Government-Themed April Fool's Day Hoaxes
Top Secret Atomic Papers.
Two teenage boys walked into a London police station and handed over a folder that appeared to contain designs for an atomic weapon. They said they had found it lying on the pavement at a bus stop. Word of the disturbing discovery soon went public, causing widespread alarm. The apparent security breach was even discussed in the House of Commons. But when atomic experts got around to examining the formulae and blueprints, they concluded they were meaningless.
The mystery was solved when a friend of the two boys confessed he had created the "top secret" documents himself out of Norwegian billhead receipts and pieces of an old blueprint he had taken from the office where he worked. He wrote "a
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Hal Lewis, disc jockey on Hawaiian station KPOA, announced that the Senate had repealed islanders' income taxes and provided for return of 1953 taxes.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,
Kokomo Police Cut Costs.
The Kokomo Tribune announced that the city police had devised a plan to cut costs and save money. According to this plan, the police station would close each night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. An answering machine would record all calls made to the station during this time, and these calls would be screened by an officer in the morning. The police reportedly anticipated that the screening process would save the city a great deal of money, since many of the calls would be old by the morning and would not need to be answered. A spokesman for the police admitted, "there will be a problem on what to do in the case of a woman who calls in and says her husband has threatened to shoot her or some member of the family." But in such a situation, the spokesman explained, "We will check the hospitals and the coroner, and if they don't have any record of any trouble, then we will know that nothing happened."
Taxes Fund Private Club.
The Kokomo Tribune reported that city officials planned to increase taxes in order to fund construction of "a modern and handsomely furnished health and social club for local public officials." The article pointed out that "our public officials are hard-working individuals who deserve a convenient place for recreation." It went on to quote a local official who said, "We believe the idea will be well received by our citizens. It will mean an increase in taxes, but this is well accepted by people when they realize that it is for a good thing."
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.]
Texas Honors the Boston Strangler.
The Texas House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution honoring Albert DeSalvo, noting he had been "officially recognized by the state of Massachusetts for his noted activities and unconventional techniques involving population control and applied psychology."
DeSalvo was more widely known as the "Boston Strangler." He had confessed to killing 13 women. The resolution was sponsored by Representatives Tom Moore and Lane Denton, who said they intended to demonstrate that "No one reads these bills or resolutions."
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.
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.
London's Capital Radio station announced that Operation Parallax would soon go into effect. This was a government plan to resynchronize the British calendar with the rest of the world. Ever since 1945, the station explained, Britain had gradually become 48 hours ahead of all other countries because of the constant switching back and forth from British Summer Time. To remedy this situation, the British government had decided to cancel April 5 and 12 that year. Capital Radio received numerous calls as a result of this announcement. One employer wanted to know if she had to pay her employees for the missing days. Another woman was curious about what would happen to her birthday, which fell on
Lowering the Congressional Minimum Age.
Representative Thomas J. Downey (shown), a Democrat from New York, issued a news release proposing that the minimum age for Congressmen be lowered from 25 to 15. He cited the need for "new blood in Congress." He argued that teenagers could usefully lead a Select Committee on Acne and noted that "junkets could become field trips; the carry-outs could sell Twinkies; missed votes could be excused with a note from Mom." He did concede, however, that there would be an increased risk of "food fights in the cafeteria."
Families limited to .75 children.
The Rivereast News Bulletin (Glastonbury, Connecticut) announced that the city's Board of Education had devised a plan to eliminate overcrowding in classrooms. The plan was to forbid families from having more than .75 children per household for the next 15 years. The Board of Education admitted that it had not yet figured out how families could limit themselves to .75 children, but that a computer had determined that this was the ideal number. It was suggested that families unhappy with this ruling move to California. The Board added that the new ruling would not become law for another ten months. Therefore, parents who wanted more than .75 children were urged to "get started this afternoon."
The New York City Packers.
New York City Comptroller Harrison Goldin called a news conference at which he announced that the city was purchasing the professional football team, the Green Bay Packers. City retirement funds would be used to make the purchase, and the Packers would replace the Giants and the Jets. Reporters had already phoned the story into the New York Post and Daily News when a press representative in Golden's office announced that the news was an April Fool's day joke. The Post complained that they had almost put the story on their front page, a mistake which would have cost them $100,000 to correct.
City of Providence Closes For Day.
Carolyn Fox, a disc jockey for WHJY in Providence, Rhode Island, announced that the 'Providence Labor Action Relations Board Committee' had decided to close the city for the day. She gave out a number for listeners to call for more information. The number was that of a rival station, WPRO-AM. Hundreds of people called WPRO, as well as City Hall and the police. Even more called into their offices to see if they had to go into work. WHJY management later admitted that it had never imagined its joke would have such a dramatic impact on the city.
Privatizing the Army.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Margaret Thatcher was considering privatizing the Army and selling off the Brigade of Guards. According to the article, "Strict flotation terms would prevent hostile foreign interests gaining majority control over the brigade."
Tax the Poor.
Rush Limbaugh, a radio talk-show host famous for his support of conservative issues, declared his belief that the U.S. government should raise taxes for the poor because "they're the wealthiest poor in the world." Many of his listeners called in to applaud his belief. Later Limbaugh confessed that he does not actually support such a belief and chastised his listeners for being "too quick to believe anything that hits a hot button."
PhDs Exempt From China’s One-Child Policy.
The China Youth Daily, an official state newspaper of China, announced on its front page that the government had decided to make Ph.D. holders exempt from the state-imposed one-child limit. The logic behind this decision was that it would eventually reduce the need to invite as many foreign experts into the country to help with the state's modernization effort.
Despite a disclaimer beneath the story identifying it as a joke, the report was repeated as fact by Hong Kong's New Evening News and by Agence France-Presse, an international news agency. What made the hoax seem credible to many was that intellectuals in Singapore were encouraged to marry each other and have children, and China's leaders were known to have great respect for the Singapore system.
The Chinese government responded to the hoax by condemning April Fool's Day as a dangerous Western tradition. The Guangming Daily, Beijing's main newspaper for intellectuals, ran an editorial stating that April Fool's jokes "are an
£2,030 Tax Refund.
An ad in the London Times announced that everyone in the UK was due a tax refund of £2,030. The fine print revealed that the refund was an "apology" from the Conservative Party, and that to collect the money one needed to write to Conservative Party Headquarters. In reality, there was no refund heading everyone's way. The ad had been placed by the Labour Party. It was the first time a British political party had run an April Fool's Day ad.
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.
April 1st To Be National Holiday.
Radio Russia reported that the Russian parliament was considering a proposal to declare April 1st a public holiday: "Telephone jokes, absurd tasks for managers, warnings that the power, light or heat is to be cut off and other practical jokes are much more extravagant then than on other days. As a result, expert analysis shows, industrial efficiency in Russia falls," the report explained. By declaring the day a national holiday, efficiency would be maintained.
Berlin Sells Railway Station Names.
The German Der Tagesspiegel reported that the City of Berlin planned to raise money by auctioning the naming rights of the city's railway stations to the highest bidders. The city hoped it could raise as much as DM5m per station in this way. There was also discussion of charging the descendants of the 19th century composer Richard Wagner retrospectively for the existing station at Richard Wagner Platz.
European Committee Bans Single-Shelled Eggs.
The European Committee issued a communique in which it declared that it was banning single-shelled eggs, in order to prevent cracked eggs being found in food stores. The ban was a play on the French word "coque" which means both egg shell and ship's hull.
Portable Zip Codes.
NPR's All Things Considered reported that the U.S. Post Office was introducing a new portable zip codes program that would allow individuals to take their zip code with them when they moved. The program was inspired by a recent FCC ruling that allowed people to retain the same phone number wherever they moved or whatever service they switched to.
Supporters of the program noted, "A modern, mobile society… can no longer afford to remain grounded in locale-specific zip codes… a zip code is a badge of honor, an emblem symbolizing a citizen's place in the demographic, rather than geographic, landscape."
Medical ID Chips.
Norway's Aftenposten reported a plan by government health authorities to implant electronic id chips under patient's skin in order to better monitor their medical needs. Health workers would be able to monitor their movements and know when they entered a hospital. Aftenposten later noted that over 2,000 people clicked on a link that accompanied the internet version of the story for people who wanted to participate in the project.
Lottery Tickets Instead of Pension Payments.
The Tokyo Shimbun reported this on its front page: "The government is seriously considering a project which includes issuing lottery tickets to citizens to balance the inevitable cuts in pensions counting on the fact that it would be better to give them dreams of future wealth instead of making them pay more in order to keep present pension figures." Readers were said to be hopeful that the joke didn't turn out to be a satirical prophecy.
Red Door for 10 Downing Street.
The Daily Mail reported that Tony Blair, in a "literally incredible break with decades of tradition," had decided to paint the door of 10 Downing Street "socialist red." The color choice was made with the help of design consultant April Fewell.
Bolivia Forced to Adopt Daylight Savings Time.
The Democracy Center posted on its website that Bolivian President Evo Morales had accused the United States of engaging in a clandestine effort to force Bolivia to adopt Daylight Savings Time. The article quoted Morales as saying, "We have seen the government of the U.S. try to undermine our democracy, block us from the lawful export of coca products, and smuggle in munitions. But now we see that these conspirators also have their sights set on changing our clocks. We denounce this before the world community." The news was reposted as fact by a few blogs, including the Huffington Post, before it was identified as a joke.
Free Childcare at Political Offices.
An advertisement that appeared on page five of the Australian newspaper claimed that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had volunteered the use of the electorate offices as a child-minding service: "Each MP's electorate office will today be accepting newborns for a free child minding service. This is another example of Labor's commitment to working families." The advocacy group Get Up later claimed responsibility for the ad.
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