'April Fools' Day', 1st April

"Sweet April showers Do bring forth May flowers."     

Thomas Tusser

"Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever."    

Charles Lamb

Before we start, say the following phrase together with members ...

"Pinch and a punch for the first of the MONTH.

A flick and a kick for being so QUICK.

A punch in the eye for being so SLY."

Discuss the meaning of this phrase and "White rabbits, white rabbits and no returns!", which is also often said on the first of the month.

Both are said to bring good luck.

According to some, US President George Washington met local Indian tribes on the first day of each month. He would supply fruit punch with an added pinch of salt. It became known as ‘pinch and punch on the first of the month’.

Others believe the tradition originated in medieval times, when people believed in witches. Salt was meant to make witches weak, so the pinch signified the use of salt to weaken the witch, while the punch was then administered to banish the witch for good.

As for "White rabbits", a reference is found in ‘Notes and Queries’ (a British periodical where experts shared knowledge on folklore, literature and history) from 1909. The entry reads: "My two daughters are in the habit of saying ‘Rabbits!’ on the first day of each month. The word must be spoken aloud, and be the first word said in the month. It brings luck for that month."

It was also a common belief among RAF bomber aircrew during WW2 that saying "white rabbits" when you woke up would protect you from harm.

'April Fools' Day' is an annual custom on April 1, consisting of practical jokes and hoaxes. The player of the joke or hoax often exposes their action later by shouting "April Fool" at the recipient. Mass media can be involved in these pranks, which may be revealed as such the following day. Although popular since the 19th century, the day is not a public holiday in any country. The joking must cease at noon, after which time it is no longer acceptable to play pranks.

In Scotland, 'April Fools' Day' was traditionally called 'Huntigowk Day', which refers to a traditional prank where someone is asked to deliver a sealed message that supposedly requests help of some sort. In fact, the message reads "Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile." The recipient, upon reading it, will explain he can only help if he first contacts another person, and sends the victim to this next person with an identical message, with the same result.

In Ireland, it was also traditional to entrust the victim with an "important letter" to be given to a named person. That person would read the letter, then ask the victim to take it to someone else, and so on. The letter when opened contained the words "send the fool further".


To complete together ...

The joke is on YOU


There's no fool like an OLD FOOL

You could have fooled ME

A fool and his money are soon PARTED

A fool's ERRAND

Playing the FOOL

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, SHAME ON ME

Fool's GOLD

Fools rush in where angels fear to TREAD

More fool YOU

Do not suffer fools GLADLY

Practical JOKER

All joking ASIDE

You must be JOKING

You've got to be KIDDING

Have the last LAUGH

Laughter is the best MEDICINE


Discuss each of these April Fools pranks and other hoaxes with members.

Which of them have members heard of?

Which are the best?

Do members believe there is any truth in any of the stories which haven't been refuted?

Are any stories missing?

Spaghetti Tree

On April Fools' Day 1957, the BBC aired a short TV segment on 'Panorama' about the harvesting of spaghetti trees in Switzerland. At the time, not everybody knew how pasta was made, so to them, a spaghetti orchard seemed just as plausible as anything else. About 8 million people watched the broadcast, which CNN later called "the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled."

Cottingley Fairies

Known as "The Cottingley Fairies," the pictures were taken in the summer of 1917 by a 16-year-old girl named Elsie Wright and her younger cousin Frances Griffiths. The images were an instant sensation, even fooling Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who viewed them as clear proof of the existence of fairies. It wasn't until 1983 that the two girls finally admitted that they faked the photos by using cardboard cutouts.

Cardiff Giant

In 1869, George Hull created a fake 10-foot-tall petrified man, then buried and exhumed it from his cousin's back yard in Cardiff, NY USA. Upon "discovery" of the giant, they immediately began charging spectators 50 cents to see it. The giant became such a phenomenon that Hull managed to sell his part-interest in the Cardiff Giant for $23,000 ($429,000 when adjusted for inflation). A year later, to stop P.T. Barnum from profiting off an unauthorized copy, Hull confessed in court that the petrified man was a forgery.

The Unbeatable Mechanical Chess Player

Known as "The Turk," this 18th-century automated chess-playing robot toured the world for a staggering 84 years and defeated thousands of human players in the process. In fact, the Turk didn't know how to play chess at all. Instead, a chess master would hide inside its table and manipulate the pieces via magnets and levers. 

Paul McCartney Is Dead

In one of the strangest hoaxes of all time, rumours swept the world in September of 1969 that Paul McCartney had died and been replaced with a look-alike. The story began when a writer for the Drake University newspaper pointed out various "clues" to Paul's death in Beatles album artwork and tracks. McCartney, who had been out of the public spotlight for a few months, finally granted an interview with 'Life' magazine in November of 1969, and so corrected the story.

Loch Ness Monster

In 1934 and the decades that followed, this image was known as the 'Surgeon's Photograph'. It was viewed by many as indisputable proof of the existence of 'Nessie', the Loch Ness Monster. In fact, photographer Robert Kenneth Wilson eventually admitted it was a fake made of a toy submarine purchased from Woolworths with a wooden head attached.

Then, in April 2016, real remains of 'a monster' were discovered by an underwater robot. However, it was a 30 foot model of the elusive beast, lost or discarded during the making of the 1970 film 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes'. Discovered remotely 180 metres down on the loch bed, the research team must have been initially thrilled to find something which could have been the remains of the real thing.

Bigfoot or Sasquatch

In North American folklore, 'Bigfoot' or 'Sasquatch' are said to be hairy, upright-walking, ape-like creatures that dwell in the wilderness and leave large footprints. Depictions often portray them as a missing link between humans and human ancestors or other great apes. A majority of scientists have historically discounted the existence of 'Bigfoot', considering it to be a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax, rather than living beings. However, people who claim to have seen it describe 'Bigfoot' as large, muscular, bipedal ape-like creature, roughly 6–9 feet (1.8–2.7 m) tall, covered in black, dark brown, or dark reddish hair. The enormous footprints for which the creatures are named are claimed to be as large as 24 inches (60 cm) long and 8 inches (20 cm) wide.

Yeti or 'Abominable Snowman'

The 'Yeti', also known as 'Meh-Teh', in Himalayan folklore, is an ape-like creature purported to inhabit the Himalayan mountain range in Asia. In western popular culture, the creature is commonly referred to as the 'Abominable Snowman'. Supposed evidence of the Yeti's existence include anecdotal visual sightings, video recordings, photographs, casts of large footprints, etc. Some of these are speculated or known to be hoaxes. Folklorists trace the origin of the Yeti to a combination of factors including Sherpa folklore and misidentified creatures, such as a brown bear or yak. Mainstream science has largely discounted the Yeti's existence. However, the Indian Army published these pictures of unexplained tracks found in 2019.

Balloon Boy

In October of 2009, Richard Heene (a father in Colorado) caused a media sensation when he claimed that his 6-year-old son was trapped inside a runaway gas balloon. People all over America watched live as the balloon sped through the sky, presumably with a child stuck inside. However, it later came to light that the story was a ruse and the child was safely at home the whole time. For orchestrating this event, Heene was sentenced to 90 days in jail and had to pay $36,000 for wasting the time of rescue personnel.

Alien Autopsy

In the 90's, a man named Ray Santilli released a supposed 50-year-old alien autopsy film. The footage was black-and-white, grainy, and very suspect. Even still, UFO conspiracy theorists loved it, and it became the focus of a massively successful hour-long Fox special titled 'Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction'. In 2006, Santilli admitted he shot the whole thing with a homemade dummy.

Crop Circles

A series of mysterious markings were left in a Wiltshire cornfield in 1985. People thought extraterrestrial life was the only entity that could possess the tools to make such incredible formations. However, later in 1991 Doug Bower and Dave Chorley admitted creating every single crop circle in the area since 1978. What was their motivation? ...boredom.

Piltdown Man

Hoaxes don't get much bigger than 'Piltdown Man'. It was a skull that purported to be proof of evolution's "missing link" between apes and humans, and was celebrated as one of the most important cultural discoveries in history. For a full 40 years, 'Piltdown Man' was regarded as fact, until it was exposed as a forgery in 1953. Charles Dawson, the hoaxer was said to have set the evolution debate back an entire generation.

Fiji Mermaid Skeleton

For the price of $12.50 per week, P.T. Barnum purchased the exclusive rights to display a supposed "mermaid skeleton" called the 'Fiji Mermaid'. (Actually, it was the remains of a monkey sewn to the back half of a fish!) Barnum then hired an associate to pretend to be a doctor who discovered the rare creature and had that man travel city to city, drumming up grassroots enthusiasm. Once the public was sufficiently enamoured, Barnum "convinced" the doctor to let him display the mermaid to the public.

Beast of Bodmin

'The Beast of Bodmin Moor' is a phantom wild cat purported to live in Cornwall. Bodmin Moor became a centre of supposed sightings after 1978, with occasional reports of mutilated slain livestock. The alleged panther-like cats have become a part of British folklore, however scientists have rejected the existence of such an animal because of the improbably large numbers necessary to maintain a breeding population and because climate and food supply issues would make such creatures' survival in reported habitats unlikely.

Bessie Houdini Seances

After Harry Houdini died on October 31, 1926, his wife Bessie moved to Manhattan and would try to contact him during seances with a code that only she and Harry knew about, to be sure that the spirit medium was not a fraud. The code was: "Rosabelle – answer – tell – pray – answer – look – tell – answer – answer – tell". Bessies' wedding band bore the inscription "Rosabelle", the name of the song she sang in her act when they first met. The other words correspond to a secret spelling code used to pass information between a magician and his assistant during a 'mentalism' act. Each word or word pair equals a letter. The word "answer" stood for the letter "B", for example."Answer, answer" stood for the letter "V". Thus, the Houdinis' secret phrase spelled out the word "BELIEVE". In the 1930s Bessie moved to Hollywood, California, and worked to promote Houdini's memory along with her manager and new partner, Edward Saint. On Halloween 1936, Bess and Saint conducted a "Final Houdini Séance" on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. At the conclusion of the failed seance, she put out the candle that was said to have burned for ten years and later said "ten years was long enough to wait for any man."

Shroud Of Turin

The 'Shroud of Turin' is a length of linen cloth bearing the negative image of a man believed to be Jesus Christ. Believers claim the image depicts Jesus of Nazareth and the fabric is the burial shroud in which he was wrapped after crucifixion. However, in 1390 a local bishop wrote that an unnamed artist had confessed to it being a forgery, and radiocarbon dating of a sample of the fabric undertaken in 1988 is consistent with this. The Catholic Church has neither formally endorsed nor rejected the shroud, but in 1958 Pope Pius XII approved of the image in association with devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. Pope John Paul II later called the Shroud "a mirror of the Gospel". Whilst science has largely confirmed the 'Shroud Of Turin' to be a medieval facsimile, the mystery remains that the image on the shroud is much clearer and more lifelike in black-and-white negative, which was not observed until 1898, rather than in the sepia colour with which it was created. How could medieval hoaxers have made it in reverse negative before photography was invented?

Bermuda Triangle

The 'Bermuda Triangle', also known as the 'Devil's Triangle' or 'Hurricane Alley', is a loosely defined region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean where a number of aircraft and ships are said to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Most reputable sources dismiss the idea that there is any mystery. The vicinity of the Bermuda Triangle is amongst the most heavily travelled shipping lanes in the world, with ships frequently crossing through it for ports in the Americas, Europe and the Caribbean islands. Cruise ships and pleasure craft regularly sail through the region, and commercial and private aircraft routinely fly over it. Popular culture has attributed various disappearances to the paranormal or extraterrestrial activity. However, documented evidence indicates that a significant percentage of the incidents were spurious, inaccurately reported, or embellished by later authors.

Millennium Bug

The 'Millennium Bug' referred to events related to the formatting and storage of calendar data for dates beginning in the year 2000. Problems were anticipated because many programs represented four-digit years with only the final two digits – making the year 2000 indistinguishable from 1900. The assumption of a twentieth-century date in such programs could cause various errors, such as the incorrect display of dates and the inaccurate ordering of automated dated records or real-time events. But midnight passed on the 1 January 2000 and the crisis failed to materialise - planes did not fall from the sky, power stations did not melt down. Clocks did not stop. However, computer experts have said that the 'damp squib' was only because of the hard work in correcting computer programmes they did in the run up to the date.

'War Of The Worlds'

Perhaps one of the most phenomenal hoaxes ever was in 1939, when Orson Welles enacted a live broadcast of an adaptation of H.G. Wells's 'War Of The Worlds'. It was performed and broadcast live as a Halloween episode at 8 p.m. on Sunday, October 30, 1938, over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. The episode became famous for allegedly causing panic among its listening audience, though the scale of panic is disputed, as the program had relatively few listeners. The radio station played the drama as if it were segments of live news broadcast interrupting a classical music show. Hence the sense of realism and of live unfolding events being 'reported' as they were happening terrified some listeners and convinced them an attack from Mars was underway. The amazing story is outlined in more detail here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_of_the_Worlds_(1938_radio_drama) and you can listen to the full broadcast here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs0K4ApWl4g

Roath Park Luxe

A local joke came in October 2016, when 'I Loves The Diff' published an article about 'The Scott Memorial of Roath Park Lake' in Cardiff. The article stated that the unique property is actually "a luxury family home that is now on the rental market". The article was said to have prompted concerned locals to form an action group called 'The Lighthouse Family'. Was anyone taken in for a few moments when they read this, like me!?


Next, discuss 'School Pranks' with members.

Do members remember having a local 'Joke Shop' which they would visit in the run up to 'April Fools' Day'?

Do members remember these tricks?

Ask them to describe how they worked?

- Whoopi Cushion

- Itching Powder

- Bucket of water on a partly open door

- Balloons filled with water

- Cling film over the toilet seat

- Plastic dog turd

- Stink bombs