April Fool's Day, 1984

mock walrus
The Tasmanian Mock Walrus as shown in the Orlando Sentinel. Really a Naked Mole Rat.
The Tasmanian Mock Walrus
The Orlando Sentinel featured a story about a creature known as the Tasmanian Mock Walrus (or TMW for short) that it said made a perfect 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, used a litter box, and 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 in the country, fearing competition. Dozens of people called the paper trying to find out where they could obtain their own TMW. Read more about it here.

A message was distributed to members of Usenet (the online messaging community that existed before the rise of the internet), 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@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 from members of the Usenet community. Two weeks later the author of the message revealed that it was a hoax.

Tingle—The Video
On Cable magazine reported that a huge publicity blitz was being planned around an upcoming Michael Jackson song called "Tingle." The song was said to be three minutes and twelve seconds long, and a video of it would feature Jackson walking out of a boutique and catching fire. Jackson's record company had reportedly also developed a 37-minute promo clip to hype the video, and this promo was, in turn, being developed into a 3-hour film by Paramount. Three video versions of the song would be sold: "Michael Jackson's 'Tingle'" for $39.95; "Making the 'Tingle' Video" for $79.95; and "The Making of 'The Making of the "Tingle" Video'" for $99.95. MTV was going to show the 37-minute promo clip hourly. Parker Brothers would release a board game designed around it. Pepsi would be the official soft drink of the video, and Allstate would sell "exclusive fire insurance" along with the video. At the bottom of the article a note said "On Cable, April Fool, 1984." Nevertheless, two weeks later a reporter for "Breakaway," a syndicated news-magazine program broadcast on 55 television stations around the country, went on the air and reported the "Tingle" story as breaking news, not realizing that the article was a joke. The reporter, in his defense, later explained that he had never read On Cable Magazine, and that he had heard the story instead from "a woman that I know who is a friend of the family."

The Durand Auto Plant
The Durand Express, a Michigan weekly, reported that Nissan would built an auto plant outside of Durand City. The new plant would reportedly employ thousands and pay higher wages than the nearby General Motors plant. Furthermore, Nissan would pay farmers $10,000 an acre for the land on which the plant was to be built. Many unemployed auto workers believed the story and inquired about how to apply for jobs at the plant. However, the story was exposed as a fake by a reporter working at a newspaper in Flint, Michigan. Many people responded angrily to the news that the story was a prank and cancelled their subscriptions. The paper's editor explained that he hadn't been trying to hurt anyone, and thought that he had exaggerated his story enough to make it unbelievable.

Daylight Savings Contest
The Eldorado Daily Journal, an Illinois paper, 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.

Retrobreeding the Woolly Mammoth
Technology Review published an article titled "Retrobreeding the Woolly Mammoth" that described an effort by Soviet scientists to insert DNA from woolly mammoths found frozen in Siberian ice into elephant cells. The cells would then be brought to term inside elephant surrogate mothers. The head of the project was said to be Dr. Sverbighooze Yasmilov. Many members of the media believed the report to be real.

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