April Fool's Day Hoaxes Involving Fictitious Disasters
San Antonio Postoffice Burns.
"Government fire boats steamed up the San Antonio River, two navy Zeppelins dropped chemicals, but all efforts to save the San Antonio postoffice early this morning were unavailing. The fire was incendiary, as shown by the flames spurting from all windows at the same time. Thousands of April 1 bills were destroyed. Maybe we will get our new postoffice now. Perhaps you have guessed, it's only APRIL FOOL." [San Antonio Light - Apr 1, 1932]
Wisconsin State Capitol Collapses.
The Madison Capital-Times ran a picture on its front page showing the dome of the Wisconsin State Capitol collapsing. A headline announced, "Dome Topples Off Statehouse." The subhead read, "Officials Say Legislature Generated Too Much Hot Air." The image provoked strong public reaction and became one of the most notorious April Fool's Day photo hoaxes ever.
Pedestrian Overpass Collapses.
The San Antonio Light reported the collapse of a pedestrian overpass, though it noted that "the collapse might have been engineered by subversive elements":
"children had just passed over the span on their way to the school's playground when the steel structure began to vibrate. As they turned to watch, open-mouthed, the structure fell 40 feet onto the concrete roadway with a thunderous crash. A Light photographer was photographing a kite-flying competition nearby and rushed to the scene to take the dramatic picture shown above."
The Light of San Antonio, Texas reported that a huge army missile had accidentally escaped from Kelly Air Force Base during testing, "screamed over San Antonio," and crashed into a water tank near Trinity University. An accompanying picture showed the missile embedded in the ground as water from the tank poured over it. An Airforce Colonel was quoted as saying, "We're spending a great deal of money and much of this nation's international diplomacy is based on the armed strength this and other units like it achieve. So I hope you'll understand why I have no more time for this damned April Fool gag."
The front page of the Scottdale Daily Courier showed a photo of a large sinkhole that had reportedly formed at a busy intersection downtown. The crater was estimated to be 45 feet deep.
The picture fooled many readers, despite the "April Fool" notation in the caption. The Courier later reported:
"One family was indignant when a member returned home from downtown Saturday and did not even mention the fact that a large portion of the street had caved in. Other readers expressed concern for the safety of passengers in the autos in the picture. Others coming downtown later Saturday to see the hole marveled at the rapid fill-in and repavement of the mythical 'mine sink.'"
Pennsylvania Capitol Building Collapses.
The Patriot (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) published a photograph of the state capitol building collapsing. A caption below the picture read, “Custodian A.F. Day said the blast occurred during a joint House-Senate session addressed by Hubert Humphrey and Gov. Milton Shapp… Day attributed the explosion to an abnormal expansion of hot air which usually is absorbed by acoustic seats in the chamber.“ The hoax elicited negative comments from many readers who accused the paper of “confusing fun with irresponsibility.“ Two days later the paper apologized for the hoax and promised that it would never publish another. The hoax recalled a similar April Fool’s Day joke published by the Madison Capital-Times in 1933.
Space Needle Collapses.
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.
More April Fool Categories
All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.