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Gone Too Far? Failed April Fool's Day Pranks that Resulted in Tears

If you’re being told absurd stories about a travelling circus comprising only elderly people or if you’re being sent footage showing someone with their literal foot in their mouth, take heed—it’s probably that topsy-turvy time of the year that beckons for April Fool’s Day pranks to be performed.

Also known as All Fools’ Day, this non-official holiday is internationally celebrated, with people taking it as an opportunity to let loose and embrace their inner child. This is typically done by playing practical (or sometimes very impractical) jokes and engaging in the general tomfoolery that the occasion demands.

While this day should be enjoyed in the spirit of fun and light-heartedness intended for it, human beings—if you can believe it—have often taken prank ideas too far. Examples of April Fool’s Day pranks to avoid will be the focal point of this article, but we’ll also give you a brief breakdown of the history of this crazy day, keeping you from straying too far down the Mank-Prank path.

Disaster without Laughter: April Fool’s Day Pranks Gone Wrong

For some, it’s just another day of work; for others, it's a cathartic release in the form of comedic hijinx and hoaxes.

Whatever the case, it’s alright to have fun and indulge in the purpose of the day’s well-intended mischief and mayhem, but when there is a negative emotional response to a prank you’ve played, then you’ve gone too far.

Prank Ideas to Avoid at All Costs

  1. A Digital Doozy

Google created an April Fool’s Day pranks feature for Gmail users called the “Mic Drop” in 2016, allowing them to insert a GIF of a minion from the movie Despicable Me dropping a mic at the end of an email. Once used, the email chain was no longer functional, just like a real mic drop. This would have all been fine and well, except Google placed this feature right next to the send button, leading to many bad communication blunders, including people accidentally mic-dropping potential employers and, worse still, when receiving news about a death in the family. 

  1. A Real Cliffhanger

In 2001, a DJ in Brighton proclaimed that a replica of the Titanic could be seen from Beachy Head, Sussex. With hundreds of his listeners taking his word for it, they drove out in, well, droves, to stand on the cliff and catch a view of history’s most heartbreaking vessel. Coastguards reported finding a large crack in the cliff shortly thereafter and, a few days later, the cliff simply collapsed. 

  1. Arrests Don’t Fly

One of the more notable April Fool’s Day pranks to avoid is faking deaths and arrests. It quickly became apparent why the latter of these ideas didn’t work as a “joke” when Southwest Airlines’ Albuquerque initiated one of their new employees after she had completed probation—by placing her under fake arrest and marching her away in front of passengers and colleagues. You don’t have to be an empath to understand that an emotional response to pranks of this nature is not going to be a sanguine one. The employee was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, sued the airline and airport police, and came out victorious. 

  1. Taught a Lesson

When I was in matric (grade 12), we had an old math teacher named Mr. Geldenhuys, who we affectionately (and somewhat patronisingly) also referred to as Dumbledore. In that final year of school, our math class decided to pull some April Fool’s Day pranks, with our main target being the Head of Hogwarts. We took photos of his car—a vintage Mercedes-Benz—and put it up on Gumtree, the South African version of Craigslist. We put it up for about $100 along with our teacher’s personal number. When the time for class arrived, he stumbled in, looking bewildered, and told us that he’d have to be excused as his phone had been ringing off the hook all day with people making ridiculous offers on his car that weren’t for sale. Although I enjoyed playing my part in many funny pranks, this one left me feeling somewhat blue for the old math wizard.

A Brief History of a Peculiar Day Filled with Funny Pranks

A Brief History of a Peculiar Day Filled with Funny Pranks

When did the world unanimously decide that we’d put one day per year aside during which we would take ourselves less seriously?

Honestly, nobody seems to have a definitive answer.

Perhaps that is most fitting for a day designated for funny tricks and hilarious hoaxes, however, that hasn’t stopped multiple hypotheses on the origins of April Fool’s Day pranks from formulating. Here are the ones we feel are likely closer to reality:

  • Some believe that Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales from 1392 stoked the original shenanigans. In “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” a fox tricks a proud rooster, Chauntecleer, into thinking that there are 32 days in March.

  • Another theory is that it has to do with celebrating the changing of the seasons around springtime; a historical tradition in many of the world’s cultures.

  • The most widely believed hypothesis for the advent of April Fool’s Day pranks lies in the 1582 decree made by Pope Gregory XIII, declaring the Gregorian calendar the new measurement of date. Many ancient cultures celebrated New Year’s Day closer to April 1, and either refused to acknowledge the new calendar or simply didn’t know about it, continuing to celebrate the close of the year on the first day of April. They were mocked and labelled “fools” with people sending them to look for things that did not exist.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where the term “fool’s errand” comes from!

Funny Pranks Make Everyone Laugh

There you have it: you’ve been given the gist of what to avoid regarding April Fool’s Day pranks. Hopefully, you’re also equipped with enough basic human insight to steer yourself away from causing lament instead of laughter on this shenanigan-filled day.

Remember that funny prank ideas can only be funny when everyone involved is laughing!

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