The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. (1957)
The respected BBC news show Panorama ran a segment revealing 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 that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."
Instant Color TV. (1962)
Sveriges Television, Sweden's National TV broadcaster, revealed that it had developed new technology that allowed people to see color pictures on their black-and-white sets. The station's technical expert, Kjell Stensson, explained that the technology took advantage of the prismatic nature of light and the phenomenon of "double slit interference." To see color images, all a viewer had to do was pull a nylon stocking over the tv screen.
After Stensson demonstrated the process, thousands of viewers at home obediently imitated him. Actual color broadcasts only commenced in Sweden on April 1, 1970.
BBC TV interviewed a London University professor who had perfected a technology he called "smellovision," allowing viewers to smell aromas produced in the television studio in their 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 by noon whether they had smelled anything. Numerous viewers called in from across the country to confirm that they had distinctly experienced these scents. Some claimed the onions made their eyes water.
Dial-O-Fish. (circa 1970?)
Australia's This Day Tonight ran a segment about the "Dial-O-Fish," a new electronic fishing rod that could be set to catch any desired species. A "fishing expert" demonstrated how to use the device. First he dialed up garfish, and soon had caught half a dozen. Next he dialed up tommy ruff. Hundreds of viewers reportedly called in wanting to know where to buy one, and a Japanese manufacturer declared it was ready to go into production immediately.
Sydney Opera House Sinking. (early 1970s?)
Australia's This Day Tonight reported that the Sydney Opera House was sinking into the harbor. The report showed scuba divers examining the foundations and included interviews with concerned "experts".
The Village of Spiggot Boycotts Metric System. (1973)
Westward Television, a British TV studio, produced a documentary feature about the village of Spiggot whose residents were refusing to accept the new decimal currency recently adopted by the British government. The feature included interviews with local officials from Spiggot. The documentary prompted an outpouring of support for this rebellious village from the British public, and many people expressed a willingness to join it in its anti-decimal crusade. Unfortunately for this burgeoning rebellion, the village of Spiggot did not exist.
Metric Time. (1975)
Australia's This Day Tonight revealed that the country would soon be converting to "metric time." Under the new system there would be 100 seconds to the minute, 100 minutes to the hour, and 20-hour days. Furthermore, seconds would become millidays, minutes become centidays, and hours become decidays. The report included an interview with Deputy Premier Des Corcoran who (participating in the prank) praised the new time system. The Adelaide townhall was shown sporting a new 10-hour metric clock face. The show received numerous calls from viewers who fell for the hoax. One caller wanted to know how he could convert his newly purchased digital clock to metric time.
Hair-Restoring Well. (1977)
BBC TV's Nationwide news program ran a segment about a well located on the farm of James Coatsworth in Rothbury, Northumberland. This well supposedly had the power to make hair grow on bald men’s heads.
The Eruption of Mt. Milton. (1980)
The Channel 7 news in Boston ended with a special bulletin announcing that a 635-foot hill in Milton, Massachusetts known as the Great Blue Hill had erupted, and that lava and ash were raining down on nearby homes. Footage was shown of lava pouring down a hillside. The announcer explained that the eruption had been triggered by a geological chain reaction set off by the recent eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington. An audio tape was played in which President Carter and the Governor of Massachusetts were heard declaring the eruption to be a “serious situation.“
At the end of the segment, the repoter held up a sign that read “April Fool.“ However, by that time local authorities had already been flooded with frantic phone calls from Milton residents. One man, believing that his house would soon be engulfed by lava, had carried his sick wife outside in order to escape. The Milton police continued to receive worried phone calls well into the night. Channel 7 was so embarrassed by the panicked reaction that they apologized for the confusion later that night, and the executive producer responsible for the prank was fired.
The Traductor. (1984)
Belgium's RTBF TV network aired a segment about the "Traductor." This device, invented by Count Otto Von Glutz, could automatically translate from Flemish to French, and vice versa. It did so using a sophisticated computer language called Belgax.
The invention promised to put an end to linguistic quarrels in Belgium.
The Lirpa Loof. (1984)
The BBC Show That's Life aired a segment about an animal called the Lirpa Loof, a hairy biped from the eastern Himalayas, that had just arrived at the London Zoo.
Naturalist David Bellamy talked about how excited he was to finally see this animal, which he had read about as a child. The creature was also a natural mimic, imitating whatever it saw a person doing. This delighted crowds at the zoo. Unfortunately, the total number of Lirpa Loofs in the world was "small and diminishing."
The scientific name of the Lirpa Loof was Eccevita mimicus. "Eccevita" is Latin for "That's Life."
Space Needle Collapses. (1989)
Seattle's "Almost Live" comedy show started their April 1 program with a news flash: the Seattle Space Needle had collapsed. A reporter presented the news, and then several shots of the Space Needle lying on its side in a pile of rubble were shown.
The show's host, John Keister, appeared after a commercial break and assured viewers the announcement had only been a joke. Nevertheless, many people were fooled. Staff at the Space Needle reported receiving over 700 calls from concerned viewers, and 911 lines jammed from the sudden rush of calls from people seeking more information.
Grandstand’s Newsroom Brawl. (1989)
On the BBC Sports show Grandstand, as presenter Desmond Lynam talked about upcoming events to be covered a fight broke out behind him in the newsroom. As the fight escalated, Lynam continued to calmly discuss the news, assuring the audience that, "We'll continue to do our best to cover sport in the way that you like, backed up by our highly professional team." Later in the show, Lyman noted that viewers may have seen "a bit of an altercation" behind him and apologized for this. But then he proceeded to show an instant replay of the fight.
After the replay the newsroom brawlers were shown standing together, holding a sign that read "April Fool."
The HA! Network. (1990)
MTV, VH-1, and Nick at Nite turned over their airwaves (and their 50 million viewers) to the HA! network, a comedy channel which broadcast in their place for the day. No one in the broadcast industry had been informed that the switch would take place. The broadcast was the debut of the Viacom-backed HA! network. Viacom had hoped that the prank would give the fledgling network some much-needed publicity.
The HA! network lasted a year before merging with the Comedy Channel.
South Park Bait and Switch. (1998)
The animated Comedy Central series South Park had been heavily promoting that on the April 1 season premiere of the second season of the show, it would reveal the identity of the father of a character Cartman, thus resolving the cliffhanger it had left viewers with the season before. The April 1 show began as normal, with clips shown from previous episodes, but then a message flashed on the screen stating it had all been an April Fool's joke. Nothing was going to be revealed. Instead the episode focused on the completely unrelated adventures of the flatulent characters Terrance and Philip. Fans of the series were irate. Comedy Central received over 1500 angry emails. A spokesman admitted that the fans "got the joke... they just didn't like it." Fans had to wait until April 22 before the identity of Cartman's father actually was revealed.
Russian Hair-Restoring Well. (2001)
Russian Public TV reported that a spring had been discovered in the Caucasus mountains with the ability to cure male baldness. "According to the latest statistics, the number of bald men in Adygeya has plummeted," the report noted. The news program showed "before" and "after" pictures of the man who had made the discovery. (The BBC perpetrated a similar April Fool's Day hoax in 1977.)
Repent, Criminals!. (2004)
Norway's TV 2 announced a new crime-reduction strategy being considered by the police. Prisons were going to send inmates to see The Passion of the Christ. Police officers would then position themselves outside the theater and wait for the criminals to confess and repent after seeing the movie.
Flying Penguins. (2008)
The BBC announced that camera crews filming near the Antarctic for its natural history series Miracles of Evolution had captured footage of Adélie penguins taking to the air. It offered a video clip of these flying penguins, which became one of the most viewed videos on the internet.
Presenter Terry Jones explained that, instead of huddling together to endure the Antarctic winter, these penguins took to the air and flew thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America where they "spend the winter basking in the tropical sun." A follow-up video explained how the BBC created the special effects of the flying penguins.
Pandas in the Pyrenees. (2013)
Television channel France 3 revealed that the French government planned to release giant pandas in the Pyrenees, as part of the continuing reintroduction of bears to the region. Negotiations with the Chinese government were ongoing, but it was hoped that the first panda pair could be introduced in the spring of 2014.
Of course, pandas eat mainly bamboo. This was seen as a positive, as it meant the pandas were unlikely to attack farm animals. However, bamboo is not found in the pyrenees. Therefore, the plan was to use a helicopter to fly several tons of bamboo to the pandas every week.