How One of History’s Best April Fools’ Day Pranks Was Debunked

TIME

Although the exact origin of April Fools’ Day is uncertain, playing springtime pranks is a nearly universal custom, adopted around the globe and throughout history — perhaps, some have suggested, beginning with the Roman festival of Hilaria, which was celebrated by dressing up in disguise. Over the past century, April 1 hijinks have become a mainstay of Western culture.

One of the more legendary jokes came in 1934, when a German news magazine published a photo of a man on skis, propelling himself into the air by blowing into a straw to turn a pair of rotors. Many American newspapers were taken in by the hoax, including the New York Times, which ran the photo with the caption, “Man flies on his own power for the first time in history.”

TIME, however, was not fooled, as an article from later that month made clear:

Surely Pilot Kocher

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