As March comes to a close and Easter approaches, there is one uneven stone on the path to chocolate bunnies and candy filled eggs: April Fool’s Day.
While the origin of this unusual calendar aberration is a mystery, there are many theories as to how it began, ranging from a semi pagan festival in ancient Rome, to the change of the calendars in the 16th century moving the start of the year from April to January.
In modern American culture, April Fools is celebrated by pulling generally good natured pranks on friends, family, and coworkers. Laughs are had and the day continues. Unfortunately, though, pranks can go awry.
The Anchor Who Cried Wolf
In 1980, a television producer in Boston named Homer Cilley (rhymes with silly) developed a news segment in which a hill in Milton, Massachusetts began erupting and spewing lava. Mr. Cilley included warnings from then-President Jimmy Carter and B-roll footage of Mt Saint Helens erupting. At the end of the broadcast the title card “April Fools” was included, but by that point the citizens of Milton had already fled. Suffice to say, Mr. Cilley was not retained for employment.
Poking the Wrong Bear
A few years later in 1986, the Israeli intelligence officer made an April Fools fake news report that an Islamic leader had been wounded in an assassination attempt. The ‘joke’ went over like a hot fart in a church pew, so not as amusing as he thought it would be. Tensions in the region shot through the roof, and the intelligence officer was court martialed.
Left Handed Whoppers
In the 90’s, Burger King marketed a special Whopper for southpaws. Despite being an April’s Fools gag, the demand for this burger exploded… Until people really started to think about burger-handedness. Customers did not respond well to the truth of the issue, and BK decided to cancel the marketing campaign.
In 2002, a pair of local Kansas City DJs decided to announce that the local water supply had been poisoned with “dihydrogen monoxide.” Side effects included ‘sweating, urination, and skin pruning.” After hundreds of citizen complaints to the water department and police departments, the DJs were widely accused of terrorism by government officials.
To be clear, dihydrogen monoxide is… water. Regular ordinary water.
In 2013, two DJ’s tried to repeat the prank. They were immediately removed from the airwaves and felony charges were filed.
Always remember, pranks can be fun, easy, and innocent. They can also end in gut wrenching tragedy. At the end of the day, be sure that you consider all of the possible ramifications of your behavior, so you don’t end up in front of a Grand Jury.