April Fool’s Day Prank Gone Bad — What’s in YOUR Water?

Here at Cutting Edge Haunted House in Fort Worth, we love a good April Fool’s Day joke as much as the next ghoul, but then, not everybody has our raucous sense of humor. We advise you to keep this in mind when selecting the target of your seasonal pranks. Here’s an example of a classic prank that nonetheless, was little appreciated by its intended victims.

On April 1st of 2002, two Kansas City disc jockeys decided to play an April Fools prank on their listeners by announcing that the water in the nearby town of Olathe contained high levels of dihydrogen monoxide, a naturally occurring substance which caused side effects such as urination, sweating and pruniness of the skin.

Okay, if you think back to science class, dihydrogen monoxide, or DHMO, is most commonly annotated as H2O — water.

At least 150 listeners who never made it past the sixth grade panicked and called the water department, while a further two dozen dialed 911.

Fast forward to April, 2013, two other DJs at Gator Country 101.9 in Lee County, Florida, decided this was a pretty good prank, and proceeded to tell listeners that dihydrogen monoxide was coming out of their water taps. This time the joke was on them. The station’s general manager didn’t find the joke funny, and pulled the two off the air in the middle of the show. The local water utility was forced to send out notices saying that the water was safe, and there was talk of possible felony charges being pursued against the pair of miscreant DJs. One public official explained “From my understanding, it is a felony to call in a false water quality issue.”

Sheesh, talk about not having a sense of humor!

In the end, no charges were filed, and the pair returned to the air after a three-day suspension. This particular hoax, however, actually dates back to 1983, when a weekly paper in Durand, Michigan announced in their April 1st edition that dihydrogen monoxide had been found in the city’s water pipes, warning that it was fatal if inhaled, and could produce blistering vapors.

In 1994, UC Santa Cruz student Craig Jackson started a parody organization, “Coalition to ban Dihydrogen Monoxide” and posted the following warnings about the pernicious substance on his website:

Dihydrogen monoxide:

• is also known as hydroxyl acid, and is the major component of acid rain.
• contributes to the “greenhouse effect”.
• may cause severe burns.
• contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
• accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals.
• may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes.
• has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.

Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:

• as an industrial solvent and coolant.
• in nuclear power plants.
• in the production of Styrofoam.
• as a fire retardant.
• in many forms of cruel animal research.
• in the distribution of pesticides. Even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical.
• as an additive in certain “junk-foods” and other food products.

And finally, the hoax gained widespread public attention in 1997 when 14-year-old Nathan Zohner gathered petitions to ban DHMO as the cornerstone of his science project, titled “How Gullible Are We?”

Pretty darned gullible, Nathan, pretty darned gullible.

Have a safe but humorous April Fools Day everybody!