4.1.15: History Of White House Pranks, Longest Running Wikipedia Hoax, & Swatting

Apr 1, 2015

Credit wetwebwork via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/prnBg

Abraham Lincoln famously said: you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. On today’s show we celebrate April Fools’ Day with some notable Presidential pranks.

Then, forget the days of the crank call, today’s kids are getting their kicks in a much more dangerous way: by dispatching swat teams on their enemies through phony 9-1-1 calls, and watching as the raids stream live on the internet. 

Listen to the full show or click read more for individual segments.

White House Pranks

  • The White House has a rich history of pranking and mischief. We asked Brady Carlson to share some of the funnier moments coming out of the oval office in honor of April Fools’ Day. Brady is our resident host of All Things Considered and author of the upcoming book Dead Presidents: An American Adventure.
  • Find our unofficial list of the best presidential pranks here.

Australia's Wikipedia Hoax

The Ugliest Little Mermaid

  • April Fools’ Day is all about deception – before you can pull a practical joke, you’ve got to catch the suspecting victim unawares. However, one of history’s best hoaxes relied on keeping people suspicious. This story comes to us from Backstory with the American History Guys – Brian BallowEd Airs, and Peter Onuff and their guest, historian Jay Cook.
  • You can listen to this story again at PRX.org.


  • Katherine Cross is a sociologist, video game critic, and writer. She joined us to talk about the practice of “swatting”, whereby a hoaxer convinces emergency dispatchers that an emergency response is needed at a target's house, in some cases SWAT teams, which is where the term comes from. You can read more on the subject on Katherine's blog: Nuclear Unicorn and at feministing.com.

Understanding The Placebo Effect

  • When it comes to measuring the placebo effect, which works better: fake acupuncture or fake pills? Ted Kaptchuk, is Director of a Harvard-wide  Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. We spoke to him in 2013.