by Ray Linville

Was the first of April a special day when you were growing up? It’s always been a day for innocent pranks and jokes.

Our area is filled with tricksters and mischief-makers. Probably the most notorious is Dr. John Dempsey, president of Sandhills Community College. When I started teaching there, I was totally unaware that he lives for the joy of being Chief Prankster on April Fool’s Day.

On my first April 1 as an instructor, I dutifully opened the email program on my desktop computer and saw a message from Dempsey at the top of unread messages. His message was so ominous, the tone so serious.

I no longer remember the specifics about the problem or Dr. Dempsey’s very logical solution. I’ve long since purged it from my memory, but I do remember that it worried me constantly while I was in my morning classes. At my first break, I read the message again-just to make sure that I hadn’t misinterpreted any detail.

Only then did I realize I probably wasn’t alone among the employees (particularly those in their first year at the college) who unsuspectedly believed every word. Several replies, fortunately sent “Reply to All,” commented on the “dire situation” and offered their own insights and solutions. Because their tone was not as ominous, even a novice could tell that a trick was being played.

Finally, after seeing “Best April Fool’s Day joke ever” in a reply, I breathed a sigh of relief, but the rest of the day I was shaking my head at how gullible I had been.

Of course, a year later, I repeated the same experience, much like Phil Connors in the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” when he finds himself in a time loop and repeats the same day over and over.

At least I had a break of 365 days before finding myself in the loop of believing another bogus “dire situation” in an April Fool’s Day message.

Time magazine annually reports online the best pranks of the year. You can use your favorite search engine now to find the best pranks for this year. In 2016, they included a chicken fries shake at a fast-food restaurant, self-driving bicycles, umbrellas for dogs and a free concert with tickets available by calling a politician’s campaign headquarters.

However, none of them ever match Dempsey’s creativity. If you know someone who works at the college, see if they fell for his prank this year-and be on guard yourself throughout the year for the pranksters that you know.


Linville writes about local connections to Southern food, history and culture. He can be reached at