April Fool's Day Pranks in the Wild
The mayor of Santa Fe, New Mexico announced that the perfectly preserved bones of a prehistoric boy and girl had been found in the badlands near San Rafael. The bones were located in a white stone house that was partially buried in lava. The prehistoric couple had apparently been overwhelmed by a volcanic eruption. Their skeletons were covered with a thick yellow plaster. Even the reddish-brown hair of the girl had been preserved. The girl had been wearing two turquoise earrings, that now rested beside her head. The find generated great interest among scientists. However, a few days later the mayor was forced to admit that there were no skeletons. He had been the victim of an April Fool's
Skyforest Orange Trees.
Residents of Skyforest, near Lake Arrowhead in Southern California, staged an elaborate prank. Twenty-five of them, led by cartoonist Frank Adams, crept out during the night and strung 50,000 oranges along a one-mile section of the scenic Rim of the World highway, making it appear that the region's pine and cedar trees had suddenly grown fruit. The oranges were leftovers from the recent National Orange Show in San Bernardino. [The Independent Record (Helena, Montana), Apr 2, 1950.]
Easter Island Statue Washes Ashore.
On March 29, 1962, a man walking along the beach near the Dutch town of Zandvoort reported a bizarre discovery. He had found, washed up on the sand, a small statue that looked just like the famous statues on Easter Island. Based on the statue's weathered appearance, it seemed that the ocean currents must have carried it all the way from the South Pacific to the Netherlands.
The discovery made headlines around the world. An expert from Norway confirmed it was an authentic Easter Island artifact. But on April 1, a local artist named Edo van Tetterode confessed that he had actually made the statue and planted it on the beach, having been inspired by the research of Thor Heyerdahl.
Illinois Shriners launched a UFO balloon from the roof of the Illinois Athletic Club to advertise an upcoming convention.
The French newspaper L'Ardennais reported that two giant helicopters were going to remove the Meuse River bridge at Montey-Notre-Dame and replace it with a new one. A crowd of over 2000 people assembled to witness the event. Eventually a loudspeaker announced that the bridge-removal operation had been delayed until April 1, 1968.
The Body of Nessie Found.
Newspapers around the world announced that the dead body of the Loch Ness Monster had been found. A team of zoologists from Yorkshire's Flamingo Park Zoo, who were at Loch Ness searching for proof of Nessie's existence, had discovered the carcass floating in the water the day before. Initial reports claimed it weighed a ton and a half and was 15½ feet long. The zoologists placed the body in their van and began transporting it back to the zoo, but the local police chased them down and stopped them, citing a 1933 act of Parliament prohibiting the removal of "unidentified creatures" from Loch Ness.
The police took the body to Dunfermline for examination, where scientists soon threw cold
The Eruption of Mount Edgecumbe.
Residents of Sitka, Alaska were alarmed when the long-dormant volcano neighboring them, Mount Edgecumbe, suddenly began to belch out billows of black smoke. Did this mean that the volcano was active again and would soon erupt? Terrified residents spilled out of their homes onto the streets to gaze up at the volcano, and calls poured into the local authorities. Luckily it turned out that man, not nature, was responsible for the smoke. A local prankster named Porky Bickar had flown hundreds of old tires into the volcano's crater and then lit them on fire, all in a (successful) attempt to fool the city dwellers into believing that the volcano was stirring to life. Six years later when Mount St.
The Sydney Iceberg.
A barge appeared in Sydney Harbor towing a giant iceberg. Sydneysiders were expecting it. Dick Smith, a local adventurer and millionaire businessman (owner of Dick Smith’s Foods), had been loudly promoting his scheme to tow an iceberg from Antarctica for quite some time. Now he had apparently succeeded. He said that he was going to carve the berg into small ice cubes, which he would sell to the public for ten cents each. These well-traveled cubes, fresh from the pure waters of Antarctica, were promised to improve the flavor of any drink they cooled. Slowly the iceberg made its way into the harbor. Local radio stations provided blow-by-blow coverage of the scene. Only when the berg was
Soviet Missile Lands on Andrews Air Force Base.
An unknown prankster planted a 16-foot missile decorated with the hammer and sickle symbol of the Soviet Union outside of Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, DC. The missile was point-down in the ground, as if it had landed nose-first and become embedded in the ground. It was clearly visible to commuters on their morning drive into work. A sign near the missile read "April Fools... Courtesy of Mothers Against Missiles." Park police quickly cleared the missile away.
Cerne Abbas Giant Practices Safe Sex.
Pranksters supplied the UK's Cerne Abbas Giant with a condom in the form of a 32-foot plastic sheet. The famous gigantic figure is an ancient chalk-carving of a naked man carrying a club, located in the British countryside in Dorset . The figure is supposed to be a fertility god and is said to possess the power to make childless women pregnant. A landlady at a local hotel commented, "It was quite a shock, but now everyone is laughing about it. We have no idea who did it, but he is now well secured against AIDS."
UFO Lands Near London.
On March 31, British policemen were sent to investigate a glowing flying saucer that had settled down in a field in Surrey. As the policemen approached the craft with their truncheons held out, a door opened in the bottom of the ship and a small figure wearing a silver space suit walked out. The policemen immediately took off in the opposite direction. The alien turned out to be a midget, and the flying saucer was a hot air balloon that had been specially built to look like a UFO by Richard Branson, the 36-year-old chairman of Virgin Records.
Welcome to Chicago.
Airline passengers descending into Los Angeles Airport saw an 85-foot-long yellow banner on the ground that spelled out, in 20-foot-high red letters, "Welcome to Chicago." It was raised above the Hollywood Park race track, about three miles from the airport. Park spokesman Brock Sheridan explained, "It was something we always wanted to do. We thought it would be kind of funny and our new management... thought it would be a great practical joke." The sign remained up for two days.
Hooters Coming Soon.
In a field along route 66 near Glastonbury, Connecticut, a billboard appeared that read: "Coming Soon, Hooters." It bore the owl logo of the franchise, famous for its scantily clad waitresses, as well as a phone number. Local officials soon began receiving calls from residents worried that the down-home, family-friendly feel of the town was going to be ruined by the new franchise. The officials responded that, as far as they knew, Hooters had filed no application with the planning department. The next day the words "April Fools" appeared on the sign, which turned out to be the work of a local prankster, John Tuttle. From the Hartford Courant:
"Tuttle, a town resident and vice president for
Tokyo's Ueno Zoo announced that it had discovered a remarkable new species of penguin: A giant-sized creature called the Tonosama (Lord) Penguin, 165cm-tall and weighing 80kg. Its favorite food was "white fish meat with soy sauce." The giant penguin was revealed to the public on April 1, eliciting the following reaction from the other penguins:
"As the cameras rolled, the real penguins rose their beaks and gazed up at the purported Lord - but then walked away disinterested when he took off his penguin face to reveal himself to be zoo director Teruyuki Komiya."
The Graffiti Grannys.
Residents of Mousehole, Cornwall woke to find their town had been overrun by knitted mice. The small, woolen rodents lined the harbor and perched atop handrails. Each mouse had a note attached, "If you like me, please feel free to keep me." A group calling itself the Graffiti Grannys took credit for the prank. They were a group of women, ranging in age from their mid-40s to 96, who loved to knit and loved to share their work. They explained that their motive for unleashing yarny creatures upon Mousehole was simply to make people smile.
Bristol Zoo Gardens Experiment.
The Bristol Zoo Gardens announced it was conducting an experiment to gauge the sensory sensitivity of gorillas, hoping to find out "whether the scent of humans in a gorilla's environment can be picked up even after the humans have gone." The humans, however, would need to be naked in order to leave the strongest scent behind.
Christoph Schwitzer, Head of Research, explained: "We are monitoring the gorillas' behaviour following gardeners carrying out work on Gorilla Island – once fully clothed, as a control group, and again without clothes, to see if there is a significant difference."
The zoo later admitted that the experiment never took place, although it noted, "it is true that
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.