The Museum of Hoaxes notes that the first definitive historical reference to the April Fools Day custom dates to the 1500s, yet historians can’t trace the holiday’s underpinnings. The April 1 pranking practice bears the hallmarks of renewal festivals celebrated throughout diverse cultures. In a renewal festival, typically socially proscribed behavior flows freely for a single day after which normal order is restored, the Museum of Hoaxes explains. Before devising your own April Fools pranks for 2014, take a look at some historical pranks and what made them effective.
Historical Grand Pranks
The Museum published its assessment of the top 100 April Fools pranks in history. These include:
Swedish television’s technical expert advising viewers in 1962 they could convert their black and white televisions to color by placing a nylon stocking over the screen; thousandsfell prey to this prank.
Britain’s Tesco supermarket chain announcing the development of a whistling carrot.
PC Computing magazine reporting a 1994 Congressional bill to ban drunken use of the information highway, aka the internet.
What distinguishes a memorable April Fools Day prank from a run-of-the-mill joke? The BBC lists several criteria. First, the gag must be simultaneously preposterous and believable, a challenging feat to accomplish, BBC says. Scientist Reginald Jones researched April Fools Day pranks and conceived a formula: induction followed by incongruity. The prankster lulls the prankee with a false sense of security, relying on trustworthy elements to set the prank up, then surreptitiously slips in the ludicrous elements. In the infamous spaghetti harvest prank, when the television show Panorama tricked viewers into believing Italians were harvesting spaghetti from trees, a respected broadcaster presented the information in typical show format, and gave the story color with details like handmade wicker baskets.
2014 April Fools Prank Ideas
Knowing how a good prank is set up may not be enough to fuel your own April Fools Day antics this year. Many pranksters opt for the simple ha-ha over the elaborate hoax. If your brainstorming leaves you empty-handed, there are numerous websites to fill the gap between intention and idea.
Guyism suggests some simple gags like borrowing a cellphone and changing its language settings or placing a boullion cube in the shower head.
If your kids are sound sleepers, the Examiner suggest switching them into each other’s beds while they’re asleep.
PrankvsPrank offers a different take on wake-up surprises, placing a mannequin head in the bed next to a sleeping partner.
Another prank reliant on surprising an unsuspecting victim on awakening is to tack newspaper or a sheet over the door frame behind their closed door, recommended by The Pranksters Guide to Practical Jokes.
Huffington Post outlines some simple pranks for procrastinators in need of something last minute. Its repertoire includes hanging a for sale sign in front of a friend’s house, using Apple’s “Dude, your car” app to add dents to a photo of a friend’s car, or placing a frosted hatbox or inverted plastic bowl in the office common area with a note inviting co-workers to enjoy.