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A Look Back at Texas' Unfunniest April Fools' Jokes


It’s April Fools' Day, the holiday that not only celebrates but encourages folks to play jokes and pranks on their loved ones and coworkers.

Sometimes, those jokes and pranks don’t turn out so well. So in honor of April Fools' Day, this Wayback Wednesday looks back on the jokes and pranks in Texas’ history that, even if they landed at the time, would likely fall flat today.

A Hat and a Hard Place

In 1857 one particular act of “innocent humbuggery” took place downtown, involving a hat, a rock and a Congress Avenue sidewalk. An unknown prankster placed an old hat in the middle of the sidewalk, which was “closely fitting and concealing a rock.” Inexplicably, pedestrians were “almost sure to aim to kick at the obstacle before him,” according to the Texas State Times. The Times’ coverage noted that those ensnared by the prank cursed like “our army in Flanders,” but could did not elaborate as to why pedestrians were so keen to kick a hat in the middle of the sidewalk.

An April Expulsion

In 1880, 70 students of Southwestern University skipped school on April Fools' Day “solely for the purpose of mirth,” as they put in a letter to the Weekly Democratic Statesman. Outraged, the school’s first president, Francis Asbury Mood, drafted a contract for all the students to sign in which they admitted fault for offending the faculty, the president and the community. About 20 students signed the contract. The other 50 were expelled permanently. Realizing the fledgling university depended on private money, and that professors needed to be paid with said money, Mood allowed the students to return after signing the document to “promise, as gentlemen, to discountenance in future any similar demonstrations.”

Southwestern's first president, F.A. Mood, suspended 70 students for skipping school on April Fool's Day in 1880.

A Photoshop Too Far

In 1962, the Houston Chronicle published a photo in Texas Magazine of the San Jacinto Monument in ruins. However, the state’s largest monument — it’s 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument — hadn’t actually crumbled. “And, man, what a crash! You could hear it all the way to Austin,” the magazine wrote. “Even in the chambers where the legislators couldn’t dig up the money to repair it when it started crumbling.” The Onion-esque write-up was a call for more maintenance funding for the monument commemorating the Texas Revolution’s final battle.

From Austin to Boston, With Love

In 1971, Waco Rep. Tom Moore, Jr. filed a House resolution honoring Massachusetts resident Albert DeSalvo, better known as confessed mass killer the "Boston Strangler." Moore’s bill commemorated DeSalvo’s work in “population control” and “applied psychology." And like many resolutions honoring individuals, it passed.  In addition to being a macabre attempt at April Fool’s humor, Moore’s bill sought to highlight the fact that some legislation, namely House resolutions, often goes unread.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.