The very first April Fools’ Day
There are many theories as to the origins of April Fools’ Day, but some historians believe the day originated in 1582 when France switched over to the Gregorian calendar, which changed New Year’s Day from April 1 to January 1. Back in those days, the news took a little longer to reach everyone, and those who were a bit slow on the uptake (celebrating New Year’s Day on April 1, for example) became the butt of pranks, including having paper fish glued onto their backs – because fish are easy to catch. People still refer to easily fooled people as “fish” to this day. They would call them “gullible,” except – ahem – that word isn’t in the dictionary.
I swear I’m not dead
In 1708, Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift set up an epic April Fools’ prank by pretending to be an astrologer by the name of Isaac Bickerstaff. He published a set of predictions, the most notable of which was that a celebrity-astrologer of the time, John Partridge would die on March 29. On March 30, Swift circulated an anonymous account of Partridge’s death of fever. On April 1, someone knocked on the Partridge’s door to set up funeral arrangements. Partridge, of course, was alive and well, but for the rest of his life, he had to insist he was not dead. The prediction finally came true seven years later without Partridge ever finding out the real identity of Isaac Bickerstaff.
The Great Blue Hill eruption
For April Fools’ Day in 1980, Boston TV news producer, Homer Cilley, (it actually rhymes with “silly”) produced a television broadcast about a hill in Milton, Massachusetts, that had begun oozing lava and spewing flames. He included fake warnings from then-president Jimmy Carter and real footage from Mt St Helens eruptions that implied the Massachusetts volcano had fully erupted. “April Fool” read the card at the end of the segment, but hundreds of panicked citizens flooded law enforcement phone lines anyway. Cilley was promptly fired for failing to exercise “good news judgment” and breaching regulations.