April Fool’s Day is a chance to indulge in some light-hearted fun. Telling a colleague they have to come to work in a Hawaiian shirt, or rearranging your neighbour’s garden gnomes is just a bit of harmless fun, right? Playing such pranks has even been reported to help reduce stress, boost creativity and encourage teamwork.
But wilful tricks can also be a danger to your health, your property or your job. So, before you get too creative, consider the risks – and that any fallout will probably not be covered under accidental damage.
The most famous mass hoax came when Orson Welles inadvertently created havoc with his 1938 radio dramatisation of The War of the Worlds. The play simulated a series of news broadcasts announcing that the Earth was being invaded by Martians. Many listeners panicked, thinking it was actually happening. Newspapers reported millions of people fleeing the cities in fear of alien invasion, although later studies suggest this was an exaggeration.
The media is often keen to join in the April Fool’s spirit, with the BBC responsible for two of the best-ever hoaxes. In 1957 it ran a report on how Switzerland was enjoying a bountiful spaghetti harvest, complete with footage of trees draped in pasta. Viewers inundated the BBC seeking advice on how to grow it for themselves to which they were told to pop a piece of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.
Then, on April 1 2008, the BBC employed the latest video technology to produce a convincing news report about flying penguins migrating to the South American rainforests.
Although April Fool’s Day may bring out the media’s mischievous side, many people feel the rest of the year is game for a laugh, too – sometimes to their cost, as in these stories.
Are you insured against April Fools (and other pranks)?
Whether hoaxes and April Fools are successful or backfire, they can still leave you out of pocket for the damage caused.
A bunch of pals from Scotla
nd, for example, began a series of pranks culminating in one of the gang waking up on his 24th birthday to find his front door bricked up.
The following year, the same man, a die-hard Rangers fan, woke on his birthday to find his lawn, hedge, wheelie bin and car painted in the colours of rival football team Celtic.
Taking things too far can also be a risk. One senior manager ended up filing for early retirement and suing for damages after colleagues sent him a false memo while he was on holiday. The message said a report he was working on needed to be finished two weeks earlier than planned, so he cut short his holiday and ended up getting so worked up he experienced heart palpitations.
If you do pull a prank, you may be tempted to capture the hilarity on film. This, too, can backfire. A firefighter and his colleagues in Manchester were suspended from their jobs after he was filmed getting into a tumble drier and going for a spin.
The bad news is that if your friends do brick up your front door or paint your house in green and white stripes, you won’t be able to claim for it on your home insurance.
So, before you do something stupid, make sure it’s easily fixable, or your victim could come to you with a costly repair bill – making you the April fool.