April Fool's Day Hoaxes by Magazines and Journals
A German garden journal, Möllers Deutsche Gärtner Zeitung (15:148), printed details about a fictitious species of cactus, Echinocereus dahliaeflorus, in its April edition. The editor of the journal apparently forgot his own joke because he indexed the cactus name at the end of the year. [The Cactaceae]
The German Gardener's News, edited by Herr Möller, issued an April Fool's Day edition that discussed various botanical discoveries, such as varieties of flowers that were so phosphorescent they gave sufficient light to read by. "Under proper conditions the flowers of the clematis glow like stars, while sunflowers, if correctly nurtured, make it quite possible to read a newspaper by their unaided light." A photograph showed Herr Möller reading by the light of sunflower lamps in his garden at 10 o'clock at night.
Old Rye Willow Trees.
"Old Rye, N.H.—A freak windstorm spells things in branches of willow trees." [Life, Mar 22, 1937.]
Sandpapers Boat to Fit.
"The Flume, N.H.—Local boy builds boat, finds it too big, sandpapers it down to fit." [Life, Mar 22, 1937.]
Blue Lobster Fishing.
Norman Rockwell created a second April Fool cover for the Saturday Evening Post. His first such cover, in 1943, had been the magazine's most popular cover ever. Like its predecessor, the 1945 cover contained numerous "mistakes and incongruities" — 50 in all, according to Rockwell. However, the Post editors warned readers that the blue lobster didn't count as a mistake, noting that the "blue lobster is a rarity, but every once in a while one of them turns up in Maine waters."
Playing With Dolls.
The April 3 issue of the Saturday Evening Post featured an April Fool cover by Norman Rockwell, in which the artist had placed 56 "mistakes and incongruities." It was the third such April Fool cover by Rockwell. (The previous ones ran in 1943 and 1945.) Click the cover to see the list of mistakes.
Upside-Down Alice Wallace.
Pageant magazine, under the editorship of Harris Shevelson, ran a picture of actress Alice Wallace on its front cover. Its back cover showed the same picture of Wallace, but upside down, with four eyes and four eyebrows. The stunt prompted several newsstand distributors to contact the magazine, complaining of a misprint.
Inventor of the Period.
Writing in The Saturday Review, K. Jason Sitewell discussed the biography of Kohmar Pehriad (544-493 BC), inventor of punctuation in written language, and more specifically of the period. Pehriad traveled throughout Ancient Greece, Rome, Persia, North Africa, and Asia promoting the use of the period. He also promoted use of the comma, which, like the period, was subsequently named after him (Kohmar). His son, Apos-Trophe Pehriad, introduced further markings, such as quotation marks and apostrophes. "The period did not come about by accident," Sitewell noted. "Someone had to invent it and fight for it."
Artificial Satellites Around Mars.
The April 1959 edition of the Great Plains Observer astronomical newsletter included a spoof report alleging that the moons of Mars had been discovered to be artificial satellites flung into orbit by some ancient civilization that had once inhabited the red planet.
American astronomers were shocked when this story was apparently taken seriously by a well-regarded Soviet scientist, Dr. Iosip Shklovsky, who repeated the claim in an interview with Komsomol Pravda. Dr. Gerald Kuiper of the Yerkes Observatory later said, "He is much too brilliant to believe such nonsense."
The Yenom Tree.
VIEW magazine revealed the existence of the Yenom Tree, a "rare perennial" owned by Mrs. Loo Flirpa of Appleton, Wisconsin, which sprouted "bright, green American one-dollar bills with uniformly high serial numbers." In an unusual mutation, this year the Yenom Tree had also sprouted a "flawless five-dollar bill." Mrs. Flirpa had entered into "an exclusive arrangement with the U.S. Mint to sell Yenom tree seedlings through a system of greenhouses to be operated through local offices of the Federal Reserve System."
The April 1972 issue of the British Veterinary Record contained an article about the diseases of Brunus edwardii (aka Teddy Bear), which was described as a species "commonly kept in homes in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe and North America." The article warned:
"63.8 percent of households are inhabited by one or more of these animals... The public health implications of this fact are obvious, and it is imperative that more be known about their diseases."
For months afterwards the correspondence section of the journal was dominated by letters about Brunus edwardii.
First Practical Touring Machine.
Byte Magazine published a technology update describing an invention that it hailed as the “first practical Touring Machine”:
This month in the hills of New Hampshire, we discovered an example of computer technology in the form of the first practical Touring Machine, shown here complete with a unary relocatable based operator (in IBM OS PL/1 parlance). For those individuals having less than a passing acquaintance with computer science, the Turing machine is a famous mathematical construction first formulated some decades ago by Alan Mathison Turing, and which can be shown to be logically equivalent to any digital computer implementation. A Turing Machine is to computing what a
The Black-Hole Diode.
Byte Magazine, in its What's New column, described a useful new computer component, the 7N-∞ BHD (black-hole diode):
"Another new addition in the small-components market is the 7N-∞ BHD (black-hole diode). This device has two inputs and no output. Care must be taken to shield this component appropriately or it may absorb the unit it is placed in. The 7N-∞ will accept any voltage or current value. It is useful for GI (garbage-in) applications. Due to the light-absorption qualities of the device, we could not provide a photograph. Contact Spatial Regression Ltd, POB 463, Paulborough NH 03458."
KNOSH Food Network.
On Cable magazine reporter Peter Funt announced the creation of the first 24-hour a day cable food network called KNOSH.
(Apparently the idea of a 24-hour a day food network seemed silly in the days before Emeril Lagasse.)
The TNBC Network.
On Cable magazine reported that Turner Broadcasting was going to merge with NBC. The new logo of the resulting company (TNBC) would show a peacock wearing Ted Turner's trademark railroad engineer's cap. Ted Turner would personally add some variety to the new company's entertainment lineup by co-hosting a country music show called "Atlanta Howdown" with Slim Whitman and Barbara Mandrell. On Cable magazine received angry phone calls from executives at both NBC and TNT complaining that their management had taken such a step without informing them first.
Byte magazine profiled a new Debugging Tool that "Irons Out Circuit Problems":
The General Electric Model F340 Electric Iron serves as a handy debugging tool for crucial logic circuits that must exhibit planar topology or use especially thin-film substrates. Using the latest deionized-vapor-injection technology, the Model F340 can be used with circuits arrayed on fiber substrates up to 0.1 cm (approximately 1/8 inch) thick, assuming proper adjustments for duration of treatment.
Byte Magazine described an "erase-only memory" circuit in it's "What's New" section:
The Stanislowski Electronics 3131.3 is a 4 Kbyte, vigorous, random-access erase-only memory (RAEOM) Imaginary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (IMOS) integrated circuit (IC)... Possible applications include disposing of obsolete data and programs, destroying incriminating evidence, and amusing computer hobbyists. Due to the patented IMOS process, the 3131.3 remains fully functional even when power is removed, making it ideal for use during power blackouts.
The 5-megabyte Hard Drive.
The Sinclair ZX81, launched in 1981, was the first cheap mass-market home computer. However, it lacked a hard drive, storing data instead on audio tape cassettes. However, Byte magazine revealed that a third-party supplier, Hindsight Engineering, was introducing a 5-megabyte hard disk for the ZX81. (At the time, 5 megabytes was considered an extremely large size):
Responding to an obvious need of ZX81 owners for more data storage space, Hindsight Engineering has developed a 5-megabyte hard-disk system for the Sinclair ZX81. The system is available in either assembled or kit forms. The kit includes instructions for building your own clean room for kit assembly. A DOS will soon be available.
On Cable magazine reported on a huge publicity blitz being planned around an upcoming Michael Jackson song, "Tingle." The song was three minutes and twelve seconds long, but Jackson's record company had 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. MTV was going to show the 37-minute promo clip hourly.
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, reported the "Tingle" story as breaking news.
Retrobreeding the Woolly Mammoth.
MIT's Technology Review published an article titled "Retrobreeding the Woolly Mammoth" that described an effort by Soviet scientists, led by Dr. Sverbighooze Yasmilov, 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. Many members of the media believed the report to be real.
Sports Illustrated revealed that the New York Mets’s were hiring a new rookie pitcher, Sidd Finch (short for Siddhartha Finch), who could throw a ball with startling, pinpoint accuracy at 168 mph. Sidd Finch had never played baseball 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 good luck and flooded Sports Illustrated with requests for more information. In reality, this unusual player sprang from the imagination of author George Plimpton.
The Transporter Portable Computer.
Byte magazine featured a new portable computer, available from the Honda Corporation, called the "Transporter":
"The first truly transportable computer. With a few simple twists, you can transform the Transporter from a portable computer (with full keyboard, 24-line by 80-column display, and two microfloppy-disk drives) into a single-passenger automobile... The Transporter is 100 percent compatible with the popular Toyota Corolla and runs on most operating roads."
Byte later received a call from a USA Today reporter inquiring about the Transporter.
Soybean Computer Disks.
Byte Magazine featured a section called "What's Not," instead of its usual "What's Hot" section. Included were technological gadgets such as computer disks made of soybeans:
If merely erasing sensitive data is not enough for you, Soycure Systems of Tokyo has developed the ultimate in disk security. Made entirely of processed soybeans, Parasoya Disks are writable, readable, and edible. Parasoya disks contain 84 percent more protein than average floppy disks and are available in 5¼-inch (regular) and 3½-inch (crunchy) formats.
Byte magazine described a new product called the MacKnifer:
"Ennui Associates has announced MacKnifer, a hardware attachment that mounts on the side of your Macintosh and sharpens knives, scissors, lawn-mower bladesanything in your home that needs sharpening. With MacKnifer's patented double-action grinding wheel, you can easily sharpen any utensil in less time than it takes the Mac to open a file. According to the manufacturer, MacKnifer is so easy to use that you can operate it within 30 minutes of taking it out of the box. Turn your spare computing time into extra cash with a knife-sharpening business on the side... of your Macintosh."
The Dinosaur Vine.
Garden News magazine revealed that a prehistoric plant had been discovered growing out of a fossilised stegosaurus dropping found preserved within a Mojave Desert cave. The plant, dubbed the dinosaur vine, was being studied by Professor Adge Ufult.
Drunk Driving on the Internet.
In an article in PC Computing magazine, John Dvorak described a bill (# 040194) going through Congress that would make it illegal to use the internet while drunk, or to discuss sexual matters over a public network. The FBI was planning to use the bill to tap the phone line of anyone who "uses or abuses alcohol" while accessing the internet. Passage of the bill was felt to be certain because "Who wants to come out and support drunkenness and computer sex?"
Dvorak offered this explanation for the origin of the bill: "The moniker 'Information Highway' itself seems to be responsible for SB 040194, which is designed to prohibit anyone from using a public computer network (Information Highway)
Holy Grail Discovered.
Discover magazine reported that an archaeologist digging in Jerusalem had uncovered the legendary Holy Grail. The archaeologist, Leon Decoeur, found the grail on Christmas eve when, for no particular reason, he had decided to work late at the dig. The discovery had sparked intense excitement and controversy in the scientific community, although some doubted Decoeur's findings, remembering that 15 years earlier he had claimed to have found the Sermon on the Mount. Most exciting of all, blood had been found at the bottom of the cup. Decoeur hypothesized that the DNA of Jesus might reveal, once and for all, "that we're closer to chimpanzees than to the deity."
Hotheaded Naked Ice Borers.
Discover magazine revealed the discovery by wildlife biologist Dr. Aprile Pazzo of a fascinating new species, the hotheaded naked ice borer, which she had encountered while studying penguins in Antarctica. They were about half a foot long, very light, and had a bony plate on their head that could become burning hot, allowing them to bore tunnels through the ice at high speeds, "much faster than a penguin can waddle." Packs of them would rapidly melt the ice beneath a penguin, causing it to sink into the slush, at which point they would surround the creature and consume it.
The Discovery of the Bigon.
Discover Magazine reported that physicists had discovered a new fundamental particle of matter, dubbed the Bigon. It could only be coaxed into existence for mere millionths of a second, but amazingly, when it did materialize it was the size of a bowling ball. It was theorized that the Bigon might be responsible for a host of unexplained phenomena such as ball lightning, sinking souffles, and spontaneous human combustion.
The scientific journal Nature, in its online edition, revealed the discovery of "a near-complete skeleton of a theropod dinosaur in North Dakota." The discovery was referred to in an article by Henry Gee discussing the palaeontological debate over the origin of birds. The dinosaur skeleton had reportedly been discovered by Randy Sepulchrave of the Museum of the University of Southern North Dakota. The exciting part of the discovery, according to the article, was that "The researchers believe that the dinosaur, now named as Smaugia volans, could have flown."
Red Herring Magazine profiled a revolutionary new internet technology called Orecchio (Italian for "ear"). This technology used the TIDE communications protocol (short for "Telepathic Internet Data Exchange") to allow users to compose and send e-mail telepathically. To e-mail telepathically users wore a device nestled between their ear and skull. The company developing this device was Tidal Wave Communications, led by Yuri Maldini, a computer genius from Estonia. Adding credibility to the story was a reference to some real research at Emory University in which researchers had allowed a paralyzed man to move a cursor across a computer screen by implanting a device in his brain. Mr. Maldini, who had once been employed by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, claimed that he had developed the idea for Orecchio from the encrypted communications systems he had put in place during the Gulf War and the conflict in Somalia. Nevertheless, despite the revolutionary potential of telepathic
Esquire introduced its readers to an exciting new company called Freewheelz in an article titled "There Are No Free Wheels." Freewheelz planned to provide drivers with free cars. In exchange, the drivers had to place large advertisements on the outside of their vehicle (such as ads for StayFresh Maxi Pads). Ads would also play constantly on the radio inside the car. Prospective drivers had to go through a screening process, requiring them to submit stool samples and notarized video-store-rental receipts.
The article satirized the much-touted "new economy" created by the internet. Readers who didn't realize this barraged Esquire with phone calls, wanting to know how they could sign up to
Playboy’s Wife-Beating Advice.
The Romanian edition of Playboy published an article titled "How to beat your wife without leaving a trace." Written from the point of view of a policeman, it offered a step-by-step guide to concealable abuse, suggesting that abuse could lead to a better sex life.
Deputy editor Mihai Galatanu later insisted the article had been an April Fool's joke, and that the abuse methods described "cannot work." Nevertheless, the article generated widespread condemnation. Women marched through central Bucharest in protest.
Playboy Enterprises chairman Christie Hefner soon issued an apology and reprimanded the Romanian chief editor.
Supreme Court Dress Code.
A special edition of the Denver Bar Association's newsletter, The Docket, described a new dress code adopted by the Colorado Supreme Court. Male attorneys would be required to wear blue blazers with a Colorado state seal displayed on the pocket, while female lawyers would have to wear plaid skirts. The Docket received five calls from lawyers concerned about this new dress code.
Greatest Cities Prank.
Maxim magazine printed multiple covers for its April 2002 issue, simultaneously declaring thirteen different American cities (including Detroit, Philadelpia, New York, and Miami) to be the "Greatest City on Earth." Readers in each city received an appropriately targeted issue of the magazine. In addition to the cover, the issue also included two pages listing the benefits of the cover city and disparaging the other cities. For instance, Philadelphia readers were told about their collective toughness and the Ivy League "hotties" at the University of Pennsylvania. However, readers in other cities were told that Philadelphia was merely a "glorified . . . [bathroom] break between New York and
Condoleezza Rice as Girlfriend of the Day.
Maxim magazine chose National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as its "Girlfriend of the Day."
The girl next door: "I always say to [the President], 'This is what I think, but let me tell you what the others think.' The key is to not take advantage of the fact that I live a few doors down from the Oval Office."
Where you've seen her: Lighting up the small screen and the press in her current role as President George W. Bush's sassy national security adviser. Look for her soon, when she will be making her hotly anticipated debut before the 9/11 commission.
Day Lost to Stronger Trade Winds.
Nature.com reported a startling discovery made by astronomers. The increasing force of trade winds had slightly accelerated the spin of the Earth. As a consequence the length of the day had decreased over the past century, meaning that the calendar was now inaccurate: "Just as February has an extra day in leap years, we conclude that March ought to have 30 days once every 100 years, not 31… If we start the adjustments this year we should be back on track." In other words, "today should be 2 April, not 1 April."
The Tour de France Sunflower Conspiracy.
The bicycle magazine VeloNews revealed the shocking truth behind the Tour de France: The fields of sunflowers lining the tour's route were the result of a secret program of genetic manipulation designed to produce flowers that would exactly match the color of the yellow jersey of the Tour de France. Unfortunately, these genetically engineered sunflowers were also prone to fungal infection. Those concerned were "embarking on a nationwide campaign to warn farmers about the risks involved in accepting cash, seeds or other considerations to plant flowers along the route of this year's Tour."
Migrant Mother Makeover.
Popular Photography Magazine ran a special feature on how to touch up photos in which subjects have unsightly wrinkles or unattractive expressions. "Can these photos be saved?" the article asked. One of the examples used was Dorothea Lange's famous Depression-era photo of a "Migrant Mother" huddling with her children in a roadside camp outside Nipomo, California. Under the masterful touch of Popular Photography editors, the Migrant Mother was transformed from an iconic symbol of the struggle for survival into a smooth-faced suburban soccer mom. The makeover, intended as a joke, provoked hundreds of outraged letters from readers.
Scientific American Concedes Creationists Might Be Right.
Scientific American ran an editorial, titled "Okay, we give up," revealing that the magazine would henceforward give equal space to the views of Creationists: "This magazine's coverage of so-called evolution has been hideously one-sided. For decades, we published articles in every issue that endorsed the ideas of Charles Darwin and his cronies… Where were the answering articles presenting the powerful case for scientific creationism? Why were we so unwilling to suggest that dinosaurs lived 6,000 years ago or that a cataclysmic flood carved the Grand Canyon? Blame the scientists."
Pick Your Own Cow.
Motive magazine ran an article about a new program from Lamborghini allowing owners to pick specific cows with which to outfit their cars' leather interior.
GM and Chrysler ordered out of NASCAR.
Car and Driver Magazine revealed that the White House had ordered GM and Chrysler to stop participating in NASCAR by the end of the 2009 season, deeming it an "unnecessary expenditure." Failure to comply would disqualify them from receiving any additional bailout money from the government.
NASCAR was said to be exploring other options, such as inviting Korea's Hyundai corporation to compete in GM and Chrysler's place.
The Economist magazine announced it would be building a new economics-themed amusement park on a former industrial estate in East London, as part of a strategy to "promote The Economist brand to a young and dynamic audience" by combining "the magic of a theme park with the excitement of macroeconomics."
The rides in Econoland would include the "currency high-roller," "Fiscal Fantasyland," and "Bankrupt Britain" (pit your wits against the government as you try to sink sterling and bring the country to its knees!).
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.