April Fools’ Day Gotcha! Pranks

Ken Walcheck  |   Monday Apr. 1st, 2024

Occurring annually on April 1st, April Fools’ Day has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, though its exact origins are unknown. April Fools’ Day traditions include playing hoaxes or practical jokes on others, often yelling “April Fools!” at the end to clue in the subject of the prank. While its exact history is shrouded in mystery, the embrace of April Fools’ Day jokes by the media and other outlets has ensured the unofficial holiday’s long life. April Fools’ Day has provided lots of fun humor throughout various nations.

April Fools’ Day is all about getting someone to fall for a prank or made-up tale. In modern times people around the world, including we Montanans, have gone to great lengths to create elaborate hoaxes. Newspapers, radio, TV stations and websites have participated in the April 1st tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences.

A Sampling Of April Fools’ Day Hoaxes

  •   The Montana news media in past years reported the following: “A petition in Montana seeks return of the Yellowstone Jackalope (a jackrabbit sporting deer horns) to public lands around Parks. Parks wildlife managers say they are in the early phases of reviewing a petition that seeks to reinstate jackalopes to the greater Yellowstone area, but they have not set a deadline for acting on the filing… .”

]Today, the town of Douglas, WY is the Jackalope Capital of the world. You can buy everything from Jackalope souvenirs to postcards with Jackalope deer horns, and even a Jackalope hunting license, which allows hunting Jackalopes in Wyoming only from midnight to 2 a.m. one night a year. It does not mention bag limits.

  • In 1997, the BBC aired a story on how Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop, and showed video footage of people harvesting noodles from trees.
  • In 1998, Burger King took out a full-page ad in USA Today announcing its development of the Left Handed Whopper. The burger had the usual toppings, but they were turned 180 degrees so they wouldn’t drip on left-handed customers.
  • In 1985, Sports Illustrated published a fictitious story by George Plimpton about a never-before-heard-of pitching prospect by the name of Sid Finch, who could throw a baseball 168 miles per hour. Wow!
  • On April 1, 1996, Taco Bell announced it had purchased the Liberty Bell and would rename it the Taco Liberty Bell.
  • In 1962, a TV station in Sweden announced that viewers could convert their existing black and white sets to display color by pulling a nylon stocking over the screen.
  • In 2002, the British supermarket chain Tesco published an ad stating that a genetically modified ‘whistling carrot’ had been developed. The carrots were said to be grown with tapered air holes, and, when fully cooked, would produce a whistling sound.
  • In the spring of 1908, Missoulians woke up to some exciting news. The report stated that during the construction of the St. Paul Railroad bed in Hell Creek Canyon, rock blasting had opened a cavern in a rocky bluff, revealing encrusted stalagmites and stalactites with swarming pools of blind fish. A second chamber revealed gigantic fossils of dinosaurs of the late Jurassic period. As reported by the news media, a couple of blind fish were caught and taken to the Shapard Hotel for display. Visitors who showed up to see the live specimens were shown a mackerel fish instead. A classic GOTCHA! Visitors, undoubtedly, left the hotel with lobster-red faces. Ah, to be so suckered on April Fools’ Day.

April Fools’ Day can include some humorous household pranks which you may have experienced including:

  • Emptying the salt from the kitchen shaker and replacing it with sugar.
  • Placing a whoopie cushion under the couch cushions.
  • Changing the time on every clock in the house by one hour.
  • Placing bubble wrap under an area rug for an instant reaction.
  • Removing the batteries from the TV remote, driving a TV watcher crazy.
  • Calling a tobacco store and asking if they sold Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco in a can? If they said, “Yes, we do,” you would say: “Well, Sir Walter really would like to be let out of the can!” Their salty reply was usually a little ear warming, but a gotcha win for the caller.
  • April Fools’ Day is the one date on the calendar when jokes and mischief are expected. Keep in mind that there are some ingenuous trick artists out there waiting to say, gotcha! It was Stephen King who wrote, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” If the same person deceives you again? Well, you might as well have a big sign pinned on your back that says gullible. It’s your fault for letting it happen a second time.
  • If you do get pranked, take in good stride. People who get hoaxed are chosen for their good humor, and the likelihood they’ll be a good sport.

About the Author(s)

Ken Walcheck

Ken Walcheck is a Bozeman resident, and a retired Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Information Wildlife Biologist. He continues to write Montana natural history wildlife articles.

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