By Tara Yilmaz
A few weeks ago, I won the Mega Millions and now I’m living in luxury. Because I have no reason to work anymore, I’ve made the decision to stop writing. I want to thank all my faithful readers who read my bi-weekly column. Although this decision came easily for me, it’s difficult for me to tell you that this will be my last column.
→ Did you know that I’m just kidding? April Fools’ Day is approaching and it’s a day that celebrates hoaxes, pranks and practical jokes, and a day when most people should be incredulous. Throughout the centuries, different cultures and countries celebrated it widely in the same way. We’ve all heard about calling people on the phone and pranking them by asking them if their refrigerator is running, then advising them they better catch it, or someone posting a picture of a sonogram on social media with the caption “baby on the way.” Simple, yet annoying pranks. But the question is, how did April Fools’ Day start?
→ Did you know that after scouring the internet for days, I found no definitive answer or consensus on how this buffoonish holiday began. Countless historians and researchers from History.com, National Geographic, NPR, and more could not ascertain where it originated from. But each of them provided links to the Roman festival “Hilaria” where people would dress up in disguises and imitate others. Another popular origin theory dates the holiday back to 16th Century France when the calendar switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. One thing we know for sure is that pulling pranks on April Fools’ Day has a long tradition dating back to early European and American society. So instead of wondering where it began, just enjoy the fun-filled tomfoolery. Instead of writing about educated guesses, I’m going to spotlight factual and fictional pranks gone wrong in honor of the famous day for shenanigans.
→ Did you know many of William Shakespeare’s stories revolved around schemes? Shakespeare was a literary trickster who loved to delight and confound his audience by writing about the antics of witty characters. Puck in a “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” conspires with King Oberon to trick Queen Titania into thinking she is in love with the fool, Bottom, who has the head of an ass.
The term “puckish” meaning playful and mischievous is derived from Puck’s character in this play.
At times, Shakespeare’s characters hatched darker hoaxes.
In “Romeo and Juliet,” a scheme leads to one of his most enduring tragedies. The tale about two star-crossed lovers from rival families, the Montagues, and the Capulets, premiered in 1597. After being subjected to tireless feuding, Friar Lawrence convinced Juliet to pull a hoax on their families and fake her death so that she and Romeo could run away. Needless to say, it backfired because Friar Lawrence wasn’t able to tell Romeo that Juliet’s death was a hoax.
Spoiler alert, consumed by grief, Romeo takes his life, then Juliet wakes up from her drug-induced catatonic state and finds Romeo dead. Then, also consumed by grief, Juliet takes her own life. What an epic failure of a hoax gone wrong.
→ Did you know on October 15, 2009, Fort Collins, Colorado residents Richard and Mayumi Heene pulled a publicity stunt that was dubbed “Balloon Boy”? Apparently not satisfied with the lack of attention they received from their homemade silver flying saucer, the Heene’s wanted worldwide attention to gain a reality television show.
The couple alerted authorities that their 6-year-old son Falcon climbed into the flying saucer and was soaring 7,000 feet in the air. For 90 minutes, the world held its breath as they waited for the rescue of Falcon Heene. In the end, young Falcon was found hiding in the attic of the Heene home. Because of the stupidity of the stunt, Richard Heene was sentenced to 90 days in jail and ordered to pay $36,000 in restitution. Mayumi Heene was sentenced to 20 days of weekend jail.
Although these examples took place on April Fools’ Day, the spirit of mayhem and foolishness lives within them and that is the foundation of the holiday.