Title: Practical Jokes and April Fools

Release Date: 2016-05-16

Document Date: 2003-04-01

Description: A humorous post on the history of April Fools’ Day.

Document: DYNAMIC PAGE -- HIGHEST POSSIBLE CLASSIFICATION IS
TOP SECRET // SI / TK // REL TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL

(U) Practical Jokes and April Fools
FROM: the Sigint Communications Team
Unknown
Run Date: 04/01/2003

(U) An enemy decoy, built in occupied Holland, led to a tale that has been told and retold ever
since by Allied pilots. The German "airfield," constructed with meticulous care, was made almost
entirely of wood. There were wooden hangars, oil tanks, gun emplacements, trucks, and
aircraft. The Germans took so long in building their wooden decoy that Allied photo experts had
more than enough time to observe and report it. The day finally came when the decoy was
finished, down to the last wooden plank. And early the following morning, a lone RAF plane
crossed the Channel, came in low, circled the field once, and dropped a large wooden bomb.
(U) On the subject of practical jokes-- where did April Fools come from? As far as anybody can
tell, the history of April Fools' Day is somewhat obscure. The most popular theory seems to be
that the tradition dates back to 1582 in France, the first country to switch from the Julian to the
Gregorian Calendar, which moved New Year's Day to 1 January. Prior to 1582, the new year was
an 8-day celebration that culminated on 1 April. Because communications in 1582 were not
what they are now, some people didn't get word of the change. Others simply resisted the
change and continued to celebrate the new year on 1 April. These people were labeled "fools"
and were subject to ridicule and other practical jokes, such as being sent on "fool's errands."
Over time, this practice evolved into the current tradition of harmless pranks.
(U) Regardless of its origins, April Fools' Day has spawned numerous classic hoaxes, many now
celebrated on the Internet-where the "Top Ten" list has evolved to the "Top 100." Mentioned in
almost every source that discusses the holiday and appearing at the number one spot on the
Top Ten list is the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. In 1957 a respected British documentary program
ran a story on 1 April announcing a bumper Swiss spaghetti crop, complete with footage of Swiss
farmers pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers called in
wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees.
(U) Occupying the number 10 slot and billed as the oldest April Fools' Day prank is the elaborate
1708 scheme that began with the publication in February of that year of Isaac Bickerstaff's
almanac predicting the death of famous London astrologer John Partridge on 29 March. On 30
March, Bickerstaff published a follow up pamphlet announcing that he'd been right and Partridge
was dead. On 1 April, Partridge was awakened by a sexton wanting to know about his funeral
sermon. When Partridge walked down the street, people reportedly told him he looked exactly
like someone they knew who had died. Isaac Bickerstaff actually was a pseudonym for satirist
Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels. Swift's intent had been to discredit Partridge as a
fraud and force him to stop publishing his own almanac of astrological predictions.
(U) So beware... and Happy Fools' Day!

"(U//FOUO) SIDtoday articles may not be republished or reposted outside NSANet
without the consent of S0121 (DL sid_comms)."

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TOP SECRET // SI / TK // REL TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL
DERIVED FROM: NSA/CSSM 1-52, DATED 08 JAN 2007 DECLASSIFY ON: 20320108


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