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9 Outrageous Pranks in History

March 29, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

From a Swiss “spaghetti harvest” to a fake UFO landing, these pranks went above and beyond.

April Fool’s Day, once a time to pull a prank on both friends and enemies, has turned into a day for corporations to try and fool customers with predictable internet hoaxes. Come April 1, we can all count on an announcement about a fake new show, feature or a tinkered application.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of truly original (and elaborate) pranks that will actually surprise you.

Satirist Jonathan Swift.

A Modest Prank-posal

One year, satirist Jonathan Swift decided to play a very elaborate All Fools’ Day prank on John Partridge, a famous astrologer who sold bogus predictions to the public in almanacs. After Partridge predicted in his 1708 almanac that a fever would sweep London in early April, Swift published an almanac under a fake name predicting that on March 29 at 11 p.m., Partridge would die “of a raging fever.”

The public was intrigued, but Partridge was irate, and he published a rebuttal to Swift’s almanac calling its author a fraud. Then, on the night of March 29, Swift published an elegy (again, under a fake name) announcing that Partridge—a “cobbler, Starmonger and Quack”—had died, and admitted on his deathbed that he was a fraud.

News of Partridge’s death spread over the next couple of days, so that when Partridge walked down the street on April 1, people stared at him in surprise and confusion. Partridge angrily published a pamphlet saying he was alive, and Swift again publicly asserted that Partridge was dead, and claimed Partridge’s pamphlet was written by someone else. The whole escapade helped to discredit Partridge, who eventually stopped publishing almanacs.

A man in a bottle.

Prankster in a Bottle

In January of 1749, London newspapers advertised that in an upcoming show, a man would squeeze his entire body into a wine bottle and then sing while inside of it. The ad promised that, “during his stay in the bottle, any Person may handle it, and see plainly that it does not exceed a common Tavern Bottle.” The ad promised the show would feature other tricks as well, including communicating with the dead.

Legend has it that the ad was the result of a bet between the Duke of Portland and the Earl of Chesterfield. Reportedly, the duke bet that he could advertise something impossible and …read more


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