April Fool's Day Hoaxes Involving False Financial Windfalls
The Hawaiian Tax Refund.
Hal Lewis, disc jockey on Hawaiian station KPOA, announced that the Senate had repealed islanders' income taxes and provided for return of 1953 taxes. The announcement elicited a huge reaction. Radio stations, newspapers, and the Internal Revenue Bureau were all flooded with calls. Many believed the announcement because, less than a month before, Hawaiian congressman Joseph Farrington had demanded that islanders be given a refund of all federal taxes if Hawaii was not granted full statehood. (It was made a state in 1959.)
An IRS agent subsequently called the station and asked it to leave his office out of any further pranks. He said his agents were busy enough processing 1953 returns,
Parking Fees Reduced.
A Vienna, Austria radio station reported that the city had decided to reduce parking permit fees, and that car drivers would be able to buy permits in tobacco shops and hand them to police officers in case of need. One police officer called the radio station to ask, "Could you please give me more details on the new order as I have not heard from my superiors yet." [The Washington Post, Apr 2, 1970.]
Norwegian Tax Rebate.
Norway's Aftenposten ran a front-page article reporting that an error by data company EDB had caused tax returns to be "eaten up." An accompanying photo showed a technician struggling with tangled data tape.
Taxpayers in Oslo and Bærum were being asked to submit new tax returns. However, those who submitted the returns by the end of that day, April 1st, were promised a 10% rebate on their taxes.
Dutch Government Shares Budget Surplus.
A Dutch radio program announced that the government planned to distribute its budget surplus equally among tax-payers. The announcement received an excited response from listeners eager for their share.
When Linas Gylys noticed that the Continental Illinois Bank had accidentally credited his account with an extra $4,757,000, he waited until April 1st, then went into the bank and requested a certified check made out to one "John H. Perkins." Bank officials hurriedly escorted him into a back office, where they interrogated him for an hour. They only became friendlier when he revealed that the man accompanying him was a reporter, and that John H. Perkins, to whom the check would be made out, was the president of the bank.
Gasoline for Statue.
Radio Leeds reported that the city government had approved a plan to demolish the City Square and ship the Black Prince’s statue to an Arab buyer. In return, local citizens would receive a bargain price for gasoline—30 pence a gallon.
The Durand Auto Plant.
The Durand Express, a Michigan weekly, reported that Nissan planned to build an auto plant outside of Durand City. The new plant was going to employ thousands of people 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.
The prank story attracted a lot of angry criticism. Many readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions. In response, 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.
St. Louis Arena Fund.
Rick Sanborn, a deejay for KLOU-FM in St. Louis, revealed to his listeners that a $24 million trust fund had recently been discovered that would be distributed to local residents. The trust fund had supposedly been established by the builder of the local sports Arena in 1929. He had left instructions to distribute the money to locals should the Arena ever be torn down. Since it was torn down in 1999, his order would go into effect. The money would be paid to anyone who held a St. Louis birth certificate issued after 1929. They would receive $1000 for every year of their age. Sanborn included fake reports and interviews along with his announcement. As a result of the prank, the St. Louis Citizens Service Bureau received over 75 calls before Sanborn revealed that the story was a hoax.
Oil Found in Japan.
The Tokyo Shimbun reported the discovery of a huge oil field (over 110 billion barrels, about the size of Iraqi reserves) in the Tokyo Gulf. It was predicted that this would tip the balance of power with Washington in Japan's favour.
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.