The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
 
The boy with the golden tooth, 1593
Female thieves hide money in their bras, 1950
Samsung invents the on/off switch
Prankster causes volcano to erupt, 1974
Did Poe say 'The best things in life make you sweaty'?
The Hoaxing Hitchhiker, 1941
Script of Casablanca rejected, 1982
The disumbrationist art hoax, 1924
Mencken's fake history of the bathtub, 1917
The Olympic Underwear Relay, 1956
World To End Tomorrow -- April Fool's Day, 1940
On March 31, 1940 Philadelphia radio station KYW broadcast the following message:
Your worst fears that the world will end are confirmed by astronomers of Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. Scientists predict that the world will end at 3 P.M. Eastern Standard Time tomorrow. This is no April Fool joke. Confirmation can be obtained from Wagner Schlesinger, director of the Fels Planetarium of this city.

The announcement came after a radio program by Jack Benny that had been devoted to a discussion of how the world might end. The program had mentioned the name of Orson Welles, who had been responsible for the notorious War of the Worlds Panic Broadcast of 1938. The public reaction to KYW's announcement was dramatic. Newspapers, police stations and the city's information bureau received hundreds of calls from frightened citizens.

KYW later issued an apology and an explanation. The announcement was, of course, false, but the station denied responsibility for it. It said that it had received the announcement from William Castellini, press agent for the Franklin Institute and had read it in good faith, believing it to be genuine. However, Castellini had intended it as a publicity stunt to publicize an April 1st lecture at the planetarium titled "How Will the World End?" Castellini later explained that he came up with the idea for the stunt after hearing Benny's program and thinking it a good chance to get some publicity for the planetarium. He claimed, in his own defense, that he had told "some of the people" at the radio station about the announcement and "thought they would know it was a stunt." Soon afterwards, the Franklin Institute dismissed Castellini. [Oakland Tribune, Apr 1, 1940; The Washington Post, Apr 2, 1940.]

Now that's plain cheating - it can't be a true April Fool's joke if you try to deny it. The whole point is that you're trying to get people to fall for a joke (the more outrageous the better) of their own accord, you aren't lying to them. It's about saying or doing something completely ridiculous and hoping they don't realize what the date is. By denying the possibility outright you make the game (which is what it is, essentially) lopsided and unfair, which runs contrary to the whole thing. Not everything that comes forth on 4/1 is false, and it stands to reason that an important bit of news on said day might post such a disclaimer - one would have to suffer from a mild paranoia to extend the doubt far enough to have a chance at besting the prankster.

Not sporting at all, and as such I don't believe it should be on a top list, regardless of the scale or results. Maybe an honourable mention, though.
Posted by Othello  on  Fri Mar 31, 2006  at  06:37 AM
This one isn't even funny, saying the world will end and clearly stating that this isn't an April Fool's joke should not be worth mentioning.

The best most succesfull April Fool's jokes are the ones that are very obvious.
Posted by Vincent  in  NL  on  Mon Apr 10, 2006  at  04:57 AM
the prankster shouldn't have been fired. authorities should have a sense of humour, they should come down from their snob thrones once in a while. and, who can be so thick as to believe that the world will end tomorrow?
Posted by varshaa_vs  in  bangalore, india  on  Tue Apr 18, 2006  at  09:28 AM
Isn't it the radio station that added the "no april fools joke" bit?
Posted by Sarah  in  Liverpool, UK  on  Sat Apr 22, 2006  at  08:31 PM
Yeah Sarah. That's the way I read it. The guy issued the release which the radio station fell for and labeled it "no april fool's joke." In that case, it really sucks that the guy was fired. It was brilliant marketing. Tell people the world will end, have a few fall for it then realize it was a joke. Still, it sets up an uneasiness--maybe the end will come soon, but when and how? Come to our lecture to find out. Not his fault the radio station was so stupid!
Posted by Heather  in  USA  on  Wed May 10, 2006  at  03:28 PM
An appropriate followup (by the museum itself) might have been "How Will William Castellini's Job End?"
Posted by Leanna  in  Newington CT  on  Thu Apr 26, 2007  at  11:32 PM
Oh c'mon you guys, this joke was clever...adding the "is not an april fools joke" should have revealed how fake it was. I mean why would you trust someone declaring the end of the world? They didn't even give a reason. Theres no way an yone should have fallen for that but they did...
Posted by Emelia  in  CT  on  Wed Jan 30, 2008  at  06:39 AM
A local radio station ran with this same joke while I was in high school. My more gullible classmates begged all the teachers to keep their radios tuned to the station because, apparently, the DJ's had assured them that if they were lying about this they would lose their job.
Posted by Sean  on  Thu Apr 03, 2008  at  03:03 PM
Submit a Comment
In order to post comments you have to register as a member of the site.


All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.