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Some Pranks Backfire
April Fools' Day dates back centuries but its origins remain unclear.
The Museum of Hoaxes, a Web site set up by self-described "hoaxpert" Alex Boese in 1997, said references began to appear in the late Middle Ages.
But Boese said the most widespread theory about its origin dates back to late 16th century, when France switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar meaning the start of the year moved from late March to January 1.
Those who continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25 and April 1 had various jokes played on them -- but Boese said there was no evidence to back this.
He does, however, list the top 100 April Fools' Day hoaxes, which is headed by the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. This dates back to 1957 when the BBC news show Panorama announced Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop due to a mild winter with footage of Swiss peasants pulling spaghetti strands from trees.
But not all April Fools hoaxes work out.
The worst hoax, according to Boese, was in 1998 when a newspaper owned by Saddam Hussein's son Uday informed readers that U.S. President Bill Clinton had decided to lift sanctions against Iraq. It admitted later that it was just joking.
Boese said April Fools' Day has never been a widely celebrated tradition but he believed pranks were becoming more common with the Internet offering fertile ground.
"Also advertisers have come to realize that a funny prank can generate lots of good publicity," he said in an e-mail.
As for hoaxes that back-fired this year?
Police in the Australian state of Queensland are considering charging a woman who rang paramedics just after midnight claiming her baby had stopped breathing after falling off a bed. Two ambulances rushed to her house to find it was a hoax.
"This was a particularly insidious hoax call," said a statement from the emergency services department.