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.
The May 1990 issue of Golf
magazine had good news for golf enthusiasts. It reported that Augusta National, the elite private golf course where the Masters tournament is held, would begin allowing public access to its course at certain times. As a result of this report, both Augusta National and Golf
magazine received hundreds of calls from eager golfers inquiring about playing privileges. But the report was an April fool's joke, despite its placement in the May issue. Golf
magazine was forced to publish a retraction, reaffirming that Augusta National was still a private club open only to members and guests.
In 1987 a Los Angeles disc jockey announced that on April 8 the LA highway system would be shut down for repairs for an entire month. This was alarming news in LA where it's necessary to use the highway to get almost anywhere. The radio station immediately received hundreds of frantic calls in response to the announcement, and the California Highway Patrol reported that they were also flooded with calls throughout the day. The station later admitted that it was stunned by the intensity of the public reaction to the hoax. A representative from the California Department of Transportation called the station's managers to share their opinion of the prank. Reportedly "they didn't think it was very funny."
stunned French citizens in 1986 when it reported that an agreement had been signed to dismantle the Eiffle Tower. The international symbol of French culture would then be reconstructed in the new Euro Disney theme park going up east of Paris. In the space where the Tower used to stand, a 35,000 seat stadium would be built for use during the 1992 Olympic Games.
In 1995 the Greek Ministry of Culture announced that during excavation for the Athens metro system, archaeologists had uncovered what they believed to be the tomb of Socrates near the base of the Acropolis. A vase containing traces of hemlock (the poison used to kill socrates) and a piece of leather dating from between 400 and 390 BC were found in the tomb. The news agency Agence France-Presse
immediately issued a release about the story. What it didn't realize was that the Greek Ministry was joking, forcing the news agency to issue an embarrassed retraction a few hours later.
In 1990 the News of the World
reported that the Chunnel project, which was already suffering from huge cost overruns, would face another big additional expense caused by a colossal engineering blunder. Apparently the two halves of the tunnel, being built simultaneously from the coasts of France and England, would miss each other by 14 feet. The error was attributed to the fact that French engineers had insisted on using metric specifications in their blueprints. The mistake would reportedly cost $14 billion to fix.
Readers of the Boston Morning Globe
in 1915 could have purchased their papers for half the cost on April Fool's Day, if they had been alert. The price listed on the front page had been lowered from "Two Cents Per Copy" to "One Cent." But almost 60,000 copies of the paper were sold before anyone noticed the unannounced price change. When the management of the Globe
found out about the change, they were just as surprised as everyone else. The new price turned out to be the responsibility of a mischievous production worker who had surreptitiously inserted the lower value at the last minute as the paper went to print.
Carolyn Fox, a disc jockey for WHJY in Providence, Rhode Island, announced in 1986 that the 'Providence Labor Action Relations Board Committee' had decided to close the city for the day. She gave out a number for listeners to call for more information. The number was that of a rival station, WPRO-AM. Reportedly hundreds of people called WPRO, as well as City Hall and the police. Even more called into their offices to see if they had to go into work. WHJY management later explained that it had never imagined its joke would have such a dramatic impact on the city.
Viewers of the February 1998 broadcast of the Grammys were surprised when a semi-naked man with the word 'Soy Bomb' scrawled on his chest danced out onto the stage during Bob Dylan's solo performance. The man (who was definitely not supposed to be there) was quickly escorted away by security guards. But a few months later, on April 1, Rhino Records proudly announced that it had signed Soy Bomb (as he was now known) to a two-year, six-album recording contract. Soy Bomb's first album would include covers of popular classics such as 'Dancing Machine' and 'You Dropped a Bomb on Me.' A spokesman for Rhino Records commented that they had been moved to offer Soy Bomb a contract because the experience of watching him dance had been for them "kind of like
when you eat too many Whoppers and you feel a little nauseous,
but you're so happy you ate them."
In 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 itself bright blue. Virgin warned that consumers should therefore avoid purchasing all blue cans. The joke was that Pepsi had recently unveiled its newly designed cans. They were bright blue.
In 1977 the BBC gave airtime to Tom Jackson, General Secretary of the British Union of Post Office Workers. Mr. Jackson was up in arms about a recent proposal that the British mail adopt the German method of addressing envelopes in which the house number is written after the name of the road, not before it (i.e. Downing Street 10, instead of 10 Downing Street). Jackson spoke at great length about the enormous burden this change would place upon postal employees, insisting that "Postal workers would be furious because it would turn upside-down the way we have learned to sort." His comments elicited an immediate reaction from the audience, many of whom phoned up to voice their support for Jackson's campaign. What the audience didn't realize was that there were no plans to change the way the British addressed their mail. Mr. Jackson's diatribe was an elaborate April Fool's Day joke.
All text Copyright © 2011 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.