April Fool, or the Evils of Deception

For the past week I've been researching the history of April Fools Day in order to revise and supplement the info I already have on the site. For instance, I've significantly revised my article about the origin of April Fool's Day. I think it's now just about the most thorough examination of this question in print -- which isn't saying much because most articles about the origin of April Fool's Day simply repeat the same old legends, and leave it at that.

In the course of this research I came across a book printed in 1852 by the Sunday-School Union of the Methodist Episcopal Church in New York titled April Fool; or, The Evils of Deception. I couldn't resist buying it. The preface states:

The custom of playing tricks on the first day of April is one of very general prevalence. Many persons encourage children to practice those tricks through a mistaken idea of their innocence. The object of this little book is to exhibit some of the evils of deception, even when practiced in a form so apparently harmless and so pleasing to many. It will also indicate to parents and teachers the decided opposition with which they ought to discountenance this, together with every other evil, and 'appearance of evil.' It is from such beginnings that the young too often have their morals corrupted, and their souls destroyed.

In the book we read of evil William, who likes to play tricks on strangers in the street. He sees some girls in the street and shouts out at them, "Run, run, girls, a horse is coming!" They start running (though there's no horse), and one of the girls, holding the hand of her little sister, "was so intent upon getting her out of danger, that she did not see a lamp-post, which was in her way, and struck her head against it with so much force that the blood gushed from her nose." (Too bad they didn't have padded lampposts back then.) Evil William snickers and yells out, "April fools."

Just in case we can't quite envision the scene, an illustration is provided, which shows the girl about to collide with the lamppost. We don't get to see the later scene of gushing blood. Thankfully, William later realizes the error of his ways, with some help from his Sunday-School teacher.

We also are told that liars "shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." So just think about that before planning any April Fool's Day hoaxes this year.

April Fools Day

Posted on Sun Mar 30, 2008


Sounds like a 19th Century Chick tract.

Posted by JoeDaJuggler  in  St. Louis, MO  on  Sun Mar 30, 2008  at  03:45 PM
Before you put too much stock in this tract Alex, I sugest to you that it was written with an agenda in mind. From my experience, those who want to push an agenda can take anything and twist it to their ends. There may not be a single shred of truth in what this tract says. For the real origins of April Fools Day I suggest the Simpson's episode that dealt with it.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Sun Mar 30, 2008  at  03:58 PM
So was the copy you bought an original? If it is you may need to exorcise it before it tries to take over your soul and the Alex we know and love is lost to us forever wink
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Sun Mar 30, 2008  at  05:45 PM
If some kid (with obvious intestinal distress) yelled: "Run, run, there's a horse coming" in my direction, you bet I'd run my little sister right into a lamp post. Actually, I'd run my little sister into a lamp post for pretty much any small reason, gushing of blood being the ultimate goal. Okay, I wouldn't actually drag her into a cast-iron lamp post. That would be cruel. I might be tempted to tie that bonnet down pretty good, so she can't see too well, and kinda just shove-her-a-little-bit in the direction of the post. The one with the sharp corners. And dog poop. Take my sister, please.
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sun Mar 30, 2008  at  05:53 PM
>>So was the copy you bought an original?<<

It was an original, and it seems to be one of the few copies of the book still in existence. I thought it was a bargain for only $35.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sun Mar 30, 2008  at  05:58 PM
Yo, Joedajugular: Dude, It took me a long while, but I just got your "Chick" reference. I'm ashamed, cuz my four or five Jack C. Chick religious propaganda comics are amongst my creepy favorites, and I should have gotten your reference straight away. For penance, I'll go read my favorite: "Scarface". Brrr
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sun Mar 30, 2008  at  06:59 PM
In the picture the boy on the left looks like he just got pantsed. So of course the girls are aghast in horror and running away.

Are all the other pranks as good as the horse one?
Posted by Tah  in  Idaho (Yes, Idaho)  on  Sun Mar 30, 2008  at  08:18 PM
For your general research, and as you probably know, in the Spanish-speaking world the day in which tricks are played on people is still 28 December, which basically corresponds to Saturnalia.
Posted by Enrique  in  Brussels  on  Mon Mar 31, 2008  at  01:55 AM
Not that I want to appear to side with a gentleman who imagines pranksters within one of the deeper circles of Hell, but he is of course right that some pranks are just not very nice and they aren't all harmless, either. William, for example, sounds like an immature little twit to me. Of course, if everybody who has ever been an immature little twit got sent to Hell, it would be quite a bit more crowded than I imagine it to be. Not that I have any direct information on this issue.

However, I would describe William's little jest as a practical joke rather than a prank. And I would also say that the good Rev. needs to differentiate a bit more than he appears to from Alex's description.

Fab title, I must say, and I do envy Alex his new possession. It's just so...so perfectly Victorian!
Posted by Kathleen  in  Indiana, USA  on  Mon Mar 31, 2008  at  07:57 AM
The story would have been more interesting if she had a concussion and died, and the parents took William to court. And then William went to prison and shared a cell with Big Foot.
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Mon Mar 31, 2008  at  08:45 AM
And then saw an image of Jesus in his gruel.
Posted by Kathleen  in  Indiana, USA  on  Mon Mar 31, 2008  at  09:51 AM
Enrique, December 28 is the feast of the "Holy Innocents" in the Roman Catholic Church. (The Innocents the Church means are the children massacred at Herod's command when he heard that a Messiah had been born, as recounted in the Gospel.) Somewhere along the line, good Hispanic Catholics decided to observe this Holy Day by exploiting the innocence of their friends and family.

This custom is quite popular in Mexico, where, according to my Mexican friends, the favorite stunt is to borrow money from somebody (who has presumably forgotten what day it is). When the lender asks for return of the loan, the reply is some equivalent of "April Fool!" ("December Fool"???)
Posted by Big Gary  in  La Joya, Texas  on  Mon Mar 31, 2008  at  12:35 PM
I've spent a good deal of time in Methodist Sunday schools (as both pupil and teacher), and this basic idea that fun = evil pretty well sums up a lot of their philosophy, especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries. That strain of Methodism is not very prevalent now, but can still be found.
Posted by Big Gary  in  San Benito, Texas  on  Mon Mar 31, 2008  at  12:39 PM
So, Alex, what are the chances of you scanning this publication and posting it on your site? I, for one, would LOVE to read it!
I'm sure you're way too busy to do this, but just thought I'd ask.
Posted by Charlie Richards  in  Los Angeles, CA  on  Mon Mar 31, 2008  at  03:17 PM
Hey, I have spiders in my pants! No, it is the Halley Comet! Look there! Okay, now I can see your epidermis! That looks like a henweigh, no? Ha ha ha, I am too sorry, but you are fools of April, right? Rrrraoul
Posted by Raoul  on  Mon Mar 31, 2008  at  10:59 PM
I'm afraid I snickered at the story - I'm obviously doomed for a fiery eternity in hell.
Posted by Nona  on  Tue Apr 01, 2008  at  06:00 AM
uhh... what the hell's a "henweigh"?
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Tue Apr 01, 2008  at  06:48 PM
About four pounds.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Turkey, Texas  on  Tue Apr 01, 2008  at  07:55 PM
(good post) smile
Posted by Diglee  on  Mon Sep 14, 2009  at  02:03 PM
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