Non-Foolery on April Fools’ Day

On its face, April Fools’ Day seems like a lighthearted opportunity to play practical jokes and pranks on your friends and coworkers, but it’s easy to see the problem with having such a wacky day filled with falsities and gags. Namely, what happens when something of real consequence actually takes place on April 1st, but people don’t believe it because they automatically think it’s a prank? Here’s a few true tales of actual events that occurred on April 1st that were anything but gags.

Giggling at Google

Google is known for announcing ridiculous news stories, such as telepathic search engines and job openings on the moon, on April Fools’ Day. The thing is, when you are known for this sort of tom foolery, it makes it difficult to be taken seriously when you have real news on April 1st. Humorously enough, the company has decided to take advantage of the viral marketing people give to the news they announce that day, so they have actually made announcements for real products and services at the same time. In 2004 (the same year they created job listings for the moon), they announced the release of Gmail. While this may not seem all that funny, many people still thought it was a prank because the idea of a mail service with one full gigabyte of storage seemed preposterous –at the time, Hotmail only offered 2 megabytes. They followed the success of this announcement by announcing the increase of the mail service’s storage to two gigabytes the next year, also on April Fools’ Day.

In a company that plays such major pranks on the nation every year, it seems likely that the employees must play some really great jokes on each other come April 1st. As such, when an employee’s pet ball python escaped its enclosure on the holiday, the news was met with some disbelief. Unfortunately, this time the news was real. An email was sent out to the entire staff that started out, “The timing of this email could not be more awkward.” It then moved on to say:

“Tempting as it might be, this is not an April Fool's joke! We are sending this message to alert you to the situation and to let you know what to do in the event you see the snake. “

At least the sender recognized the humor of the situation. In case you were worried about the critter, he was eventually found and returned to his owner’s house a few days later. Image via Char1iej [Flickr]

Dimming the Guiding Light

Whereas Google has mastered the art of cleverly announcing real news on April Fools’ Day in order to play with the minds of the public, CBS obviously has a lot to learn about making serious announcements on April 1st. Last year, they infuriated a number of loyal viewers by announcing the cancellation of the seventy-two year old daytime soap Guiding Light on April Fools’ Day. As one angry commenter wrote on TV Squad:

“If it's true, you're jerks for announcing it today. And if it's not true, then everyone who believes you was a jerk for believing such a story on April Fools’ Day.”

A Depressing Day For Death

Unfortunately, not all real news on April Fools’ Day is as minor as a lost python or canceled TV show. There are many situations where people do not believe a person has died, simply because of the date. Unfortunately, the three best examples of this are all so strange that it’s not surprising that people believed the news to be a hoax. In 1984, one day before his 45th birthday, Marvin Gaye was murdered by his own father after intervening in an argument between his parents. Many fans refused to believe the news because it seemed so odd that his dad would have been the murderer. It wasn’t until the news was confirmed officially that many people stopped believing the murder was more than a cruel April Fools’ Day joke. Surprisingly, Marvin Senior was only found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to five years imprisonment because his son beat him before the shooting.

Not A Set Up For A Tasteless Joke

If you heard a NASCAR champion nicknamed "The Polish Prince" died in a Hooters corporate plane on April Fools’ Day, would you believe it? A lot of fans thought they were hearing a bad joke in 1993 when racing star Alan Kulwicki was announced to be dead in exactly those circumstances. Image via jbspec7 [Flickr]

A Funny Day To Announce An Unfunny Death

Is there a more fitting day for a comedian to die than April Fools’ Day? While Mitch Hedberg actually died on March 30, 2005, the news wasn’t spread to the media until very late on March 31st. Not surprisingly, many people thought the death was merely a prank or a bad publicity stunt put on by Mitch himself.

Don't Doubt The Danger Warnings

Perhaps the only situation that is worse than one person dying on April Fools’ Day is the so-called April Fools’ Tsunami of 1946, when over 100 people died, largely because they believed storm warnings were a joke. The incident occurred after an massive earthquake on the Aleutian Islands near Alaska, which caused a series of massive tidal waves that spread all the way to South America. Most of the damage hit Hawaii though, where the tsunami reached up to 45 feet tall. Unfortunately, because so many people doubted the news of the impending tidal wave and refused to evacuate, over 165 people died -159 of them in Hawaii.

Interestingly, perhaps this was a bit of a sick prank on the part of Mother Nature, because scientists are still unable to find any reason the 7.8 magnitude earthquake was able to launch such a massive tsunami. It was originally thought that the waves were intensified by a major underwater landslide in the area, but scientists have still found no evidence of this hypothetical landslide. One of the researchers who recently mapped the ocean floor looking for a landslide in the area summed up the matter by noting, "almost 60 years after the event, the 1946 tsunami is still making fools of all of us." What about you, readers? Have you ever thought something that happened on April 1st was actually a joke, only to find out later that it was actually 100% true?

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Real quick note: A tsunami and a tidal wave are two different things. Tsunamis are caused by a displacement of water; tidal waves are caused by....wait for it....tides!
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I was dismissed from my executive level IT job on April 1st. Imagine my horror as it sunk in that they were serious. This was five weeks after receiving a signed outstanding performance and contribution award.
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When I was 11, my father died in a single-engine plane crash on April 1. When I called my best friend to tell him what had happened, he responded, "April Fools!" Nothing sucks more, I'm here to tell you.
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My friend was spreading a rumor through Facebook that Leonard Nimoy had died in Paris. He even went so far as to say Nimoy had saved some people. My friend lives in Germany and claimed he heard the news on a European Network. Good fools joke it aint true.
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I got a call that I had been accepted into a graduate program on April 1st. The grad director thought I was crazy because I kept asking him, "You're serious right?," "No one put you up to this,?" "This isn't a joke?"

He hadn't realized the date when he called. Once I realized he was for real and I made my excited phone calls, no one believed me either.
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