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Fools' paradise: Some of the greatest April pranks in history.

Publication: Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL)

Publication Date: 31-MAR-06
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COPYRIGHT 2006 Chicago Tribune

Byline: Charles Leroux

CHICAGO _ "The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year."

_Mark Twain

On April 1, 2003, Abbas Khalaf Kunfuth, the Iraqi ambassador to Russia, stepped onto a podium in Moscow to address the international press. Most in the crowd expected to hear him concede defeat for his nation. After all, thousands of American-led coalition forces were sweeping through Iraq. Kunfuth held up what he said was a bulletin from Reuters news service.

"The Americans," he read, "have accidentally fired a nuclear missile into British forces, killing seven."

A stunned silence immediately overcame the room. Then Kunfuth shouted "April Fool's!"

Despite a few such enormously inappropriate and maladroit examples, the prank played to salute the first day of April remains an honored tradition through most of the world.

The origins of April Fool's Day go back, some say, to 16th century France, others say, further. In some accounts, the day of trickery is tied to a rite of spring, in others to the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. In 1983, an Associated Press story attempted to set the record straight, quoting Joseph Boskin, a history professor at Boston University, who had researched the subject.

He said that the practice began during the reign of Roman emperor Constantine, when his court's jesters and fools claimed they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for a day. Kugel passed an edict calling...

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