The Museum of Hoaxes
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April Fool's Day in the 1600s & 1700s
Escape of the Duke of Lorraine. (1634)
During the Thirty Years' War, the Duke of Lorraine and his wife were held as prisoners within the walls of Nancy, the capital city of Lorraine, at the orders of the King of France. But on April 1, 1634, the Duke and Duchess escaped by disguising themselves as peasants and walking out through the front gate of the city. Their escape was almost foiled when a peasant recognized them and ran to tell a soldier, who communicated the news to his commanding officer. However, it being April 1st, the officer thought he was being made an April Fool (or a Poisson d'Avril, as the French say) and didn't believe the report. By the time the French realized the report of the escape wasn't a joke, the Duke More…
Bickerstaff’s Predictions. (1708)
An almanac released by Isaac Bickerstaff in February 1708 predicted that a rival astrologer, John Partridge, would die on March 29 of that year. On March 31st Bickerstaff released a follow-up pamphlet announcing that his prediction had come true. Partridge was dead. Partridge (who was still very much alive) was woken on April 1st by a sexton outside his window announcing the news of his death. Isaac Bickerstaff was actually a pseudonym for Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels. Swift’s intention was to embarrass and discredit Partridge, apparently because he was annoyed by the astrologer’s attacks upon the church. More…
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