April Fools' Day is great in concept. The problem is that a very large portion of the population has no idea what a prank actually is, or how they work. And while it's merely annoying that most of your co-workers think a "prank" is nothing more than a random, pointless lie, there are always those few who go too far in the other direction.
#5. Those Wacky Husseins!
We need to make something clear right now: This article itself is not an April Fools' prank -- everything below actually happened, as far as we know (always feel free to check our sources). We have to tell you that now, because everything in this entry sounds like bad, gruesome parody. It's not -- Saddam Hussein's regime really was a bunch of wacky pranksters.
For instance, on April 1, 1998, the Babil newspaper (owned by Saddam's brutal son Uday) quoted President Bill Clinton in a front page story, saying the U.S. had decided to lift sanctions against Iraq. This was potentially lifesaving news for impoverished Iraqis living under the strict sanctions, so you can only imagine their tears of joy ... which quickly dried when they turned to page two and saw, "April Fools'! It is the beginning of spring. Many happy returns!" Ha! You starving kids just got Uday'd!
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"Dude, next year, you should pretend to be Freddie Mercury, announcing that you faked your AIDS."
Uday had a whole year to think about how to top himself, and on April 1, 1999, the paper's fake headline stated that monthly food rations would now include bananas, Pepsi, and chocolate. You can guess how that thigh slapper went over.
But then, like all great comedians, the Husseins eventually started recycling material, reusing the crowd-pleasing sanction gag in 2000 and the oh my aching sides! ration one in 2001. Unfortunately, Captain Bringdown, er, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdula Aziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheikh ground the clown car to a halt by banning April Fools' Day altogether in 2001 for some strange reason.
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"YOU SHALL LAUGH IMMEDIATELY!"
But there would be one last hurrah for the wacky Iraqi pranksters. In March of 2003, Iraq was invaded by a coalition of forces led by the U.S. and UK. As thousands of American-led coalition troops stormed across Iraq, the Iraqi Ambassador to Russia, Abbas Khalaf Kunfuth, held a press conference. It was expected he would announce that Iraq conceded defeat. Instead he held up a piece of paper that he identified as a news flash from Reuters and read, "The Americans have accidentally fired a nuclear missile into British forces, killing seven ..."
He paused, to allow the reporters to absorb the horror of the situation, before shouting, "April Fools'!"
"Suck my fucking joke, dickheads! Choke on it!"
Again, we want to make it clear: That absolutely happened.
#4. Playboy Runs a "How To Beat Your Wife" Guide
There was a time when a respectable publication could joke about domestic abuse and everyone would just have a good-natured laugh about it (after all, isn't that what The Honeymooners was about?). That time was not the year 2000.
On April Fools' Day of that year, the Romanian edition of Playboy published an article giving their readers some handy tips on how to beat their wives senseless, a piece easily identified by its title: "How to Beat Your Wife without Leaving Prints." In this, men were advised to grab them by the hair to make sure they couldn't get away, and then hit them with a variety of items including sticks, washing machine belts, and kitchen knives. Ha! Just the kind of gentle ribbing we all love on this fine holiday!
"Remember when you said I was a huge nerd for buying this ridiculous knife and a subscription to Playboy?"
Oh, and the tips were ostensibly provided by an ex-policeman, so readers could be sure that no one could ever find out about their heinous acts of fuckshittery. Meanwhile, men who showed hesitation at the thought of beating their women to within an inch of their lives were told to take up knitting, apparently because they aren't cut out for being a REAL MAN.
Now, this would have been considered a shitty and grossly-offensive piece of satire if it had been published in any other country. But in Romania, this was just a step shy of bringing Nicolae Ceausescu back to life to conduct the beatings himself. You have to understand that at the time, Romania just happened to have one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world, a situation exacerbated by widespread poverty and a poor education system. And, while we don't mean to sound creepy here, those tips look pretty goddamn authentic.
Overlooking Brasov is called a "Romanian warning."
Rightly, an almighty shitstorm soon ensued, with protests taking place in the country's capital of Bucharest that were supported by 51 organizations all over the world. Playboy apologized and pledged to donate money to a variety of anti-domestic violence programs, including those that would provide shelters for victims, some of which it may or may not have sent there.
True to form, however, one of the Editors responsible for the piece tried to defend it by saying that the tips wouldn't have worked anyway, making this whole "hate crime" thing completely moot. That's right, he'll surely figure out that beating a woman with a kitchen knife doesn't work! It just kills her! April fool!
"And then I was all bleeding and screaming -- holy crap, that was theteh best prank ever!"
#3. The Classic '"Fake Your Own Death'" Bit
You know who doesn't celebrate April Fools'? Cops. Much to the surprise of pranksters everywhere, "April Fools'" is actually not a valid defense in court. So before you plan your wacky prank, please make sure the thing you're doing isn't against the law. For instance, did you know that in many places it's a crime to fake your own death? It's true! Damn it, it's political correctness run amok!
So, it was April of 2004 and a guy named Randy Wood from rural New York decided he would play a prank on his ex-wife. In a stunt that we're pretty sure could have accidentally killed him for real at several points, he rigged up a harness in a tree in his front yard, with a fake noose, to make it look like he had hanged himself. He calls her up and tells her to come over, because he had something to show her. Then he climbs the tree and manages to get himself into his fake suicide setup without actually murdering himself in the process.
Nope, nothing could possibly go wrong here at all.
Of course, it's impossible to know exactly how he thought this would play out. Remember, this was his ex-wife. Did he think she would run up in tears and hug his lifeless body, and suddenly remember how much she missed him? Or did he think she would scream in horror, at which point he would open his eyes and say "BOO!" and try to induce a heart attack?
Because what actually happened is his wife did what you're supposed to do when you see somebody dangling by their goddamned neck from a tree limb: She called 911. Then they sent fire trucks, ambulances, and cop cars to the scene. At which point Wood had to either admit that it was all a stupid prank, or try to pretend that he had tried to kill himself with a harness that looped around his crotch due to a gross misunderstanding of human anatomy.
"No, keep explaining. Every word you say is dramatically helping your case."
As it turns out, faking an incident to dispatch emergency services is punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. "He said he did it as an April Foo's' joke, but obviously it's not a funny matter," Sherriff Reuel Todd said. Damn, we guess they set the bar pretty high in West Monroe.