April Fool's Day International Relations Hoaxes
Peace Treaty Signed.
A prankster started a rumor alleging that a peace treaty ending World War I had been signed. According to the Associated Press: "The report rapidly spread over all Paris and the telephone wires to the American headquarters in the hotel de Crillon became hot with inquiries as to the truth of the rumor. It did not take long however, for inquiries to realize the character of the report when they were reminded that today was April 1st." The Treaty of Versailles, which marked the formal end of the war, was signed on June 28, 1919. [Daily Northwestern, Apr 1, 1919.]
Dr. Stransky’s Dinner Party.
Over thirty members of Washington's social elite received invitations to attend a dinner at a Washington social club, to be hosted by Dr. Pavel Stransky, secretary of the Czechoslovak legation. Invitations were extended by telephone by a woman speaking with a French accent. But those who showed up discovered there was no host. Nor had any reservations been made. Dr. Stransky later protested, "I sent no invitations. I am astonished... Today is the 1st of April and I think it is all a joke. But why should they pick on me?"
Critics of Catholicism receive Catholic medal.
The French government received a message from Athens, Greece, sent via official channels, announcing that three prominent Parisian critics of Catholicism had been awarded the Order of the Redeemer, the highest decoration awarded by the Greek government. The decoration is considered a high honor among Catholics, since it symbolizes the rebirth of the Greek nation through divine assistance. The three men who supposedly had been awarded the medal were M. Ferdinand Buisson and M. Aulard of the Sorbonne, and M. Victor Basch of the University of Paris. In reality, the decorations had been conferred on less controversial figures. It was not known who had found a way to use the Greek government to
Dictators in Breadline.
"The picture... shows the present plight of the former three most powerful dictators of Europe, summarily ousted by their parties when they were discovered in a hotel room playing a game called 'Guns, Guns — Who's got the Munitions Contract?' Der ex-Reichfuhrer Adolf Hitler, dejection in every line of his face, is gratefully receiving a handout. Italy's Benito Mussolini pushes in for his turn, hoping vainly that there'll be spaghetti. Russia's Joseph Stalin, third in line, smiles sardonically at the turn of events, and has just coined a little wisecrack: 'Let them eat crusts!' [Picture distributed by the Newspaper Enterprise Association]
An Egyptian Delegation.
The mayors of the Italian towns of Siena and San Gimignano received telegrams informing them that on the following day (April 1) a student delegation from the Superior Institute of Agriculture of Cairo, Egypt would visit their town. The next day the delegation arrived, visiting San Gimignano first where they were greeted by the mayor and town officials.
The delegation next visited Siena, where they were again greeted by town officials: "The secretary general invited the guests to the buffet set up in the next room to toast the future of the Egyptian republic. This was too much for the thirsty youngsters, who had spotted the inviting vermouth bottles. And suddenly dropping their masquerade
Mao Tse-tung Blasts Stalin.
The English-language China News revealed that its monitors had heard Peiping Radio (official propaganda organ of Red China) quote Mao Tse-tung referring to Stalin as a "slavedriver, murderer, and doublecrosser." Two Chinese-language papers, the Central Daily News and the Hsin Sheng Pao (mouthpiece of the Formosa provincial government) both subsequently ran the story on their front pages, not realizing that tbe report was intended as a joke "in line with the spirit of April Fools' Day," as The China News later explained.
Berlin Wall Border Prank.
When the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, it ran along Bernauer Strasse, and consequently the East German border guards bricked up the doors and windows of the houses in this street facing the border. But many people tried to escape by removing the bricks from windows and jumping down into the West.
On 1 April 1962, West German police saw a light flashing from a partly bricked-up second floor window on Bernauer Strasse, and they believed it to be someone signalling their intent to escape. So they enlisted the help of firemen and rushed to the house to spread nets beneath the window to catch the person when they jumped. But they were met by three East German guards who stuck their heads out
Soviets Land in Kankakee.
The Daily Journal, based in Kankakee, Illinois, reported that a Soviet space capsule had landed just outside of the city. Apparently the cosmonauts had seriously miscalculated their trajectory during reentry. The Soviet government was said to be keeping its silence about the capsule. An accompanying photograph showed a space capsule with a hammer and sickle displayed on its side. The article said that one of the cosmonauts, Lirpa Loof, had been missing for over a year. Many people drove to the supposed site of the landing to see the capsule.
Europeans To Drive On Left Side.
French state-run radio announced that European motorists would soon be required to drive on the left side of the road, in order to help British drivers when they joined the Common Market. Almost immediately the radio station began receiving hundreds of phone calls from enraged French motorists. As a result, the station quickly confessed that the story was a hoax.
The Birth of Nutopia.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono issued a statement announcing the birth of a new "conceptual country," Nutopia, which consisted of "no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people."
Claiming to be ambassadors of Nutopia, and therefore eligible for diplomatic immunity, Lennon and Ono waved white handkerchiefs at a press conference, saying, "This is the flag of Nutopia; we surrender" (referring to Lennon's immigration problems, as he and Ono tried to remain in the United States).
The official seal of Nutopia showed a picture of a seal (the marine animal).
Wordsworth’s Cottage Sold.
Radio Carlisle reported that Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage had been sold to an American and was being shipped to Arizona brick by brick.
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 26-Day Marathon.
The Daily Mail ran a story about an unfortunate Japanese long-distance runner, Kimo Nakajimi, who had entered the London Marathon but, on account of a translation error, thought that he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. The Daily Mail showed pictures of Nakajimi running and reported that he was still somewhere out on the roads of England, determined to finish the race. Supposedly he had been spotted occasionally, still running. The translation error was attributed to Timothy Bryant, an import director, who said, "I translated the rules and sent them off to him. But I have only been learning Japanese for two years, and I must have made a mistake. He seems to be taking this marathon to be
The British Weather Machine.
The Guardian reported that scientists at Britain's research labs in Pershore had "developed a machine to control the weather." A series of articles explained that, "Britain will gain the immediate benefit of long summers, with rainfall only at night, and the Continent will have whatever Pershore decides to send it." Readers were also assured that Pershore scientists would make sure that it snowed every Christmas in Britain. A photograph showed a scruffy-looking scientist surrounded by scientific equipment, with the caption, "Dr. Chisholm-Downright expresses quiet satisfaction as a computer printout announces sunshine in Pershore and a forthcoming blizzard over Marseilles."
Tass Expands into American Market.
The Connecticut Gazette and Connecticut Compass, weekly newspapers serving the Old Lyme and Mystic areas, both announced they were being purchased by Tass, the official news agency of the Soviet Union. On their front pages they declared that this was "the first expansion of the Soviet media giant outside of the Iron Curtain." The article also revealed that after Tass had purchased the Compass, its two publishers had both been killed by "simultaneous hunting accidents" in which they had shot each other in the back of the head with "standard-issue Soviet Army rifles." An accompanying picture showed Gazette and Compass staff members wearing winter coats and fur hats, and carrying hockey sticks and bottles of vodka.
The announcement itself was bylined "By John Reed," and the new publisher, Vydonch U. Kissov, announced that the paper would be "thoroughly red." A new delivery system was also promised: cruise missiles (the publisher then admitted that this proposal was a 'leetle Soviet
A message distributed to the members of Usenet (the online messaging community that was one of the first forms the internet took) announced that the Soviet Union was joining the network. This generated enormous excitement, since most Usenet members had assumed cold war security concerns would prevent such a link-up.
The message purported to come from Konstantin Chernenko (from the address chernenko@kremvax.UUCP) who explained that the Soviet Union wanted to join the network in order to "have a means of having an open discussion forum with the American and European people."
The message created a flood of responses, but two weeks later its true author, a European man named Piet Beertema,
Danish Government Demands British Stop Driving On Left Side of Road.
Danish Prime Minister Poul Schluter held a press conference at which he issued a demand that the British government make its motorists drive on the right side of the road, instead of the left. He said, "We see this as a very serious case and intend to raise the issue in the (European Economic) Community… It is one of our priorities." Schluter, known as an enthusiastic cyclist, noted that he was afraid to ride his bicycle in Britain. As he was leaving the press conference he turned and added, "April Fools."
The Daily Mirror broke the news of a romance blossoming between Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev, during Thatcher's tour of the Soviet Union. It accompanied this revelation with photos of the two world leaders sitting together in Moscow's Gorky Park, with Thatcher tenderly tickling Gorbachev under his chin, as well as the two walking arm in arm, and even sneaking a kiss. The photos were posed by lookalikes, but they succeeded in fooling many. People were particularly shocked that Thatcher, a married woman, would act like that in public.
In real life, when Thatcher left Moscow on April 2nd she told members of the press that she and Gorbachev "got on very well, considering that we are
Canada Buys Arizona.
NPR's All Things Considered revealed that the Reagan administration had decided to sell the state of Arizona to Canada. Money from the sale would help reduce the national debt, and Canada, for its part, as the Canadian ambassador to the US explained, was eager to acquire a warm-water port "and this was the best we could do."
Former governor of Arizona Bruce Babbitt, who had recently dropped out of the race for the presidency, had been offered the job of running the new province. He had accepted the position, saying it was apparent that Canada had "greater faith in my ability to lead."
BMW Automatic Translation System.
BMW ran an ad in the London Sunday Times announcing a new "Automatic Translation System" for its cars. This device (developed by senior technician Urbein Waundab) would, at the touch of a button, translate any of the major European languages into English. It would also automatically read and translate every road sign it passed. People were invited to contact "Huw Felvret" at BMW Information Service for more details.
The ad fooled a New Scientist writer who expressed concern (in that magazine's Apr 21 issue) that on-the-spot translations of insults hurled by French drivers would "enrage the normally placid and polite English driver."
The News of the World reported that the two halves of the Channel Tunnel, being built simultaneously from the coasts of France and England, would miss each other by 14 feet, the reason being that French engineers had used metric specifications, whereas the British had used imperial feet and inches. The error would cost $14 billion to fix.
No Speed Limit for Germans.
L'Humanite, the French Communist Party newspaper, reported that because Germans had no speed limit on their own motorways, the European Commission had therefore decided to allow German drivers to drive as fast as they wanted throughout other EC countries.
The London Times reported that formal negotiations were underway for the purpose of dividing Belgium in half. The Dutch-speaking north would join the Netherlands and the French-speaking south would join France. An editorial in the paper lamented, "The fun will go from that favorite parlor game: Name five famous Belgians."
The report fooled the British foreign office minister Tristan Garel-Jones who almost went on a TV interview prepared to discuss this "important" story. The Belgian embassy also received numerous calls from journalists and expatriate Belgians seeking to confirm the news. A rival paper later criticized the prank, declaring, "The Times's effort could only be defined as funny
Euro Disney Lenin.
The Irish Times reported that the Disney Corporation was negotiating with the Russian government to purchase the embalmed body of communist leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, which had been kept on display in Red Square since the leader's death. Disney wanted to move the body and the mausoleum to the new Euro Disney, where it would be given the "full Disney treatment." This would include displaying the body "under stroboscopic lights which will tone up the pallid face while excerpts from President Reagan's 'evil empire' speech will be played in quadrophonic sound." Lenin t-shirts would also be sold.
The Today program on BBC Radio 4 announced that the British National anthem ("God Save the Queen") was to be replaced by a Euro Anthem sung in German. The new anthem, which Today played for their listeners, used extracts from Beethoven's music and was sung by pupils of a German school in London. Reportedly, Prince Charles's office telephoned Radio 4 to ask them for a copy of the new anthem. St. James Palace later insisted that it had been playing along with the prank and had not been taken in by it.
Interview With President Carter.
Michael Enright, host of the Sunday Edition of the Canadian Broadcasting Corpation's radio program This Morning, interviewed former President Jimmy Carter on the air. The interview was about softwood lumber, since Carter had recently written an editorial piece in the New York Times criticizing Canada's heavily subsidized lumber industry. However, the interview took a turn for the worse when Enright began telling Carter to speed up his answers. Then Enright asked, "I think the question on everyone's mind is, how did a washed-up peanut farmer from Hicksville such as yourself get involved in such a sophisticated bilateral trade argument?"
Carter seemed stunned by the insult. Finally he
Astro Boy to the Rescue.
The Tokyo Shimbun reported that the Japanese government was planning to send robots modelled on the 1960s cartoon character Astro Boy to assist with post-war reconstruction in Iraq. They noted: "It is partly aimed at showing the world the right way to use science technology following the loss of confidence in US high-tech weapons."
US To Move Berlin Embassy.
Germany's Tageszeitung claimed that the US had decided to move its Berlin embassy because it was too close to the French embassy. (Relations between the two countries were tense at the time because of French resistance to the U.S. war in Iraq.) Also, the embassy was located on Pariser Platz (meaning Parisian Square). The newspaper noted that Washington might reconsider the move, "but only if the name of the square is changed."
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.
Kenyan Troops To Serve in Iraq.
Kenya's East African Standard reported that the US forces in Iraq were actively recruiting reinforcements from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Troops from these regions were supposedly better adapted to desert conditions which were giving the US forces a "rough time."
Saddam Hussein Offered Job in South Africa.
South Africa's Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper scooped its rivals by reporting that, in a last minute deal to avoid war, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had accepted an offer of exile in South Africa. In exchange he would run South Africa's oil industry. Details of the arrangement included: Hussein would be given a game farm on which to live, and he would travel in a jet outfitted with a missile defense system. The US was said to be happy about the deal because it would make Hussein "somebody else's problem."
Sweden to Phase out Å, Ä and Ö.
Sweden's English-language paper, The Local, reported that in the interests of globalization and technological competitiveness Sweden's government was considering banning "complex letters" such as Å, Ä and Ö. Å would be replaced by AA, Ä by AE and Ö by OE. The Centre Party's Åsa Bäckström was quoted as saying, "Language is constantly changing and we must be prepared to meet the linguistic challenges of the modern world. Communication barriers are a hindrance to competitiveness, so we should do whatever we can - within reason - to eliminate them." However, the move was resisted by many, including the town council of Båstad, whose spokesman
Canada Buys Ely.
The Chamber of Commerce of Ely, Minnesota announced that Canada had expressed interest in buying the town and moving it north of the US/Canada border. In response to the offer, the town launched a "Keep Ely in Minnesota" campaign. Other buyers said to be interested in the town were Kansas, Oklahoma, Uzbekistan and a private party who wanted to move Ely to the South Pacific. The Ely Tourism Board subsequently said it dreamed up the hoax as a way to remind tourists that "we're still here." Reportedly, one woman phoned up the Chamber of Commerce in a panic, worried about what would happen to her property once the town moved to Canada.
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.
Fake Panda Bear Scandal.
The Taipei Times reported that pandemonium broke out at the Taipei Zoo when it was discovered that the zoo's two panda bears, received as a gift from China, were fakes. They were really "Wenzhou brown forest bears that had been dyed to create the panda's distinctive black-and-white appearance." The fraudulent pandas prompted comparisons to the recent contaminated milk scandal, in which milk watered-down with melamine had sickened 300,000 victims across China.
Was Shakespeare French?.
The Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 ran a segment reporting that an excavation at Shakespeare's last home had unearthed evidence (a locket with a French inscription) suggesting that the playwright's mother was French — and that, by extension, so was the Bard himself.
The segment included an interview with a former French Culture Minister who said, "We are delighted to learn that Shakespeare was French... Of course we have Racine and Molière, but we will make some room for him in our national pantheon of literature."
France had reportedly asked to borrow the locket to display it in France.
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.