Top 20 April Fool Hoaxes
As judged by notoriety, creativity, and number of people duped.
The first version of this list was created in the late 1990s. Over the years it's been slightly tweaked, with some rearrangement and additions based on reader feedback and ongoing research, but the top choices have remained pretty much the same. We hope you enjoy it, and if you're curious to know more about April Fool's Day, check out the museum's April Fool Archive, which is a collection of April Fool's Day stories and pictures that spans the entire history of the celebration.
[#0: Bush Wins Presidential Election for Republicans
While many Americans bemoan the events of 9/11 and decry the death and destruction of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, few ever recall what led to these horrendous and unnecessary events. Most people act as if they’ve actually forgotten that the United States was stolen by a coterie of power-mongering fossil fool neoconmen and hasn’t actually been a functioning democracy since at least the year 2000, when they first installed a puppet (p)resident in the White House.
And the voting system is still rigged...]
On 1 April 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. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied, "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best." More→
The April 1985 issue of Sports Illustrated contained 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 at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. This was 65 mph faster than the previous record. 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 celebrated their teams' amazing luck at having found such a gifted player, and they flooded Sports Illustrated with requests for more information. In reality this legendary player only existed in the imagination of the author of the article, George Plimpton, who left a clue in the sub-heading of the article: "He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga —and his future in baseball." The first letter of each of these words, taken together, spelled "H-a-p-p-y A-p-r-i-l F-o-o-l-s D-a-y — A-h F-i-b". More→
In 1962 there was only one tv channel in Sweden, and it broadcast in black and white. But on 1 April 1962, the station's technical expert, Kjell Stensson, appeared on the news to announce that, thanks to a new technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to display color reception. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their tv screen. Stensson proceeded to demonstrate the process. Thousands of people were taken in. Regular color broadcasts only commenced in Sweden on April 1, 1970. More→
The Taco Bell Corporation took out a full-page ad that appeared in six major newspapers on 1 April 1996, announcing it had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell was housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed, a few hours later, that it was all a practical joke. The best line of the day came when White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale. Thinking on his feet, he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold. It would now be known, he said, as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial. More→
On 1 April 1977, the British newspaper The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement devoted to San Serriffe, a small republic said to consist of several semi-colon-shaped islands located in the Indian Ocean. 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. Only a 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 gripped the British tabloids in subsequent decades. More→
The 1 April 1992 broadcast of National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation revealed 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.
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. Soon the article made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly spread around the world, forwarded by 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 physicist Mark Boslough.
Burger King published a full page advertisement in the April 1st edition of 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' version."
The April 1995 issue of Discover Magazine reported that the highly respected wildlife biologist Dr. Aprile Pazzo had found 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.
During an interview on BBC Radio 2, on the morning of 1 April 1976, the British astronomer Patrick Moore announced 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 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 room. Moore's announcement (which, of course, was a joke) was inspired by a pseudoscientific astronomical theory that had recently been promoted in a book called The Jupiter Effect, alleging that a rare alignment of the planets was going to cause massive earthquakes and the destruction of Los Angeles in 1982.
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.
On 1 April 2008, the BBC announced that camera crews filming near the Antarctic for its natural history series Miracles of Evolution had captured footage of Adélie penguins taking to the air. It even offered a video clip of these flying penguins, which became one of the most viewed videos on the internet. Presenter Terry Jones explained that, instead of huddling together to endure the Antarctic winter, these penguins took to the air and flew thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America where they "spend the winter basking in the tropical sun." A follow-up video explained how the BBC created the special effects of the flying penguins.
A message distributed to the members of Usenet (the online messaging community that was one of the first forms the internet took) on 1 April 1984 announced that the Soviet Union was joining the network. This generated enormous excitement, since most Usenet members had assumed cold war security concerns would prevent such a link-up. The message purported to come from Konstantin Chernenko (from the address chernenko@kremvax.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 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.
On 1 April 1972, newspaper headlines around the world announced that the dead body of the Loch Ness Monster had been found. A team of zoologists from Yorkshire's Flamingo Park Zoo, who were at Loch Ness searching for proof of Nessie's existence, had discovered the carcass floating in the water the day before. Initial reports claimed it weighed a ton and a half and was 15½ feet long. The zoologists placed the body in their van and began transporting it back to the zoo, but the local police chased them down and stopped them, citing a 1933 act of Parliament prohibiting the removal of "unidentified creatures" from Loch Ness. The police then took the body to Dunfermline for examination, where scientists soon threw cold water on the theory that the creature was the Loch Ness Monster. Instead, it was a bull elephant seal from the South Atlantic. The next day, the Flamingo Park's education officer, John Shields, confessed he had been responsible for placing the body in the Loch. The seal had died the week before at Dudley Zoo. He had shaved off its whiskers, padded its cheeks with stones, and kept it frozen for a week, before dumping it in the Loch. Then he phoned in a tip to make sure his colleagues found it. He had meant to play an April Fool's prank on his colleagues, but admitted the joke got out of hand when the police chased down their van. The seal's body was displayed at the Flamingo Park Zoo for a few days before being properly disposed of. More→
On 1 April 1975, Australia's This Day Tonight news program revealed that the country would soon be converting to "metric time." Under the new system there would be 100 seconds to the minute, 100 minutes to the hour, and 20-hour days. Furthermore, seconds would become millidays, minutes become centidays, and hours become decidays. The report included an interview with Deputy Premier Des Corcoran who praised the new time system. The Adelaide townhall was even shown sporting a new 10-hour metric clock face. The thumbnail (found at TelevisionAU.com) shows TDT Adelaide reporter Nigel Starck posing with a smaller metric clock. TDT received numerous calls from viewers who fell for the hoax. One frustrated viewer wanted to know how he could convert his newly purchased digital clock to metric time.
On the morning of 1 April 1974, the residents of Sitka, Alaska woke to a disturbing sight. Clouds of black smoke were rising from the crater of Mount Edgecumbe, the long-dormant volcano neighboring them. 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!" More→
The 1 April 1982 issue of 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.
In April 1934, many American newspapers (including The New York Times) printed a photograph of a man flying through the air by means of a device powered only by the breath from his lungs. Accompanying articles excitedly described this miraculous new invention. The man, identified as German pilot Erich Kocher, blew into a box on his chest. This activated rotors that created a powerful suction effect, lifting him aloft. Skis on his feet served as landing gear, and a tail fin allowed him to steer. What the American papers didn't realize was that the "lung-power motor" was a joke. The photo had first appeared in the April Fool's Day edition of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. It made its way to America thanks to Hearst's International News Photo agency which not only fell for the hoax but also distributed it to all its U.S. subscribers. In the original article, the pilot's name was spelled "Erich Koycher," which was a pun on the German word "keuchen," meaning to puff or wheeze. More→
A barge towing a giant iceberg appeared in Sydney Harbor on the morning of 1 April 1978. Sydneysiders were expecting it. Dick Smith, a local adventurer and millionaire businessman, 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 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. More→
The 1 April 1981 issue of the Daily Mail contained 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. Reportedly Nakajimi was now somewhere out on the roads of England, still running, determined to finish the race. 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."
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