The list of crazy April Fools’ Day stunts has been well-covered across the Internet, so I thought today we’d flip it a little. Here’s a list of things that actually happened on April 1, but that some people assumed were part of the day’s mischievous festivities.
1. When Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father on April 1, 1984, some people figured it was a hoax. Sadly, the public quickly found out that it was all too real.
2. Somewhat similarly, when comedian Mitch Hedberg died while on tour in 2005, many of his fans thought it was another one of his jokes. He died on March 29, actually, but it wasn’t released to news outlets until the 31st, and a lot of newspapers printed the story on April 1st.
3. Back in the day when Sega and Nintendo were bitter rivals, no one would have thought that their hit characters Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario would team up in a game. But that’s exactly what happened when “Sonic and Mario at the Olympics” was announced in 2007. Sega and Nintendo announced it via a joint press release a couple of days prior to April 1, but fans just assumed there was no way it could be true.
4. Google introduced Gmail in 2004. Given Google’s propensity for April Fools Day pranks, plenty of people assumed they were just kidding. At the time, free e-mail with a whole gigabyte of storage was a completely new concept. The following year, they increased it to two gigs.
5. Let this be a lesson to us all: If you want people to take your death seriously, don’t die on April Fools’ Day (to be safe, the days leading up to April 1 should also be avoided). When the media reported the death of King George II of Greece on April 1, 1947, the public largely thought it was fake. But he had really died of arteriosclerosis.
6. Apparently the April 1, 1970, announcement of the AMC Gremlin was too laughable for people to consider real. After all, who would name a car that? And a car expected to compete with the VW bug was just silly. AMC was serious, though, and the Gremlin was produced from 1970-1978.
7. Also in 2003, two rival video game companies merged. Square was the company behind Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy (among other games) while Enix had versions of Tomb Raider and Riven (again, among lots of other things). But in truth, the two companies had been discussing and considering the merger for at least three years.
8. I doubt anyone thought this was an April Fools’ joke at the time, but I think it’s worth noting that Apple Computer was founded by Ronald Wayne and the Steves (Jobs and Wozniak) on April 1, 1976. Hmmm….coincidence that Woz was voted off of Dancing with the Stars on the eve of the 33rd anniversary of Apple? OK, it was. And he totally deserved it. He may be a great guy, but his dancing was terrible.
9. On March 31, 1946, officials released a tsunami warning in Hawaii and the Aleutian Islands. Many didn’t take the warnings seriously, but when a tsunami did indeed devastate the next day, 165 people were killed.
10. Another Google incident that wasn’t a prank: in 2007, the company sent an e-mail out to its employees at a NYC office warning that a python was loose in the facilities. Definitely sounds like a prank, I know, but it was true: an engineer kept a ball python named Kaiser in his cube and Kaiser escaped. The e-mail to employees apologized for the awkward timing and assured them that this was no April Fool stunt.