The first recorded April Fools' Day prank was pulled in 1627 by a madcap Irishman named Edmund O'Neely. The founding prankster's brother, Timothy, had been down on his luck, so O'Neely decided to cheer him up with some old-fashioned springtime shenanigans.
He coaxed Timothy to go on a carriage ride in the countryside and asked his brother if he wouldn't mind driving since Edmund's carpal tunnel-addled wrist was acting up. Timmy grabbed the reins, urged the horses to giddy up and was promptly catapulted off his seat because wily Edmund had unhitched the horses from the buggy.
Delighted, Edmund shouted out, "Cheerio, April fool!" Once Timothy recovered from his stunning fall, both men belly-laughed until their sides ached and told the tale thereafter at all family gatherings.
Just kidding. April Fools'!
The true origin of April Fools' Day probably has something to do with either the change from the Gregorian to the Julian calendar in the 16th century or ancient Roman festivals celebrating the end of winter. For the annual day reserved for sneakiness and skulduggery, its shaky history is fitting. So in the spirit of April Fools' Day, here are 10 false rumors and gags for your pranking pleasure.
10: Artificial Ink Prank
Nothing grabs people's attention like an enormous -- and fake -- tattoo. If you happen to work in a business-casual environment, the effect is even better. Just make sure to apply it somewhere where it will be seen, like your forearms or upper chest.
Pay attention to size and quality. To go for a big fool, find the gaudiest fake ink you can. If you have a specific image in mind, Web sites offer custom fake tattoos and fake tattoo printer paper to make your own. Some costume shops carry nylon tattoo "sleeves" you can slip on if you don't want to endure an entire day with the Hell's Angels emblem plastered on your jugular.
9: Spread the Rumor: They're Building a Freezer in the Arctic!
Do photographs of polar bears floating on tiny blocks of melted glaciers break your heart into tiny pieces? Worry no more -- scientists have figured out a way to stop the Arctic from melting until efforts to halt global warming begin to take effect. A group of international scholars has outlined plans to construct a dome-shaped freezer spanning 500 acres to protect arctic wildlife. It will be funded jointly by the United States, European Union and China.
The encasement will be built from insulated Plexiglas, and solar-powered refrigeration units will maintain icy-cold conditions inside. The tentatively named Arctic Preservation Dome will also house field researchers who will study the effects of the artificial habitat on flora and fauna.
Now spread the rumor.
8: April Fools' Fake-out Prank
Some of the best pranks involve nothing more than mind games. No gift-wrapped office furniture or Jell-O-molded staplers necessary. Consider, for example, the April Fools' Day fake-out. This post-modernist prank within a prank is sure to baffle.
You get to your desk on the morning of April 1 to behold a large note sitting on your chair. All it says is "April Fools'!" in large, red scrawl. It's menacing and unsettling. You sit down nervously and look around your desk, but nothing's out of place. You check your voicemail and e-mail, waiting in vain for something out of the ordinary. You ask around about who wrote the note, and no one 'fesses up. The possibility of a prank at your expense lingers all day.
Try it with a note, e-mail, text message, Twitter feed or whatever medium you'd like. Just play it cool if you see the prank victim in order to not give it away.
7: Spread the Rumor: Earthquakes are the Latest Form of Energy!
We hear a lot these days about alternative energy sources and conservation. Certain diesel engines, for instance, can run on vegetable oil, and solar-powered businesses and homes are becoming more mainstream. Now, thanks to a coalition of civil and chemical engineers, the newest alternative energy source on the block transforms disaster into opportunity.
Earthquake deferral technology harnesses the power of impending quakes and converts it into usable energy. Seismic sensors will measure the activity of the Earth's plates, and piezoelectric panels embedded deep within the ground will transfer the strongest vibrations into electrical power. San Francisco -- a hotbed of earthquake activity -- will be the first municipal system to use this energy technology, starting in 2015.
Now go spread the rumor -- starting with all of your friends on the West Coast.
6: Mystery Meat Prank
Offices are germ havens. If you've read How Death by Cubicle Works, you know that the average office employee encounters around 10 million germs each day. Disgusting? Yes. But not quite as gross as the foul lunches that sit in break room refrigerators for weeks on end. Tupperware grows murkier with mold as the days wear on.
For April Fools' Day, why not add to that simmering stew of abandoned food in the fridge? We recommend a brown paper bag duct-taped shut to keep away prying eyes. In bold lettering, add a disturbing label to the front to catch people's attention when they fish for their leftover takeout. HowStuffWorks suggests "Brains" or "Weasel" to really get the rumor mill churning.
5: Spread the Rumor: Green Pollution! Run!
Green is the new black. Slap the word "green" in front of virtually any service or product, and you've probably got a winner. To have a little fun with the marketing trend, HowStuffWorks presents the concept of green pollution.
A new study released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has turned the quest to quell global climate change on its ear. Measuring the greenhouse gas emissions in New York City, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles, the EPA found that pollution has actually risen in the past five years in spite of conservation efforts. The primary explanation the agency has pinpointed is the ramped up production of "green" products and the widespread waste of less environmentally friendly ones. Hence the term "green pollution."
While production of cheap plastic bags is down, for instance, the greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and shipping canvas totes and reusable paper bags are up. And since hybrid cars have softened green guilt associated with driving, more cars are on the roads. Once green lifestyles become more affordable and mainstream, the EPA predicts that green pollution will plateau and then begin to decline.
Now go spread the rumor.
4: Spread the Rumor: Sleep Is a Thing of the Past!
Eliminate the need for sleep with revolutionary REM goggles. Delta-wave sleep is the deepest type of sleep humans experience; at that point, brain wave activity reaches its lowest level. During REM sleep, when we have vivid dreams, brain activity is aroused to the same level it is when you're awake.
Taking this cue, a team of researchers at Berkeley devised REM goggles that simulate REM brain wave patterns and allow your body to sleep while remaining awake. The eyewear works through optical nerve stimulation. Imperceptible beams of LED lights embedded in the goggle frames excite the optical nerve, mimicking the same nerve firing frequency that occurs during REM sleep. That activity then stimulates REM-pattern nerve firings across the brain. Not only will you reap the benefits of a rested mind, the stylish goggles (which come in a wide assortment of colors) also improve memory.
Now go spread the rumor.
3: Pest Control Prank
A surefire way to set off a panic in the office is to tell people that you have an insidiously contagious condition such as pink eye or head lice. Of course, we aren't suggesting that you spread said pestilence and carry out the worst possible April Fools' Day prank in history. It's all about subtle trickery.
Bring a bottle of lice powder or pink-eye medicated drops to work and casually leave it in the bathroom when no one else is around. The key for this one is stealth; don't let anyone see you leave the meds behind in the bathroom. To add more fuel to the fire, scratch your head or rub your eyes whenever you're around someone. Soon enough, co-workers will be abuzz with paranoid theories about who infected the workplace.
2: Spread the Rumor: Ladies and Gentlemen ... the Forever Dollar
Finally, a prank you can take to the bank. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced the arrival of a limited-edition dollar bill that will be printed as an additional stimulus for the economy. Taking a cue from the U.S. Postal Service, the Treasury planned to sell 1 million "forever dollars" from May 1, 2009 to July 1, 2009. In light of the declining worth of the dollar on the global market, the value of forever dollars was locked in at the current conversion rate of 77 cents to the euro and 5 cents to the yuan.
Since forever dollars were potentially worth more than regular currency, the Treasury sold them for $1.05. To distinguish between forever dollars and dollars currently in circulation, the new bill was printed with red ink, and a prominent "F" marks each corner.
Next step: Tell your friends that you have a few of these forever dollars and are willing to sell them at a discount (say, $1.04).
1: Cubicle Rolling Prank
The classic prank of rolling a cubicle has been honed over the years into a veritable art form. These days, a cube filled to the brim with packing peanuts is old-school -- and not in a good way, like picnics and postcards. Thanks to the Internet and digital cameras, the ante is up for trashing an office space. Allow us to offer a few suggestions that, if executed properly, will solidify your reign as the king or queen of workplace pranks:
- Gift wrapping everything in a cubicle requires lots of time, tape and nimble fingers, but the effect is a present in itself.
- Collect all the plants from around the office and gather them all at one cubicle. Cover the desk, chair, floor space, shelves and insides of drawers.
- Coating an office with sticky notes also creates a dramatic effect. A little overdone, perhaps, but impressive nonetheless.
- Creating a nonfunctioning work space will drive a co-worker insane with frustration. Dip the ends of pens in clear nail polish, cover the bottom of a computer mouse with paper, tape down the phone receiver and rearrange keyboard buttons.
Lots More Information
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Why is April 1 a day to celebrate foolishness?
- How Sleep Works
- How Currency Works
- How Death by Cubicle Works
- How Ozone Pollution Works
- How Earthquakes Work
- What's going into Norway's "doomsday vault"?
More Great Links
- King, Rachel. "Dancing is the New Energy Generator." Fast Company. July 23, 2008. (March 26, 2009)http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/rachel-king/geek-style/dancing-new-energy-generator
- Wall Street Journal. "World Value of the Dollar." March 20, 2009. (March 26, 2009)http://online.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3020-worlddollar.html