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April Fool's Day, 1984
The Tasmanian Mock Walrus. (1984) The Orlando Sentinel ran a story about a creature known as the Tasmanian Mock Walrus (TMW for short) that it said made a perfect pet. The creature was only four inches long, resembled a walrus, purred like a cat, and had the temperament of a hamster. What made it such an ideal pet was that it never had to be bathed, used a litter box, and ate cockroaches. In fact, a single TMW could entirely rid a house of its cockroach problem.
But the local pest-control industry, sensing that the TMW posed a threat to its business, was said to be pressuring the government not to allow them in the country. Undeterred, dozens of people called the paper trying to find out where they could obtain their own TMW.
The Traductor. (1984) Belgium's RTBF TV network aired a segment about the "Traductor." This device, invented by Count Otto Von Glutz, could automatically translate from Flemish to French, and vice versa. It did so using a sophisticated computer language called Belgax.
The invention promised to put an end to linguistic quarrels in Belgium.
Tingle—The Video. (1984) On Cable magazine reported on a huge publicity blitz being planned around an upcoming Michael Jackson song, "Tingle." The song was three minutes and twelve seconds long, but Jackson's record company had developed a 37-minute promo clip to hype the video, and this promo was, in turn, being developed into a 3-hour film by Paramount. MTV was going to show the 37-minute promo clip hourly.
At the bottom of the article a note said "On Cable, April Fool, 1984." Nevertheless, two weeks later a reporter for "Breakaway," a syndicated news-magazine program, reported the "Tingle" story as breaking news.
Retrobreeding the Woolly Mammoth. (1984) MIT's Technology Review published an article titled "Retrobreeding the Woolly Mammoth" that described an effort by Soviet scientists, led by Dr. Sverbighooze Yasmilov, to insert DNA from woolly mammoths found frozen in Siberian ice into elephant cells. The cells would then be brought to term inside elephant surrogate mothers. Many members of the media believed the report to be real.
Driverless London Buses. (1984) The Sunday Times revealed that London Transport soon planned to start using driverless buses within the city. The buses would follow a magnetic track while cameras scanned the road, relaying images back to a controller at headquarters who could switch the vehicle to manual drive and steer it out of trouble, should that be required.
LT hoped the plan would prove a "dynamic money-winner." Although a public opinion poll conducted for the Sunday Times noted 100% public opposition to the plan.
Einstein Was Wrong. (1984) Lloyd Stallkamp, electronics instructor at South Dakota's National College, announced that Albert Einstein was wrong about light being made up of photons that travel at the speed of light. Stallkamp had discovered that, in reality, it was darkness that was composed of "darkons" that were gradually filling up the universe:
"All the caves are filled with dark already. Outer space is filled with dark already. Once the sun gets filled up, that's it. There's no other place to put it... We can see inside the sunspots that the sun is black inside. So my theory is that the sun is going to fill up with black and become a black hole."
Stallkamp also had concluded that darkness was heavier than light: "Just look in a pool of water. You'll see all the dark has settled to the bottom."
The Durand Auto Plant. (1984) The Durand Express, a Michigan weekly, reported that Nissan planned to build an auto plant outside of Durand City. The new plant was going to employ thousands of people and pay higher wages than the nearby General Motors plant. Furthermore, Nissan would pay farmers $10,000 an acre for the land on which the plant was to be built.
Many unemployed auto workers believed the story and inquired about how to apply for jobs at the plant. However, the story was exposed as a fake by a reporter working at a newspaper in Flint, Michigan.
The prank story attracted a lot of angry criticism. Many readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions. In response, the paper's editor explained that he hadn't been trying to hurt anyone, and thought that he had exaggerated his story enough to make it unbelievable.
Kremvax. (1984) 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, revealed it was a hoax. It is credited with being the first hoax on the internet. Six years later, when Moscow really did link up to the internet, it adopted the domain name 'kremvax' in honor of the hoax.
The Lirpa Loof. (1984) The BBC Show That's Life aired a segment about an animal called the Lirpa Loof, a hairy biped from the eastern Himalayas, that had just arrived at the London Zoo.
Naturalist David Bellamy talked about how excited he was to finally see this animal, which he had read about as a child. The creature was also a natural mimic, imitating whatever it saw a person doing. This delighted crowds at the zoo. Unfortunately, the total number of Lirpa Loofs in the world was "small and diminishing." The scientific name of the Lirpa Loof was Eccevita mimicus. "Eccevita" is Latin for "That's Life."
Daylight Savings Contest. (1984) The Eldorado Daily Journal, an Illinois paper, announced a contest to see who could save the most daylight for daylight savings time. The rules of the contest were simple: beginning with the first day of daylight savings time, contestants would be required to save daylight. Whoever succeeded in saving the most daylight would win. Only pure daylight would be allowed—no dawn or twilight light, though light from cloudy days would be allowed. Moonlight was strictly forbidden. Light could be stored in any container. The contest received a huge, nationwide response, with the paper's editor interviewed by correspondents from CBS and NBC and featured in papers throughout the country.