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Mountain Home
Joyce M. Tice
April 2009
April Fool’s Day or its equivalent is celebrated over most of the world, but its origin is a mystery.  The most widely offered explanation is that it started in 1582 when the Gregorian calendar was adapted and the new year officially moved to January 1 instead of closer to April 1. Those who refused to use the new calendar or who hadn’t received the news were called April fools. This explanation has been generally discounted in favor of “nobody knows.”

Joseph Boskin, a Boston University history professor, uncovered another potentially credible explanation. He proposed that in the time of Emperor Constantine, April 1 was a day when the court jesters were allowed to rule the empire. On their day of power the jesters proclaimed the day as one for humor. In 1983 several Associated Press newspapers published Boskin’s theory. Alas, they were the victims of an April Fool’s joke.  Boskin had invented the whole thing.

All Fool’s Day is another name for the event. In 1868 Julia Park of Litchfield Township wrote in her diary, “today is all fools day and Ma made a fool of Carrie and I.” Unfortunately she did not tell us how. Melva Hess Calaman of Clymer Township wrote in her “Memories of Mixtown,” that her mother would bake pieces of paper into the pancakes on April Fool’s Day. The father of one of my friends expected a laugh when he put salt in the sugar bowl and ruined his father’s morning coffee. He got a scolding instead.

The unpredictability of April’s weather lends itself to hoaxes. We come out of March optimistically prepared for Spring and might be hit with a two foot snowfall. Many cultures celebrate days of foolishness to commemorate Spring. The practice of lying and hoaxing on this day is an outgrowth of ancient “renewal” celebrations. They have in common permitting otherwise unsociable behavior for a limited period of time to celebrate an event such as the beginning of Spring.

In 1698 an article was published in London about the number of people who had been sent to see the lions washed at the Tower of London on April 1.  That was an already old prank even then, and it worked year after year.

Several years ago one of the Ithaca, New York newspapers published a very scholarly article about a Loch Ness–like monster in Keuka Lake. The explanation, complete with diagrams, was that there were underground channels connecting the Finger Lakes to the St. Lawrence seaway, and it had moved in that way.

In1996 Taco Bell Corporation claimed to have bought the Liberty Bell and renamed it.  The phones rang at the National Park in Philadelphia as hundreds of furious believers called in. Not to be outdone, in 1998 Burger King introduced its left-handed Whopper with all the ingredients rotated 180 degrees for the convenience of lefties. Thousands of people asked for it at the restaurants, and some demanded the right-handed version.

A few years back Harford, Connecticut radio station WTIC announced small earthquakes at Avon the last several days of March. On April 1 the same station told of a small lava flow on the side of Avon Mountain, and the unwary turned out to look.

Be on the alert and don’t believe everything you read or are told on this very unreliable day.

You can read about the Top 100 April Fool hoaxes at

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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 03/31/2009
By Joyce M. Tice 
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