April 1, 1974 - Sitka wakes up to a legendary prank

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) April Fool's Day - a day where pranksters and jokesters display their best hijinks.

April 1, 1974 - Nearly 100 burning tires strike fear in Sitka residents, concerning possible eruption of the Mount Edgecumbe volcano.

One of the best documented pranks in recent memory, took place nearly 50 years ago in Southeast Alaska

On April 1st, 1974, Sitka residents awoke to black smoke rising from the top of Mount Edgecumbe, a volcano over 3,200 feet high that has been dormant for about 9,000 years.

Eruption would be disastrous for the remote town, wiping it out in moments.

Residents and public officials scrambled and emergency dispatches were ringing off the hook. A Coast Guard Helicopter rushed to the scene to investigate, only to see about 100 rubber tires burning, with 50-foot letters in spray paint spelling out "April Fool's" near the crown of the volcano.

"Mt. Edgecumbe really dominants Sitka Sound, it is so much a part of the area, it is not something that goes unnoticed," Hal Spackman, executive director of the Sitka History Museum said over the phone on April Fool's Day 2020. "For somebody to actually go and make people think that the thing was going to explode, it's something that people still talk about to this day. It is a top 10 prank."

Oliver "Porky" Bickar, a Sitka prankster, was the man behind the spoof that that people still bring up when discussing great April Fool's hoaxes nearly 50 years later.

As legend has it, Bickar had been planning this prank for four years prior, but had to wait until a clear April 1 day, which came in 1974.

"Porky and his compadres, known as the 'Dirty Dozen', figured out a way to get a helicopter service to transport tires over to the volcano and then drop them down there and they torched it off, and the rest is local history that has spread far and wide," Spackman said, who moved to Sitka in 1990.

"They had an interesting sense of humor that some appreciate more than others...he was always brewing up something, it wasn't unlike him and his group to do this," Spackman said of Porky, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 79. "He was a very jolly character and was always looking for a prank or something funny or something noticeable, that is just what he's like."

The Guardian lists the Mt. Edgecumbe hoax as one of the '10 best April Fools pranks' in a 2012 article.

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