April Fool’s Day is an annual celebration held on April 1st where people play practical jokes and pranks on unsuspecting “April fools”. Many go to great lengths to create elaborate April Fool’s Day hoaxes. For decades Newspapers, TV and Radio stations, and Web sites have carried out the April 1st tradition of reporting outrageous fictional stories that have fooled thousands. On this April Fool’s Day, check out this list we have put together with some of the most famous pranks ever played.
Spaghetti grows on trees: One of the most famous April Fool’s Day pranks of all time is the BBC’s famous “spaghetti harvest” segment. On April 1, 1957, a news broadcaster told his British audience that Ticino, a Swiss town near the Italian border, had had “an exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop” that year. They went on to explain that thanks to a very mild winter and the total elimination of the dreaded “spaghetti weevil”, it was one of the best harvests they had ever had. The camera cut to footage of people picking spaghetti off of trees and bushes, then sitting down at a table to eat some of their “home-grown spaghetti.” The BBC was deluged with requests from viewers who wanted to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. The BBC’s stock diplomatic answer was, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
Instant color TV: In 1962, the Swedish national network brought their technical expert onto the news to inform the public that, thanks to a new technology, viewers could convert their existing black-and-white sets to display color reception. At the time, there was only the one TV channel in Sweden, and it broadcast in black and white, so this was big news. The expert explained that all viewers had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their tv screen, and the mesh would cause the light to bend in such a way that it would appear as if the image was in color. He proceeded to demonstrate the process. Thousands of people were fooled by the broadcast, with many searching for stockings to place over their TV sets.
Decreasing Gravity: During an early-morning interview on BBC Radio 2, the British astronomer Patrick Moore announced that at 9:47 AM on April 1st, 1976, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur. He claimed that Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, and this planetary alignment would temporarily diminish the Earth’s gravity. Moore advised further that that if they leaped in the air at that exact moment, they would experience a fantastic floating sensation. The station received hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. it is said that one listener even called to report that she and her friends had floated from their chairs and hovered around the room.
San Seriff: On April 1, 1977 The British publication, the Guardian published a seven-page supplement detailing the idyllic features of a small island located in the Indian Ocean named San Serriffe. San Serriffe was said to consist of several semi-colon-shaped islands located in the Indian Ocean. The supllement contained a series of articles describing the geography and culture of this unknown nation. Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its capital was named Bodoni, and its leader was General Pica. The Guardian’s phones rang all day with calls from members of the public wanting to know more about this up-and-coming holiday destination, not knowing that the fake island was named after printer’s terminology.
An Iceberg in Sydney: Australian businessman Dick Smith had been talking about towing an iceberg from Antarctica to Sydney as a source of fresh water for areas prone to drought. By 1978, he hadn’t yet managed to do so, but instead decided it would make a great prank. He said that he was going to carve the berg into small ice cubes, which he would sell to the public for ten cents each. These fresh Antarctic cubes were promised to improve the flavor of any drink they entered. Smith and his co-conspirators docked a barge outside the harbor, and covered it with firefighting foam and shaving cream to mimic an iceberg. They started towing the creation toward the harbor and hundreds of Smith’s employees called in to local radio stations and newspapers to report seeing the “iceberg,” and soon the shoreline was packed with people. The media provided blow-by-blow coverage of the scene and christened the iceberg, “Dickenberg 1.” The prank was going well until it rained, and the foam and shaving cream on the fake iceberg began to wash away.
Nixon for President, Again: On April 1st, 1992 National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation reported that Richard Nixon was running for President again. The segment included a clip of Nixon announcing his candidacy and his new campaign slogan, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” Thousands of listeners were outraged by the announcement and responded by flooding the show with calls expressing shock and anger. During the second half of the show host John Hockenberry finally revealed that the announcement was a practical joke and that Nixon’s voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.
Taco Liberty Bell: In 1996, the Taco Bell Corporation took out a full-page ad that appeared in over a half dozen major newspapers across the U.S. announcing it had bought the Liberty Bell “in an effort to help the national debt.” The ad advised that the historic landmark would remain open to the American public, but would be renamed as the “Taco Liberty Bell.” Hundreds of outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell was housed to express their anger. Taco Bell revealed, a few hours later, that it was all a practical joke. When then-White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale he responded with a joke of his own. McCurry stated that the Ford Motor company was joining in the monument refurbishment effort and had purchased the Lincoln Memorial and accordingly, it would be renamed the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
The Left-handed Whopper: In 1998 Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu, a “Left-Handed Whopper” specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included all of the same ingredients as the original Whopper. However, the left-handed whopper had “all the condiments rotated 180 degrees, thereby redistributing the weight of the sandwich so that the bulk of the condiments will skew to the left, thereby reducing the amount of lettuce and other toppings from spilling out the right side of the burger.” In the days following, Burger King issued a follow-up release stating that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich.