The Museum of Hoaxes
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war of the worlds
The night Martians invaded New Jersey, 1938
The Case of the Vanishing Belly Button, 1964
The Cradle of the Deep, a literary hoax, 1929
Cursed by Allah
The damp spot that hoaxed a city, 1912
Actress who claimed she was kidnapped by puritans, 1950
The most sacred relic: the Holy Foreskin, circa 800 AD
Life discovered on the moon, 1835
The Great New York Zoo Escape Hoax, 1874
Jernegan's Gold Accumulator Scam, 1898
The Frankfurt Zoo’s White Elephant -- April Fool's Day, 1949
In the days leading up to April 1st, notices appeared in Frankfurt papers informing the public that a legendary "snow-white elephant" from Burma would, for a few days only, be on display at the zoo. Traveling in a specially built railway car, it was en route to the Copenhagen Zoo, which was to be its permanent home. It was accompanied by its Burmese handlers, who were dressed in their traditional robes and head coverings.

The Stars and Stripes (European Edition) - March 29, 1949

On April 1st, over 1000 Frankfurters turned out to see the white elephant, paying a mark each. And they did get to see a white elephant, but it was a regular female Indian elephant that had been painted white. However, the majority of the audience didn't realize this. They learned the trick later by reading about it in the papers.

The joke was the idea of Bernhard Grzimek, who had been made director of the Frankfurt Zoo in 1945. He was known for using any means — including festivals, dances, and hoaxes — to lure the public back to the zoo following the war.

In May 2004, the Cologne Zoo restaged the white elephant hoax, as part of the shooting for the film "Grzimek — A German Legend."

April Fool Categories: Animals, Germany, 1949.
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.