent was offering such a round-the-world trip for the price it would have been in 1872: 210 guineas (about 20 British Pounds or $2.62).

This was a fabrication, but queues formed at Thomas Cook shops across the country. Poor reporter John Carter lost his job.


Prof. Is In the Pudding

Prof Joseph Boskin, who taught history at Boston University, was asked by a reporter in 1984 about the origins of April Fool’s Day.

Pressed for an answer, Boskin invented the tale of “Kugel the Jester.” He claimed that a jester name Kugel told a Roman emperor that he – a lowly jester – could do a better job of leadership. He was made emperor for a day, April 1, during which he called for pranks.

Boskin said: “In a way, it was a very serious day. In those times fools were really wise… Jesters put things in perspective with humor.” The story was picked up by other media and it took weeks for them to get the joke: kugel wasn’t a jester – it’s a Jewish casserole or pudding.


Dihydrogen Monoxide, Dihydrogen Monoxide Everywhere

In 2002, radio hosts in Kansas City created panic among listeners by reporting that local tap water contained high levels of dihydrogen monoxide, which they explained could lead to frequent urination and wrinkling of the skin.

It’s not as bad as it sounds: dihydrogen monoxide is the chemical name for water.

The police received more than 100 calls from worried residents and a city official likened the hoax to a terrorist act.

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