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April Fool's Day Telephone Pranks
The Fool at the Phone. (1896)
"Hello! Well, what is it? Yes this is — hello! I can't hear you plainly—stand closer, you know. (The idiot talks with his mouth full of dough). I say, I'm not deaf, darn you; don't holler so! Yes, this is (confound it), why can't you go slow? You want to see who? Spell it—"F, double O L—first name is April!" Oh, hell—hello! (Consigns him to regions unmentionable below)." More…
Calling Dr. Lyon. (1920)
The Los Angeles Times reported that the Selig Zoo, in east LA, was swamped by calls on April 1. "Messages were left on various temporarily vacated desks in town and requests were made over phones to the unwary to ring up Dr. Lyon, Mr. Bear, Mrs. Fox, Miss Wolf and the Widow Campbell. Several people even were trying to locate certains Miss Cats. The only animals which escaped attention during the day were Mr. Hippopotamus, Mrs. Rhinoceros and Miss Elephant, who are too big to answer calls, over the wire anyhow." [Los Angeles Times, Apr 4, 1920.] (No calls for Mrs. Rhinoceros or Miss Elephant? Had people not heard of Ryna Soris and Elle Font back in 1920?) More…
Mr. Stiff, Please!. (1920)
In Milwaukee, the city morgue received over 150 calls within an hour and a half from people asking to speak to Mr. Graves or Mr. Stiff. Consequently "the morgue failed for an hour and 45 minutes to inform the coroner of the death of a patient and asking that the body be removed." The coroner appealed to the public to stop making such calls on April 1st. [Sheboygan Press, Apr 1, 1920.] More…
April Fool Riot Call. (1920)
The desk sergeant at the San Francisco police station received a frantic phone call. "For God's sake rush the wagon to 1448 Bush Street." A dozen officers were sent to the address. The local paper reported, "They found 1448 Bush Street. It is a branch police station." [Modesto Evening News, Apr 1, 1920.] More…
Dr. Stransky’s Dinner Party. (1925)
Over thirty members of Washington's social elite received invitations to attend a dinner at a Washington social club, to be hosted by Dr. Pavel Stransky, secretary of the Czechoslovak legation. Invitations were extended by telephone by a woman speaking with a French accent. But those who showed up discovered there was no host. Nor had any reservations been made. Dr. Stransky later protested, "I sent no invitations. I am astonished... Today is the 1st of April and I think it is all a joke. But why should they pick on me?" More…
Undertakers Pranked. (1925)
Undertakers in Reno, Nevada reported that they received calls all day from people asking, "Someone there want me?" The undertakers soon began responding, "If you're a dead one, yes." [Reno Evening Gazette, Apr 1, 1925.] More…
Sell!. (1925)
Pranksters attempted to deceive some of the larger brokerage offices on Wall Street. Several of the larger houses received telephone messages instructing them to sell large quantities of stock "at the market." Doing so could have caused a collapse in stock prices. However, the brokers, who were familiar with the actual voices of their customers, realized they were being deceived and did not carry out any of the sell orders. [The New York Times, Apr 2, 1925.] More…
No Mr. Fish. (1925)
In an effort to sidestep the flood of calls asking for Mr. Fish, the New York aquarium asked the telephone company to disconnect their service for the day. [Oakland Tribune, Apr 1, 1925.] More…
Woman Murdering Her Husband. (1940)
The Los Angeles Times reported that police officers were kept busy responding to fictitious reports of "big fires" throughout the city. They also responded to a report of a "woman murdering her husband" on N. Gower St: "The woman, mystified when a squad of detectives rushed to her home demanding the body and the suspect, soon joined the officers with a hollow laugh which somehow lacked the humor which the prankster probably expected." More…

St. Louis Zoo Changes its Number. (1940)
In order to avoid the avalanche of calls on April 1st for Mr. Lyon, Mr. Wolf, and Mr. Fox, the St. Louis Zoo changed its phone number for one day. Sterling 0900, the zoo's regular phone number, was changed to Sterling 0901. More…

Is Miss Kitty There?. (1947)
"The S.P.C.A. reported at noon today that their phone had been ringing steadily all morning, keeping one person busy just answering it, and all the callers were individuals who were victims of April Fool. The majority of the calls this morning were from men, it was reported, who asked for 'Mrs. Kat' or 'Is Miss Kitty there?' It seems that someone leaves word that an intended victim is to call the number and ask for either of the above characters." [The Hagerstown Daily Mail - Apr 1, 1947] More…
Zoo reroutes prank calls. (1959)
The New York Times reported that "The Bronx Botanical and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens are awaiting, wearily, their usual calls for Messrs Astor, Bush and Flower, and the Planetarium the usual requests for Mr. McCloud or Mr. Starr." However, the employees of the Bronx Zoo and the Coney Island Aquarium were given secret numbers to use, so that all calls to the regular numbers could be intercepted by the telephone company, "and the joke victims told the hard truth." The telephone company estimated that it intercepted well over 5000 prank calls. [New York Times, Apr 1, 1959.] More…
Morgue Phone Operator Interviewed. (1959)
The Chicago Daily Defender interviewed Otto Ebar, the man responsible for answering the phones at the Cook County Morgue on April 1st, the day when numerous calls are received for Mr. Stiff, Mr. K. Dever, Mr. Casket, Mr. Graves, Mr. Rigor, or Mr. Mortis. Ebar said, "he has to brace himself for when business executives and general office girls discover they have been tricked by some of their associates, some let their venom out on him. 'But the vast majority are terribly nice about it.'" "Ebar said the calls average about four or five a minute and that the men are more likely to berate him than the women who readily admit their embarrassment and refuse to give their name. One important More…
Fewer Fools. (1960)
The New York Telephone Company announced it had prepared for April Fools Day, as it had done so for the past thirty years, by assigning special operators to intercept all calls to the Bronx Zoo. Only legitimate calls would be allowed through. When the day came, it intercepted 2561 calls to the zoo from people seeking to speak with Mr. Lion, Mr. Fox, Mr. Wolf, Mr. Beaver, etc. This was only half the number of calls made the previous year. [Chicago Daily Tribune - Apr 2, 1960.] More…
Cincinnati Zoo fields calls for Mr. Lion. (1972)
The Cincinnati Zoo reported receiving over 1000 calls from pranksters (or victims of pranksters) on April 1st. There were 224 calls specifically asking for "Mr. Lion." In anticipation of the calls, the zoo had given the job of answering the telephone to six girl members of the Junior Zoologist Club: Linda King, one of the club members, said she received one call for President Nixon and another from someone wanting to know if "Batman was fighting the Penguin." Then there were callers who had been duped into calling the zoo number thinking they were calling someone else. The owner of a blacktopping firm called saying he had been asked to telephone about a "seal job." A department store clerk More…
Hotline for Mr. Don Key. (2009)
Anticipating the annual flood of prank calls on April 1st, the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines set up four hotlines that pranksters were invited to use. The hotlines were for "Mr. Albert Ross," "Mr. C. Lyon," "Ms. Anna Conda," and "Mr. Don Key." Each hotline played a prerecorded message to let callers know they'd been fooled. More…
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Media Organizations and Corporations with April Fool Traditions
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