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Somewhere tonight, a group of teenagers will order pizza.  A few pizzas, in fact, probably as many as 12.   They will order them for someone else, however; a prank, both on the pizza company (and its delivery person) and the would-be recipient of the pies.  It’s a tried-and-true April Fools’ Day prank — except that it’s most famous predecessor, one orders of magnitude more grand, occured in November.  November of either 1809 or 1810, depending on which source one believes.

That year, a British author by the name of Theodore Hook (above) made a bet with a friend: that he could turn an otherwise non-descript house on his block into the talk of the town.  His method: a massive letter writing campaign, ostensibly on behalf of a Mrs. Tottenham of 10 Berners Street, London, requesting … well, requesting everything, to come on November 27th.   By some accounts, Hook wrote hundreds of letters; by other accounts, thousands.

Either way, many requests were fulfilled.  By five A.M., a chimney sweep showed up at Mrs. Tottenham’s home, only to be turned away as mistaken.  He was followed by another, and another, and another, totalling a dozen.  Then came delivery after delivery of coal.  And then wedding cakes.  And beer.  Etc.

And then — because Hook had written that someone in the house was on his death bed — lawyers and doctors and priests.  Even the Duke of York arrived at some point during the day.

Hook won his bet, and later took public credit for the prank — but never faced prosecution.

Bonus fact: Pizza delivery drivers are engaged in one of the 10 most dangerous jobs out there (being employed as “drivers” generally), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2007.

Related reading: “51 High-Tech Practical Jokes for the Evil Genius,” published in 2007.  Received five stars but from only three reviews.  Kindle version available.

Originally published

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