For better or worse, today is the day for pranks. Be on guard, then, for whoopee cushions, fake vomit and ringing alarm clocks. The Dispatch, meanwhile, is playing April Fools' Day straight: We asked readers to share their memories of April 1 high jinks, whether they were victim or culprit.

For better or worse, today is the day for pranks.

Be on guard, then, for whoopee cushions, fake vomit and ringing alarm clocks.

The Dispatch, meanwhile, is playing April Fools’ Day straight: We asked readers to share their memories of April 1 high jinks, whether they were victim or culprit.

Fake ’n’ bake

With his birthday falling on April 1, Mike Krall knew when to expect his surprise but was left guessing about what form it might take.

“Thanks to my mother’s inventiveness, cutting my birthday cake was always exciting,” the Columbus resident recalled.

Variously during his younger years, Krall, 66, sliced into iced Styrofoam squares, cardboard boxes covered with frosting and even a real cake with a balloon inside that exploded when his knife hit it.

Distance didn’t stop the antics.

In 1970, while stationed in Vietnam with the Marines, Krall received a birthday box from his mother, instructing him how to assemble his own cake using the enclosed square cake pan, a piece of foam rubber cut to fit and a can of chocolate icing.

“I gave the pan to a friend, used the foam rubber for a pillow and ate the chocolate icing — undoubtedly the best-tasting can of icing ever.”

‘Fatal’ infraction

Every year at this time, Mary Pash instinctively recalls the start of her career in the 1950s.

A recent graduate of the Columbus Office Training School, she was working in the payroll department at Kroger Co. on Cleveland Avenue when, upon returning from a break, she saw a note on her desk to call “Myra Mains.”

“Imagine my chagrin,” said the Bellefontaine resident, now 78, “to find all eyes on me as a local funeral home answered my call.”

Teacher’s pests

When Katie Wentzel returned home from school one particular day five years ago, her father winked at his wife, then looked sternly at Katie and told her that her English teacher had called.

“She immediately burst into a tirade about something that happened in class — something we, of course, knew nothing about,” Mrs. Wentzel recalled.

Katie, who had been struggling with English at Ridgeview Junior High, started crying and asked what her punishment would be.

When her parents responded with an “April Fools’!” and a little dancing, Katie didn’t seem to appreciate the merriment.

“She was furious,” her mom said, “and vowed to get us back.”

Today, Katie is a 17-year-old senior doing well at Pickerington Central High School — and her parents are still awaiting payback.

Spud-y sundae

Haston Conley dearly loved ice cream — a passion that, decades ago, inspired “an impish idea” from his wife.

Virginia Conley, now 87, recalled how she peeled, cooked, mashed and then froze some potatoes.

“Sneakiness didn’t come naturally to me, so it seemed ever-so-crafty and naughty.”

Later, she created her work of art: She scooped three round balls of potatoes and covered them with all the trimmings — chocolate syrup, whipped cream, cherries and walnuts. After dinner, she presented the “treat” to her husband.

Mr. Conley took a big bite — then quickly jumped up and ran to the sink, where he loudly spit out the mouthful.

In on the joke, the couple’s children, Dennis and Karyn, ran in laughing and yelling, “Happy April Fools’ Day, Dad!”

Mrs. Conley had another surprise in the freezer: a visual duplicate of her “potato” sundae, made with real ice cream.

“He was a happy camper,” she said of her husband, who died in 1992. “And when Dad was happy, everyone was happy.”

Double take

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the best April Fools’ “joke” of Debbie and Chuck Manofsky’s lives. Already the parents of three children, the couple discovered in 1988 that Debbie was pregnant again. Her doctor ordered an ultrasound at Riverside Methodist Hospital, where the couple bantered with the technician.

“It looked like a blob on the screen to us when I jokingly said: ‘As long as it’s not twins,’?” Mrs. Manofsky recalled.

When the technician said they were indeed having twins, the couple laughed.

“April Fools’, right?” Mrs. Manofsky replied.Realizing that the technician was serious, the couple were stunned.“Not only was the pregnancy a surprise,” Mrs. Manofsky said, “but the twins represented a double-whammy.”

Every year, the couple retell the story to twin daughters Anne and Kate.

Says their mother: “We feel truly blessed.”

Absent without leave

One supervisor, followed by a second and a third, called in sick to the Victoria’s Secret office, then on the Northeast Side.

Before she knew it, Mary Ellen Reser was the only one working that spring day in the 1990s.

“I thought: No problem, and wished them a speedy recovery,” recalled Reser, now 61 and a Dublin resident.

Thirty minutes later, all three supervisors — quite healthy — showed up.

Not to be outdone by their foolery, Reser sneaked into each supervisor’s desk, confiscated car keys and moved each car over two rows at opposite ends of the employee parking lot. Then she put the keys back.

Reser remembered leaving work early that night — to watch how things played out from her car.

When the supervisors walked to where they’d parked their cars and didn’t see them, they started panicking — until Reser honked her horn and shouted “April Fools’!”

“The four of us laughed so hard, we cried.”

Uneasy rider

When Pamela Sprigler and three of her roommates at Illinois State University learned that another roommate had an April 1 birthday, they decided to “give the gift that keeps ringing and ringing.”

A flier, posted the night before in dorms and around campus, pictured Lisa Daskiewicz (now Hillquist) dressed as a “rode-hard” biker during a Halloween party and invited people to call her on her birthday.

The calls to the party line shared by eight women in four dorm rooms started before midnight.

“Lisa couldn’t understand how they had gotten her number,” said Sprigler, an Upper Arlington resident.

The phone rang throughout the night, the next day and into the weekend.

Somehow, more than 25 years later, the two remain close friends.

“Happy birthday, Lisa,” Sprigler said. “You were a great sport.”

Unscheduled meeting

When April Fools’ Day fell on Sunday in the mid-1980s, a United Methodist pastor seized his chance for some fun.

First, though, Rev. Dr. Allan Colgan issued fair warning to his Johnston, Ohio, congregation by noting the holiday in the Sunday Bulletin for Johnston Federated United Methodist Church and mentioning it early in the service.

Then he announced a special post-service meeting to deal with a (very real) roof problem.

Afterward, while Colgan shook hands with departing parishioners, half the congregation remained sitting in the pews. When the church secretary said they were waiting for him to start the meeting, Colgan simply responded by asking them what day it was.

“They weren’t happy when they finally figured it out,” said Colgan, 68, now retired and living in Clintonville.

“They just weren’t paying attention and they got snookered.”

‘Timely’ gag

When his son was young, Joe Phillips devised what he was sure would be a fantastic gag: Setting the clocks ahead an hour, he and his wife woke their boy, told him they’d been trying to wake him and urged him to hurry in case he could catch the school bus.

Quite upset, the boy got his stuff together and rushed to the bus stop. When he saw no bus or classmates, his father appeared to wish him a happy April Fools’ Day.

“He sat down in the street and bawled,” Mr. Phillips said.

“I went over to him, apologized and sat in the street and bawled, too.”

Unscientific discovery

A university biology lab proved a fertile testing ground for an exciting April discovery.

Since 1988, Kathleen Sandman had been working in Ohio State University’s Department of Microbiology to develop genetic techniques for a species of microbe that’s difficult to grow in cultures. When she began to have some success around 2003, Sandman reported to her supervisor that she could observe a culture growing after overnight incubation.

Skeptical, he suggested that she perform a test to check whether the culture had been contaminated. Rather than performing the test right away, Sandman decided to email her boss the next day (April 1) with an “interesting” result: Her culture was contaminated by Anaeroplasma, a microbe that grows without oxygen.

Not having gotten an email reply for two hours, Sandman walked downstairs to her supervisor’s office.

“He jumped out of his chair and excitedly beckoned me to his desk,” said Sandman, who still works at OSU today. (She’s an assistant professor and program specialist in the microbiology department.)

“Ever the opportunist (and always in need of a new grant), he had spent the morning researching Anaeroplasma and its biotechnological potential, now that his lab had the capability to grow it."

Her boss was disappointed when she confessed the truth, but later told her that her prank was clever and funny.

‘The boss and I still chuckle over it,” she said.

Sick call

Out for happy hour on March 31 in the mid-1990s, Sandy Schoenfeld and about a dozen co-workers in her department of the OSU Medical Center decided to call in sick the next morning — and then all show up together.

“The secretaries and bosses were in an uproar as only one worker (who hadn’t joined the others the night before) showed up,” said Schoenfeld, a Columbus resident.

The worker innocently reinforced the prank by pointing out that the group had been out together and perhaps had contracted food poisoning.

“The bosses were desperately trying to call in help,” Schoenfeld said, “when we all walked in."

Unheard-of talent

In 1985, Sports Illustrated published a story in its April 1 issue about Sidd Finch, an unknown with vast potential for baseball.

Mike Dennis, a central Ohio fan of the sport, got excited.

“He was a country boy with unheard-of talent and some oddball ways who was going to pitch for the Mets ... I couldn’t wait to see this guy pitch,” said Dennis, a resident of Carroll, Ohio.

The only catch: The story was fake, printed by the magazine as an April Fools joke.

“I bought it hook, line and sinker,” said Dennis, 63.

“Even though (article writer) George Plimpton said Fitch could smash Coke bottles at 100 feet, I didn’t even imagine it was a hoax.”

Painful lesson

Columbus resident Peggy Hines, 74, stopped finding April Fools’ pranks funny in high school.

During her sophomore year in high school in Hartville, Ohio, near north Canton, Hines went to town to eat lunch with five school friends.

“This one girl was ready to cross the road and another girl said ‘Here comes a car.’ Then she said ‘April Fool,’” Hines recalled.

After the same prank was pulled three times in quick succession, the exasperated girl ignored her friends and started walking across the road.

“She got hit by a car and got hurt,” Hines said.

“After that, I never wanted to play April Fool on anyone.”