As you know, it is the tradition on April Fool’s day to prank friends, colleagues or family. But some large practical jokes have appeared in newspapers, websites or been broadcast on radio or television.
Here is a list of 10 very famous ones.
In 1957, the BBC aired an episode of the Panorama program about an increase in spaghetti crops due to a very mild winter and the elimination of the spaghetti weevil, showing footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti off trees. Spaghetti was relatively unknown in the UK at this time and so huge numbers of people were taken in, including the director-general of the BBC, Ian Jacob, who admitted to looking up “spaghetti” in his encyclopaedia. The BBC received many phone calls from viewers wanting to know how to grow their own spaghetti tree, to which the BBC replied “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
In 1962, Swedish National Television showed a 5 minutes special on how to get colour television by placing a nylon stocking in front of the TV, due to a change in light reflection which allowed colours to show through. The special included in-depth physics to explain the phenomenon and a huge number of viewers tried the trick.
In 1976, British Astronomer Patrick Moore told listeners on BBC radio that at 9.47am that day, a rare alignment of Pluto and Saturn would cause gravity on Earth to decrease temporarily. He told people that if they jumped up in the air at that exact time, they would feel a floating sensations. Many listeners tried and called BBC radio to say they had experienced the effet, a lady even claiming that she and her friends had floated out of their chairs.
In 1998, Physicist Mark Boslough wrote an article in the April issue of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, using the name “April Holiday” hinting that in Alabama, a law had been passed that redefined Pi from 3.14 to 3.0 to bring it closer to the biblical value. Many state legislators were inundated with phone calls warning them to left Pi alone.
In 2011, Google announced that it would introduce Gmail Motion, a new technology allowing people to write emails using only hand gestures. The company explained that the system would use a webcam and a spatial tracking algorithm to monitor a person’s gestures and translate them into words and commands. A message could be open by making the gesture of opening and enveloppe. Although it was a practical joke and by then Google had earnt quite the reputation with its 1st of April jokes, a few days later, programmers demonstrated that such a system would be possible using existing technology, even if not very practical.
In 2002, Tesco, a chain of British supermarkets put an ad in the Sun announcing that it had financed the development of genetically modified “whistling carrots”. It explained that the carrots had been specifically created to grow with tapered holes in their sides. When fully cooked, the holes caused the carrot to emit a signal indicating that they were done.
In 1980, the BBC reported that Big Ben was going to be revamped and given a digital display. The report featured people reminiscing about Big Ben’s past and announced that the clock hands becoming obsolete, they would be sold to the first four listeners to call in. One Japanese man onboard a boat in the Atlantic send in a bid via radio. The BBC was inundated with calls from listeners furious that Big Ben was going to be interfered in. Very few people found the hoax amusing and the BBC had to spend several days apologizing.
In 1998, fast food giant Burger King came up with a stroke of marketing genius. They took a full-page ad in USA today and announced the creation of a “left-handed Whopper” with all condiments rotated 180 degrees so as to be easier to hold for the left-handed part of the population. A surprising number of people went to the fast-food outlets asking for the new whopper. An even more surprising number asked for a “right-handed” version of it!
In 1989, Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, decided to drum up some publicity for his new airline by landing an UFO shaped hot air balloon in Hyde Park in London. Unfortunately, the wind blew it off course and sent the balloon to a field in Surrey but the hoax worked and a few motorists, travelling on the M25 called the police to report the presence of the UFO.
In 1977, the newspaper, the Guardian published a 7-page travel supplement on the tropical island of San Serriffe in the Indian Ocean. The report was packed with in-jokes such as the main islands’ names- Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse and the capital’s name Bodoni which is a type of font. Kodak decided to add to the credibility of the story by having an ad asking readers to share their holiday snapshots of San Sherriffe before noon on that day.