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April Fool's Day Political Hoaxes
Al Capone for Mayor. (1931)
The Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) distributed a number of humorous fake stories to its subscribers, including the report that Al Capone was running for mayor of Chicago as a dry candidate: "Adopting the slogan, 'Dry Up Chicago,' Al (Cornpone) Capone, prominent proprietor of a leading ice cream emporium here, entered the Windy City's fight for mayor here today with rare good spirits. Given to ironic speech, the new candidate is said to be planning to take his opponents for a ride when the campaign opens. 'You have only to consider my record,' he told his followers in a stadium rally, 'to judge my fitness for the chair, er — the mayor's chair.'" More…
Wisconsin State Capitol Collapses. (1933)
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. More…
Political Foes? Nonsense! All Is Harmony!. (1935)
"Here is the first picture of the new Harmony Three formed by Father Coughlin, Senator Long and General Johnson. After weeks of bitter wrangling about financial problems they have accepted a vaudeville contract which solves for them, personally, at least, all further worries about money. They were snapped during a rehearsal of their opening number, which begins like this: Oh, we're Charley and Huey and Hugh! We're pals: no hooey—that's true! The state of the nation—depression—inflation No longer makes each of us blue—hey-hey! For we're Charley and Huey and Hugh. Note how enthusiastically the General, who sings bass, is coming in on the last note. Each member of the More…
Rue Maurice Thorez. (1941)
The Vichy government in France arrested 13 people on the charge of participating in a "Communist April Fool day plot" to rename streets in Marseille after the exiled Communist leader Maurice Thorez. The police made the arrests after finding a large quantity of signs reading "Maurice Thorez Street" (or "Rue Maurice Thorez") designed to be placed over the regular street signs in the city. More…
Speechmaker Fools Congress. (1941)
Robert Fleming Rich, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, was known for making a heated one-minute speech almost every day the House was in session. His constant subject was the national debt. His constant refrain was, "Where are we going to get the money?" On April 1st, looking grimmer than ever, he rose as usual and demanded sixty seconds of the House's time. Consent was granted. He cleared his throat and then grinned. "April Fool," he declared and sat down. He was greeted by tumultuous applause. More…
Nazis in Times Square. (1944)
"When Goebbels, Hess, Hitler and Goering, suitcases in hand, marched through Times Square in New York, pedestrians ignored them. But then, maybe it's because on closer inspection, they look suspiciously like Alexander Pope, Victor Varconi, Robert Watson and Martin Kosleck, as they appear in the movie, 'The Hitler Gang,' and if you'll look at the calendar you'll see it's April First." [The Ogden Standard-Examiner - Apr 1, 1944] More…

Calgary city hall loses its top. (1954)
"One of the Herald's photographers, Jim Parker, who has since been banished to the north, wandered up to the editor's desk the other day and offered this picture for publication. The editor recognized it as the Calgary city hall but could see no news in it as somebody is usually blowing their top over something the city does or does not do." [The Calgary Herald - Apr 1, 1954] More…
Texas Honors the Boston Strangler. (1971)
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." More…
Pennsylvania Capitol Building Collapses. (1976)
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. More…
George Orwell For President. (1983)
Three men, who identified themselves as Richard Silverman, Steven Silverman, and Jay Silverman, held a press conference at Washington's Mayflower Hotel at which they announced George Orwell's candidacy for the 1984 presidential election. They said, "We intend to use the Orwell candidacy as an avenue for humor during the long presidential election process. April Fool's Day seems an appropriate date to announce Orwell's candidacy." George Orwell died in 1950. More…
Reagan Heads Barstow Parade. (1986)
Radio station KIOT in Barstow, California announced that a parade was to be held through the city, and that President Reagan would participate in it as the grand marshal. A few people showed up and waited in the heat for the parade (which had never been scheduled). More…
Democrats Nominate George Bush. (1991)
NPR's Morning Edition reported the scoop that the Democrats planned to nominate George Herbert Walker Bush as the Democratic candidate for President — even though he would simultaneously be the Republican candidate. Since the Democrats held their convention first, one of them explained, "by the time the Republicans get to him he'll already be ours." Democrats were viewing the choice pragmatically as "a transition from idealism to realism." Rather than having to suffer under a president of the other party they didn't like, they could endure one of their own party they didn't like. More…
Nixon For President. (1992)
NPR's "Talk of the Nation" reported that former-President Richard Nixon had declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. Accompanying the announcement were audio clips of Nixon delivering his candidacy speech and declaring "I never did anything wrong, and I won't do it again." Listeners reacted emotionally to the announcement, flooding NPR with calls expressing shock and outrage. Only during the second half of the program did host John Hockenberry reveal that the announcement was an April Fool's Day joke. Comedian Rich Little had impersonated Nixon's voice. More…
£2,030 Tax Refund. (1996)
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. More…
Thatcher Endorses Blair. (1997)
The Independent reported on its front page that Labour Party member Tony Blair, who was campaigning to become prime minister, had offered former Conservative prime minister Baroness Thatcher a position as ambassador to Washington if she would endorse his candidacy in the general election and Labour were to win. It also said that Thatcher had expressed her admiration for Blair's "disciplined determination." The story was picked up by wire services and consequently reported as fact by the Australian Broadcasting Company, forcing it to subsequently issue a retraction. In reality, Thatcher had described Blair as a "boneless wonder." More…
The Return of Idi Amin. (2001)
Tanzania's Sunday Observer reported there was panic in the town of Tabora when former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was seen walking down the main street of the town dressed in a kilt. Accompanying him were an entourage of armed, semi-naked warriors, 37 of his children, and a member of the Saudi royal family. The Observer noted: "Unfortunately, because of the presence of the Saudi prince, nobody was allowed to photograph this unique whistle-stop visit." At the time, Amin was actually living in exile in Saudi Arabia. He had been deposed from power in 1979 by rebels backed by Tanzanian forces. More…
Interview With President Carter. (2001)
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 replied, "Excuse me? A washed-up pig farmer? You're one to talk, sir. Didn't you used to be on the air five times a week?" The tone of the interview did not improve from there. Carter ended up calling Enright a "rude person" before he hung up. Enright then revealed that the interview had been fake. The Toronto comedian Ray Landry had been impersonating Carter's voice. The interview generated a number of angry calls from listeners who did not find the joke funny. But the next day the controversy More…
Saddam Hussein Offered Job in South Africa. (2003)
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." More…
Condoleezza Rice as Girlfriend of the Day. (2004)
Maxim magazine chose National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as its "Girlfriend of the Day." The girl next door: "I always say to [the President], 'This is what I think, but let me tell you what the others think.' The key is to not take advantage of the fact that I live a few doors down from the Oval Office." Where you've seen her: Lighting up the small screen and the press in her current role as President George W. Bush's sassy national security adviser. Look for her soon, when she will be making her hotly anticipated debut before the 9/11 commission. More…
Red Door for 10 Downing Street. (2006)
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. More…
Hillary Clinton’s Bowl Off. (2008)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton challenged rival Barack Obama to a "bowl off." "Today I am challenging Senator Obama to a bowl-off. A bowling night right here in Pennsylvania. Winner take all. I’ll even spot him two frames. It’s time for his campaign to get out of the gutter and allow all of the pins to be counted. And I’m prepared to play this game all the way to the tenth frame." The challenge was a joking reference to Obama's poor performance when he spent an afternoon bowling in Altoona, Pennsylvania, scoring a 37 out of a possible 300. More…
Ideological Search Engine. (2009)
Yahoo! unveiled an "ideological search engine" that filtered results to fit your personal political beliefs. Users could select between the Democratic and Republican ideology. Democratic results displayed in blue. Republican in red. More…
Jacqui Smith Goes Shopping. (2009)
The Daily Mail ran a photo (doctored) of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith walking out of a lingerie store. The headline above it read, "Oh Jacqui, surely that can't be you?" Jacqui Smith had recently been embroiled in a scandal after her husband downloaded two pay-per-view adult films, the cost of which Smith had included as part of an MP expenses claim. More…
Russian President’s Nuclear-Proof Limousine. (2009)
The Moscow Times revealed details of the new limousine used to transport President Dmitry Medvedev. It was said to be far more secure than "The Beast" (the nickname of the limousine used to transport U.S. President Obama). "The Russian car has a 12-centimeter-thick titanium plated roof that is so strong a T-72 tank can drive over it without causing any real damage... Its windows are made of glass that will withstand a direct hit from a rocket-propelled grenade, while its wheels automatically turn into caterpillar tracks when going over rough terrain... The Kremlin official noted that the car's occupants could survive a small nuclear attack, but only if the wind was blowing in a certain direction." A number of news outlets reported the story as fact, including The Guardian. Der Spiegel and three media outlets in South Korea contacted The Moscow Times seeking more details.
BMW Political Roundels. (2010)
BMW revealed that, in the spirit of the upcoming UK elections, it had created a way for BMW owners to display their political leanings by changing the color of their hood roundel to match the color of their favorite political party. The "Political Roundel Attachment Tag" (PRAT) would be available in the colors of all major UK parties. Should the car owner decide to switch political allegiances, the roundel tag could be replaced in a matter of seconds. More…
Step Outside, Posh Boy. (2010)
The Guardian writer "Olaf Priol" reported that the UK Labour party had decided to embrace Prime Minister Gordon Brown's "reputation for anger and physical aggression" by rolling out a series of campaign ads that presented Brown as a "hard man, unafraid of confrontation." One ad had Brown declaring, "Step outside, posh boy," followed by the tagline: "Vote Labour. Or else." Another ad asked, "Do you want some of this?" The hope was that voters would be drawn to an alpha-male personality who was "prepared to pummel, punch or even headbutt the British economy into a new era of jobs and prosperity." More…
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.