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April Fool's Day, 1996
The Taco Liberty Bell. (1996) The fast food chain Taco Bell took out a full page ad in the New York Times to announce that they were purchasing the Liberty Bell and renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Their reason for doing this was to "do their part to reduce the country's debt." The company pointed out that corporations had been adopting highways for years, and that Taco Bell was simply "going one step further by purchasing one of the country's greatest historic treasures."
The Left-Handed Mars Bar. (1996) Mars Inc. ran a half-page ad in London's Daily Telegraph announcing the introduction of left and right-handed versions of its signature candy bar. It explained that for years left-handed people had been opening the wrapper from the wrong end and consequently were "eating against the chocolate flow on the bar surface." Therefore, the wrapper would henceforth come in two different versions, marked "L" and "R", with a "tear here" perforation at the appropriate corner.
Lusthansa. (1996) 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."
BMW’s Insect Deflector Screen. (1996) BMW announced that it would be adding a new feature to its entire line of cars: an Insect Deflector Screen (or IDS for short), designed to keep windscreens bug free. The IDS, developed by Munich scientist Dr. Jurgen Afalfurit, consisted of a clear rubber coating applied to the windscreen. The coating itself was invisible to the eye, but it caused bugs to literally bounce off the window, "even at high speeds."
Drivers were invited to find out more about IDS by filling out a coupon and checking one of the following options: "I find flies get stuck to my windscreen -- Hardly ever; Sometimes; Far too Often."
Blue Can Warning. (1996) Virgin Cola announced that in the interest of consumer safety it had integrated a new technology into its cans. When the cola passed its sell-by date, the liquid would react with the metal in the can, turning the can bright blue. Virgin warned that consumers should therefore avoid purchasing all blue cans. Coincidentally, Pepsi had recently unveiled its newly designed cans which were bright blue.
£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.
The Discovery of the Bigon. (1996) Discover Magazine reported that physicists had discovered a new fundamental particle of matter, dubbed the Bigon. It could only be coaxed into existence for mere millionths of a second, but amazingly, when it did materialize it was the size of a bowling ball. It was theorized that the Bigon might be responsible for a host of unexplained phenomena such as ball lightning, sinking souffles, and spontaneous human combustion.
Life Discovered on Jupiter. (1996) When America Online subscribers logged in to the service on April 1st, they were greeted with a news flash: "Government source reveals signs of life on Jupiter." This headline was backed up by statements from a planetary biologist and an assertion by Ted Leonsis, AOL's president, that his company possessed documents that proved the government was hiding the existence of life on the massive planet. The story generated over 1300 messages on AOL, and hundreds of people called the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California trying to obtain more details about the discovery.
Diamond-Encrusted Grenades. (1996) Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported that a military factory had begun manufacturing diamond-encrusted grenades, which it was selling to Russian gangsters who might be concerned that they could not only live glamorously but also "die luxuriously as well." The article noted, "The use of such a grenade will leave your one-time rival in a sea of beautiful sparkling gems rather than in a pool of blood."