The Greatest Pranksters

Given it was April Fools’ Day a week or two back, I was wondering about the first prank. Who did it? Where did they do it and what was it?

In the year 1582, France decided to adopt the Gregorian calendar which set the date of the New Year to January 1st. Up until then New Year\’s day was always April 1st. The people who didn’t know that and still celebrated in April were considered fools and thus were the butt of a lot of jokes. This gave them the title “April Fools” and so began a long tradition of pranking “fools” every April. Some historians believe that the first prank started in France in this same year.

First Pranks

We go all the way back to Rome, specifically the reign of the emperor Elagabulus (c. 218-222). Known as one of the originator of the famed whoopee cushion, this emperor also had a penchant for leaving tamed wild animals such as lions, bears and leopards in the room of his sleeping, drunken guests. He also had a tendency to release snakes in public. He found this amusing to the terror of anyone who was unfortunate to be nearby.

Our next story takes us to two feuding neighbours. Anthemius was an architect who was at war with his neighbour. One day he lost it and ended up creating an earthquake machine. What he did was to build several boilers of water under his house. He then proceeded to feed a hose from his house through a tiny hole into his neighbour\’s cellar. Whenever he got the inclination, he would start up these boilers and give his neighbour an \”earthquake\”. This prank was achieved by using massive amounts of steam caused by the boilers.

In the early 15th century what was probably the earliest pranks were done by a monk in England’s Syon Abby. He performed such tricks as making eggs levitate (this was his favourite prank) as well as making apples move on their own by putting bugs in them. He seems like he was the life of that Abby, doesn’t he?

Just over 200 years later, in the year 1740, we meet our next two pranksters. These two men decided to publish a fake newspaper called the English Mercurie which was supposedly published in 1588 (this would’ve made it the oldest newspaper ever published). These two pranksters decided to deliver it as a gift to the British Museum 26 years later where it can still be found and referred to to this day.

Then we come to the year 1810 and a prank that is my personal favourite. Theodore Hook made a bet that he could turn any home into the most talked-about address in London. He then proceeded to do just that. He started in the morning with a delivery of coal, then it became furniture, musical instruments, flowers, bread, fish, wedding cake, gardeners, undertakers and even the Mayor of London! All of this occurred outside the home of Mrs. Tottenham who was ignorant of the whole affair. It caused such a traffic jam, that Hook did, in fact, win his bet.

Pranks That Went Horribly Wrong

There have been many pranks over the years that have gone horribly wrong, such as the high school senior who was accidentally shot dead while participating in an elaborate treasure hunt. Then there were students who decided to put laxatives in a chocolate Bundt cake for their teachers and ended up sending two to the hospital with insecticide poisoning (Dulcolax poisoning). They ofcourse thought it was a huge joke, but I doubt the teachers agreed.

There are a few that fall into the category of pranks that went horribly wrong. Here are a few.

An Icelandic teenager falls into this category. The teenager had somehow managed to get the private phone number for George Bush. In the year 2007, this young man decided to call Bush to ask for a private meeting. The young man, Vilfill, pretended to be the president of Iceland. He managed to get through to Bush’s secretary and she informed him that he should wait for a call from the President, instead he got a house-call from the police and was dragged off to an interrogation room where he was interrogated for hours. He was able to answer all their questions and explained that he only wanted to talk with Bush.

Then we have the story of the two teenagers who covered up a stop sign and ended up accidentally killing two elderly ladies as they drove into the intersection and were hit by a car as they crossed. Both men were arrested and charged with reckless homicide.

Two guys were hanging out with a third friend for Thanksgiving (they were staying in Vermont with him). The one friend fell asleep and, in an hilarious attempt to wake him, fired off an air rifle and fire it off near off his friend. He was shocked to find blood spurting out. Later his friend was pronounced dead on the scene.

Our last tragic prank gone wrong, is a young boy of only 14 years old, who was shot dead in a drive-by for egging the wrong car.


There’s nothing wrong with a fun prank between friends, but it’s important that, like in the instance of Elagabulus and his wild animals, sometimes a prank can go too far. It’s always important to remember that safety comes first, otherwise you’ll end up with a dead prankee.

It’s fascinating to note how far back some pranks go. From the very first whoopee cushion to the ultimate prank call, they all have their place.

God bless you all, my darling avidReaders.

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