When it comes to pranks, it’s go big or go home. Sometimes pulling off a prank of epic proportions can require complex logistics, incredible props and an army of manpower to pull off. Other times, it’s as easy as running a newspaper ad. Prepare to marvel at these 20 pranksters who did everything from fool their friends to fool the Nazi army.
The $2 Billion Prank That Shook the Business World
In 1984, an industrial accident at a Union Carbide plant in India killed thousands and created lifelong health problems for thousands more. On the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, a man posing as a representative of Dow Chemical appeared on BBC News, claiming full responsibility for the disaster and pledging $12 billion worth of assets to help pay for medical costs and clean-up. Except he wasn’t associated with Dow at all – the man was actually part of a “culture jamming activist” group called The Yes Men. The announcement caused the Dow stock to go berserk. By the time the whole issue was cleared up by Dow officials, the false announcement had caused Dow’s stock to plummet by $2 billion.
The Ghost Army That Helped Defeat the Nazis
After the American military landed in France following D-Day, they one-upped the Nazis and tricked them with a full army made up of inflatables and dummies. What the Germans thought was a 30,000-man armored battalion was actually a bunch of art students wearing fake uniforms, sending out fictional battle reports over the radio and hiding behind a bunch of inflatable tanks. German scouts and planes spotted the ghost army, but didn’t’ realize they weren’t actual soldiers and had to completely alter their strategy.
The DUI Prank That Saved Lives
Tom Mabe has established himself as one of the most creative pranksters working on YouTube today. The comedian pulled off his most popular prank, not just for laughs but to save lives when he wanted to help a friend who had a history of drinking and driving. The comedian turned an office space into a hospital room, and convinced his friend that he had been in a coma for 10 years. The prank involved a fake newscast reporting that Miley Cyrus was living in a trailer park and Hilary Clinton was president, before the gag was finally revealed.
The Iceberg in Sydney Harbor
Icebergs belong in the Arctic Circle. One place they definitely don’t belong to is in the harbor of Sydney, Australia – but that’s exactly what city residents awoke to in 1978. Electronics entrepreneur Dick Smith announced he wanted to bring an iceberg to Sydney, but didn’t say when. He made it happen on April 1st, and had the public fooled until his iceberg was revealed to not be so icy, as it simply was a barge covered in sheets of white plastic and foam.
Roman Atwood Blows Up His Son
It doesn’t sound funny, and definitely was not for YouTube prankster Roman Atwood, but pretending to blow up your son gets the video views. The rather cruel 2015 video involved the prankster sending a dummy child into a shed that then exploded in a ball of fire, as the child’s mother watched in horror. Needless to say, don’t try this at home – or anywhere.
Lady Liberty of Lake Mendota
The Statue of Liberty is the most recognizable landmark in New York City, and well, that can make other harbors a little jealous. University of Wisconsin students Leon Varjian and Jim Mallon were determined to win their student association election in 1978, and made one doozie of a campaign promise. They said they would bring the Statue of Liberty to Lake Mendota. The pair won the election and was determined to make good on their promise, so with $4,000 in funds, they assembled their Lady Liberty on the frozen lake. Hey, they never said it would be the real one.
The Baltimore Ravens Prank Their Fans
The Baltimore Ravens went to great lengths to pull off their 2017 April Fools’ Day effort, recruiting the entire team in for the gag. The team announced it would be traveling to London for their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars by taking a ship across the Atlantic, and released a video of head coach John Harbaugh describing the benefits of the ride. Ravens players even released promotional tweets saying how excited they were for the trip before it was finally revealed no such trip was going to happen.
Caltech Students Get Their Revenge on the Washington Huskies
Caltech has produced a lot of great minds over the years, but zero Rose Bowl wins (they haven’t even competed). Bitter about their lack of athleticism, the student body decided to let the world know they weren’t just nerds in the stands. In 1961, the student body organized a prank that swiped the Washington Huskies’ plan of having people spell out cheers with cards and made it their own. During halftime at the big game, the crowd of hundreds spelled out 11 pro-Huskies messages as intended, but the 12th message was flipped to show the Caltech beaver mascot and then spell out the school’s name.
Richard Nixon Runs for President… Again
“I never did anything wrong, and I won’t do it again” probably isn’t what a presidential candidate wants on a campaign button. Comedian and Nixon impressionist Rich Little teamed up with NPR’s John Hockenberry in 1992 to pull a prank on the radio network’s Talk of the Nation program, with Nixon announcing a new presidential run. Angry and confused listeners called into to let the Nixon impressionist know what they thought of the impeached president making another go at the White House.
The Ultimate Game of Tetris
Tetris on a 2.5 inch Gameboy screen is fun, but it’s even better on a 20-story building. In 2012, students at MIT devised the idea of turning the campus’ Green Building into one big playable Tetris game. After four years of planning, the hackers were able to construct what the MIT student newspaper called the “holy grail of hacks.” Through a complicated system of wirelessly controlled LED lights, the Tetris hackers transformed 153 of the building’s windows into the falling colored blocks, controlling them with players at a podium.
Hollywood Becomes Hollyweed for a Day
Zachery Cole Fernandez is an artist with a vision – and that vision involved the iconic Hollywood sign. In February 2017, Fernandez showed his love for Hollywood and marijuana by transforming the famous sign in the Hollywood hills to read not “Hollywood” but Hollyweed.” Fernandez used white tarps and black flags to alter the sign’s appearance, resulting in a stunt that attracted thousands of spectators. The police didn’t find it funny though, and arrested Fernandez for the high times sign prank.
The Made Up Life of the Person of the Year
George P. Burdell is a man of great stature who has accomplished many things – making it a real shame that he doesn’t exist. Way back in 1927, Georgia Tech admissions staff accidentally sent high school senior Ed Smith two enrollment forms. Instead of just throwing away one of the forms, Smith filled out the second form as George P. Burdell. Both he and his alter ego Burdell were accepted. The prank could have ended there, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, Smith enrolled Burdell in his classes and even completed two of each assignment, to not get his imaginary friend expelled. Four years later, they both ended up graduating – and the prank didn’t end there. Other students caught onto the gag, and Burdell eventually sat on the alumni committee and enrolled in the military in 1942. Word of the gag spread and the fictitious George P. Burdell would go on to make appearances in Mad Magazine, M.A.S.H., South Park and even briefly lead Time Magazine’s nominations for 2001 Person of the Year.
Taco Bell Buys the Liberty Bell
Corporate April Fools’ Day pranks are a pretty common thing these days, but required a bit more planning before the age of social media. Back in 1996, Taco Bell pulled the wool over the public’s eyes when they ran an announcement in The New York Times that they had purchased the historic Liberty Bell, to help alleviate national debt. People flipped out and called the National Parks Service to complain about the injustice.
London’s Big Ben Goes Digital
People don’t like it when you mess with their historical landmarks, and the BBC found that out when in 1980 it reported that Big Ben would be given a new digital facelift. In addition to the gag, they announced that the clock’s old hands would be given away to the first four people to call the news station. People called alright, but not to claim the prize, instead ringing up the BBC to yell at the producers.
Swedes Fall for the Stocking on the Black & White TV Prank
TV was still a rather new thing in 1962, and the idea of turning one’s black and white TV into a color set was a powerful thing. Sweden’s then-only television network, SVT, played an April Fools’ prank and told viewers that if they stretched a pair of nylon stockings over their set, the picture would be colorized. Needless to say, thousands of people ruined perfectly good pairs of stockings and ended up disappointed.
The Spaghetti-Growing Trees of Ticino
Fooling the public is easier than one can imagine if you’re a major news outlet. In 1951, Brits flooded calls into the BBC when one of its news segments ran a prank broadcast, describing the spring crop of pasta growing on trees in Ticino, a small village bordering Italy and Switzerland. The three-minute segment fooled the British viewers – many who didn’t regularly eat pasta – and had people calling in to ask how they could grow their own spaghetti.
An Easter Island Statue Washes Up On the Beach… in the Netherlands
Easter Island and the Netherlands are 14,000 km apart, which would make it quite odd for one of the island’s iconic statues to wash up on a beach half a world away. That’s what a man in 1962 claimed happened though, saying he found one of the mysterious heads while walking on the beach near Zandvoort, Netherlands. An “expert” from Norway even examined the statue and ruled it to be authentic artifact that needed to be put on display in the town’s center. Within less than a day, the false statue’s creator claimed responsibility and admitted to putting it on the beach as a prank.
The Skywriting Pilot Who Couldn’t Land
Learning how to land is generally a requirement of pilots, but one professional skywriter fooled downtown Los Angeles in 2013 when he wrote “How do I land?” in the sky. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it prank was thought up by comedian Kurt Braunohler, and while it only lasted seconds in the sky, the snapped photo quickly went viral once it was posted to internet bulletin board Reddit.
The Pink Bedroom Makeover
Most men don’t normally go for the fairy-tale princess motif when choosing their bedroom. That’s exactly what Redditor Twoverend found out when he came back after being gone for two months. “I’ve been overseas for two months. I came back yesterday and discovered that my house-mates have ‘renovated’ my bedroom…” he wrote. No word on how much his roommates spent for the prank, but that amount of pink doesn’t come cheap.
The Phony Volcano of Sitka, Alaska
Volcanic smoke and flowing rivers of lava are a little unsettling – especially if you live near a volcano that you thought was dormant. Alaska resident Porky Bickar went to the extreme in 1974 to prank residents of his town, when on April Fools’ Day he rented a helicopter to carry 100 old tires, rags, fuel, oil and smoke bombs to an actual nearby volcano. Terrified local residents soon began evacuating their homes and calling emergency personnel in a panic. Here’s the catch though. Porky having already called the cops prior to the prank to get clearance, he got off scot-free for causing the wave of public panic.