From the UP to the mitten’s thumb, residents of the Wolverine State have honed the practice of April Fool’s Day jokes into high art. Here are a few of my favorites.
The Sturgis Sega Signs
In 2003, the US was at war with Iraq and everyone’s mind was on terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction. That year in Sturgis, St. Joseph County, a group of young men decided to play an April Fool’s Day joke on their town and posted a bunch of signs that repeated a crazy-bad translation of a phrase from a Japanese Sega video game: All your base are belong to us. You have no chance to survive make your time. The phrase had become an Internet joke several years earlier, but most of the good citizens of Sturgis did not know that. The signs caused more than a little consternation in the town until their source was figured out.
Elkton’s Blue Alien
In 1958, people around Elkton reported that a short blue man that just had to be an alien was lurking around area roads. What they didn’t know was that three young men just home from military tours of duty had decided to capitalize on the nation-wide flying saucer craze and spoof their townsfolk that spring.
The trio made a costume out of a football helmet fitted with flashing lights and some long johns, boots and gloves all sprayed with blue paint.
One of the men, Jerry Sprague, was deemed best fit for the costume. On at least eight occasions, his friends drove him out in the country concealed in the trunk of a car, then let him out to trot along the ditches as amazed motorists drove by. People called the sheriff to describe the creature as anywhere from two to ten feet tall. One said it ran faster than a human and another said it was perched atop a telephone pole. The three finally confessed their prank to the local authorities who thought it was hilarious and let them go. Life Magazine wrote about the Elkton Alien in their May 1958 issue and the blue helmet was proudly in the Elkton barber shop for many years.
Why a blue alien? It was designed after a popular song released that year by Betty Johnson called “Little Blue Man.”
The Legend of the Dogman
In 1987, Traverse City DJ Steve Cook decided to create a legend as an April Fool’s Day joke for his listeners. He mashed up some old logging camp tales of an upright, doglike creature with a couple of recent news items and some totally invented features such as the claim the creature returned in the seventh year of every decade. He then recorded it as a spoken poem with a music track and played it as “The Legend.” People began calling the station saying the creature was no joke; they had seen it too. Twenty five years later — thanks to many eyewitnesses — the unknown upright canine known as the Dogman, Manwolf, Beast of Bray Road or Werewolf is a nation-wide phenomenon and the subject of several books by yours truly (Linda S. Godfrey).
In more recent years, Cook enacted a second hoax with a doctored Super 8 film of a blurry, charging quadruped he called The Gable Film that went viral on the Internet before Cook admitted on the Monsterquest TV show that it was a fake. That show, the series’ finale, aired March 24, 2010 – a week before April 1.
Author Linda Godfrey’s most recent book is The Michigan Dogman; Werewolves and Other Unknown Canines Across the USA.
YouTube has several versions of the Little Blue Man – this one is the most fun!