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Some of the best April Fool pranks

If you are anything like me last Friday you were bombarded with efforts from your friends to get the best of you on the celebration of the prankster that is April Fools Day. For the most part the efforts were lame, but some did come close to pulling one over on me. Usually, the best way to go about pulling a great April Fools joke is to keep it simple. On the other hand, if you can pull off the big one you can go down as a legend in your own time.

Through the years some have been able to accomplish just that. I have done some research and put together a list of what I consider some of the greatest April Fools pranks of all time.

n In 1992 National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation program announced that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President again. Nixon’s new campaign slogan was, &uot;I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.&uot; The announcement was released with audio clips of Nixon delivering a candidacy speech. Callers flooded the show expressing shock and outrage. It was only in the final seconds of the show that they revealed the voice of Nixon had been impersonator and comedian Rich Little.

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Our very own Alabama the Beautiful was the site of another great April Fools prank when it was announced Alabama had changed the value of Pi. The April 1998 issue of New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter was released with an article claiming the Alabama Legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant Pi from 3.14159 to the ‘Biblical value’ of 3.0. The article made its way onto the Internet and around the world.

The Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. A physicist named Mark Boslough wrote the actual article.

n In 1998 Burger King unveiled a plan with a full-page ad in USA Today on April Fools Day that would truly allow people to have it their way. The ad announced a new item to their menu: a &uot;Left-Handed Whopper&uot; specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new Whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper, but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. Thousands of customers went to Burger King restaurants around the country requesting the new sandwich before learning it was a hoax.

n In 1984 the Eldorado Daily Journal, based in Illinois, pulled a great prank when they announced a contest to see who could save the most daylight for Daylight Saving Time. The rules of the contest stated that participants were to start saving light on the first day of Daylight Saving Time. Whoever saved the most light would win. Only pure daylight would be allowed. No dawn or twilight light, though light from cloudy days would be allowed. Moonlight was strictly forbidden. Light could be stored in any container. The contest gained national attention with correspondents from CBS and NBC interviewing the paper's editor along with coverage from other publications around the nation.

n Perhaps the biggest joke of all time costs one man his job and likely took years off many others lives. On March 31, 1940 the Franklin Institute issued a press release stating that the world would end the next day. The release was picked up by radio station KYW that broadcast the following message:

&uot;Your worst fears that the world will end are confirmed by astronomers of Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. Scientists predict that the world will end at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time tomorrow. This is no April Fool joke. Confirmation can be obtained from Wagner Schlesinger, director of the Fels Planetarium of this city.&uot;

Local authorities were soon flooded with frantic phone calls. The panic did not end until the Franklin Institute assured people that it had made no such prediction. The prankster responsible for the press release turned out to be William Castellini, the Institute’s press agent. He had intended to use the fake release to publicize an April 1 lecture at the institute titled &uot;How Will the World End?&uot; Soon afterwards, the Institute dismissed Castellini.

Such massive pranks are highly discouraged, but you have to admire the gumption of those responsible.

RIck Couch is a staff writer for the Demopolis Times, a sister paper to the Greenville Advocate. He can reached by phone at 334-289-4017.

You can write him at editor@greenvilleadvocate.com or 315 East Jefferson St., Demopolis, AL 36732.