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.
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.