Audience Participation Friday: April Fools!

An early April Fools' Day joke--dating back to the 17th century--was to give out tickets to the "Washing the Lions" ceremony at the Tower of London.

If you’ve read The Charlatan’s Boy, you’ll remember Floyd and Grady’s roaring machine. It was inspired by something that happened in my father’s boyhood. Some old boy stretched a cowhide across the bottom of a nail keg and punched a hole in the cowhide. When he pulled a rosined string through the hole, the keg served as a resonance chamber to amplify the vibrations into a very loud moaning, roaring, growling sound. By night the fellow carried his device into Gum Swamp and roared away. Apparently he had no reason other than the pleasure of hearing people speculate as to what the mysterious sounds coming out of the swamp might be.

A couple of bloggers discussing The Charlatan’s Boy mentioned that they, too, had heard of people in other places who had done the same trick. There was a roaring machine operator in Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp, for instance. Apparently that trickster, like the one in Gum Swamp, had no good reason for his hoax other than the simple fact that he thought it would be funny.

It’s April Fools’ Day–a day people go to a lot of trouble to perpetrate tricks and hoaxes simply for the fun of it. What are your favorite April Fools’ Day tricks and hoaxes?

  • Kristen

    As an avid prankster, April Fools’ Day is just about the only day of the year that I don’t go out of my way to perpetuate tricks and hoaxes, simply because it is expected.

    I can share my favorite Christmas Day hoax, though, if that’s allowed…

    It all started on the Christmas Eve of my eighth year – in 1988. My mom’s side of the family was celebrating at my aunt and uncle’s house. We had already joined in singing carols around the fire, accompanied by my mom on guitar, and were enjoying aebleskiver and sausages when what to our wondering eyes should appear, but Santa (without his eight tiny reindeer)! Yes, Santa had let himself in the front door and with a “Ho Ho Ho!” was making the rounds, greeting us all and helping himself to a plate of cookies. He was especially fond of my Aunt Shari. My younger cousin was perplexed as to why Santa came through the front door and not down the chimney, and I was told not to spoil the magic of the moment by telling him that this Santa was an imposter. After he left, my aunt and uncle, who each thought the other had arranged this visit, discovered that no one knew Santa’s true identity. And to this day, no one knows.

    Which brings me to last Christmas. My Aunt Shari had just turned 50. Shari is known for planning surprise parties and we knew we had to get revenge, but somehow her 50th birthday snuck up on us. One day, an idea dawned on me. Since it was hard to throw a surprise party for her, with her living a couple hours away and her birthday so close to Christmas, we’d arrange for a surprise Santa instead, playing on the story that has since become family lore. After a short search, we had our Santa! He stopped by while we were all enjoying aebleskiver and sausage and announced, “I’m looking for a young lady by the name of Shari!” My aunt just about died. He brought a bag full of gag gifts, but told her she didn’t have to sit on his lap. We gathered around while she opened gifts, stunned and perplexed as she was. At one point, she turned to Santa and inquired, “Where did you come from?!” Afterwards, my aunt said that she had been kind of down the whole week, figuring we had all forgot her birthday. Surprise Santa made her day!

  • Jess

    Everyone in my house is particularly fond of cranberry sauce. One April Fools’ day, I “cooked” up a prank. “Come on everybody! Mama says we can have cranberry sauce for a snack!” Everyone came rushing up to the kitchen. Little did they know that the “cranberry sauce” was really mushed up canned beets. Actually, “little did they know” is not exactly the best way to describe it. “What’s this?” “Ew…” and they hadn’t even started eating it. I was getting anxious. “It’s cranberry sauce, eat it.” My little brother looked at me. “It’s April Fools’ Day. This isn’t cranberry sauce.” Then my mom came up and looked at us sitting around the table with bowls of canned beets. “What are you doing?” Uh-oh. “Um, it’s April Fools’ Day!” She looked into the bowls. “Well, you aren’t just going to waste those.” We had to eat them. Everyone hated me for the rest of the day.

    Another strange treat for my family is American cheese. Some of us don’t like it, but most think it is dee-lish. Now, every once in a while, Mama will buy some new healthy alternative for something-or-other that is really disgusting. One of these alternatives was tofu-American-cheese (gag). Anyway, I tried to trick my little brother when I found a left-over tofu-American-cheese square on April Fools’ Day. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in the mood for American cheese. “I don’t want it!” “Come on, here, I opened it for you!” “NO!” Enter Mama. “Why are you making him yell?” She saw the opened “cheese”. “You can’t waste that. Eat it.” I obediantly choked it down, while my brother looked happily on.

    The moral of these two stories: Don’t involve nasty food in any of your April Fools’ tricks. Especially if Mama is home. ;)

  • Hannah

    Ok, every year for April Fools’ Day big brother Malacai, with his size 14 feet, gets Easter grass or newspaper in his shoes. Tucked neatly in the toes. Every year he tries to put his shoes on and then gets grumpy about it. “Ha-Ha. Very funny, guys.” So a couple years ago we decided to go all out. Newspaper in the toes of his shoes. “Ha-Ha. Very funny, guys.” Later he called from baseball practice. “Ha-Ha. Very funny, guys. I tried to put on my hat, my glove and my cleats and the guys laughed at me.” For of course, we had put newspaper in his hat binding, stuffed some in his baseball glove fingers, and put them in the toes of his cleats. But the “Ha-Ha” was actually a real laugh this time. :)

    Probably the best April Fools’ Day ever. :)

  • EmmaJ

    tickets to the washing of the lions! awesome!!!

  • EmmaJ

    Warning: If you consider yourself “easy queasy” the following is not recommended reading.

    A few months ago I encountered something that I was SO SURE had to be a fake April Fools news story from some previous year, and not an especially believable one, either. “Oh sure, who would believe a medical procedure would have a name like MOOKP?? Nice try, very funny. And also kind of gross.” But further inquiries revealed that it is, in fact, real. If you have, or someone you love has benefited from this procedure, I’m very glad for you. But weren’t you a bit incredulous at first, too??

    In Asia I snapped a photo of this sign: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1445148244221&set=a.1388439106528.2056951.1098574176&theater

    You probably can’t get MOOKP done here, but they probably turn away crowds of disappointedly mistaken people.

  • http://lorenwarn.blogspot.com/ Loren

    Our family is anything but skilled at April Fool’s pranks, but I’ve thought it particularly funny this year that my five-year-old and almost four-year-old have been anticipating today for the entire week! They made elaborate (in their minds) plans of “tricks” and have tried to pull a few (which, unfortunately, weren’t at all memorable that I’ve already blanked on what they were….). But the memory of their fun will remain! And they were particularly excited just now when they turned on our Wii balance board and the program had a funny hat and an April Fool’s joke for them!

  • Alassiel

    I love April Fools Day! I’m notorious in my family for playing tricks, though it’s more of a reputation than an actuality.

    The classic rubber band on the kitchen sink sprayer is one of my favorites, except that it usually ends up soaking the counters and floors as well and I get to clean it up. It’s fun to hear the victim scream though.

    I also like to switch the kitchen drawers so everything is in a different place.

    I haven’t gotten in any tricks yet today. I’ll have to remedy that.

  • http://littlebootsliturgies.blogspot.com/ BuckBuck the Nordic Wonderduck

    Once my husband and I sneaked into my brother’s room and sewed up almost all of his clothes. Not entirely, mind you. Just little bits.

    For example, we sewed up a pair of jeans gradually… just one leg so that when he stuck his foot inside, it would slowly get tighter and tighter toward the bottom. We sewed a few stitches here and there into the toes of socks and backsides of underwear, so things just wouldn’t work right. Sewed t-shirt sleeves shut. Sewed neckholes together.

    It took about four hours with both of us working. He was finding disfunctional stuff for years.

    Looking back, maybe that was cruel. Well, that’s what he gets for eating my candy collection.

    Also, one time we…

    Oh, hang on. That might be illegal.

  • Joe

    We had two decorative rubber eggs. Plotting ahead one April Fool’s Day, I placed them in the fridge with the regular eggs. Sometime after dinner, I went to the fridge, pulled out an egg, and tossed it at my brother. His expression of surprise and panic was priceless. I can’t recall if he caught it or dropped it, but as far as he was concerned a real egg was flying his way. (He got me back later by turning off the water to my sink in our bathroom.)

  • EmmaJ

    Buck Buck: so clever!

  • http://livingoak.wordpress.com Dryad

    WHen I was younger, our grandmother was visiting because our mother had just had a baby (my youngest sister)
    Me and my sister (jazz) had plotted up a storm to try and fool our grandma–a no-nonsense, eagle-eyed nurse.
    She must have been very tired that day, because we managed to convince her that a horse had escaped from a near-by barn and was hanging out at the playground! Happily, she was able to see the humor in it after we convinced her to go look.

  • http://www.sally-apokedak.com/whispers_of_dawn/ sally apokedak

    I’m not much of a trickster, though I did dress my blog up today for the day. Go check it out. I pretty proud of the snazzy colors. It’s a little odd, really, because I played the trick on myself. If I had access to some blogs that belonged to friends, it might have actually been funny.

    Anyway, being one of the least creative of the tricksy hobbitses, I could relate to Loren’s story about her children’s delight in trying to trick her. Only for me it was my mother, today. She’s 89 and she used to be brilliant. Full of curiosity, she had wide interests and studied nonstop. The last few years have been hard on her because she’s been losing so much mental function and she’s aware of it. (It reminds me of Flowers for Algernon.) It really bothers her that I witness her failing mind every day. She has to ask me to fix the TV when she forgets which buttons to push and she needs me to work the thermostat because she’s forgotten which way is hot and which way is cold. And it’s humiliating for her to have me, her youngest daughter, treating her like a child.

    So today after I took her breakfast to her, she called out, “Did you mean to leave the seeds in the tea?”

    I went back, thinking I left the bag in the cup.

    She yelled, “April Fools!” She had a satisfied grin on her face and was looking like she was about to burst. She reminded me so much of a five-year-old who has played a trick on his mother. You’d have thought she’d pulled off the prank of the century.

    “Pretty proud of yourself, eh, Mom?”

    “I am quite pleased, I must admit.”

    So, it was a successful, rip-roaring day at our house. We are just a barrel of fun.

  • http://lorenwarn.blogspot.com/ Loren

    Sally, I love your story! It’s so hard to find the joy when a parent (or grandparent) is going through these things, and this sounds like it was one of those moments :) .

    …And I finally remembered my one successful prank of the past. When I was in college and helping edit our newspaper, we put out an annual April Fool’s edition. My college was a conservative Bible college with an excellent president, and one of the women who worked under him was a family friend who had been at the college for years. She is a woman of great wisdom, and many of us often joked that she “ran” the college behind all the men. So with her permission one year I wrote that our esteemed president had moved on to a different position, and it made the most sense to everyone that “Aunt Mae” take over as president of the college, and so she had! It was a silly little article, and everyone (we thought) knew it was a joke…. Apparently, though, some missed the memo, because Aunt Mae received a very nice card from a friend congratulating her, in all seriousness, on her well-earned new position! She thought it was hilarious and handed the card off to me, which I still have to this day :) . Oh, the dangers of the written word!

  • http://www.onecanaanbound.blogspspot.com Canaan Bound

    I had pesto tortellini for lunch yesterday. When a Kindergartener from my class asked me what was on my plate, I told him that boiled frog legs are a delicacy in foreign lands. He seemed convinced, and I decided I should be generous, so I offered him a bite. He refused. Said he wasn’t much a fan of frogs or toads. When I moved closer and insisted he try one, he recoiled in disgust.

    A bit later, he spied me eating a Klondike bar, and again inquired as to what it was. I told him that plenty of people like chocolate-covered frozen rat snot. He looked at me with a clever grin and said, “Oh, I’m not falling for that one!”

    (Sorry. I guess you had to be there…)

  • http://www.onecanaanbound.blogspspot.com Canaan Bound

    Some of my favorite mild and “harmless” prankster pranks include:

    1) Saran Wrap on the toilet, just under the seat
    2) Ketchup packets under the toilet seat
    3) Rubber bands on the water faucet sprayer
    4) Forking lawns
    5) Stringing doorknobs shut

    Loving the sewing idea, BuckBuck. True ingenuity, right there…
    And Joe, I’m totally borrowing the egg idea.