Top 10 April Fools’ Day Hoaxes
Friday April 1st 2016
Many cultures celebrate the turn of the season beginning of April – Holi, Easter, Purim, Hilaria. But, culture and spring equinox aside, there is one more reason to celebrate – that’s April Fools’ Day!
The earliest record associating April 1st with practical jokes is in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in 1475, though April Fools’ Day origin remains uncertain. Many believe that after the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, those that still followed the old Julian calendar continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1st. These “traditionalists” were often tricked into a “fool’s errand” or believing something false on New Years Day (April 1st), and this led to the playful moniker April Fool.
People the world over enjoy tricks, pranks and the overall silliness that is part-and-parcel to April Fools’ Day. But, taking it up a notch from a fake pregnancy announcement and Post-it assault on a coworker’s car, are these top ten best – and a tinge scandalous – April Fools’ Day hoaxes:
- “The New Zealand Wasp Swarm” — 1 April 1949, Auckland radio DJ, Phil Shone warned his listeners that a mile-wide wasp swarm was headed towards Auckland, urging residents to take precautionary steps to protect themselves. This included: wearing their socks over their trousers and leaving honey-traps outside their doors. Heeding his advice, Auckland residents hurriedly prepared for the swarm. However, as panic grew, Shone finally admitted it was a practical joke. From then on, The New Zealand Broadcasting Service sent out a memo before April Fools’ Day, reminding radio stations to report, “nothing but the truth!”
- “Spaghetti Harvest” — 1 April 1957, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) news program, Panorama,announced that Swiss farmers were harvesting a record number of spaghetti trees, due to the eradication of the spaghetti weevil. News footage showed Swiss farmers harvesting noodles from spaghetti trees. Thousands of viewers were duped, with the BBC reportedly receiving hundreds of calls inquiring how to grow spaghetti trees!
- “Do-It-Yourself Colour TV” — 1 April 1962, there was only one television channel in Sweden and was shown in black and white, (as colour TV wasn’t widespread until 1966). The station announced that their “technical expert,” Kjell Stensson, was going to instruct viewers on how to project colour images on their black-and-white sets. Stensson went on to explain that a pair of pantyhose could bend the light in such a way that images would appear in colour, urging viewers to cut open a pair of pantyhose and tape it over their television screen. Thousands of viewers fell for the hoax, with many today recalling their parents (specifically their fathers) scouring the house to find pantyhose and stockings to tape over the TV!
- “Planetary Alignment” — 1 April 1976, during an interview on BBC Radio 2, astronomer Patrick Moore announced that a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to take place, wherein the planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter and temporarily cause a reduction in Earth’s gravity. Moore told listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment of this planetary alignment (9:47 AM), they would experience a floating sensation. The BBC received thousands of calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even reported she and 11 of her friends rose from their chairs and floated around the room.
- “San Serriffe: The Perfect Vacation Getaway” — 1 April 1977, The Guardian published a seven-page article about a small country located in the Indian Ocean, consisting of several islands that made the shape of a semi-colon known as, San Serriffe. The in-depth article discussed the two main islands: Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Included in the article was the history, geography and daily life on San Serriffe. The Guardian received countless calls from readers who wanted more information about the fictional idyllic holiday island!
- “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch” — 1 April 1985, Sports Illustrated writer, George Plimpton wrote an article about Hayden Siddhartha (Sidd) Finch. A “devoted student of yogic mastery with a fastball that cracked 165 miles per hour (270 km/h)” who was in training with the New York Mets. The ruse involved Mets’ pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre, who was photographed with an art teacher posing as the fake baseball player. The hoax evolved rapidly, as fans rejoiced at the revelation of their new player, sports editors of other newspapers complained that Sports Illustrated had “the inside scoop,” and general managers of other baseball teams began strategizing how their batters could face Finch. It wasn’t until April 15th that the magazine finally announced it was all a hoax.
- “The Taco Liberty Bell” — 1 April 1996, the Taco Bell Corporation took out a full-page ad in six major newspapers announcing it had purchased the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, and planned to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia to express their outrage, which prompted White House press secretary, Mike McCurry to respond that the Lincoln Memorial had been sold as well, and would be renamed the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial. A few hours later, Taco Bell calmed the uproar by revealing that it was all a practical joke!
- “Left-Handed Whopper” — 1 April 1998, Burger King (BK) ran an ad in USA Today announcing its new “Left-Handed Whopper,” specifically designed for left-handed customers, (rotating all condiments exactly 180 degrees). Thousands of consumers requested the “new” sandwich at BK restaurants, leading the chain to reveal the hoax the following day.
- “HUNDSTOL” — 1 April 2011, IKEA Australia unveiled the HUNDSTOL: a highchair for dogs. IKEA created a prototype complete with a hole in the back for the tail and built-in bowls for water and food. Going so far as to photograph the prototype for an ad. Australian media fell for the hoax and ran the ad in print, online and television. IKEA reported thousands of consumers calling to inquire about the product’s availability, until the hoax was revealed the following day.
- “John Green’s Not In The Stars” — 1 April 2015, Penguin Teen Australia made a faux Twitter announcement that they would be publishing John Green’s upcoming ebook: Not In The Stars, To Hold Our Destiny. Considering the time difference, many fans read the tweet on March 31st and were ecstatic about the release of the prequel to the mega-popular The Fault In Our Stars. Even Green’s other publishers were duped, prompting Green to rectify on his own twitter account that it was all in the spirit of April Fools’ Day!
Happy April Fooling!
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