April 1st 2005 was my crowning achievement in April First foolery. I’ve pulled off a few excellent pranks, but last year I out did myself to the point that I was forced into retirement this year. Well, not entirely. Read on for Eric’s Prankish History – my favorite April Fools’ Day practical jokes & April Fools info, aka the 4/1 uh, 1.
The joker within me was awakened one day in the late 1980s when out of the blue, my father, in full view of his young and impressionable son, dialed up his long term girlfriend and spoke in the driest tones I’ve ever heard. He told her he had something he needed to say to her. He told her that he was getting back together with his ex-wife. Next he said that this conversation was an April Fools gag and hung up and just looked at me while I was thinking “OMG! Did he just really do that?!”. Happy ending: They’re still together and Karen went on to become my step mom. I’ve been thinking about this and I’m not sure Karen was actually on the other end of the line. Oh well, the joke would then be on me and it’s still funny!
Paybacks were a bitch for my Father! Here’s my first tip for would-be practical jokers: The Written Word is Magic.
Set up: It’s my senior year in High School. I’m looking to be college bound, but obviously nervous. What’s the worst thing that nerves could do to a kid at that age just weeks before graduation?
Props: Official Reading High School Watermarked Letterhead paper & envelopes (Generously donated by the Guidance Center), The typewriter in my typing class.
The Hook: I typed up an official looking document on official paper, placed it in the official envelope and left it with the mail on April 1st.
The Mark: My envelope was already sitting in between the screen and front doors when the mailman dropped that day’s mail through the slot in the screen door. Karen picked up the mail minutes later and leafed through. She walked to the kitchen where I was innocently sipping a drink I had just poured myself. She “filed” the junk mail then saw an official looking envelope addressed to the parent or guardian of Eric Dalton. She cracked it open without telling me what she was reading. To her credit the look on her face never faltered while she read the letter stating that as is my right in the state of Pennsylvania since I am 18 years old I could drop out of school and, in fact, I had done just that and this was my official letter to let the parents know as a courtesy of the schools Guidance Department. The letter went on to state that if the Parent or Guardian had any questions they could call Mr. Manelli at the school, oh and by the way APRIL FOOLS! Gotcha! I remember that Karen took the lords name in vain when she read the last line and I remember that I damn near pissed myself with the suspense while she was reading. The best part was that I never intended her to read it first so this was a happy accident. Karen put the letter onto my Dad’s “Rat Pack” of mail to go through. When he came home from work later on I once again took up my trusty spot in the kitchen while Karen told my poor unsuspecting father that there was a letter he should read. Still in his work jacket and hat, the look of “glad to be home” just dropped like a ton of rocks as he read the letter. He actually breathed an audible “Sigh of Relief”© when he read the last line.
The Fallout: His first words to me were “You’re lucky!” I saved the letter for many years but it vanished when we moved. Such a shame. Of course now with the internet and everything it’s much easier to forge letterheads, but there’s no substitute for the real thing – watermark and all!
The next tip I have for my fellow jokersters is this: A Picture is Worth 1000 Words.
Set up: I have season tickets to the XFL games and I’m sitting in the first row right where the cheerleaders dance on their raised platform. Wouldn’t it be sweet if I could sweet-talk one?
Props: My digital photograph editing skills, one late-night email, and some phone book searching for bars in the vicinity of the Meadowlands.
The Hook: I baited my entire family for a few weeks that I intended to hook up with one of the cheerleaders as one had taken a shine to me.
The Mark: Upon returning from the final home game of the NY/NJ Hitmen I wrote out a long email saying how I just had the greatest night of my life. Seems that since it was the last game, my favorite cheerleader Shannon had told a few of us where they hang out after the games. I had done my research and picked a real bar in the area. Of course we went to the bar and of course the whole team was there and of course it was great how I was accepted as one of the guys and even got friendly with Shannon. I even got her phone number! Icing on the cake – someone had a digital camera and took this picture which I attached to the email. I sent the email to everyone I knew.
The Reveal: Later that day I sent another email telling everyone that it was an April Fools prank but several had already written back saying how happy they were for me and how they had forwarded the email to their friends and co-workers . “Check out my son/nephew with the cheerleaders!”
The Fallout: A few laughs and a few angry family members. My aunt Susie was sore at me for quite some time. My Mom too. The moral of the story is that you don’t have to make them think something horrible has happened – something good works just as well! The bigger problem was that when I actually started dating a girl named Shannon later in the year nobody believed me. Check my official XFL Page for more shots of Shannon the flexible.
This brings me to the third law of jokery: People trust anything that looks official.
I’ve played with this one a lot in my head and I always get into serious trouble in my imagination… but lets just say that someone who happens to have something that looks like a ‘security’ vest complete with reflective stripes could make things interesting at a wedding reception or parking garage or airport. Of course, you don’t have to dress the part, you just have to dress up your props! As the phishing scoundrels could tell you, it’s easy to mock up an email that looks just like one that you’re used to seeing!
Set up: Every week the volleyball league sends out an email newsletter with some news and this week’s schedule.
Props: A hotmail address that’s identical to the AOL address that is used to send out the newsletter.
The Hook: April Fools just happened to fall on the day of the week that the newsletter always came out.
The Marks: I knew a half dozen people who were on the newsletter distribution list so I could see firsthand how folks would react. I typed up an email that was for all intents and purposes IDENTICAL to one of the newsletters that we would receive each week. I used the same greeting and closing, the same sentence structure, the same lack of (or excessive!!!) punctuation. I added a recap of the previous week and the correct schedule for this week. I also told everyone that, henceforth, clothing is, in fact, completely optional. It was even discouraged! Moments after I sent it (making sure the person who usually sent it out was in the distribution list) I heard a laugh from across the office and knew my plan had been a success! No reveal was necessary as about 3 hours later, the original newsletter guy sent out his official letter debunking mine.
The Fallout: Apparently, he had been getting phone calls. Excellent!!! There was no nudity that week at the volleyball game. Oh well… maybe I’ll try again during Beach Volleyball season.
This part of the April Fools collection chronicles my Masterpiece. My Pièce de résistance if you will (or wont). I pulled out all of the stops, and my wallet in 2005 and outdid myself. This collection of pranks got executives out of bed early on a Sunday, redirected traffic, required the creation of a shell corporation and received a write up in the local newspaper. It was accomplished in 4 parts, two of which were just distractions and misdirections. All of the fun was sprung during my trip to Pacifica because I had been challenged the year prior by my Mom to no longer pull off any pranks that make people feel bad… or good… or worried… etc. She systematically eliminated most emotions but left me with “Surprise” & “Curiosity”. I’ll take that challenge, thanks. =]Part 1 – The Giant Smiling Face of Adlai Stevenson
Setup: In a story by Jay O’Callahan set in 1952, the Author plays a joke on his neighbor, a huge (in all ways) supporter of Eisenhower, by placing a giant campaign poster of Adlai Stevenson at the foot of her bed while she slept.
Props: This picture of Stevenson, a sharp pair of scissors & lots of Scotch Tape.
The Hook: The eve of April Fools’ Day: the picture, which had been printed to be 3 foot by 4 foot had been disassembled for transit, was quietly reassembled. It was then – oh so quietly – taped to my Mom’s bedroom door so she, like the antagonist of in the story, would wake to the Giant Smiling Face of Adlai Stevenson.
The Result: Success! No restricted emotions, a fun surprise & best of all – she thought she was off the hook for any other pranking on April 1st.Part 2 – W.T.P.
To further throw everyone off the scent of further pranking, a roll of specially printed toilet paper featuring the smiling face & quotes of everyone’s favorite current president was installed in the bathroom. This qualifies more as a Gag than a prank, but it’s all good on 4/1.Part 3 – IOCor & Milagra
Setup: One of Mom’s favorite jogging routes was up on the Milagra Ridge which was a small parcel of semi-protected land surrounded by the standard suburban sprawl typical to the coastal towns south of San Francisco. It’d be a shame if the owners finally sold out to contractors!
Props: A website for our fake Venture Capital group IOCor, some Windows hacking skilz, 3 large sheets of plywood, several cans of spray paint, one heavy hammer, one large nail, two boxes of stencils, a pack of plastic zip-ties and, of course, a half dozen wooden stakes.
Prop Creation: I created the IOCor website (Cached), basing it on a real-life venture capital website. Later I changed the HOST file on my Mom’s computer so the URL wouldn’t look suspicious. The next step required lots of help from my accomplice Heather. We took a vacation within a vacation to travel up the coast to Mendocino which started off with a trip to the local Home Depot to pick up supplies. The next night, as it was getting dark we found a secluded cul-de-sac & spray painted the plywood white & the tops of the wooden stakes neon-orange. On our way home we finished the task by using the stencils to spray paint the plywood into 3 large signs. We also punched holes in the corners so we could eventually use the zip-ties to hang the signs. Once back in Pacifica Heather & I made a trip to the Ridge in the wee hours of the morning and worked our magic.
The Mark: Several times during our visit I had hinted that I wanted to try to tackle the large hill on top of the Milagra Ridge by jogging it. As the days of our trip started to run out I “decided” that Friday would be our day to tackle the hill. Friday just happened to be April First. That morning we headed up to the Ridge. There’s a fence along the road that runs by the Ridge and someone had put up signs all over the fence! They read things like “IOCor on the Rise!”, “Progress for Perfection!” & most importantly, “Visit IOCOR.COM!” There were also wooden stakes with orange paint marking out a presumed “boundary” of IOCor’s activity. During the jog, I wondered aloud what this IOCor stuff might be and what kind of project they have in mind for the beloved Milagra Ridge? Not quite an hour later as we descended the hill after the jog/hike we saw a fancy car that reeked of excessive money. The signs had been cut down and were nowhere to be seen. Standing next to the ritzy car was a woman talking animatedly on her cell phone. She seemed confused and out of her element. I really don’t know what she was doing there, but I remarked at the time that she must be an exec of IOCor! Upon reflection, she might have been the property owner trying to figure out what the heck IOCor was. Because of my HOST file shenanigans, the web address that written on the signs would only work on a computer that had been thusly modified. We were untraceable!
The Reveal: Upon returning to the homestead I used some excuse to get everyone around the computer and typed in the web address, motioned for my Mom to have a seat and stepped back to watch over 2 months of planning, preparation & trespassing come to fruition. I nearly burst a gut trying NOT to laugh as she read the following words:
The park has the blessing of the National Park Service, The Department of the Interior, The Golden Gate National Recreation Area & Senator Palpatine himself. This stunning plan has spent over 1 month in research & development and will cost roughly $10 – mostly spent on stencils & lumber. Production is slated to begin today, April 1st 2005. Local Pacifica Resident Kathryn Dalton has only recently been made aware of this plan and is most probably very curious to learn more. Unfortunately, she’s also been the victim of a horrible hoax perpetrated by her Son & his sweetheart. God, I love this holiday. And with this, my coup de grace, I bow out of the game and officially retire from the prankster business. It’s been fun, but I need to quit while I have a head. Good night everybody!
The Fallout: She NEVER suspected me to go this far with a prank, especially since I had already “got her” that morning. The incredible luck of having the “Executive” at the bottom of the hill as we returned was just too priceless although nearly a disaster because if we had arrived at the Ridge just a half hour later the signs would have been gone and the entire prank would have fallen apart. As it was I got cursed out and actually spanked for my efforts. She would have found something heavier to hit me with if she only knew that I wasn’t done for the day. . .
Setup: That Christo guy made “Art” by wrapping up some famous buildings in plastic. Bah. *I* Could do that.
Props: 1000 feet of plastic shrink wrap from UHaul.
The Mark: While my Mom was out running errands, Heather and I started wrapping the house with the plastic wrap. It didn’t go as far as we would have hoped, but since we had to buy it before traveling across the country and there really wasn’t room enough for two of these in our suitcase (Just one had already caused a problem when checking our bags) we did the best we could and partially wrapped the house, but completely wrapped the car.
The Reveal: I had the camcorder rolling when my Mom rolled back up to the house. It had gotten nearly dark by the time she returned and the effect was surreal – the green wrap was the same color as the night. We all had a good laugh. My final prank was a success!
The Fallout: There was a lot of extra traffic on her street the next day as people drove past to see the wrapped house. The local paper published the story & a B&W picture a week later as well! I may one day do this one again as the roll of plastic was only $22 and I’m just DYING to wrap a house while someone is still IN it.That’s all folks! Here’s the photo gallery. Click the thumbnails below to make them bigger.