Great April Fools pranks of the ages

We hope everybody had a good turn at mischief-making, but don't look for any here.

Happy April Fools Day! Lucky for you, we are not going to trick with you a wacky news story that we have made up – although it’s awfully tempting to pass up on the one day of the year when we can embellish the truth.

Still, what kind of newspaper would we be if we failed to even acknowledge April Fools Day? You’d be questioning every article in today’s paper, looking for the one that stands out as a little too far-fetched.

So instead, let’s take a look at some of the best pranks people have fallen prey to over recent years, according to the World Wide Internets.

Tech companies like to get onboard with April Fools Day. Google in particular has crafted some clever pranks over the years.

In 2011, Google announced that people with Gmail accounts could now choose a “sent” time on each email they compose – including times in the past. So, for example, if you woke up at 3 a.m. realizing you had missed your sister’s birthday, you could quickly dash off an email and select the sent time as, say, 6 p.m. the previous night. It’s a genius idea, but sadly, time-travelling emails are still a figment of our imagination.

Also in 2011, Google UK “released” on April 1 a program that could translate animal-speak into English. So when your dog starts barking inexplicably, you simply press a button on your smart phone, hold it up to the animal’s mouth, and listen as the dog explains what the problem is.

Last April Fools Day, Google Australia said it had found a solution to mapping the vast expanses of the Australian outback. It would strap wireless cameras to the heads of kangaroos which would automatically upload street view footage of the desert.

This year, Google pranked the world through YouTube, which it now owns. Over the weekend, YouTube announced that it would be shutting down, as it was actually just an elaborate eight-year talent contest to find the world’s best home video. The winner will be announced in 10 years, they said. It’s a little far-fetched, but the world’s best home video is surely to be found on YouTube – if only you could sit through all the baby’s-first-bath and dog-has-a-bone videos to find it.

In the world of newspapers, The Guardian newspaper out of the U.K. announced in 2009 that it would cease being a print newspaper. That part is not very far-fetched. What raised a red flag was the subsequent announcement that The Guardian would produce the news solely in 140-character Twitter posts. That prank is one to make us journalists shudder.

A particularly classic April Fools prank was produced by fast-food chain Taco Bell back in 1996. It announced that it had purchased the U.S. Independence artifact the Liberty Bell, and was consequently renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell.

When it comes to personal pranks, my favourite is the story of a young woman who got married about a week before April Fools Day with an officiant. A couple of days after the ceremony, the woman filed her marriage certificate at city hall to have the marriage officially registered.

Then on April Fools Day, as the couple were preparing to leave for their honeymoon, she receives a call from city hall – it shows up on call display as the appropriate number. A clerk tells the woman that her marriage is not legal and travelling under her married name would constitute fraud.

The frazzled couple rush to city hall, where clerks know nothing about it and reassure that their marriage is legitimate.

Turns out the woman’s brother had gone to the effort of buying a device that changes the source phone number on an outgoing call, as well as a voice alteration device – all to prank his unsuspecting sister as she was about to leave on her honeymoon.

It’s enough to make me thank my lucky stars I don’t have a brother!

Whatever mischief you have played or been subject to today, we hope that everybody enjoys a good laugh this April Fools Day.

Sally MacDonald is a reporter at the Cranbrook Daily Townsman.

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