Here’s your friendly reminder that it’s almost April 1 aka April Fool’s Day 愚人节 yú rén jiē – so don’t believe any message or call at face value, your friends or loved ones could be trying to prank you!
In this fun, but dastardly deceptive, traditional holiday, people all over Western culture will try to play smalltricks on each other. Maybe they’ll tie your shoelaces together or switch your M&Ms with Skittles (Don’t even think about it, Rachel!)
Large corporations also try to convince a large portion of the population to believe their latest hoax.
We’ve compiled a hilarious list of some of the more famous hoaxes around the world over the years. The biggest company to commit these little treasons is Google. Without fail, they come up with some sort of new “product” that people will believe is real.
(To save as a sticker, long press and “Send to Chat”)
15th Annual NYC April Fool Parade
April 1, 2000: A news release informed the media that the 15th annual New York City April Fool’s Day Parade would begin at noon on 59th Street and proceed down to Fifth Avenue. It would include a “Beat ’em, Bust ’em, Book ’em” float created by the New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle police departments, portraying “themes of brutality, corruption and incompetence.” There would also be an “Atlanta Braves Baseball Tribute to Racism” float featuring John Rocker “spewing racial epithets at the crowd.” CNN and the Fox affiliate WNYW promptly sent news crews to cover the parade. They arrived at 59th Street at noon and patiently waited for the parade to start. It never did. The prank was the handiwork of long-time hoaxer Joey Skaggs, who had been issuing press releases announcing the nonexistent parade every April Fool’s Day since 1986 (and, as of 2015, he’s still maintaining the tradition).
The Danish Currency Exchange
April 1, 1980: In early 1980, the National Bank of Denmark had issued a 20-kroner banknote featuring a picture of two sparrows. Curiously, one of the sparrows appeared to be one-legged. This was the backdrop for the April first announcement in the Roskilde Tidende that all bills with one-legged birds were actually fake, but that they could be exchanged at the post office for genuine bills depicting two-legged birds. The paper showed a picture of a supposedly authentic bill — which was just a regular bill onto which the paper’s cartoonist, Jan Robert Thoresen, had drawn an extra leg. Lines at post offices soon became so long, with people eager to exchange their money, that post office employees had to put notices on the doors explaining that no currency exchange was taking place. Thoresen was subsequently questioned by the police, but was let go without any charges filed.
April 1, 1965: BBC TV interviewed a London University professor who had perfected a technology called “Smellovision” that allowed the transmission of smells over the airwaves. Viewers would be able to smell aromas produced in the television studio in their own homes. The professor explained that his machine broke scents down into their component molecules which were then transmitted through the screen. The professor demonstrated by placing some coffee beans and onions into the smellovision machine. He asked viewers to report whether they had smelled anything. Numerous viewers called in from across the country to confirm that they had distinctly experienced these scents. Some even claimed the onions made their eyes water.
April 1, 1977: 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.
The Left-Handed Whopper
April 1, 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’ version.” Left-handed products of various kinds are actually an old joke on April first, but Burger King’s announcement quickly became, by far, the most famous version of the joke.
The Sydney Iceberg
April 1, 1978: A barge towing a giant iceberg appeared in Sydney Harbor. 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.
April 1, 2011: Google announced the introduction of Gmail Motion, a new technology that would allow people to write emails using only hand gestures. Gmail Motion, the company explained, used a computer’s webcam and a “spatial tracking algorithm” to track a person’s gestures and translate them into words and commands. For instance, a person could ‘open a message’ by making a motion with their hands as if opening an envelope. Or they could ‘reply’ to a message by pointing backward over their shoulder. By 2011, Google had become well-known for making spoof announcements every April first, with its annual spoofs both highly anticipated and widely shared. (The company earns a place in the Top 100 largely on the basis of that alone). But Gmail Motion was one of its more believable jokes. In fact, within a few days programmers had demonstrated that it was possible (if not practical) to create a working, gesture-based email system like Gmail Motion using existing, off-the-shelf technology.
Instant Color TV
April 1, 1962: Sweden’s SVT (Sveriges Television) brought their technical expert, Kjell Stensson, onto the news to inform the public that, thanks to a new technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to display color reception. At the time, there was only the one TV channel in Sweden, and it broadcast in black and white, so this was big news. Stensson explained that all viewers had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their tv screen, and the mesh would cause the light to bend in such a way that it would appear as if the image was in color. He proceeded to demonstrate the process. Thousands of people were taken in. Many Swedes today still report remembering their fathers rushing through the house trying to find stockings to place over the TV set. Regular color broadcasts only commenced in Sweden on April 1, 1970.
The Taco Liberty Bell
April 1, 1996: The Taco Bell Corporation took out a full-page ad that appeared in six major newspapers 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.
The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
April 1, 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.” Even the director-general of the BBC later admitted that after seeing the show he checked in an encyclopedia to find out if that was how spaghetti actually grew (but the encyclopedia had no information on the topic). The broadcast remains, by far, the most popular and widely acclaimed April Fool’s Day hoax ever, making it an easy pick for number one.
Hindsight being 20/20, it’s hard to believe that people actually fell for these hoaxes, but alas, they did!
Did you fall for any of these? Were you even alive for them? 😂