From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]


Top 100 April Fools Day Hoaxes
(as judged by notoriety, absurdity, and number of people duped)

#1: The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
spaghetti harvest In 1957 the respected BBC news show Panorama
announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual
elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were
enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement
with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from
trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in, and many called up
wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. To this
question, the BBC diplomatically replied that they should “place a
sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
Check out the actual broadcast archived on the BBC’s website (You need
the RealVideo player installed to see it, and it usually loads very
slowly). -More-
Comments (66)

#2: Sidd Finch
Sidd Finch In its April 1985 edition, Sports Illustrated published a
story about a new rookie pitcher who planned to play for the Mets. His
name was Sidd Finch and he could reportedly throw a baseball with
startling, pinpoint accuracy at 168 mph (65 mph faster than anyone
else has ever been able to throw a ball). Surprisingly, Sidd Finch had
never even played the game before. Instead, he had mastered the “art
of the pitch” in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the “great
poet-saint Lama Milaraspa.” Mets fans everywhere celebrated at their
teams’s amazing luck at having found such a gifted player, and Sports
Illustrated was flooded with requests for more information. But in
reality this legendary player only existed in the imagination of the
writer of the article, George Plimpton. -More-
Comments (28)

#3: Instant Color TV
image In 1962 there was only one tv channel in Sweden, and it
broadcast in black and white. The station’s technical expert, Kjell
Stensson, appeared on the news to announce that thanks to a newly
developed technology, all viewers could now quickly and easily convert
their existing sets to display color reception. All they had to do was
pull a nylon stocking over their tv screen, and they would begin to
see their favorite shows in color. Stensson then proceeded to
demonstrate the process. Reportedly, hundreds of thousands of people,
out of the population of seven million, were taken in. Actual color tv
transmission only commenced in Sweden on April 1, 1970.
Comments (61)

#4: The Taco Liberty Bell
Taco Liberty BellIn 1996 the Taco Bell Corporation announced that it
had bought the Liberty Bell from the federal government and was
renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens
called up the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell is
housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco
Bell revealed that it was all a practical joke a few hours later. The
best line inspired by the affair came when White House press secretary
Mike McCurry was asked about the sale, and he responded that the
Lincoln Memorial had also been sold, though to a different
corporation, and would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury
Memorial. -More-
Comments (45)

#5: San Serriffe
image In 1977 the British newspaper The Guardian published a special
seven-page supplement in honor of the tenth anniversary of San
Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of
several semi-colon-shaped islands. A series of articles affectionately
described the geography and culture of this obscure nation. Its two
main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its capital was
Bodoni, and its leader was General Pica. The Guardian’s phones rang
all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday
spot. Few noticed that everything about the island was named after
printer’s terminology. The success of this hoax is widely credited
with launching the enthusiasm for April Foolery that then gripped the
British tabloids in the following decades.
Comments (29)

#6: Nixon for President
In 1992 National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation program announced
that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President
again. His new campaign slogan was, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I
won’t do it again.” Accompanying this announcement were audio clips of
Nixon delivering his candidacy speech. Listeners responded viscerally
to the announcement, flooding the show with calls expressing shock and
outrage. Only during the second half of the show did the host John
Hockenberry reveal that the announcement was a practical joke. Nixon’s
voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.
Comments (18)

#7: Alabama Changes the Value of Pi
The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason
newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state
legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant
pi from 3.14159 to the ‘Biblical value’ of 3.0. Before long the
article had made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly made
its way around the world, forwarded by people in their email. It only
became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama
legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting
the legislation. The original article, which was intended as a parody
of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was
written by a physicist named Mark Boslough.
Comments (64)

#8: 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
the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato,
hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180
degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following
day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the
Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into
restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to
the press release, “many others requested their own ‘right handed’
Comments (44)

#9: Hotheaded Naked Ice Borers
Hotheaded Naked Ice BorerIn its April 1995 issue Discover Magazine
announced that the highly respected wildlife biologist Dr. Aprile
Pazzo had discovered a new species in Antarctica: the hotheaded naked
ice borer. These fascinating creatures had bony plates on their heads
that, fed by numerous blood vessels, could become burning hot,
allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speeds. They used
this ability to hunt penguins, melting the ice beneath the penguins
and causing them to sink downwards into the resulting slush where the
hotheads consumed them. After much research, Dr. Pazzo theorized that
the hotheads might have been responsible for the mysterious
disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson in 1837.
“To the ice borers, he would have looked like a penguin,” the article
quoted her as saying. Discover received more mail in response to this
article than they had received for any other article in their history.
Comments (41)

#10: Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity
In 1976 the British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2
that at 9:47 AM a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to
occur that listeners could experience in their very own homes. The
planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a
gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth’s
own gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air
at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would
experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 AM arrived, BBC2
began to receive hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to
have felt the sensation. One woman even reported that she and her
eleven friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the
Comments (91)

#11: UFO Lands in London
Branson’s UFO Balloon On March 31, 1989 thousands of motorists driving
on the highway outside London looked up in the air to see a glowing
flying saucer descending on their city. Many of them pulled to the
side of the road to watch the bizarre craft float through the air. The
saucer finally landed in a field on the outskirts of London where
local residents immediately called the police to warn them of an alien
invasion. Soon the police arrived on the scene, and one brave officer
approached the craft with his truncheon extended before him. When a
door in the craft popped open, and a small, silver-suited figure
emerged, the policeman ran in the opposite direction. The saucer
turned out to be a hot-air balloon that had been specially built to
look like a UFO by Richard Branson, the 36-year-old chairman of Virgin
Records. The stunt combined his passion for ballooning with his love
of pranks. His plan was to land the craft in London’s Hyde Park on
April 1. Unfortunately, the wind blew him off course, and he was
forced to land a day early in the wrong location.
Comments (32)

#12: Kremvax
In 1984, back in the Stone Age of the internet, a message was
distributed to the members of Usenet (the online messaging community
that was one of the first forms the internet took) announcing that the
Soviet Union was joining Usenet. This was quite a shock to many, since
most assumed that cold war security concerns would have prevented such
a link-up. The message purported to come from Konstantin Chernenko
(from the address chernenko [at] kremvax [dot] UUCP) who explained that the
Soviet Union wanted to join the network in order to “have a means of
having an open discussion forum with the American and European
people.” The message created a flood of responses. Two weeks later its
true author, a European man named Piet Beertema, revealed that it was
a hoax. This is believed to be the first hoax on the internet. Six
years later, when Moscow really did link up to the internet, it
adopted the domain name ‘kremvax’ in honor of the hoax.
Comments (6)

#13: The Predictions of Isaac Bickerstaff
In February 1708 a previously unknown London astrologer named Isaac
Bickerstaff published an almanac in which he predicted the death by
fever of the famous rival astrologer John Partridge. According to
Bickerstaff, Partridge would die on March 29 of that year. Partridge
indignantly denied the prediction, but on March 30 Bickerstaff
released a pamphlet announcing that he had been correct: Partridge was
dead. It took a day for the news to settle in, but soon everyone had
heard of the astrologer’s demise. On April 1, April Fool’s Day,
Partridge was woken by a sexton outside his window who wanted to know
if there were any orders for his funeral sermon. Then, as Partridge
walked down the street, people stared at him as if they were looking
at a ghost or stopped to tell him that he looked exactly like someone
they knew who was dead. As hard as he tried, Partridge couldn’t
convince people that he wasn’t dead. Bickerstaff, it turned out, was a
pseudonym for the great satirist Jonathan Swift. His prognosticatory
practical joke upon Partridge worked so well that the astrologer
finally was forced to stop publishing his almanacs, because he
couldn’t shake his reputation as the man whose death had been
Comments (17)

#14: The Eruption of Mount Edgecumbe
In 1974 residents of Sitka, Alaska were alarmed when the long-dormant
volcano neighboring them, Mount Edgecumbe, suddenly began to belch out
billows of black smoke. People spilled out of their homes onto the
streets to gaze up at the volcano, terrified that it was active again
and might soon erupt. Luckily it turned out that man, not nature, was
responsible for the smoke. A local practical joker named Porky Bickar
had flown hundreds of old tires into the volcano’s crater and then lit
them on fire, all in a (successful) attempt to fool the city dwellers
into believing that the volcano was stirring to life. According to
local legend, when Mount St. Helens erupted six years later, a Sitka
resident wrote to Bickar to tell him, “This time you’ve gone too far!”
Comments (29)

#15: The Case of the Interfering Brassieres
In 1982 the Daily Mail reported that a local manufacturer had sold
10,000 “rogue bras” that were causing a unique and unprecedented
problem, not to the wearers but to the public at large. Apparently the
support wire in these bras had been made out of a kind of copper
originally designed for use in fire alarms. When this copper came into
contact with nylon and body heat, it produced static electricity
which, in turn, was interfering with local television and radio
broadcasts. The chief engineer of British Telecom, upon reading the
article, immediately ordered that all his female laboratory employees
disclose what type of bra they were wearing.
Comments (12)

#16: Wisconsin State Capitol Collapses
In 1933 the Madison Capital-Times solemnly announced that the
Wisconsin state capitol building lay in ruins following a series of
mysterious explosions. The explosions were attributed to “large
quantities of gas, generated through many weeks of verbose debate in
the Senate and Assembly chambers.” Accompanying the article was a
picture showing the capitol building collapsing. By modern standards
the picture looks slightly phony, but readers in 1933 were fooled-and
outraged. One reader wrote in declaring that the hoax “was not only
tactless and void of humor, but also a hideous jest.”
Comments (11)

#17: The Sydney Iceberg
Sydney Iceberg On April 1, 1978 a barge appeared in Sydney Harbor
towing a giant iceberg. Sydneysiders were expecting it. Dick Smith, a
local adventurer and millionaire businessman (owner of Dick Smith’s
Foods), had been loudly promoting his scheme to tow an iceberg from
Antarctica for quite some time. Now he had apparently succeeded. 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 well-traveled
cubes, fresh from the pure waters of Antarctica, were promised to
improve the flavor of any drink they cooled. Slowly the iceberg made
its way into the harbor. Local radio stations provided excited blow-by-
blow coverage of the scene. Only when the berg was well into the
harbor was its secret revealed. It started to rain, and the
firefighting foam and shaving cream that the berg was really made of
washed away, uncovering the white plastic sheets beneath.
Comments (14)

#18: The 26-Day Marathon
26 day marathon runner In 1981 the Daily Mail ran a story about an
unfortunate Japanese long-distance runner, Kimo Nakajimi, who had
entered the London Marathon but, on account of a translation error,
thought that he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. The Daily Mail
reported that Nakajimi was now somewhere out on the roads of England,
still running, determined to finish the race. Supposedly various
people had spotted him, though they were unable to flag him down. The
translation error was attributed to Timothy Bryant, an import
director, who said, “I translated the rules and sent them off to him.
But I have only been learning Japanese for two years, and I must have
made a mistake. He seems to be taking this marathon to be something
like the very long races they have over there.”
Comments (29)

#19: Webnode
In 1999 a press release was issued over Business Wire announcing the
creation of a new company called Webnode. This company, according to
the release, had been granted a government contract to regulate
ownership of ‘nodes’ on the ‘Next Generation Internet.’ Each of these
nodes (there were said to be over 50 million of them) represented a
route that data could travel. The company was licensed to sell each
node for $100. Nodes would increase in value depending on how much
traffic they routed, and owners would also receive usage fees based on
the amount of data that flowed across their section of the internet.
Therefore, bidding for the nodes was expected to become quite intense.
Offers to buy shares in Webnode soon began pouring in, but they all
had to be turned down since the company was just a prank. There really
was a Next Generation Internet, but there were no nodes on it.
Business Wire didn’t find the prank amusing and filed suit against its
perpetrators for fraud, breach of contract, defamation, and
Comments (13)

#20: 15th Annual New York City April Fool’s Day Parade
In 2000 a news release was sent to the media stating that the 15th
annual New York City April Fool’s Day Parade was scheduled to begin at
noon on 59th Street and would proceed down to Fifth Avenue. According
to the release, floats in the parade would include a “Beat ’em, Bust
’em, Book ’em” float created by the New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle
police departments. This float would portray “themes of brutality,
corruption and incompetence.” A “Where’s Mars?” float, reportedly
built at a cost of $10 billion, would portray missed Mars missions.
Finally, the “Atlanta Braves Baseball Tribute to Racism” float would
feature John Rocker who would be “spewing racial epithets at the
crowd.” CNN and the Fox affiliate WNYW sent television news crews to
cover the parade. They arrived at 59th Street at noon only to discover
that there was no sign of a parade, at which point the reporters
realized they had been hoaxed. The prank was the handiwork of Joey
Skaggs, an experienced hoaxer. Skaggs had been issuing press releases
advertising the nonexistent parade every April Fool’s Day since 1986.
Comments (18)

#21: Whistling Carrots
In 2002 the British supermarket chain Tesco published an advertisement
in The Sun announcing the successful development of a genetically
modified ‘whistling carrot.’ The ad explained that the carrots had
been specially engineered to grow with tapered airholes in their side.
When fully cooked, these airholes caused the vegetable to whistle.
Comments (7)

#22: Arm the Homeless
In 1999 the Phoenix New Times ran a story announcing the formation of
a new charity to benefit the homeless. There was just one catch.
Instead of providing the homeless with food and shelter, this charity
would provide them with guns and ammunition. It was named ‘The Arm the
Homeless Coalition.’ The story received coverage from 60 Minutes II,
the Associated Press, and numerous local radio stations before
everyone realized it was a joke. The Phoenix New Times’s joke was
actually a reprise of a 1993 prank perpetrated by students at Ohio
State University. -More-
Comments (8)

#23: Guinness Mean Time
In 1998 Guinness issued a press release announcing that it had reached
an agreement with the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England to
be the official beer sponsor of the Observatory’s millennium
celebration. According to this agreement, Greenwich Mean Time would be
renamed Guinness Mean Time until the end of 1999. In addition, where
the Observatory traditionally counted seconds in “pips,” it would now
count them in “pint drips.” The Financial Times, not realizing that
the release was a joke, declared that Guinness was setting a “brash
tone for the millennium.” When the Financial Times learned that it had
fallen for a joke, it printed a curt retraction, stating that the news
it had disclosed “was apparently intended as part of an April 1
Comments (3)

#24: Drunk Driving on the Internet
An article by John Dvorak in the April 1994 issue of PC Computing
magazine described a bill going through Congress that would make it
illegal to use the internet while drunk, or to discuss sexual matters
over a public network. The bill was supposedly numbered 040194 (i.e.
04/01/94), and the contact person was listed as Lirpa Sloof (April
Fools backwards). The article said that the FBI was going to use the
bill to tap the phone line of anyone who “uses or abuses alcohol”
while accessing the internet. Passage of the bill was felt to be
certain because “Who wants to come out and support drunkenness and
computer sex?” The article offered this explanation for the origin of
the bill: “The moniker ‘Information Highway’ itself seems to be
responsible for SB 040194… I know how silly this sounds, but
Congress apparently thinks being drunk on a highway is bad no matter
what kind of highway it is.” The article generated so many outraged
phone calls to Congress that Senator Edward Kennedy’s office had to
release an official denial of the rumor that he was a sponsor of the
Comments (16)

#25: New Zealand Wasp Swarm
In 1949 Phil Shone, a New Zealand deejay for radio station 1ZB,
announced to his listeners that a mile-wide wasp swarm was headed
towards Auckland. He urged them to take a variety of steps to protect
themselves and their homes from the winged menace. For instance, he
suggested that they wear their socks over their trousers when they
left for work, and that they leave honey-smeared traps outside their
doors. Hundreds of people dutifully heeded his advice, until he
finally admitted that it had all been a joke. The New Zealand
Broadcasting Service was not amused by Shone’s prank. Its director,
Professor James Shelley, denounced the hoax on the grounds that it
undermined the rules of proper broadcasting. From then on, a memo was
sent out each year before April Fool’s Day reminding New Zealand radio
stations of their obligation to report the truth, and nothing but the
Comments (9)

#26: Tass Expands Into American Market
In 1982 the Connecticut Gazette and Connecticut Compass, weekly
newspapers serving the Old Lyme and Mystic areas, both announced that
they were being purchased by Tass, the official news agency of the
Soviet Union. On their front pages they declared that this was “the
first expansion of the Soviet media giant outside of the Iron
Curtain.” The article also revealed that after Tass had purchased the
Compass, its two publishers had both been killed by “simultaneous
hunting accidents” in which they had shot each other in the back of
the head with “standard-issue Soviet Army rifles.” The announcement
was bylined “By John Reed,” and the new publisher, Vydonch U. Kissov,
announced that the paper would be “thoroughly red.” In response to the
news, the offices of the Compass and the Gazette received calls
offering condolences for the death of the publishers. One caller also
informed them that he had long suspected them of harboring communist
tendencies, and that it was only a matter of time before all the
papers in the country were communist-controlled. When the publishers
tried to explain that the article had been an April Fool’s prank, the
caller replied, “You expect me to believe a bunch of Commies?”
Comments (14)

#27: Michigan Shark Experiment
In 1981 the Herald-News in Roscommon, Michigan reported that 3 lakes
in northern Michigan had been selected to host “an in-depth study into
the breeding and habits of several species of fresh-water sharks.” Two
thousand sharks were to be released into the lakes including blue
sharks, hammerheads, and a few great whites. The experiment was
designed to determine whether the sharks could survive in the cold
climate of Michigan. The federal government was said to be spending
$1.3 million to determine this. A representative from the National
Biological Foundation was quoted as saying that there would probably
be a noticeable decline in the populations of other fish in the lake
because “the sharks will eat about 20 pounds of fish each per day,
more as they get older.” County officials were said to have protested
the experiment, afraid of the hazard it would pose to fishermen and
swimmers, but their complaints had been ignored by the federal
government. Furthermore, fishermen had been forbidden from catching
the sharks. The Herald-News received a flurry of letters in response
to the announcement.
Comments (4)

#28: Operation Parallax
In 1979 London’s Capital Radio announced that Operation Parallax would
soon go into effect. This was a government plan to resynchronize the
British calendar with the rest of the world. It was explained that
ever since 1945 Britain had gradually become 48 hours ahead of all
other countries because of the constant switching back and forth from
British Summer Time. To remedy this situation, the British government
had decided to cancel April 5 and 12 that year. Capital Radio received
numerous calls as a result of this announcement. One employer wanted
to know if she had to pay her employees for the missing days. Another
woman was curious about what would happen to her birthday, which fell
on one of the cancelled days.
Comments (9)

#29: PhDs Exempt From China’s One-Child Policy
In 1993 the China Youth Daily, an official state newspaper of China,
announced on its front page that the government had decided to make
Ph.D. holders exempt from the state-imposed one-child limit. The logic
behind this decision was that it would eventually reduce the need to
invite as many foreign experts into the country to help with the
state’s modernization effort. Despite a disclaimer beneath the story
identifying it as a joke, the report was repeated as fact by Hong
Kong’s New Evening News and by Agence France-Presse, an international
news agency. Apparently what made the hoax seem credible to many was
that intellectuals in Singapore are encouraged to marry each other and
have children, and China’s leaders are known to have great respect for
the Singapore system. The Chinese government responded to the hoax by
condemning April Fool’s Day as a dangerous Western tradition. The
Guangming Daily, Beijing’s main newspaper for intellectuals, ran an
editorial stating that April Fool’s jokes “are an extremely bad
influence.” It went on to declare that, “Put plainly, April Fool’s Day
is Liar’s Day.”
Comments (8)

#30: Space Shuttle Lands in San Diego
In 1993 Dave Rickards, a deejay at KGB-FM in San Diego, announced that
the space shuttle Discovery had been diverted from Edwards Air Force
Base and would instead soon be landing at Montgomery Field, a small
airport located in the middle of a residential area just outside of
San Diego. Thousands of commuters immediately headed towards the
landing site, causing enormous traffic jams that lasted for almost an
hour. Police eventually had to be called in to clear the traffic.
People arrived at the airport armed with cameras, camcorders, and even
folding chairs. Reportedly the crowd swelled to over 1,000 people. Of
course, the shuttle never landed. In fact, the Montgomery Field
airport would have been far too small for the shuttle to even consider
landing there. Moreover, there wasn’t even a shuttle in orbit at the
time. The police were not amused by the prank. They announced that
they would be billing the radio station for the cost of forcing
officers to direct the traffic.
Comments (17)

#31: The Spiggot Metric Boycott
In 1973 Westward Television, a British TV studio, produced a
documentary feature about the village of Spiggot. As the documentary
explained, the stubborn residents of this small town were refusing to
accept the new decimal currency recently adopted by the British
government, preferring instead to stick with the traditional
denominations they had grown up with. As soon as the documentary was
over, the studio received hundreds of calls expressing support for the
brave stand taken by the villagers. In fact, many of the callers
voiced their intention to join in the anti-decimal crusade.
Unfortunately for this burgeoning rebellion, the village of Spiggot
did not exist.
Comments (3)

#32: The True Age of Britney Spears
In 1999 the Wall of Sound music website reported that Britney Spears
was actually eleven years older than popularly believed, making her 28
instead of 17. The revelation followed on the heels of a controversial
cover for Rolling Stone which had shown the young Spears in a
seductive pose. The Wall of Sound’s report included many specific
details. For instance, it alleged that Spears was actually born
Belinda Sue Spearson in West Baton Rouge on August 7, 1970, and that
she had attended Robert E. Lee High School. Former classmates were
said to be willing to confirm Spears’ true age. The hoax prompted
hundreds of people to call Spears’ record label inquiring about her
Comments (13)

#33: An Interview with President Carter
In 2001 Michael Enright, host of the Sunday Edition of the Canadian
Broadcasting Corpation’s radio program This Morning, interviewed
former President Jimmy Carter on the air. The interview concerned
Canada’s heavily subsidized softwood lumber industry, about which
Carter had recently written an editorial piece in The New York Times.
The interview took a turn for the worse when Enright began telling
Carter to speed up his answers. Then Enright asked, “I think the
question on everyone’s mind is, how did a washed-up peanut farmer from
Hicksville such as yourself get involved in such a sophisticated
bilateral trade argument?” Carter seemed stunned by the insult.
Finally he replied, “Excuse me? A washed-up peanut farmer? You’re one
to talk, sir. Didn’t you used to be on the air five times a week?” The
tone of the interview did not improve from there. Carter ended up
calling Enright a “rude person” before he hung up. Enright then
revealed that the interview had been fake. The Toronto comedian Ray
Landry had been impersonating Carter’s voice. The interview generated
a number of angry calls from listeners who didn’t find the joke funny.
But the next day the controversy reached even larger proportions when
the Globe and Mail reported the interview as fact on their front
pages. The editor of the Globe and Mail later explained that he hadn’t
realized the interview was a hoax because it was “a fairly strange
issue and a strange person to choose as a spoof.”
Comments (8)

#34: Around the World for 210 Guineas
1972 was the 100-year anniversary of Thomas Cook’s first round the
world travel tour. To commemmorate the occasion, the London Times ran
a full article about Cook’s 1872 tour, in which it noted that the
vacation had cost the participants only 210 guineas each, or
approximately $575. Of course, inflation had made a similar vacation
quite a bit more expensive by 1972. A few pages later, the Times
included a small article noting that in honor of the 100-year
anniversary, the travel agent Thomas Cook was offering 1000 lucky
people the chance to buy a similar package deal at 1872 prices. The
offer would be given to the first 1000 people to apply. The article
noted that applications should be addressed to “Miss Avril Foley.” The
public response to this bargain-basement offer was swift and
enthusiastic. Huge lines of people formed outside the Thomas Cook
offices, and the travel agent was swamped with calls. Belatedly the
Times identified the offer as an April Fool’s joke and apologized for
the inconvenience it had caused. The people who had waited in line for
hours were, to put it mildly, not amused. The reporter who wrote the
article, John Carter, was fired (though he was later reinstated).
Comments (3)

#35: Big Ben Goes Digital
In 1980 the BBC reported that Big Ben, in order to keep up with the
times, was going to be given a digital readout. It received a huge
response from listeners protesting the change. The BBC Japanese
service also announced that the clock hands would be sold to the first
four listeners to contact them, and one Japanese seaman in the mid-
Atlantic immediately radioed in a bid.
Comments (9)

#36: Discovery of the Bigon
In 1996 Discover Magazine reported on the discovery by physicists of a
new fundamental particle of matter. This particle, dubbed the Bigon,
could only be coaxed into existence for mere millionths of a second,
but amazingly, when it did materialize it was the size of a bowling
ball. Physicist Albert Manque and his colleagues accidentally found
the particle when a computer connected to one of their vacuum-tube
experiments exploded. Video analysis of the explosion revealed the
Bigon hovering over the computer for a fraction of a second. Manque
theorized that the Bigon might be responsible for a host of other
unexplained phenomena such as ball lightning, sinking souffles, and
spontaneous human combustion. Discover received huge amounts of mail
in response to the story.
Comments (7)

#37: Dutch Elm Disease Infects Redheads
In 1973 BBC Radio broadcast an interview with an elderly academic, Dr.
Clothier, who discoursed on the government’s efforts to stop the
spread of Dutch Elm Disease. Dr. Clothier described some startling
discoveries that had been made about the tree disease. For instance,
he referred to the research of Dr. Emily Lang of the London School of
Pathological and Environmental Medicine. Dr. Lang had apparently found
that exposure to Dutch Elm Disease immunized people to the common
cold. Unfortunately, there was a side effect. Exposure to the disease
also caused red hair to turn yellow and eventually fall out. This was
attributed to a similarity between the blood count of redheads and the
soil conditions in which affected trees grew. Therefore, redheads were
advised to stay away from forests for the foreseeable future. Dr.
Clothier was in reality the comedian Spike Milligan.
Comments (2)

#38: Hawaiian Tax Refund
In 1959, as Hawaii was being admitted into the Union as the 50th
state, a Hawaiian radio station announced that Congress had passed an
amendment to the Statehood Bill refunding all federal income taxes
that the Pacific Islanders had paid during the previous year.
Thousands of people believed the announcement, and the backlash when
they realized that there was no refund coming their way was enormous.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, which had nothing to do with the hoax,
took the opportunity to self-righteously declare that it would never
publish an April Fool’s Day story again.
Comments (1)

#39: The Euro Anthem
In 1999 the Today program on BBC Radio 4 announced that the British
National anthem (“God Save the Queen”) was to be replaced by a Euro
Anthem sung in German. The new anthem, which Today played for their
listeners, used extracts from Beethoven’s music and was sung by pupils
of a German school in London. Reportedly, Prince Charles’s office
telephoned Radio 4 to ask them for a copy of the new anthem. St. James
Palace later insisted that it had been playing along with the prank
and had never been taken in by it.
Comments (2)

#40: Internet Spring Cleaning
In 1997 an email message spread throughout the world announcing that
the internet would be shut down for cleaning for twenty-four hours
from March 31 until April 2. This cleaning was said to be necessary to
clear out the “electronic flotsam and jetsam” that had accumulated in
the network. Dead email and inactive ftp, www, and gopher sites would
be purged. The cleaning would be done by “five very powerful Japanese-
built multi-lingual Internet-crawling robots (Toshiba ML-2274)
situated around the world.” During this period, users were warned to
disconnect all devices from the internet. The message supposedly
originated from the “Interconnected Network Maintenance Staff, Main
Branch, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” This joke was an
updated version of an old joke that used to be told about the phone
system. For many years, gullible phone customers had been warned that
the phone systems would be cleaned on April Fool’s Day. They were
cautioned to place plastic bags over the ends of the phone to catch
the dust that might be blown out of the phone lines during this
Comments (20)

#41: Don’t Disturb the Squirrels
In 1993 Westdeutsche Rundfunk, a German radio station, announced that
officials in Cologne had just passed an unusual new city regulation.
Joggers going through the park would be required to pace themselves to
go no faster than six mph. Any faster, it was felt, would
unnecessarily disturb the squirrels who were in the middle of their
mating season.
Comments (7)

#42: Canadian Finance Minister Quits to Breed Cows and Ducks
In 2002 a rumor was posted on a Canadian gossip website,,
alleging that the finance minister, Paul Martin, was quitting his job
in order to breed “prize Charolais cattle and handsome Fawn Runner
ducks.” Martin, it was said, would be showing his livestock at a local
fair in Havelock, a tiny Quebec town boasting a population of only
811. The Bank of Canada was also said to be ready to intervene in case
the news rattled the currency markets. Of course, as soon as the word
of Martin’s retirement began to spread, the markets did get rattled,
and the Canadian dollar promptly fell to its lowest level in a month.
The currency only recovered once the minister’s office denied the
rumor. Pierre Bourque, the man behind, readily admitted
the story had been a hoax. “The ducks,” he pointed out, “were the tell-
tale sign.”
Comments (3)

#43: Tasmanian Mock Walrus
In 1984 the Orlando Sentinel featured a story about a creature known
as the Tasmanian Mock Walrus (or TMW for short) that many people in
Florida were adopting as a pet. The creature was only four inches
long, resembled a walrus, purred like a cat, and had the temperament
of a hamster. What made it such an ideal pet was that it never had to
be bathed, it used a litter box, and it ate cockroaches. In fact, a
single TMW could entirely rid a house of its cockroach problem.
Reportedly, some TMWs had been smuggled in from Tasmania, and there
were efforts being made to breed them, but the local pest-control
industry was pressuring the government not to allow them into the
country, fearing they would put cockroach exterminators out of
business. Dozens of people called the paper trying to find out where
they could obtain their own TMW. A picture of the Tasmanian Mock
Walrus was included with the article, but what the picture actually
showed was a real creature-the Naked Mole Rat. The Tasmanian Mock
Walrus was entirely fictitious.
Comments (10)

#44: Daylight Savings Contest
In 1984 the Eldorado Daily Journal, based in Illinois, announced a
contest to see who could save the most daylight for daylight savings
time. The rules of the contest were simple: beginning with the first
day of daylight savings time, contestants would be required to save
daylight. Whoever succeeded in saving the most daylight would win.
Only pure daylight would be allowed-no dawn or twilight light, though
light from cloudy days would be allowed. Moonlight was strictly
forbidden. Light could be stored in any container. The contest
received a huge, nationwide response. The paper’s editor was
interviewed by correspondents from CBS and NBC and was featured in
papers throughout the country.
Comments (6)

#45: Retrobreeding the Woolly Mammoth
In 1984 Technology Review published an article titled “Retrobreeding
the Woolly Mammoth” that described an effort by Soviet scientists to
bring the woolly mammoth species back from extinction. The technique
being used was the insertion of DNA from woolly mammoths found frozen
in Siberian ice into elephant cells. The cells were then brought to
term inside surrogate elephant mothers. The head of the project was
said to be Dr. Sverbighooze Yasmilov. The story was widely reported as
a factual event.
Comments (21)

#46: Hong Kong Powdered Water
In 1982 the South China Morning Post announced that a solution to Hong
Kong’s water shortage was at hand. Scientists, it said, had found a
way to drain the clouds surrounding the island’s peak of their water
by electrifying them via antennae. The paper warned that this might
have a negative impact on surrounding property values, but the
government had approved the project nevetheless. Furthermore, more
clouds could be attracted to the region by means of a weather
satellite positioned over India. And finally, as a back-up, packets of
powdered water imported from China would be distributed to all the
residents of Hong Kong. A single pint of water added to this powdered
water would magically transform into ten pints of drinkable water.
Hong Kong’s radio shows were flooded with calls all day from people
eager to discuss these solutions to the water shortage. Many of the
calls were very supportive of the plans, but one woman pointed out
that the pumps needed to supply powdered water would be too
complicated and expensive.
Comments (8)

#47: British Weather Machine
In 1981 the Manchester Guardian reported that scientists at Britain’s
research labs in Pershore had “developed a machine to control the
weather.” The article, titled “Britain Rules the Skies,” explained
that “Britain will gain the immediate benefit of long summers, with
rainfall only at night, and the Continent will have whatever Pershore
decides to send it.” Readers were also assured that Pershore
scientists would make sure that it snowed every Christmas in Britain.
Accompanying the article was a picture of a scruffy-looking scientists
surrounded by scientific equipment. The picture was captioned, “Dr.
Chisholm-Downright expresses quiet satisfaction as a computer printout
announced sunshine in Pershore and a forthcoming blizzard over
Comments (5)

#48: Mount Milton Erupts
In 1980 the Channel 7 news in Boston ended with a special bulletin
announcing that a 635-foot hill in Milton, Massachusetts, known as the
Great Blue Hill, had erupted, and that lava and ash were raining down
on nearby homes. Footage was shown of lava pouring down a hillside.
The announcer explained that the eruption had been triggered by a
geological chain reaction set off by the recent eruption of Mount St.
Helens in Washington. An audio tape was played of President Carter and
the Governor of Massachusetts declaring the eruption to be a “serious
situation.” At the end of the segment, the reporter held up a sign
that read “April Fool.” But by that time local authorities had already
been flooded with frantic phone calls from Milton residents. One man,
believing that his house would soon be engulfed by lava, had carried
his sick wife outside in order to escape. The Milton police continued
to receive worried phone calls well into the night. Channel 7 was so
embarrassed by the panicked reaction that they apologized for the
confusion later that night, and the executive producer responsible for
the prank was fired.
Comments (12)

#49: FatSox
In 2000 the British Daily Mail announced that Esporta Health Clubs had
launched a new line of socks designed to help people lose weight.
Dubbed “FatSox,” these revolutionary socks could actually suck body
fat out of sweating feet. The invention promised to “banish fat for
ever.” The socks employed a patented nylon polymer called
FloraAstraTetrazine that had been “previously only applied in the
nutrition industry.” The American inventor of this polymer was
Professor Frank Ellis Elgood. The socks supposedly worked in the
following way: as a person’s body heat rose and their blood vessels
dilated, the socks drew “excess lipid from the body through the
sweat.” After having sweated out the fat, the wearer could then simply
remove the socks and wash them, and the fat, away.
Comments (10)

#50: Solar Complexus Americanus
In 1995 the Glasgow Herald described the recent arrival in Britain of
a new energy-saving miracle: heat-generating plants. These plants,
known by the scientific name Solar Complexus Americanus, were imports
from Venezuela. One plant alone, fed by nothing more than three pints
of water a day, generated as much heat as a 2kw electric fire. A few
of these horticultural wonders placed around a house could entirely
eliminate the need for a central-heating system. And when submerged in
water, the plants created a constant supply of hot water. The
Scandinavian botanist responsible for discovering these hot-air
producers was none other than Professor Olaf Lipro (an anagram of
April Fool).
Comments (1)

#51: Smellovision
In 1965 BBC TV featured an interview with a professor who had just
invented a device called “smellovision.” This miraculous technology
allowed viewers to experience directly in their own home aromas
produced in the television studio. The professor offered a
demonstration by cutting some onions and brewing coffee. A number of
viewers called in to confirm that they distinctly experienced these
scents as if they were there in the studio with him. Since no aromas
were being transmitted, whatever these viewers thought they smelled
coming out of their tv sets must be chalked up to the power of
Comments (13)

#52: Thomas Edison Invents Food Machine
After Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, Americans firmly
believed that there were no limits to his genius. Therefore, when the
New York Graphic announced in 1878 that Edison had invented a machine
that could transform soil directly into cereal and water directly into
wine, thereby ending the problem of world hunger, it found no shortage
of willing believers.
Newspapers throughout America copied the article, heaping lavish
praise on Edison. The conservative Buffalo Commercial Advertiser was
particularly effusive in its praise, waxing eloquent about Edison’s
brilliance in a long editorial. The Graphic took the liberty of
reprinting the Advertiser’s editorial in full, placing above it a
simple, two-word headline: “They Bite!”
Comments (5)

#53: Washing the Lions at the Tower of London
Late in March 1860 numerous people throughout London received the
following invitation: “Tower of London-Admit Bearer and Friend to view
annual ceremony of Washing the White Lions on Sunday, April 1, 1860.
Admittance only at White Gate. It is particularly requested that no
gratuities be given to wardens or attendants.” By twelve o’clock on
April 1 a large crowd had reportedly gathered outside the tower. But
of course, lions hadn’t been kept in the tower for centuries,
particularly not white liions. Therefore the crowd eventually snuck
away disappointed. This prank had a very long pedigree. It had often
been perpetrated (on a smaller scale) on unsuspecting out-of-towners,
and an instance of it is recorded from as far back as 1698.
Comments (1)

#54: Titanic Replica Cruises English Channel
In 2001 hundreds were lured out to a windy, treacherous outlook atop a
cliff in Beachy Head, East Sussex in the hopes of catching a glimpse
of a replica of the Titanic (constructed by the AFD Construction
company) sail past through the English Channel. The fact that much of
the land had been made off limits to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth
disease did not deter them. They came anyway, many of them driving
from 30 or 40 miles away. They had learned about the chance to see the
Titanic from a deejay broadcasting on Southern FM radio. So many
showed up that the cliffs actually developed a crack from their
weight. A few days later portions of the cliffs collapsed into the
water, but luckily by that time everyone had long gone.
Comments (9)

#55: Portable Zip Codes
In 2004 National Public Radio’s All Things Considered announced that
the post office had begun a new ‘portable zip codes’ program. This
program, inspired by an FCC ruling that allowed phone users to take
their phone number with them when they moved, would allow people to
also take their zip code with them when they moved, no matter where
they moved to. It was hoped that with this new program zip codes would
come to symbolize “a citizen’s place in the demographic, rather than
geographic, landscape.” Assistant Postmaster General Lester Crandall
was quoted as saying, “Every year millions of Americans are on the go:
People who must relocate for work or other reasons. Those people may
have been quite attached to their original homes or an adopted town or
city of residence. For them this innovative measure will serve as an
umbilical cord to the place they love best.”
Comments (4)

#56: Y2K CD Bug
In 1999 a Canadian radio station, in conjunction with Warner Music and
Universal Music Group, informed its listeners that the arrival of Y2K
would render all CD players unable to read music discs created before
the year 2000. Luckily, the deejay said, there was a solution.
Hologram stickers were available that would enable CD players to read
the old-format discs. These stickers would be sold for approximately
$2 apiece. Furious listeners, outraged at the thought of having to pay
$2 for the stickers, immediately jammed the phones of both the radio
station and the record companies, demanding that the stickers be given
away for free. They continued to call even after the radio station
revealed that the announcement was a joke.
Comments (4)

#57: IPO for F/rite Air
By April 2000 the bubble was rapidly deflating. This didn’t
deter hundreds of Dutch investors from lining up to buy shares in F/
rite Air, which was being billed as a hot new technology company
backed by supporters such as Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and George Soros.
The announcement about the company’s IPO was posted on, a
financial web site for Dutch investors. It was reported that shares in
the IPO could be reserved for $18 each by email, although it was said
that analysts anticipated the stock soaring to above $80 on the first
day of its filing. The company seemed like a sure thing, and almost
immediately orders worth over $7 million flooded in. The orders didn’t
stop coming in even after the newspapers had revealed the IPO to be an
April Fool’s Day joke. F/rite air was a pun for ‘Fried air’ (i.e. Hot
Comments (1)

#58: Chewy Vodka Bars
In 1994 Itar-Tass reported that an alcoholic beverage company had
invented a new kind of candy sure to be a favorite with the Russian
people: chewy Vodka Bars. These bars, designed to compete with Mars
and Snickers bars, would come in three flavors-lemon, coconut, and
salted cucumber. The same company was also said to be perfecting
another new product: instant vodka in tea bags.
Comments (7)

#59: Nat Tate
A lavish party was held at Jeff Koons’s New York studio in 1998 to
honor the memory of the late, great American artist Nat Tate, that
troubled abstract expressionist who destroyed 99 percent of his own
work before leaping to his death from the Staten Island ferry. At the
party superstar David Bowie read aloud selections from William Boyd’s
soon-to-be released biography of Tate, “Nat Tate: An American Artist,
1928-1960.” Critics in the crowd murmured appreciative comments about
Tate’s work as they sipped their drinks. The only catch was that Tate
had never existed. He was the satirical creation of William Boyd.
Bowie, Boyd, and Boyd’s publisher were the only ones in on the joke.
Comments (8)

#60: La Fornication Comme Une Acte Culturelle
In 1972 listeners to England’s Radio 3 program In Parenthesis were
treated to a roundtable discussion of a few cutting-edge new works of
social anthropology and musicology. First up was a discussion of La
Fornication Comme Une Acte Culturelle by Henri Mensonge (translated as
Henry Lie). This book argued that “we live in an age of metaphorical
rape” in which “confrontation, assault, intrusion, and exposure are
becoming validated transactions, the rites of democracy, of mass
society.” This sparked a blisteringly incomprehensible debate, which
eventually segued into an exploration of the question “Is ‘Is’ Is?”
Finally, the audience heard a rousing deconstruction of the ‘arch
form’ of the sonata’s first motif. Listeners seemed to accept the
program’s discussion as a legitimate exploration of new trends in the
arts. Thankfully, it was a parody.
Comments (13)

#61: Freewheelz
The April 2000 issue of Esquire magazine introduced its readers to an
exciting new company called Freewheelz. This company had a novel
business plan. It intended to provide drivers with free cars. In
exchange, the lucky drivers had to agree both to the placement of
large advertisements on the outside of their vehicle and to the
streaming of advertisements on the radio inside their car. Strict
criteria limited the number of people eligible to receive a free car.
Not only did you have to guarantee that you would drive over 300 miles
a week, you also had to complete a 600-question survey that probed
into personal information such as your political affiliations and
whether you were concerned about hair loss. Finally you had to submit
your family’s tax returns, notarized video-store-rental receipts, and
a stool sample. The entire article, written by Ted Fishman, was a
satire of the much-touted “new economy” spawned by the internet.
Attentive readers would have caught on to the joke if they had noticed
that Freewheelz’s official rollout on the web was slated to occur on
April 1. But readers who didn’t notice this tip-off flooded the
offices of Esquire with calls, demanding to know how they could sign
up to drive a free minivan. The satire also went over the head of the
CEO’s of a number of real internet start-ups with business plans
similar to that of the fictitious Freewheelz, companies such as Mobile
Billboard Network,, and Larry Butler, the
CEO of, later confessed to Fishman that he was so scared
at the prospect of this new competition that he cried when he first
read the article.
Comments (6)

#62: M3 Zebra Crossing
In 2000 early morning commuters travelling on the northern carriageway
of the M3 near Farnborough, Hampshire encountered a pedestrian zebra
crossing painted across the busy highway. The perpetrator of the prank
was unknown. A police spokesman speculated that the prank, “must have
been done very early in the morning when there was little or no
traffic on the motorway.” Maintenance workers were quickly summoned to
remove the crossing, which was apparently not too difficult to do
since the pranksters had used emulsion paint rather than gloss. The
police noted that, surprisingly, they had received no calls from the
public about the crossing.
Comments (1)

#63: Total Home Remote Electricity
Total Home Remote Electricity In 1999 executives at 130 major
companies received a professionally designed package of information
about an exciting new product: Total Home Remote Electricity. Forget
wireless computers. This technology, created by Ottmar Industries of
Switzerland, allowed electricity itself to be beamed wirelessly
anywhere within a house. Simply plug one of the small “projectors”
into a wall outlet, and a safe electrical “aura” would envelop the
home. Then attach a converter to any appliance, and the appliance
would be able to receive power at any location within the aura, even
outside on the roof. “Did you ever imagine making toast on your roof?”
the promotional material asked. Accompanying the ads was a letter that
included a phone number the executives could call for more
information. Reportedly, about 30 people called the number, including
three high-level executives. But the number really connected them to
the advertising agency, Hoffman york, that had sent out the fake ad as
an April Fool’s Day publicity stunts.
Comments (10)

#64: Y2K Solved
In 1999 the Singapore Straits Times reported that a 17-year-old high
school student had one-upped all the major software corporations of
the world by creating a small computer program that would easily solve
the Y2K bug. The camera-shy C student had supposedly devised the
program in twenty-nine minutes while solving an algebra problem for
his homework. His family and a technology consulting group were
reportedly forming a joint venture named ‘Polo Flair’ in order to
commercialize the discovery. They anticipated achieving revenues of
$50 million by the end of the year. Numerous journalists and computer
specialists contacted the Straits Times, seeking more information
about the boy genius and his Y2K cure. One journalist even wanted to
know if the boy would be willing to appear on TV, despite the fact
that he was camera shy. Unfortunately the boy and his ingenious
program didn’t exist. Quick-witted readers would have noticed that
‘Polo Flair’ was an anagram for ‘April Fool.’
Comments (1)

#65: Smaugia Volans
The April 1, 1998 online edition of Nature Magazine revealed the
discovery of “a near-complete skeleton of a theropod dinosaur in North
Dakota.” The discovery was referred to in an article by Henry Gee
discussing the palaeontological debate over the origin of birds. The
dinosaur skeleton had reportedly been discovered by Randy Sepulchrave
of the Museum of the University of Southern North Dakota. The exciting
part of the discovery, according to the article, was that “The
researchers believe that the dinosaur, now named as Smaugia volans,
could have flown.” In actuality, the University of Southern North
Dakota does not exist, though it has been made famous by Peter
Schickele who refers to it as the location where the music of the
obscure eighteenth-century composer PDQ Bach was first performed;
Smaug was the name of the dragon in Tolkein’s The Hobbit; and
Sepulchrave was the name of the 76th Earl of Groan in Mervyn Peake’s
Titus Groan. This Earl, believing that he was an owl, leapt to his
death from a high tower, discovering too late that he could not fly.
Comments (3)

#66: Life Discovered on Jupiter
In 1996 AOL subscribers who logged onto the service were greeted by a
news flash announcing that a “Government source reveals signs of life
on Jupiter.” The claim was backed up by statements from a planetary
biologist and an assertion by Ted Leonsis, AOL’s president, that his
company was in possession of documents proving that the government was
hiding the existence of life on the massive planet. The story quickly
generated over 1,300 messages on AOL. A spokesman for the company
later explained that the hoax had been intended as a tribute to Orson
Welles’s 1938 Halloween broadcast of the War of the Worlds.
Comments (3)

#67: Euro Disney Lenin
In 1995 the Irish Times reported that the Disney Corporation was
negotiating with the Russian government to purchase the embalmed body
of communist leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The body has been kept on
display in Red Square since the leader’s death. Disney proposed moving
the body and the mausoleum to the new Euro Disney, where it would be
given the “full Disney treatment.” This would include displaying the
body “under stroboscopic lights which will tone up the pallid face
while excerpts from President Reagan’s ‘evil empire’ speech will be
played in quadrophonic sound.” Lenin t-shirts would also be sold.
Disney anticipated that this attraction would attract more visitors to
the theme park, significantly boosting profits which had been weak
since the park’s opening. The Russians were said to be agreeable to
the sale of Lenin’s body. But a controversy had erupted about the sale
of the mausoleum. Liberal groups wanted to keep the mausoleum empty
“to symbolize the ’emptiness of the Communist system,'” while Russian
nationalists wanted to transform it into a memorial to Tsar Nicholas
Comments (4)

#68: Corporate Tattoos
In 1994 National Public Radio’s All Things Considered program reported
that companies such as Pepsi were sponsoring teenagers to tattoo their
ears with corporate logos. In return for branding themselves with the
corporate symbol, the teenagers would receive a lifetime 10% discount
on that company’s products. Teenagers were said to be responding
enthusiastically to this deal.
Comments (6)

#69: One-way Highway
In 1991 the London Times announced that the Department of Transport
had finalized a plan to ease congestion on the M25, the circular
highway surrounding London. The capacity of the road would be doubled
by making the traffic on both carriageways travel in the same
direction. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays the traffic would
travel clockwise; while on Tuesdays and Thursdays it would travel anti-
clockwise. The plan would not operate on weekends. It was said that
the scheme was almost certain to meet with the cabinet’s approval,
despite voices of protest coming from some quarters. One of the
protestors included a spokesman for Labour Transport who reportedly
warned that “Many drivers already have trouble telling their left from
their right.” Also, a resident of Swanley, Kent was quoted as saying,
“Villagers use the motorway to make shopping trips to Orpington. On
some days this will be a journey of two miles, and on others a journey
of 117 miles. The scheme is lunatic.” Thankfully, the scheme existed
only in the minds of the writers at the Times.
Comments (2)

#70: Baltimore Gold Rush
In 1998 hundreds showed up in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor hoping to
receive some free gold. They had heard on WQSR’s morning show that a
box full of gold coins had been found hidden inside the decking of the
old sailing vessel the Constellation, which was on display at the
harbor. After using some of the gold to pay for repairs to the ship,
the management of the Constellation Restoration Committee had decided
to give the rest away to Maryland residents. Anyone showing up with a
valid Maryland driver’s license would be given a free gold coin. And
show up they did, many driving miles to get there (and paying to park
at the harbor, in addition). In fact, the Constellation Restoration
Committee hadn’t existed for over twenty years.
Comments (5)

#71: Man Flies By Own Lung Power
In 1934 the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung ran an article about a
miraculous new invention that allowed men to fly using their lung
power as the sole source of propulsion. Users of the device simply
blew into a box attached to their chest. This activated rotors that
created a powerful suction effect that then lifted the user up into
the air. Skis were worn as landing gear. Accompanying the article was
a photograph of the device in action. The picture was picked up and
widely distributed in the United States by International News Photo.
Comments (1)

#72: Miller Lites
In 2000 Miller Beer announced that it had struck an agreement with the
town of Marfa, Texas to become the exclusive sponsor of the phenomenon
known as the Marfa Mystery Lights. These are spherical lights which
appear south of the town each evening, seeming to bounce around in the
sky. They’re variously rumored to be caused by ghosts, swamp gas, or
uranium (though they’re probably caused by the headlights from the
nearby highway). Miller announced that under the terms of the
agreement the Marfa Lights would be renamed the Miller Lites. The
local paper, which was in on the joke, printed the news on its front
Comments (1)

#73: The Origin of April Fool’s Day
In 1983 the Associated Press reported that the mystery of the origin
of April Fool’s Day had finally been solved. Joseph Boskin, a History
professor at Boston University, had discovered that the celebration
had begun during the Roman empire when a court jester had boasted to
Emperor Constantine that the fools and jesters of the court could rule
the kingdom better than the Emperor could. In response, Constantine
had decreed that the court fools would be given a chance to prove this
boast, and he set aside one day of the year upon which a fool would
rule the kingdom. The first year Constantine appointed a jester named
Kugel as ruler, and Kugel immediately decreed that only the absurd
would be allowed in the kingdom on that day. Therefore the tradition
of April Fools was born. News media throughout the country reprinted
the Associated Press story. But what the AP reporter who had
interviewed Professor Boskin for the story hadn’t realized was that
Boskin was lying. Not a word of the story was true, which Boskin
admitted a few weeks later. Boston University issued a statement
apologizing for the joke, and many papers published corrections.
Comments (2)

#74: The Musendrophilus
In 1975 the famous naturalist David Attenborough reported on BBC Radio
3 about a group of islands in the Pacific known as the Sheba Islands.
He played sound recordings of the island’s fauna, including a
recording of an alleged night-singing tree mouse called the
Musendrophilus. He also described a species whose webbed feet were
prized by inhabitants of the island as reeds for musical instruments.
Unfortunately, the night-singing tree mice were merely products of
Attenborough’s imagination, perhaps inspired by that old yarn about
the Tree Squeaks, that North American species which lives high in the
trees and squeaks every time the wind blows.
Comments (0)

#75: World to End Tomorrow
On March 31, 1940 the Franklin Institute issued a press release
stating that the world would end the next day. The release was picked
up by radio station KYW which broadcast the following message: “Your
worst fears that the world will end are confirmed by astronomers of
Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. Scientists predict that the world
will end at 3 P.M. Eastern Standard Time tomorrow. This is no April
Fool joke. Confirmation can be obtained from Wagner Schlesinger,
director of the Fels Planetarium of this city.” The public reaction
was immediate. Local authorities were flooded with frantic phone
calls. The panic only subsided after the Franklin Institute assured
people that it had made no such prediction. The prankster responsible
for the press release turned out to be William Castellini, the
Institute’s press agent. He had intended to use the fake release to
publicize an April 1st lecture at the institute titled “How Will the
World End?” Soon afterwards, the Institute dismissed Castellini.
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#76: Great Cave Sell
On one undetermined April 1 in the 1840s a story appeared in the
Boston Post announcing that a cave full of treasure had been
discovered beneath Boston Common. It had supposedly been uncovered by
workmen as they removed a tree from the Common. As the tree fell, it
revealed a stone trap-door with a large iron ring set in it. Beneath
the door was a stone stairway that led to an underground cave. In this
cave lay piles of jewels, old coins, and weapons with jeweled handles.
As word of the discovery spread throughout Boston, parties of excited
curiosity-seekers began marching out across the Common to view the
treasure. A witness later described the scene: “It was rainy, that 1st
of April, the Legislature was in session, and it was an animated scene
that the Common presented, roofed with umbrellas, sheltering pilgrims
on their way to the new-found sell. A procession of grave legislators
marched solemnly down under their green gingham, while philosophers,
archaeologists, numismatists, antiquarians of all qualities, and the
public generally paid tribute to the Post’s ingenuity.” Of course, the
Common was empty of all jewel-bearing caverns, as the crowd of
treasure seekers eventually discovered to its disappointment.
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#77: MITkey Mouse
MIT Mickey Mouse On April 1, 1998 the homepage of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology announced some startling news: the prestigious
university was to be sold to Walt Disney Co. for $6.9 billion. A
photograph of the university’s famous dome outfitted with a pair of
mouse ears accompanied the news. The press release explained that the
university was to be dismantled and transported to Orlando where new
schools would be added to the campus including the School of
Imagineering, the Scrooge McDuck School of Management, and the Donald
Duck Department of Linguistics. The fact that the announcement
appeared on MIT’s homepage added official credibility to it. But in
fact, the announcement was the work of students who had hacked into
the school’s central server and replaced the school’s real web page
with a phony one.
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#78: The Venetian Horse Hoax
The citizens of Venice woke on the morning of April 1, 1919 to find
piles of horse manure deposited throughout the Piazza San Marco, as if
a procession of horses had gone through there during the night. This
was extremely unusual, since the Piazza is surrounded by canals and
not easily accessible to horses. The manure turned out to be the work
of the infamous British prankster Horace de Vere Cole, who was
honeymooning in Venice. He had transported a load of manure over from
the mainland the night before with the help of a gondolier and had
then deposited small piles of it throughout the Piazza. Perhaps he
should have been paying more attention to his wife while on honeymoon
because, evidently tired by his constant hijinks, she divorced him a
few years later.
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#79: PETA’s Tournament of Sleeping Fish
In 2000 the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) warned
that it planned to sabotage the bass fishing tournament in East
Texas’s Lake Palestine by releasing tranquilizers into the lake before
the tournament. Their announcement stated that “this year, the fish
will be napping, not nibbling.” State officials took the threat
seriously and stationed rangers around the lake in order to stop any
tranquilizer-toting PETA activists from drugging the fish, and
numerous newspapers reported the threat. Eventually PETA admitted that
it had been joking.
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#80: Moscow’s Second Subway
In 1992 the Moskovskaya Pravda announced that the winds of capitalism
transforming Russia would bring further changes for the residents of
Moscow. Apparently plans had been finalized to build a new Moscow
subway system. Of course, there was nothing wrong with the city’s
current subway. But in the spirit of capitalism, the second system
would be built to promote “the interests of competition.”
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#81: Weeping Lenin
Over the years numerous statues of the Virgin Mary have been known to
miraculously start weeping, but in 1995 an Italian statue of Lenin in
the town of Cavriago joined the club. A huge crowd gathered to witness
the milky white tears rolling down the statue’s metal cheeks. The
crowd remained for hours until the tears were eventually revealed to
be a prank.
Comments (1)

#82: Maradona Joins Soviet Soccer Team
In 1988 the Soviet newspaper Izvestia reported that the world-renowned
Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona was in negotiations to join the
Moscow Spartaks. The Spartaks were to pay him $6 million to play on
their struggling team. Izvestia later admitted that the story was an
April Fool’s day joke, but only after the news was disseminated by the
Associated Press, which then had to publish a red-faced retraction.
The AP had believed the story because it was the first time in modern
memory that a Soviet newspaper had published an April Fool’s day hoax.
The sudden display of humor was attributed to Mikhail Gorbachev’s
policy of glasnost, or openness.
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#83: Diamond-Encrusted Grenades
During the 1990s stories of the ruthlessness of Russian gangsters
became increasingly prevalent in the news, but apparently just because
the gangsters were ruthless, that didn’t mean they weren’t fashion
conscious. In 1996 Itar-Tass announced that a military factory had
begun manufacturing diamond-encrusted grenades, which it was selling
to Russian gangsters concerned about dispatching their enemies with
style. “The use of such a grenade will leave your one-time rival in a
sea of beautiful sparkling gems rather than in a pool of blood,” the
article noted.
Comments (4)

#84: Viagra for Hamsters
In 2000 The Independent reported that Florida researchers had
developed a Viagra-like pill to treat sexually frustrated pets,
including hamsters. Veterinarians were said to have greeted the news
with derision, but the article pointed out that there are few things
as sad as a pet suffering from feelings of sexual inadequacy, noting
that “It’s not unknown for a guinea pig to sit in its cage thinking,
‘I haven’t had sex for months. Am I so unattractive?’.” Owners were
instructed to simply grind the pills up and sprinkle them in the pet’s
food. Laying some newspaper down on the floor once the pills began to
take effect was also advised. The pills were to be marketed under the
brand name Feralmone.
Comments (3)

#85: Kokomo Police Cut Costs
In 1959 the Kokomo Tribune, based in Indiana, announced that the city
police had devised a plan to cut costs and save money. According to
this plan, the police station would close each night from 6 pm to 6 am
An answering machine would record all calls made to the station during
this time, and these calls would be screened by an officer in the
morning. The police reportedly anticipated that the screening process
would save the city a great deal of money, since many of the calls
would be old by the morning and would not need to be answered. A
spokesman for the police admitted that “there will be a problem on
what to do in the case of a woman who calls in and says her husband
has threatened to shoot her or some member of the family.” But in such
a situation, the spokesman explained, “We will check the hospitals and
the coroner, and if they don’t have any record of any trouble, then we
will know that nothing happened.”
Comments (4)

#86: Killer Bees Attack Arizona
In 1994 residents of Glendale and Peoria, Arizona woke to find yellow
fliers posted around their neighborhoods warning them of “Operation
Killer Bees.” Apparently there was to be widespread aerial spraying
later that day to eradicate a killer bee population that had made its
way into the area. Residents were warned to stay indoors from 9 am
until 2:30 pm. The phone numbers of local television and radio
stations were provided. On the bottom of the flier the name of an
official government agency was listed: Arizona Pest Removal
Information Line (For Outside Operations Listings). The first letters
of this agency spelled out “April Fool.” Few people got the joke.
Radio and television stations received numerous calls, as did the
Arizona Agriculture Department. Many worried residents stayed inside
all day, anxiously watching out their windows for the pest-control
planes to fly overhead.
Comments (3)

#87: Telepathic Email
The April 1999 edition of Red Herring Magazine included an article
about a revolutionary new technology that allowed users to compose and
send email telepathically. The company developing this technology was
Tidal Wave Communications, led by Yuri Maldini, a computer genius from
Estonia. Mr. Maldini claimed that he had developed the technology from
the encrypted communications systems he had helped the army put in
place during the Gulf War. At the end of the article the reporter
recalled a moment when he asked Mr. Maldini how big the market for
such a product might be: “Mr. Maldini falls silent. He stares vacantly
for several moments out his office window and then says, ‘I just sent
you an email with my answer.’ Upon returning to our office, we find
the response waiting: ‘It’s going to be huge,’ reads the email.
‘Simply huge.'” Red Herring received numerous letters from readers
admitting they had been fooled by the article.
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#88: Bank Teller Fees
In 1999 the Savings Bank of Rockville placed an ad in the Connecticut
Journal-Inquirer announcing that it would soon begin charging a $5 fee
to customers who visited a live teller. The ad, which appeared on
March 31, claimed that the fee was necessary in order to provide,
“professional, caring and superior customer service.” Although the ad
was a joke, many customers failed to recognize it as such. One woman
reportedly closed her account because of it. The bank then ran a
second ad revealing that the initial ad was a joke. The bank manager
commented that the first ad ironically “commits us to not charging
such fees.”
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#89: Asterix Village Found
In 1993 London’s Independent announced the discovery by archaeologists
of the 3000-year-old village of the cartoon hero Asterix. The village
was said to have been found at Le Yaudet, near Lannion, France, in
almost precisely the location where Rene Goscinny, Asterix’s creator,
had placed it in his books. The expedition was led by Professor Barry
Cunliffe, of Oxford University, and Dr. Patrick Galliou, of the
University of Brest. Supposedly the team found evidence that the small
village had never been occupied by Roman forces. They also discovered
Celtic coins printed with the image of a wild boar (the favorite food
of Asterix’s friend Obelix), as well as a large collection of rare
Iron Age menhirs (standing stones) “of the precise size favoured by
the indomitable Obelix whose job as a menhir delivery man has added a
certain academic weight to the books.”
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#90: Belgium Divides
The London Times reported in 1992 that formal negotiations were
underway to divide Belgium in half. The Dutch-speaking north would
join the Netherlands and the French-speaking south would join France.
An editorial in the paper then lamented that, “The fun will go from
that favorite parlor game: Name five famous Belgians.” The report
apparently fooled the British foreign office minister Tristan Garel-
Jones who almost went on a TV interview prepared to discuss this
“important” story. The Belgian embassy also received numerous calls
from journalists and expatriate Belgians seeking to confirm the news.
A rival paper later criticized the prank, declaring that, “The Times’s
effort could only be defined as funny if you find the very notion of
Belgium hilarious.”
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#91: Augusta National Goes Public
The May 1990 issue of Golf magazine had good news for golf
enthusiasts. It reported that Augusta National, the elite private golf
course where the Masters tournament is held, would begin allowing
public access to its course at certain times. As a result of this
report, both Augusta National and Golf magazine received hundreds of
calls from eager golfers inquiring about playing privileges. But the
report was an April fool’s joke, despite its placement in the May
issue. Golf magazine was forced to publish a retraction, reaffirming
that Augusta National was still a private club open only to members
and guests.
Comments (0)

#92: LA Highways Close for Repairs
In 1987 a Los Angeles disc jockey announced that on April 8 the LA
highway system would be shut down for repairs for an entire month.
This was alarming news in LA where it’s necessary to use the highway
to get almost anywhere. The radio station immediately received
hundreds of frantic calls in response to the announcement, and the
California Highway Patrol reported that they were also flooded with
calls throughout the day. The station later admitted that it was
stunned by the intensity of the public reaction to the hoax. A
representative from the California Department of Transportation called
the station’s managers to share their opinion of the prank. Reportedly
“they didn’t think it was very funny.”
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#93: Eiffel Tower Moves
The Parisien stunned French citizens in 1986 when it reported that an
agreement had been signed to dismantle the Eiffle Tower. The
international symbol of French culture would then be reconstructed in
the new Euro Disney theme park going up east of Paris. In the space
where the Tower used to stand, a 35,000 seat stadium would be built
for use during the 1992 Olympic Games.
Comments (3)

#94: Tomb of Socrates Found
In 1995 the Greek Ministry of Culture announced that during excavation
for the Athens metro system, archaeologists had uncovered what they
believed to be the tomb of Socrates near the base of the Acropolis. A
vase containing traces of hemlock (the poison used to kill socrates)
and a piece of leather dating from between 400 and 390 BC were found
in the tomb. The news agency Agence France-Presse immediately issued a
release about the story. What it didn’t realize was that the Greek
Ministry was joking, forcing the news agency to issue an embarrassed
retraction a few hours later.
Comments (5)

#95: Chunnel Blunder
In 1990 the News of the World reported that the Chunnel project, which
was already suffering from huge cost overruns, would face another big
additional expense caused by a colossal engineering blunder.
Apparently the two halves of the tunnel, being built simultaneously
from the coasts of France and England, would miss each other by 14
feet. The error was attributed to the fact that French engineers had
insisted on using metric specifications in their blueprints. The
mistake would reportedly cost $14 billion to fix.
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#96: Boston Globe Price Cut
Readers of the Boston Morning Globe in 1915 could have purchased their
papers for half the cost on April Fool’s Day, if they had been alert.
The price listed on the front page had been lowered from “Two Cents
Per Copy” to “One Cent.” But almost 60,000 copies of the paper were
sold before anyone noticed the unannounced price change. When the
management of the Globe found out about the change, they were just as
surprised as everyone else. The new price turned out to be the
responsibility of a mischievous production worker who had
surreptitiously inserted the lower value at the last minute as the
paper went to print.
Comments (2)

#97: Providence Closes for the Day
Carolyn Fox, a disc jockey for WHJY in Providence, Rhode Island,
announced in 1986 that the ‘Providence Labor Action Relations Board
Committee’ had decided to close the city for the day. She gave out a
number for listeners to call for more information. The number was that
of a rival station, WPRO-AM. Reportedly hundreds of people called
WPRO, as well as City Hall and the police. Even more called into their
offices to see if they had to go into work. WHJY management later
explained that it had never imagined its joke would have such a
dramatic impact on the city.
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#98: Soy Bomb Lands Record Contract
Viewers of the February 1998 broadcast of the Grammys were surprised
when a semi-naked man with the word ‘Soy Bomb’ scrawled on his chest
danced out onto the stage during Bob Dylan’s solo performance. The man
(who was definitely not supposed to be there) was quickly escorted
away by security guards. But a few months later, on April 1, Rhino
Records proudly announced that it had signed Soy Bomb (as he was now
known) to a two-year, six-album recording contract. Soy Bomb’s first
album would include covers of popular classics such as ‘Dancing
Machine’ and ‘You Dropped a Bomb on Me.’ A spokesman for Rhino Records
commented that they had been moved to offer Soy Bomb a contract
because the experience of watching him dance had been for them “kind
of like
when you eat too many Whoppers and you feel a little nauseous,
but you’re so happy you ate them.”
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#99: Virgin Cola’s Blue Cans
In 1996 Virgin Cola announced that in the interest of consumer safety
it had integrated a new technology into its cans. When the cola passed
its sell-by date, the liquid would react with the metal in the can,
turning the can itself bright blue. Virgin warned that consumers
should therefore avoid purchasing all blue cans. The joke was that
Pepsi had recently unveiled its newly designed cans. They were bright
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#100: The British Postal Address Turnabout
In 1977 the BBC gave airtime to Tom Jackson, General Secretary of the
British Union of Post Office Workers. Mr. Jackson was up in arms about
a recent proposal that the British mail adopt the German method of
addressing envelopes in which the house number is written after the
name of the road, not before it (i.e. Downing Street 10, instead of 10
Downing Street). Jackson spoke at great length about the enormous
burden this change would place upon postal employees, insisting that
“Postal workers would be furious because it would turn upside-down the
way we have learned to sort.” His comments elicited an immediate
reaction from the audience, many of whom phoned up to voice their
support for Jackson’s campaign. What the audience didn’t realize was
that there were no plans to change the way the British addressed their
mail. Mr. Jackson’s diatribe was an elaborate April Fool’s Day joke.
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