The 5 Greatest Aprils Fools’ Day Pranks in Human History

Every year crappy “comedy” publications all over the internet celebrate April Fools’ Day by publishing some sort of fake article that attempts to convince people something that’s untrue is true. The Union Forever, however, is not a magazine about comedy. We scorn jokes in all their forms. Instead, we are a magazine about history.

Therefore, let us set out not to lie to our audience, but illuminate them as to the illustrious history of the greatest April Fools’ Day pranks:

The Burning of the Library of Alexandria

Alexandria

Inside the Great Library of Alexandria, the wealthy Ptolemaic Pharaohs of Egypt collected every piece of writing of any significance in the ancient world. In an age when each book had to be copied by hand, letter by letter, in a process that could a decade, the Library of Alexandria contained tens of thousands of books. Nowhere on earth – not in Rome, not in Greece, not in Persia or China or India – could compare as a center of learning.

But Julius Caesar didn’t value learning as much as he did victory. After a passionate debate with his lover Cleopatra over the importance of “book learning” vs “street smarts,” he ordered a group of his most trusted legionaries to set the library alight before dawn on April 1st 48 B.C. When his lover awoke that morning, the pride of her dynasty was an inferno of burning papyrus. Falling to her knees in front of the window, she wept so loudly that she awoke the slumbering Caesar. “Nerd,” he said under his breath while smiling and then fell back asleep.

A decade later, Caesar’s lieutenant and successor, Marc Antony, looted the library of Pergamum to compensate Cleopatra for her kingdom’s loss. “April fools,” he bellowed proudly to Cleopatra as he presented to her the ships full of books. But the books of Pergamum were not half so many as those of Alexandria and their loss would doom the western world to spend the next 1500 years in the scientific, intellectual, and cultural shadow of the East.

The Fire Bombing of Dresden

Dresden 2

Dresden was considered the most beautiful city in all of Germany. Its avenues were broad, its buildings old stone, its opera houses numerous and ornate. It had almost no significant industries. It had no major military installations.

On April 1st 1945, a flotilla of more than a 1000 British and American planes dropped 7,800,000 pounds of high-explosives and incendiary devices on the German city of Dresden. Overnight, the bombs destroyed nearly every single standing building in the city. 99% of downtown was destroyed. Huge swathes of the suburbs burned. Churches 300-years-old smoldered in ashes. 25,000 people died. Hundreds of American POWS died who had been hidden in the city to keep them from falling into the hands of advancing Allied troops.

After the bombs had stopped falling and the fires stopped burning, a single American plane flew over the city dropping leaflets. One of them floated down into the hands of a Canadian prisoner of war standing amidst the ruins. It said in German, “April fools. The war is already won. We killed you just for lulz.”

The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln

Upon hearing President Lincoln give a speech at the White House on March 1st 1865 strongly implying he intended to give freed slaves citizenship after the Civil War ended, the famous actor John Wilkes Booth leaned over to his friend Lewis Powell and whispered, “Do you know what would be hilarious?”

A month later after extensive preparations, Booth used his fame to waltz up the stairs at Ford’s Theater and into the President’s private box. Waiting for a moment behind the transfixed leader of a rapidly reuniting America, Booth stepped forward pulling a gun from his pocket, fired it directly into the back of Lincoln’s head, and then leaped off the balcony before anyone could stop him.

Landing with a thud on the stage, Booth shouted up at the shrieking Mary Todd, “April fools! I actually really like black people and am in no way bothered by the idea of them being citizens! Also, for the record, I think ‘States Rights’ is just a thing white people say to justify the preservation of white supremacist power structures.”

Francis Ford Coppola’s Jack

Jack

There was a time when you could say with a straight face that Francis Ford Coppola was the greatest filmmaker who had ever lived. All in a row, he made The Godfather, The Conversation, The Godfather Part II, and Apocalypse Now. Each was a masterpiece. Each was gleaming beacon of what filmmaking could achieve.

But then something went wrong. From 1980 until the present day, Francis Ford Coppola has made (except for Peggy Sue Got Married) nothing but terrible catastrophes of mediocrity and artistic bankruptcy. At the nadir of that downward spiral is a movie called Jack. Essentially Benjamin Button in reverse but also fast forwarded, Jack tells the story of Jack (played by Robin Williams), a 12-year-old boy cursed with the body that ages at 4 times the normal rate, and his various misadventures attending school, farting into Tupperware containers, being sexually assaulted by Fran Drescher, and staring into the abyss of his inevitable death from dementia at 19.

To say that Jack is bad is like saying that burning your face off with acid is uncomfortable. Every shotis a sentimental piss on the innocence of childhood and the mortality of man. If you wait, however, through the entirety of the credits and then the entirety of the black void following the credits (a process lasting around 20 minutes) you’ll be greeted to a brief scene where an aging, obese Francis Ford Coppola mouths the words, “April fools,” plays a couple notes on a tuba, and then weeps.

The Book of Job

Job

Once upon a time, the Lord our God sat down with his friend the Adversary, and had a little chat about whether or not a particularly devout man named Job would, if pushed to the limit, denounce his Lord and Creator. The Adversary said he would. “The love of a god,” said the Adversary, “comes only from favor, take away his favor, and he’ll curse you.” But God deferred. “For most men,” He said. “Sure. But for this man? For Job? I don’t believe it.”

Together they made a bet.

On April 1st 1274 B.C., the Adversary set about destroying Job’s life. He dropped a house on Job’s children. He killed his livestock with plague. He stole all his gold. He cursed the old man with boils that covered his whole body. Broken, alone, and an outcast, Job called out to God for an explanation of his suffering. How could a God, he asked, allow such horrors to befall a righteous man like him? How could a God who claims to be just murder his whole family and his pets? What was his secret sin?”

His voice bursting forth from a whirlwind, God himself answered Job. “Where were you,” said God, “when I founded the earth? In all your days, did you command the morning? Did you tell the dawn its place? Did you create the leviathan? Can you out-fight the leviathan? Can you put a saddle on the leviathan and ride it like a horse?”

Hearing these words, Job began to quaver. He was so small and it was not the place of the insignificant to question the movements of the God who pulled all of creation out of the void. Whatever He might will for them was good and just because while He was omnipotent and perfect they were but ash and dust.

But then God smiled and bellowed, “April fools! I let your whole family be murdered because I wanted to prove a pedantic point to one of my bros!” and then proceeded to dump at Job’s feet a mountain of gold, livestock, and new children to replace his dead children.

“Now,” He said once Job’s new mound was seven times as big as his old mound, “don’t ever mention this to me again.”

(Did you enjoy this nightmarish accounting of history’s greatest April Fools’ Day pranks? Than share it with all your bleak-hearted friends. Also consider following the U4E on Twitter or Tumblr or even Facebook so you can keep track of all our wonderful, means-spirited content.)