Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time
As judged by notoriety, creativity, and number of people duped.
Note from the Curator: I created the first version of this list in the late 1990s. Back then, there was hardly any information collected about April Fool's Day pranks, so I had to do a lot of research in newspaper archives to put this together. Luckily I was in grad school, so I had a lot of spare time on my hands ;-).
Over the years I've tweaked the list, rearranging it slightly and adding new entries based on reader feedback and ongoing research, but my top choices have remained pretty much the same.
This list is easily the most popular article I've ever posted on the Museum of Hoaxes. Extracts from it (some attributed, some not) can be found on hundreds of other websites. Plus, it's inspired some spinoffs. A couple of years ago, someone created an iPhone app version of it (which I've never seen because I don't have an iPhone), and the folks at the Drama Pod created a dramatized audio version of it in 2011.
I hope you enjoy it — and if you know of any old hoaxes that I haven't mentioned on the site, send me an email and let me know.
, a Copenhagen newspaper, reported that the Danish parliament had passed a new law requiring all dogs to be painted white. The purpose of this, it explained, was to increase road safety by allowing dogs to be seen more easily at night.
A press release issued over Business Wire announced the creation of a new company called Webnode. This company, according to the release, had been granted a government contract to regulate ownership of 'nodes' on the 'Next Generation Internet.' Each of these nodes (there were said to be over 50 million of them) represented a route that data could travel. The company was licensed to sell each node for $100. Nodes would increase in value depending on how much traffic they routed, and owners would also receive usage fees based on the amount of data that flowed across their section of the internet. Therefore, bidding for the nodes was expected to become quite intense. Offers to buy shares in Webnode soon began pouring in, but they all had to be turned down since the company was just a prank. There really was a Next Generation Internet, but there were no nodes on it. Business Wire didn't find the prank amusing and filed suit against its perpetrators for fraud, breach of contract, defamation, and conspiracy.
Michael Enright, host of the Sunday Edition of the Canadian Broadcasting Corpation's radio program This Morning
, interviewed former President Jimmy Carter on the air. The interview concerned Canada's heavily subsidized softwood lumber industry, about which Carter had recently written an editorial piece in The New York Times
. The interview took a turn for the worse when Enright began telling Carter to speed up his answers. Then Enright asked, "I think the question on everyone's mind is, how did a washed-up peanut farmer from Hicksville such as yourself get involved in such a sophisticated bilateral trade argument?" Carter seemed stunned by the insult. Finally he replied, "Excuse me? A washed-up peanut farmer? You're one to talk, sir. Didn't you used to be on the air five times a week?" The tone of the interview did not improve from there. Carter ended up calling Enright a "rude person" before he hung up. Enright then revealed that the interview had been fake. The Toronto comedian Ray Landry had been impersonating Carter's voice. The interview generated a number of angry calls from listeners who didn't find the joke funny. But the next day the controversy reached even larger proportions when the Globe and Mail
reported the interview as fact on their front pages. The editor of the Globe and Mail
later explained that he hadn't realized the interview was a hoax because it was "a fairly strange issue and a strange person to choose as a spoof."
In honor of the 100-year anniversary of Thomas Cook's first round the world travel tour, the London Times
ran a full article about Cook's 1872 tour, in which it noted that the vacation had cost the participants only 210 guineas each, or approximately $575. Of course, inflation had made a similar vacation quite a bit more expensive by 1972. A few pages later, the Times
included a small article noting that in honor of the 100-year anniversary, the travel agent Thomas Cook was offering 1000 lucky people the chance to buy a similar package deal at 1872 prices. The offer would be given to the first 1000 people to apply. The article noted that applications should be addressed to "Miss Avril Foley." The public response to this bargain-basement offer was swift and enthusiastic. Huge lines of people formed outside the Thomas Cook offices, and the travel agent was swamped with calls. Belatedly the Times identified the offer as an April Fool's joke and apologized for the inconvenience it had caused. The people who had waited in line for hours were, to put it mildly, not amused. The reporter who wrote the article, John Carter, was fired (though he was later reinstated).
magazine revealed that the fur on the bearskin helmets worn by the Irish guards while on duty at Buckingham Palace keeps growing and needs to be regularly trimmed:
The most hair-raising fact about the bearskins has been discovered by scientists recently. The skins retain an original hormone, which lives on after the animal has been skinned. Scientists call it otiose and it is hoped it can be put to use in medical research especially into baldness.
The article quoted Maj. Ursa who noted, "Bears hibernate in the winter and the amazing thing is that in the spring the skins really start to sprout." An accompanying photo showed Guardsmen sitting in an army barbershop having their helmets trimmed. The story was picked up by the London Daily Express
and run as a straight story.
Guinness issued a press release announcing that it had reached an agreement with the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England to be the official beer sponsor of the Observatory's millennium celebration. According to this agreement, Greenwich Mean Time would be renamed Guinness Mean Time until the end of 1999. In addition, where the Observatory traditionally counted seconds in "pips," it would now count them in "pint drips." The Financial Times
, not realizing that the release was a joke, declared that Guinness was setting a "brash tone for the millennium." When the Financial Times
learned that it had fallen for a joke, it printed a curt retraction, stating that the news it had disclosed "was apparently intended as part of an April 1 spoof."
An email message spread throughout the world announcing that the internet would be shut down for cleaning for twenty-four hours from March 31 until April 2. This cleaning was said to be necessary to clear out the "electronic flotsam and jetsam" that had accumulated in the network. Dead email and inactive ftp, www, and gopher sites would be purged. The cleaning would be done by "five very powerful Japanese-built multi-lingual Internet-crawling robots (Toshiba ML-2274) situated around the world." During this period, users were warned to disconnect all devices from the internet. The message supposedly originated from the "Interconnected Network Maintenance Staff, Main Branch, Massachusetts Institute of Technology." This joke was an updated version of an old joke that used to be told about the phone system. For many years, gullible phone customers had been warned that the phone systems would be cleaned on April Fool's Day. They were cautioned to place plastic bags over the ends of the phone to catch the dust that might be blown out of the phone lines during this period.
The Orlando Sentinel
featured a story about a creature known as the Tasmanian Mock Walrus (or TMW for short) that many people in Florida were supposedly adopting as a pet. The creature was said to be 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, it used a litter box, and it ate cockroaches. In fact, a single TMW could entirely rid a house of its cockroach problem. Reportedly, some TMWs had been smuggled in from Tasmania, and there were efforts being made to breed them, but the local pest-control industry was pressuring the government not to allow them into the country, fearing they would put cockroach exterminators out of business. Dozens of people called the paper trying to find out where they could obtain their own TMW. A picture of a Tasmanian Mock Walrus accompanied the article. Skeptics noted that the creature looked surprisingly similar to a Naked Mole Rat.
Westdeutsche Rundfunk, a German radio station, announced that officials in Cologne had just passed an unusual new city regulation. Joggers going through the park would be required to pace themselves to go no faster than six mph. Any faster, it was felt, would unnecessarily disturb the squirrels who were in the middle of their mating season.
posted about the work of Dr. Ewe Noh-Watt of the New Zealand Institute of Veterinary Climatology, who had discovered that global warming was caused not by a buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but rather by the decline of New Zealand's sheep population. The reasoning was that sheep are white, and therefore large numbers of sheep increase the planet's albedo (the amount of sunlight reflected back into space). As the sheep population declined, the ground was absorbing more solar radiation, thus warming the planet: "It can be seen that the recent warming can be explained entirely by the decline in the New Zealand sheep population, without any need to bring in any mysterious so-called 'radiative forcing' from carbon dioxide, which doesn't affect the sunlight (hardly) anyway — unlike Sheep Albedo."
Noh-Watt also warmed of a potentially destabilizing feedback mechanism: "As climate gets warmer, there is less demand for wool sweaters and wooly underwear. Hence the sheep population tends to drop, leading to even more warming. In an extreme form, this can lead to a 'runaway sheep-albedo feedback,' which is believed to have led to the present torrid climate of Venus."
All text Copyright © 2011 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.