Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters
Editor’s Note 4/2/09: This article, which we posted a few days ago, is from material originally written by Alex Boese of Museum of Hoaxes and titled “The Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time.” Thus, this appears to be a non-attributed adaptation by Examiner.com. Apologies to Alex!
Here, also from Alex’s site, is a collection of some of this year’s April Fools Day pranks.
Famous April Fools Day jokes around the world 1919 – 2008
by Kelly Shannon Kelly
March 26, 2009
The entire world becomes a stage on April Fools Day. Read on for historic practical jokes that have occurred around the globe. Makes you wonder what will happen this year…
Antarctica – Flying Penguins
2008: The BBC announced that camera crews filming near the Antarctic for its series Miracles of Evolution had captured footage of Adélie penguins in the air. A video clip of these flying penguins became one of the most viewed videos on the internet. The narrator explained that how these penguins flew thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America where they spent the winter basking in the tropical sun. A follow-up video explained how the BBC created the special effects of the flying penguins.
Australia – The Sydney Iceberg
1978: In Sydney Harbor, a barge appeared towing a giant iceberg. Dick Smith, a local millionaire businessman, said that he was going to carve the berg into small ice cubes, which he would sell to the public for 10 cents each. These cubes, fresh from the pure waters of Antarctica, were promised to improve the flavor of any drink they cooled. Local radio stations provided excited blow-by-blow coverage of the iceberg slowly making its way into the harbor. The berg’s secret was revealed when it started to rain, and the firefighting foam and shaving cream that it was really made of washed away, uncovering the white plastic sheets beneath.
China – PhDs Exempt from One-Child Policy
1993: An official state Chinese newspaper announced on the front page that the government had decided to make Ph.D. holders exempt from the state-imposed one-child limit. This decision had been made because it would eventually reduce the need to invite foreign experts into the country to help with the state’s modernization effort. Despite a disclaimer identifying it as a joke, the report was repeated as fact by papers in Hong Kong and France. The Chinese government responded to the hoax by condemning April Fool’s Day as a dangerous Western tradition and declared that, “Put plainly, April Fool’s Day is Liar’s Day.”
England – Big Ben Goes Digital
1980: The BBC reported that Big Ben, in order to keep up with the times, was going to be given a digital readout. The announcement received a huge response from listeners shocked and angered by the proposed change.
England – The Derbyshire Fairy
2007: In late March, images of an eight-inch mummified creature resembling a fairy were posted on the website of the Lebanon Circle Magik Co. Accompanying text explained how the creature had been found by a man walking his dog along an old Roman road in rural Derbyshire. The remains were said to have been examined by anthropologists and forensic experts who could confirm that the body was genuine. Word of this discovery soon spread around the internet and bloggers excitedly speculated about whether the find was evidence of the actual existence of fairies. The Lebanon Circle website received tens of thousands of visitors and hundreds of emails. But by the end of April 1, Dan Baines, the owner of the site, confessed that the fairy was a hoax. Baines later reported that, even after his confession, he continued to receive numerous emails from people who refused to accept the fairy wasn’t real. On April 8, 2007 the fairy was sold on eBay for £280.00 and is now in a private art collection in the United States.
England – UFO Lands
1989: On March 31, 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. When a door 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 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. He had planned 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.
France – Eiffel Tower Moves
1986: A Paris newspaper stunned French citizens 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.
Greece – Tomb of Socrates Found
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 1,600 years old were found in the tomb. A French news agency 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 a retraction.
Italy – The Venetian Horse Hoax
1919: On April 1, Venetians awoke to find piles of horse manure deposited throughout the Piazza San Marco, as if a parade of horses had been through during the night. Since the Piazza is surrounded by canals and not easily accessible to horses, this was extremely unusual. An infamous British prankster honeymooning in Venice had transported a load of manure from the mainland the night before with the help of a gondolier and deposited small piles of it throughout the Piazza.
New Zealand – Wasp Swarm
1949: A New Zealand radio DJ announced to his listeners that a wasp swarm one mile wide was headed towards Auckland. He urged them to wear socks over their pants 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.
Scotland – The Body of the Loch Ness Monster Found
1972: On March 31st, a team of zoologists from a Yorkshire zoo were searching for proof of Nessie’s existence and found a mysterious carcass floating in Loch Ness. Initial reports claimed the carcass weighed one and a half tons and was 15½ feet long. The zoologists placed the body in a van and began to transport it back to the zoo. The police chased down their truck and stopped it under a 1933 act of Parliament prohibiting the removal of “unidentified creatures” from Loch Ness. The body was then taken for examination. The discovery received worldwide media attention. The press dubbed it “Son of Nessie.” Upon examination, Edinburgh scientists identified the creature as a South Atlantic bull elephant seal. The next day, the zoo’s education officer confessed he had been responsible for the body. The bull elephant seal had died the week before at a zoo and he had shaved off its whiskers, padded its cheeks with stones, and kept it frozen for a week, before dumping it in the Loch and then phoning in a tip to make sure his colleagues found it.
U.S. – The Eruption of Mount Edgecumbe
1974: Sitka, Alaska residents were alarmed when a nearby long-dormant volcano, Mount Edgecumbe, suddenly began to billow black smoke. People stared at the volcano, terrified that it was active again and might soon erupt. 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 an attempt to fool the city dwellers into believing that the volcano was coming to life.
U.S. – Killer Bees Attack Arizona
1994: Residents in 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 get rid of a killer bee population that had made its way into the area. Residents were warned to stay indoors for over five hours. 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.
U.S.S.R. – Weeping Lenin
1995: Numerous statues of the Virgin Mary have been known to miraculously start weeping over the years. A huge crowd in the town of Cavriago gathered to witness the milky-white tears rolling down a statue of Lenin’s metal cheeks. The crowd remained for hours until the tears were eventually revealed to be a prank.