The Museum of Hoaxes
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Benelux April Fool's Day Hoaxes
(Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg)
Eduard de Dene. (1561)
The Flemish writer Eduard De Dene published a comical poem in 1561 about a nobleman who hatches a plan to send his servant back and forth on absurd errands on April 1st, supposedly to help prepare for a wedding feast. The servant recognizes that what’s being done to him is an April 1st joke. The poem is titled “Refereyn vp verzendekens dach / Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach.“ This is late medieval Dutch meaning (roughly) “Refrain on errand-day / which is the first of April.“ In the closing line of each stanza, the servant says, “I am afraid… that you are trying to make me run a fool’s errand.“ This appears to be the first clear More…
When Alva Lost His Glasses. (1572)
On 1 April 1572, Dutch rebels captured the town of Den Briel from Spanish troops led by Lord Alva. This military success eventually led to the independence of the Netherlands from Spain. A Dutch rhyme goes: "Op 1 april / Verloor Alva zijn Bril." This translates to: "On April 1st / Alva lost his 'glasses'". "Bril" means glasses in Dutch, but is also a pun on the name of the town, Den Briel. According to Dutch legend, the tradition of playing pranks on April 1st arose to commemorate the victory in Den Briel and humiliation of the Spanish commander.
Automatic Weeding Machine. (1927)
The Dutch magazine Het Leven ran a feature about a machine that could automatically weed gardens. The device shown was, in reality, a ground leveler. More…
Bicycle Flies Over Amsterdam. (1933)
The Dutch magazine Het Leven ran an article about a flying bicycle designed by inventor Peter Müller. Photographs showed the bicycle successfully taking off and soaring above Amsterdam. More…
Professor Touffu’s Baldness Cure. (1938)
The Dutch magazine Het Leven reported that a Professor Touffu had made a miraculous discovery which allowed him to transplant animal fur onto a bald man's head and induce to grow. Photographs documented a patient undergoing the treatment. More…
Atomic Mist Invades Eindhoven. (1947)
The Eindhoven Dagblad reported that the Dutch town of Eindhoven would be destroyed the next day by an "atomic mist" blowing into the town. Panic resulted. Town residents made frantic plans to leave, especially those living near the Philips Incandescent Lamp Company's factories and laboratories, Eindhoven's main industry. Numerous radio announcements were made to calm residents and assure them that the story was false. Municipal authorities considered legal action against the newspaper. More…

Prehistoric Cave Dwelling. (1958)
The Dutch newsreel service Polygon-Journal gathered journalists to inform them about an "astonishing discovery from 5000 BC." An amateur filmmaker had found a cave system, outside the village of Klimmen in the province of Limburg, that appeared to have been the home of prehistoric men. Journalists were led deep inside the cave, until they reached an inner room, in which they found a mysterious metal box. The box was dragged outside. When opened, there was a chunk of limestone inside of it. One of them lifted the rock into the air. As he raised it up, everyone could see the single phrase that was carved into it: "1 April" More…
Leaning Tower of Pisa Falls Over. (1960)
The national news in the Netherlands reported that the Tower of Pisa had fallen over. The announcement caused widepread shock and mourning. More…
Easter Island Statue Washes Ashore. (1962)
On March 29, 1962, a man walking along the beach near the Dutch town of Zandvoort reported a bizarre discovery. He had found, washed up on the sand, a small statue that looked just like the famous statues on Easter Island. Based on the statue's weathered appearance, it seemed that the ocean currents must have carried it all the way from the South Pacific to the Netherlands. The discovery made headlines around the world. An expert from Norway confirmed it was an authentic Easter Island artifact. But on April 1, a local artist named Edo van Tetterode confessed that he had actually made the statue and planted it on the beach, having been inspired by the research of Thor Heyerdahl. More…
Dutch Government Shares Budget Surplus. (1972)
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. More…
Paper Fish. (1983)
A pedestrian on a street in Brussels fell victim to the old prank of a paper fish stuck to his back. In French-speaking countries, tagging someone as a "poisson d'Avril" (April Fish) is the equivalent of calling them an April Fool. More…
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. More…
IPO for F/rite Air. (2000)
By April 2000, the dot.com bubble was rapidly deflating. This didn't deter hundreds of Dutch investors from lining up to buy shares in F/rite Air, which was being billed as a hot new technology company backed by supporters such as Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and George Soros. The announcement about the company's IPO was posted on iex.nl, a financial web site for Dutch investors. It was reported that shares in the IPO could be reserved for $18 each by email, although it was said that analysts anticipated the stock soaring to above $80 on the first day of its filing. The company seemed like a sure thing, and almost immediately orders worth over $7 million flooded in. The orders didn't stop coming in even after the newspapers had revealed the IPO to be an April Fool's Day joke. F/rite air was a pun for 'Fried air' (i.e. Hot Air). More…
The Honest Thief File-Sharing Network. (2003)
In late February, a Dutch company calling itself The Honest Thief announced it would host a new, totally legal file-sharing service. It explained that it was able to do this because a recent Dutch court ruling allowed the Netherlands to become a legal haven for file sharing companies. Large amounts of press attention followed, including an article in the Wall Street Journal. But visitors to The Honest Thief website on April 1st were met with an announcement: April Fool! There was no legal file-sharing network. The hoax was a stunt to promote a book of the same name (The Honest Thief) by Pieter Plass. More…
The Heineken Ellipsus. (2012)
Heineken revealed that the Keukenhof gardens had succeeded in creating a new type of tulip that looked like a glass of Heineken beer — yellow with a white head, and a red star like the Heineken logo. The tulip had been named the Ellipsus, after the Heineken glass. More…
Plastic Island. (2012)
Dutch entrepreneur Merijn Everaarts unveiled a plan to create a floating island made entirely out of plastic. His idea was that he would use a machine called a "Sea Duster" to collect plastic waste floating in the ocean — the so-called "plastic soup" of marine debris. The machine would then process this waste into buoyant plastic blocks, using algae as a binder resin to attach them together. Slowly the island would form, like Lego blocks being put together. The new plastic landmass, which he planned to call "Dobber Island," would be constructed off the coast of Zandvoort, a popular Dutch beach town. More…
Braille Chocolate Letters. (2013)
Chocolate letters are a popular candy, especially around Easter. But the Netherlands-based Decidon Foundation (which specializes in creating alternative forms of reading for people with sight or reading disabilities) realized there was a gap in the market. There were no chocolate letters for the blind, so they decided to introduce braille chocolate letters. The braille letters were made of 150 grams of chocolate. They came in a special package, also printed with braille.
SpecSavers Prescription Windshields. (2013)
"Always in focus with SpecSavers, even on the go!" The Netherlands branch of SpecSavers (a chain that sells glasses and eyecare services) announced a new product: prescription windshields. "How great would it be to drive without glasses?" their website asked. Created in collaboration with the Faculty of Product Development at the University of London, the new windshields came in any desired prescription strength. And for a limited time they were offering an online special. Buy a prescription windshield for €299 and get the rear window free! More…
Beckham fractures his coccyx. (2013)
RTL Belgium disappointed soccer fans by reporting that soccer star David Beckham had fallen and fractured his coccyx while collecting Easter eggs with his children. "Beckham is clearly not as nimble at picking Easter eggs as he is with a football at his feet," the report noted. Beckham suffered the injury while celebrating Easter in England with his family. He slipped on wet grass and fell violently backwards. He quickly realized he was hurt as he lay immobilized on the ground. A doctor examined him and declared that he would have to rest for the next six weeks, and would not be able to play as Paris Saint-Germain midfielder during this time. More…
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