April Fool's Day Transportation Hoaxes
Planes, Trains, and Traffic
The ABC Cycle.
The German magazine Echo Continental ran a feature about a new "ABC mono-cycle":
The ABC-cycle was given that name by the manufacturer because it is as simple as the ABC and can be operated without prior knowledge by anyone, especially a woman. The vehicle is designed as a mono-cycle, the motor, a directionless three-stroke 2 hp. 1.5 Cylinder "Gnomissima" engine is under the seat and pleasingly warms or cools the driver. A kickstarter and convenient footrests make this motorbike particularly popular with women.
Triple-Decker City Bus.
The German magazine Echo Continental reported the development of a new triple-decker city bus. Echo Continental was the trade publication of the auto and truck parts manufacturer Continental AG. The magazine focused on automobile and racing news.
A Berlin newspaper published a photo of a four-story bus. The newspaper subsequently received several thousand letters inquiring where the bus could be seen, how many people it could hold, how fast it could travel, how much it cost to build, and how it managed to go under bridges and trolley wires without being wrecked.
Graf Zeppelin in San Antonio.
"While all San Antonio craned their necks skyward Wednesday, the huge Graf Zeppelin surprised residents by soaring over the city and mooring to the Smith-Young tower. Hugo Eckener offered free rides to all air-minded persons. Oh, well — April Fool! — Harvey Patteson Photo." [San Antonio Light - Apr 1, 1931]
A German newspaper ran a picture of an inventor testing a flying bicycle over Tempelhof airfield in Berlin. The picture was actually a photomontage created from a shot of the inventor taken the previous month, as he prepared to test his "rocket bicycle" on a rooftop at Tempelhof.
Bicycle Flies Over Amsterdam.
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.
North Carolina's Twin City Sentinel ran a story on its front page claiming that "a long sleek transatlantic steamer," the S.S. Santa Pinta, had "plowed through the muddy waters of Yadkin River and anchored ten miles west of Winston-Salem." An accompanying photo showed the stranded steamer. Hundreds of people (who hadn't read to the end of the article to see the phrase "An April Fool's Dream!") drove out to see the steamer, resulting in a traffic jam on the highway.
Life magazine published a selection "strange photographs" which they identified as being typical of the kind that appeared in German newspapers and magazines on April 1. "Every April Fool's Day, the German press goes on a spree of printing photographic hoaxes, sprinkling fake pictures in with real ones, leaving readers to guess which is which."
Included among the "strange photographs" was the "ten-stack super liner" shown above:
"Its launching was announced for April 1. The photographer christened the ship President Roosevelt, declared that among its many superlative features was an auto track on which car-crazy Americans could race just to keep their hands in." [Life - Apr 4, 1938]
International Soundphoto distributed a photo of a flying bus swooping over the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France. The photo ran in many papers, accompanied by the caption: "Well, Well, look how all those Parisians are being missed by the bus at Place de la Concorde. Anything can happen in the French capital on April Fool's day, they say, but it is suspected that some zany darkroom jokester had something to do with this." [Newsweek - Apr 10, 1950.]
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.'"
San Diego Freeway.
"So there you are on the San Diego Freeway and you want to make a simple little old turn. It's a problem, though. There are two ways to figure it out. One is that photographer Curt Johnson decided to whomp up an April Fool's Day picture and this is the result. In that case, it's no problem at all. You just steer home the usual way. The second way, though, is that it is four o'clock in the morning, you stayed too long in your favorite pub and it really looks like this. That, friend, IS a problem. Aren't you glad it's April Fool?"
[Long Beach Press-Telegram - Apr 1, 1968]
Bedford Bypass Airlift.
"A helicopter airlift has been initiated to carry slow moving vehicles over the Bedford Bypass Detour. Two pick-up points, one along Sunnyside Road and the other along Mile Level, have been established. The air lift will be limited to daylight hours. Those who desire to view the operation should first check their calendar."
[Bedford Gazette - Apr 1, 1969]
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.]
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.
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.
An Ipswich radio station reported there were plans for the construction of a tunnel under the North Sea, connecting Felixstowe in England with Zeebrugge, Belgium. The station claimed that 800 Felixstowe homes would have to be bulldozed to make way for a terminal and that digging would begin on April 1, 1981. Listeners jammed the switchboard. "We were amazed that so many people were taken in," the station admitted later.
Athens Pollution Alert.
Greece's state-controlled National Radio Network issued a warning that pollution had reached emergency levels in downtown Athens, and that the city would have to be immediately evacuated. All schools were called upon to close immediately, and the children to be sent home. Furthermore, anyone driving a car was asked to abandon it and flee to open ground.
Many people took the broadcast seriously and attempted to leave the city, since pollution was (and is) a serious problem in Athens. Within three hours the Radio Network had retracted the broadcast, revealing it to be a joke, but by then the damage had been done. One man sued the network for $820,000, claiming the prank had caused him mental
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."
LA Highways Close For Repairs.
LA disc jockey Steve Morris announced on KRTH-FM that freeways in Los Angeles and Orange counties would be closed for major repairs from April 8 to May 1 so that road crews could work nonstop. Morris discussed the news throughout his morning show, from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m., until finally he announced, "April Fool!"
The radio station, Caltrans, and the California Highway Patrol all received hundreds of calls in response to the announcement. KRTH later admitted that it was stunned by the reaction to the hoax and revealed that it had received a call from Caltrans "telling us that they didn't think it was very funny."
The Napoleonic Chunnel.
The Daily Mail revealed the discovery of a tunnel linking England and France that had been constructed during the Napoleonic wars. Supposedly the tunnel was wide enough to allow an ass carrying two barrels of brandy to pass through it. The tunnel had supposedly been discovered beneath Dover Castle. The article explained, "It would have been used to rescue aristocrats from Napoleonic France, to transfer spies and to trade British goods with Europe."
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.
The One-Way Highway.
The London Times announced that the Department of Transport had finalized a plan to ease congestion on the M25, the circular highway surrounding London. The capacity of the road would be doubled by making the traffic on both carriageways travel in the same direction. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays the traffic would travel clockwise; while on Tuesdays and Thursdays it would travel anti-clockwise. The plan wouldn't operate on weekends. It was said that the scheme was almost certain to meet with the cabinet's approval, despite voices of protest coming from some quarters.
Welcome to Chicago.
Airline passengers descending into Los Angeles Airport saw an 85-foot-long yellow banner on the ground that spelled out, in 20-foot-high red letters, "Welcome to Chicago." It was raised above the Hollywood Park race track, about three miles from the airport. Park spokesman Brock Sheridan explained, "It was something we always wanted to do. We thought it would be kind of funny and our new management... thought it would be a great practical joke." The sign remained up for two days.
Drivers Must Wear Helmets.
Alison St. John, a radio reporter for KPBS, the San Diego affiliate of NPR, warned that San Diego would be pelted by hail "the size of duck eggs." Terry Boyd of Metro Traffic followed up this announcement by warning that all drivers "must wear a helmet."
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.
New Moscow Subway.
The Russian Moskovskaya Pravda revealed that plans had been finalized to build a second subway system in Moscow. This was being done "in the interests of competition." The paper made this announcement in a special March 32nd edition titled Moskovskaya Nye-Pravda (Moscow Un-Truth).
Drunk Driving on the Internet.
In an article in PC Computing magazine, John Dvorak described a bill (# 040194) going through Congress that would make it illegal to use the internet while drunk, or to discuss sexual matters over a public network. The FBI was planning to use the bill to tap the phone line of anyone who "uses or abuses alcohol" while accessing the internet. Passage of the bill was felt to be certain because "Who wants to come out and support drunkenness and computer sex?"
Dvorak offered this explanation for the origin of the bill: "The moniker 'Information Highway' itself seems to be responsible for SB 040194, which is designed to prohibit anyone from using a public computer network (Information Highway)
Metro Station Name Change.
The Parisian Transport Authority (RATP) renamed three Paris metro stations, but only for the 24 hours of April 1st. Parmentier station became "Pomme de Terre" (potato). Madeleine station became "Marcel Proust," and Reuilly Diderot station became "Les Religieuses." At the stations, metro employees handed out potato chips, madeleines, and religieuses (a type of eclair). Tickets were also stamped with the shape of a fish (a "poisson d'avril" or "April fish" — the French equivalent of "April fool").
Unfortunately, many passengers became confused by the name changes and chaos ensued. Therefore, the stunt was never repeated.
The German newspaper Die Welt reported that Lufthansa airline would soon be offering its flyers an in-flight matchmaking service. Passengers who opted-in to the service would be seated next to someone who had been selected as a potential romantic partner. One outraged feminist was quoted as saying that Lufthansa should rename itself "Lust-hansa."
OPEC Free Fuel Offer.
An announcement appeared on the website www.opecinfo.com declaring that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, after 22 hours of emergency negotiations with independent fuel operators, was close to deciding to offer motorists around the world free fill ups on the first Saturday of each month for the next six months. Motorists would simply have to print out and complete an online form which they could then present at any gas station to receive their free fill up.
Some commuters took the announcement seriously and appeared at gas stations with their completed forms, demanding free gas. However, the OPEC website and announcement were the creation of JokeWeb.com, an online humor
M3 Zebra Crossing.
Early morning commuters travelling on the northern carriageway of the M3 near Farnborough, Hampshire encountered a pedestrian zebra crossing painted across the busy highway. The perpetrator of the prank was unknown. A police spokesman speculated that the prank, "must have been done very early in the morning when there was little or no traffic on the motorway." Maintenance workers were quickly summoned to remove the crossing, which was apparently not too difficult to do since the pranksters had used emulsion paint rather than gloss. The police noted that, surprisingly, they had received no calls from the public about the crossing.
Subway Car Surfaces.
Residents of Copenhagen who visited the square in front of the town hall were greeted by a strange sight. One of the subway cars from the city's new subway, which was under construction, appeared to have burst up through the pavement. The subway car actually was a retired vehicle from the Stockholm subway. It had been cut at an angle and loose bricks were placed around it, to give the illusion that it had crashed up from below.
The stunt was sponsored by Gevalia Coffee, whose advertisements had an ongoing theme of vehicles popping up in strange locations, with the tagline "Be ready for unexpected guests."
The Atlantic Tunnel.
An elaborate website appeared online announcing that an Atlantic Tunnel connecting the UK and the US (and running beneath the entire width of Ireland) would be opening in September 2009: "The world is about to witness the dawn of a new era of trans-continental travel. It has taken 63 years to complete the 3261 miles of tunnel from Swansea to New Jersey. In 2009, that same journey will take passengers and their vehicles just 8 hours and 20 minutes." The site also featured a competition to win a trip on the first train through the tunnel. It's not clear who created the site, or why, but the site was registered to a London ad agency, TBWA/GGT.
Yum Cha Carts Regulated.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that new legislation had been proposed that would require operators of yum cha trolley carts (as seen in Chinese restaurants) to obtain a license. The legislation had been proposed due to "dangerous trolley usage in yum-cha eateries." An expert noted: "There's been a lot of problem with dumpling accidents particularly. Dumplings retain their heat for quite some time. You get one of those in your lap and it can be extremely painful." Under the new rules, operators of the food carts would first have to complete an instructional course, and then would "carry a small 'L' plate on their carts for six months before being granted full licences."
The Norwegian Board of Tourism ran an ad in Swedish newspapers debuting a new underground super-train, Scandinavian Earthlines, that would connect Sweden and Norway and allow a trip from Stockholm to Lofoten to be made in under an hour. Readers were invited to call a phone number for more information. Those who phoned up were informed that the super-train wasn't actually real, but were given a pitch inviting them to visit Norway anyway.
The Canadian Autobahn.
BMW Canada ran an ad urging Canadians to petition their local Member of Parliament to support the creation of a Canadian Autobahn. This roadway would be an "auxiliary highway system that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in a manner that benefits high-performance automobiles." BMW Canada revealed that it had already surveyed the country to determine where such an Autobahn might best be placed.
[This was one of four April Fool ads run by BMW Canada in 2004.]
Hawkeye Cameras Catch Speeders.
The Sun reported that hawks outfitted with miniature cameras would be used to catch speeding drivers:
"They will swoop on vehicles and film them with strapped-on mini cameras developed by the BBC for wildlife programmes. Officers watching monitors will see a speed readout --and even registration numbers and tax discs. The Hawkeye system has had successful trials on the M40 in Oxfordshire, where PCs Mark Dalton and Otto Hergt put two birds through their paces… Paolo Firl, of the Italian makers, said: 'We are very pleased. We have shown it can be done.' But motorist Andy Pinder, 45, said: 'We're already persecuted, now we're being hunted.'"
Kids Fly Free.
Visitors to the website of discount airline RyanAir were greeted by the news that as a special April Fool's Day offer kids would be allowed to ride free. A few seconds later the announcement added the second part of the offer: "For as long as they can hold on."
MINI Pullman Edition.
MINI USA debuted a special new model of its car, the "MINI Pullman," adapted to ride on domestic gauge rail lines throughout North America:
"In conjunction with the North American railway system, an exclusive right-of-way has been authorized for the specially equipped MINI to commute via rail during peak hours in major urban centers... The MINI Pullman comes fitted with a special wheel package that easily locks onto standard gauge rail thus allowing MINIs to corner on the roads and the rails with equal aplomb. An upgraded dual air-horn warning system comes standard on the model to alert inattentive pedestrians and vehicles as the MINI Pullman enters into crossing gate areas."
Slow Camera Avoidance.
BMW warned that "Slow Cameras" would soon be installed on British roads to photograph drivers going more than 20 mph below the speed limit. In response, BMW engineers had developed "ZIP" (Zoom Impression Pixels):
ZIP is a pixel-based coating that covers the entire exterior of the car. If you are travelling below the speed limit in range of a Slow Camera, sensors around the car detect the camera and the pixels immediately become blurred. This gives the impression of higher velocity and the Slow Camera is fooled into thinking the car is travelling at the correct speed.
The Daily Express reported that jam biscuits were being mixed into tarmac to help make roads safer. "Scientists yesterday revealed that broken biscuits are in fact the perfect material to help resurface roads... Years of experimental research revealed that crushed-up ginger nuts are the best biscuit for a road's sub-base, as they are more porous and allow water to drain away."
Irish discount airline Ryanair revealed that it would soon be offering flights to the moon.
Canadian airline WestJet announced it would be converting overhead luggage compartments on its planes into sleeper cabins:
"WestJet (TSX:WJA) today announced that on April 1, 2008, sleeper cabins will be introduced onboard its existing fleet of 73 Boeing 737 Next-Generation aircraft. These sleeper cabins can be booked on all of WestJet's existing flights for a nominal incremental fee of $12...
"The overhead compartment has traditionally been a place where guests have placed their carry-on baggage. Given that the overhead bins on our fleet are among the most spacious of any airline, we made the decision to offer sleeper cabins in that space."
$99 Flights to Mars.
Internet-based travel site Expedia.com announced it was offering flights to Mars for only $99, which it calculated to be a savings of $3 trillion for travelers. "In this economy, you can't afford NOT to go!" it declared.
Concorde Flies Again.
The French Museum of Air and Space announced on its website that Concorde was scheduled to return to the air for a special two-hour flight in June. The supersonic plane had not flown since 2003, but the museum explained that one of two Concordes given to it had been kept flight-ready. The announcement was picked up by the French news agency AFP, which later had to retract it when the museum admitted the news was a hoax. The museum explained that it perpetrated the hoax in order to publicize its hope that one day Concorde really would fly again.
The Daily Express reported that a British inventor had built an invisible car, designed to fool speed cameras: "It is beautiful in its simplicity... The plastic film appears completely normal to the human eye. But the flash of the camera reacts with molecules in the film and light is reflected outwards to make the car appear invisible in pictures." The inventor admitted that the one problem was also covering the wheels and developing an invisible suit to wear.
"Cling-film bandits" struck Melbourne, wrapping at least 400 cars in the city in cling film. They wrapped cars parked at shopping malls, railway stations, and in residential areas. A note attached to the cars read: "Happy April Fools Day love Evie."
The police did not investigate the prank because no damage had been done to the cars.
WestJet announced a "new state-of-the-art money saving feature" aboard its flights. It was introducing "air mixed with helium in the ventilation system to lighten the weight of the aircraft."
Helium is approximately 85 per cent lighter than nitrogen, which accounts for 80 per cent of the air we breathe. With a maximum takeoff weight of more than 150,000 pounds, adding helium to the air mix will provide fuel savings of approximately three to four per cent on board WestJet’s Boeing Next-Generation 737s. This will, in turn, allow WestJet to pass the savings on to its guests.
Richard Branson announced that his company, Virgin, had developed a vehicle "capable of plunging three people into the molten lava core of an active volcano." With this vehicle, he planned on journeying to the cores of five active volcanoes. And in the future he hoped to be able to offer commercial transportation that would go "through the Earth rather than round it," traveling from Hawaii to Naples via molten lava flows.
South Africa's Kulula airline announced that selected flights would soon be landing on new water runways near Cape Town and Durban harbours and Hartebeespoort Dam in Gauteng. Passengers would embark and disembark from piers and be ferried to the planes by water shuttles. The airline noted that the new runways should help "curb rising airport traffic congestion and high airport taxes."
Intercity Triple-Decker Bus.
New Zealand's Intercity Coachlines launched that country's first fleet of triple-decker buses. The company noted the "rising numbers of passengers" as well as "greater demands for entertainment and sleeping options" as providing the need for the new buses. To prepare for the triple-deckers, the company had mapped low-height obstacles around the highway network, identifying "several tree branches that would require remedial work." However, transport expert A. Fool was skeptical about whether the public would be able to accept triple-decker buses, saying, "They really have to be seen to be believed."
Parrot Air Drone Postal.
The French postal service announced it was teaming with drone-manufacturer Parrot to experiment with the use of drones to deliver mail in Auvergne, in south central France. The new delivery service would be called Parrot Air Drone Postal. A team of 20 postal workers would control the drones via an app on their smart phones.
A number of American news sources, including the San Francisco Chronicle and Business Insider, reported the announcement as fact.
Virgin Airlines announced that it would be adding glass-bottomed planes to its fleet, in order to ensure that "passengers can enjoy both an unparalleled flying experience, as well as a selection of stunning landscapes from the comfort of their seats."
The company promised that every passenger would enjoy "the chance of a bird's eye view with an extra special opportunity to look down on the beautiful scenery of Great Britain as they fly."
National Express Triple-Decker Buses.
National Express announced it was adding triple-decker buses to its service in the West Midlands. Michael Takkin, Head of Product Development, noted the company was experiencing a rising number of passengers: "I needed to come up with an innovative way to ensure that these new bus commuters had a comfortable journey to work. I was watching Harry Potter with the kids, saw the Knight Bus and thought Eureka!"
Because of the extra height of the buses, National Express engineers had designed a spinning gyroscope system to keep them perfectly upright and ensure stability.
Delta Air Lines announced on its Facebook page that it was introducing "double-decker armrests" on its planes:
"Say goodbye to confusing elbow etiquette. Introducing the new Double Decker Armrest. More arm space, less elbow rubbing — middle seats will never be the same again."
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.