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April Fools Day
On April 1, 1961, Milan's La Notte newspaper reported that city authorities had passed a new law making it mandatory for horses to be outfitted with signaling and brake lights while being ridden through the streets or neighboring countryside. Back then, quite a few people in the area still rode horses, so the law was going to have quite a broad impact. And, so the story goes, many people subsequently brought their horses into car mechanics to have them outfitted with the necessary lights.

This is considered to be one of Italy's classic April Fool's Day hoaxes. And, as is so often the case, it's only a matter of time before reality eventually catches up with satire.

No city has passed a law requiring horse tail lights. However, over on KickStarter Sami Gros is trying to raise money for what she describes as the "world's first LED lighting system for horses," aka Horse Tail Lights. Unfortunately, it looks like the lights are only designed to increase visibility. They can't be used to indicate turning or braking. But perhaps future versions of them will!

Categories: Animals, April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Sat Dec 07, 2013
Comments (0)
I'm not sure whether or not this was an April Fool's Day joke. I found it in the Mar 31, 1934 issue of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, which contained quite a few April Fool spoof articles, such as the "Loch Ness Monster Captured" article that I posted about recently.

But this feature about a new starting gate for sprinters... I just don't know.

I've never heard of such a thing before. But on the other hand, it sounds kinda plausible. In fact, some googling revealed that the Ancient Greeks used a starting gate for sprinters, which they called a husplex.

However, I can't find any references to this 1934 invention other than this story in the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. So I'm posting it here in the hope that others might weigh in with an opinion.

Here's a transcription of the German text:
Startmaschine jetzt auch für Menschen.

Bein den Kurzstrecken entscheiden Bruchteile von Sekunden. Um eine Kontrolle über gleichmäßigen Start zu haben, hat man jetzt in Stamford Bridge in England eine Bänderstartmaschine konstruiert. Im Augenblick des Startschusses schnellen die Bänder hoch... die Bahn ist frei. Geht ein Läufer zu früh vom Start, dann fängt er sich in den Bändern.

And my rough translation (with some help from Google translate):
Starting machine now also for people.

Short sprinting races can be decided by fractions of seconds. In order to ensure an even start, there has now been created a tape-start machine in Stamford Bridge, England. At the moment of the starting shot, the tape rises high ... the path is clear. If a runner starts too early, then he catches himself in the tape.
Categories: April Fools Day, Sports
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 01, 2013
Comments (3)
I've been spending a lot of time recently adding to the April Fool archive, and in doing so I've noticed that a lot of April 1st jokes get repeated again and again over the years. One joke in particular caught my eye. In the past 20 years, prescription windshields (or windscreens, as the British say) have been the theme of corporate April Fool campaigns at least 4 separate times — and possibly more, for all I know.

This made me wonder: how old is the 'prescription windshield' joke?

It's probably as old as automobile windshields. But one of the earliest references to it I found was in a Gracie Allen joke from 1950:

School authorities warn that "television has produced a new classroom problem, called telesnooze, due to weary children falling asleep in classes after watching TV the night before."
It can hurt their eyes too. My mother wrote me about a family of nine kids who all need glasses because of television. Their poor parents couldn't afford to get glasses for that many kids so they bought a 1950 Cadillac with a prescription windshield. In order to study their lessons, the mother drives the kids around town and their father sits on the hood and holds the schoolbook and turns the pages for them.
If there's ever a "gas" shortage, their homework will certainly suffer.

It continued to circulate as a joke in stand-up routines. In some versions of the joke, the prescription windshields are an extravagant luxury of the extremely rich. And there's another version in which they're an anti-theft device, because only the owner can drive the car.

From the 1950s to the 70s, prescription windshields became a fairly popular theme in comic strips:

Bringing Up Father - June 10, 1954

Beetle Bailey - Sep 21, 1958

Wayout - Aug 14, 1967

Dooley's World - Sep 13, 1974

It was in 1995 that prescription windshields first appeared in an April Fool ad campaign, when BMW UK introducted "Optiglass" — a new optical technology that eliminated the need for BMW drivers to wear glasses. The tagline for the campaign was, "You don't need glasses. You need a BMW."

In 2006, the Dutch car-window company GarageGlas introduced prescription windshields supposedly "developed in collaboration with Russian researchers of the Lebedev Physics Institute in Samara." They said there was a button on the dashboard that allowed drivers to set the window to strengths of -5 to +5. And there was another button that allowed zooming in and out. The company made this announcement a week before April 1st, which meant that quite a few people didn't realize it was a joke. GarageGlas received over a hundred serious inquiries about the new windshields, including from one person who wanted to know how the prescription windshields worked with the rearview mirror.

In 2010, the UK company Auto Windscreens came out with prescription windscreens, and even put together a video about them.

Finally, on April 1st of this year the Dutch branch of the SpecSavers eyewear chain announced they were diversifying into prescription windshields. They even ran a special. Buy a prescription windshield for your front window and get the rear window free!

Would it even be possible to make a prescription windshield? I have no idea. But it turns out that people on a Straight Dope message board have actually thought through some of the problems such a windshield would pose, and the problems are significant. They include:
  • Only one person could drive the car
  • If you moved your head too much, everything would go out of focus
  • Such a huge lens would be incredibly expensive to grind and polish
  • And finally, such a huge lens would be incredibly thick at the edges. One person notes, "The edge thickness of a lens the size of a windshield would be measured in feet, even if you could get a 1.5mm center thickness."
Categories: April Fools Day, Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 01, 2013
Comments (2)
A trout-pig hybrid, discovered in the Tet river in southeastern France. As reported by L'Indépendant, April 1, 2013. I imagine that, when cooked, this would taste like trout wrapped in bacon.

Categories: Animals, April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 13, 2013
Comments (2)
Back in 1960, a story got around about a TV viewer in the South who thought he saw a black man kissing a white woman on a popular TV show. So he wrote to the sponsor of the show to complain. The sponsor acted quickly to calm the man and assure him that they would never sponsor a show on which such an act occurred. They flew an account executive down to see the man and held a private screening for him, to demonstrate to him that the actor in question was actually white. His local station had accidentally broadcast the show at a high contrast ratio, making the actor appear darker than he really was.

When Paul Krassner, editor of the counterculture publication The Realist, heard about this, he was outraged. To him, it epitomized the corporate urge to be bland and inoffensive so as to never lose a customer, even when offending a racist would have been the morally courageous stance to take.

It's worth noting that it's not clear whether the story of the account executive and the racist viewer is true. Krassner insisted it was, but he never provided a source for the tale, nor any specific details. So it's possible he was reacting to an urban legend. Nevertheless, the story inspired him to take action. He decided a hoax was in order.

Source: Saturday Review - May 7, 1960

His idea was to convince a TV network and its sponsors that they had offended a whole bunch of people, but give them no idea how they had done so. He imagined all the account executives sitting around fretting about what they might have done that was so bad, frantically rescreening their TV shows to pinpoint the source of the offense in order to avert a mass boycott of their sponsors' products.

To pull this off, Krassner first selected what he felt was the most bland and inoffensive show on TV — Masquerade Party. It was a show hosted by Bert Parks on which a celebrity came on disguised in a costume, and then a panel of other celebrities had to guess who he or she was.

(left) Paul Krassner; (right) Bert Parks

He then asked his readers to all write in to the show and its sponsors and complain about some imaginary offensive thing that had occurred on one of the shows. Everyone, he instructed, should focus their complaints on the same specific episode airing Friday night, April 1st (1960) on NBC, 9:30 E.S.T. — making it an April Fool's Day prank.

"Use your own wording," Krassner said. "But don't mention anything specific." The idea was to be indignant but elusive. It was important that the account executives not know what they had done to offend so many people! He referred to it as a "stereophonic hoax" because the complaints would be coming from multiple sources, as if in stereo.

The readers of The Realist eagerly embraced the plan.

Soon after the show aired, John G. Fuller reported in his "Trade Winds" column in the Saturday Review that he had heard that Masquerade Party had received several hundred complaint letters, and that "the sponsors are still screening and rescreening the kinescope to find out just what went wrong."

Krassner provided a more detailed report on the success of the hoax in the June 1960 issue of The Realist. His article, in its entirety, is below.

Case History Of a TV Hoax

Well, boys and girls, as you remember, in our last episode, the Realist was about to crash Masquerade Party with letters from our readers complaining about something "offensive" on their show.

John G. Fuller wrote about the hoax in his column in the Saturday Review:

"Alarmed at the hypersensitivity of most TV sponsors to often unwarranted public criticism ... [the Realist] urged ... readers to pick out an innocuous and frequently inane network show on a certain date, and to write the sponsors about some vague and indescribable thing that happened on the show. The letters were to be indignant, but elusive; critical, but undefined."

He reported that more than a hundred Realist readers wrote in to the show, the sponsors, the ad agencies, etc.

Let us now review four case histories.

Case #1: Bob Calese. He wrote in to co-sponsor Hazel Bishop: "In view of what happened on Masquerade Party Friday night, I can assure you that no woman in my family will ever use any of your products again as long as I live. You know what I mean!"

The next day his wife, Phyllis, got a call from the producer of the show. She said that her husband wrote the letter and that she had no idea what it was that upset him so.

The producer said he'd call back. Bob knew he couldn't possibly carry off the situation without breaking up, so they decided that Phyllis wold take the call and say that he was furious, wouldn't even discuss it with her, didn't want to be bothered by them ever again, and that she'd seen him in these blind rages before and nothing could be done.

Actually, on the night of the show, the Caleses were attending a forum on the subject, "The First Amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court." And even if they had been home, they wouldn't have watched the show. They don't have a TV set.

Case #2: Paul I. Lewis. He was able to carry off the situation without breaking up. Following is the telephone conversation which ensued between a Masquerade Party distaffer and him.

She: You sent us a letter stating that something on our show offended you. Your letter was vague and we have no idea what it was that you found so offensive; could you please be more specific?

He: What do you want me to say?

She: Well, Mr. Lewis, you wrote the letter so you must know what it was that bothered you.

He: Did you watch the show?

She: Mr. Lewis, I happen to work on the show. I know everything that goes on and I don't know of anything that could have been wrong or offensive on Friday's program.

He: Oh. Well, then if you work on the show, I guess you would know everything that went on. You mean you didn't catch it?

She: Catch what, Mr. Lewis? Will you kindly be more specific. You wrote us the letter and it was very vague. I'm calling you to ask you questions and instead you are asking me questions. Now will you tell me what you found that was salacious on our show. We feel that we put on good clean and wholesome entertainment with Masquerade Party and when we get a letter such as yours we want to discover what was considered offensive.

He: I feel that it was fairly obvious. You must have received many letters commenting on it. Perhaps they have been more specific.

She: No, Mr. Lewis. In fact, yours was the only (sic!) letter we received of this kind.

He: Well, if mine was the only letter, I guess it would appear to be a crackpot complaint, If only one viewer saw fit to write to the show I guess this would make him either wrong or just a nut.

She: Our show is viewed by millions of people, Mr. Lewis, and no one has ever called our show salacious or blue as you did in your letter.

He: Then I guess we can conclude that it was a crackpot letter. Why are you people so concerned with just one letter when you have millions who do not complain about what material is used on the show?

She: Mr. Lewis, please stop asking me questions. I have called to find just what it was that moved you to write this slanderous letter. We are concerned with each of our viewers and we feel that your letter made a strong accusation. We feel that you have a responsibility to your letter.

He: What responsibility is that?

She: The responsibility for standing behind what you wrote?

He: Oh, I'll stand by everything I write. What was it you considered slanderous?

She: You said our show was salacious, used blue material that was unfit to be brought into the homes of the viewers. You called our show lewd and dirty.

He: I did not use that last phrase in my letter.

She: You said salacious, Mr. Lewis, and that is what it means. You should look the meaning of the word up before you sit down to write a letter of this kind. Do you often sit down and write letters of this kind?

He: I do know the meaning of the word — and, no, I do not write letters of this kind.

She: then why did you write one this time?

He: I explained that in my letter.

She: Mr. Lewis, you are still being vague. Just what was it that bothered you?

He: The incident on the show.

She: What incident?

He: Perhaps you missed it.

She: I missed nothing. I know everything and every word that was used on the show. I explained to you that I work on the show and I watch the show and I know everything about the show. Now will you please just tell me what it was that prompted you to say we used blue material on our show?

He: Since I'm the only one who wrote a letter, maybe I misinterpreted what I saw. A few friends of mind commented on the incident and I decided to write my opinion on the matter.

She: Did your friends find the same fault with the show?

He: Yes.

She: I found nothing wrong on the show, Mr. Lewis, yet you and your friends did. Would you please tell me exactly what it was that bothered them and you.

He: You want me to say it over the phone?

She: Why not? It was on the show. Millions of people saw it and no one seemed offended ... There was certainly nothing said that could be considered salacious or blue or immoral.

He: That would be a matter of opinion. It would depend on the viewer's moral values as to how he would interpret what he saw and heard.

She: I understand that, Mr. Lewis. But I would like to know how you interpreted what you saw and heard.

He: My letter covered that.

She: Mr. Lewis, are you going to tell me the exact words that you found offensive?

He: I think it would be wise not to.

She: All right, Mr. Lewis. We do not consider our Masquerade Party a salacious or immoral show. The next time you decide to write us a letter of this kind, please be more specific or do not bother to write at all. (Click!)

He: 'Bye.

Mr. Lewis (who, incidentally, once won a free trip to Cuba and turned it down because he disapproved of the Batista regime) received a call the next week from an Allstate Insurance agent. Having read in an article by Al Morgan in Playboy that Allstate wouldn't allow a suicide to take place on Playhouse 90, he told the agent that he wouldn't even consider buying insurance from Allstate until there was a suicide on a Playhouse 90 production sponsored by them. The agent said he would take it up with his superiors.

Case #3: Steve Farr. He wrote to co-sponsor Block Drug Company, promising to stop using Poli-Grip. Actually, he has his own teeth. But he doesn't have a telephone, and so instead of a call, he received this letter from the manager of NBC's Department of Information:

"Dear Mr. Farr:
"This is to acknowledge your critical appraisal of a recent Masquerade Party program.
"It is a matter of genuine concern to us that you found this program objectionable.
"We will most certainly note your sensitive expression of criticism and relay it to the Manager of our Continuity Acceptance Department.
"Thank you for the interest which prompted you to write."

A month later, Mr. Farr was standing in City Hall Park, protesting a hoax by the government on him—the Civil Defense Drill.

Case #4: A young subscriber from Merion, Pa. — identity withheld on request. He wrote a letter to "The Green Mint, Nytol People" with a ball-point pen. Note that right smack in the middle, there is a sentence fragment — a complete non sequitur — just for the hell of it.

"Dear Gentlemen:
"I am a teenager and my parents have tried to raise me as a decent, god-fearing person and have tried to keep me and my mind pure. We often used to watch Maskkeraid Party and we thought it was a dandy show. But once in a while those people got on their big-city high horse and said some pretty bad things. Of course my parents were upset and turned the sound off so I wouldn't be perverted. I blushed too. But we still thought the show was tops and right good.

"Gramps and Nana used to like the show alright too. And they were much riled when they heard those things too but jiminy crickets they still liked to watch it until last night. Well, last night you went a might too far. My parents just told me to go straight upstairs and they were just going to switch off the show completely. They did this mainly because I asked them too because they're pretty broad-minded on such matters. I was never so embarrassed in my life. I have heard some pretty filthy low-down tacky things but nothing like last night.

"I always used to wash by mouth out with Green Mint because I think Dick Clark is a pretty swell fellow and a really cool guy and he said he liked Green Mint and wanted me to use it too. I did. It can therefore be seen that whenever a country adopted repressive measures. I aint no egghead intellectual but once in a while I stay up real late studying for a subject in a test in school and I couldn't go to sleep so I used Nytol because everybody said I should because it was good for me. But never again. Do you hear, NEVER AGAIN. I'm not going to help support the corrupting of minds that might be corrupted and don't know what's going on like me. I had it last night. Maskkeraid Party shouldn't be allowed on the air.

"Sincerely yours ...

"P.S. I just poured all the Green Mint in the toilet and flushed it away. NEVER AGAIN!!! I am going to tell everyone I know never to use your products again. Just who do you think you are?"

The producer called up, long distance!

"I was out," the young subscriber wrote to us, "but my mother seemed to suffice ... Although I made it clear in the very first line of the letter that I was not an adult, the sponsors had failed to made this clear when they communicated their distress to the producer (on the first call, unlike second, he did not have a copy of the letter in front of him). Therefore, the first few minutes of the conversation were taken up in establishing that I was not my mother's husband but only a teenager.

"The producer then went on to say that the sponsors didn't understand my letter — what was I so upset about? — and that I was the only person who complained. Mother replied that I rarely watched television at all and that she didn't know anything about it. She further told him that I didn't use Green Mint or Nytol; and she told me that on hearing that piece of information, the producer seemed to lose a great deal of interest.

"He called up again the next morning and asked my mother what my reaction was to the news of the first phone call. She told him that I had laughed. He made sure again that I was just a teenager and did not buy either of the products. he then read her the letter. She was embarrassed. 'No, no, no, my son doesn't speak that way at hom. Why, he's a National Merit Finalist. ... '"

* * *

It was precisely because Masquerade Party is the epitome of inoffensiveness that we chose it for our hoax.

Take, for instance, the show's emcee, Bert Parks. We'd be willing to bet 20 to 1 that he smiles even while defecating. Apparently, though, this is exactly what the mass audience wants. As a matter of fact, Henry Morgan mentions in next months' "Impolite Interview" that I've Got a Secret gets letters asking them to fire him because he doesn't smile enough.

Understand, then, that the name Bert Park is used here as a generic term for an occupational disease. You can easily substitute Ralph Edwards, Kathryn Murray, Jack Bailey, Arlene Francis, Bud Collyer, Loretta Young, Ed Sullivan — yes, that's right, Ed Sullivan: on his St. Patrick's Day show,he bowed to Catholic pressure and deleted a Sean O'Casey segment.

The point being that there is more than one way of smiling into a TV camera.

Playwright O'Casey, you see, is a living symbol of irreverence. In an essay on "The Power of Laughter," he once wrote:

"Laughter tends to mock the pompous and the pretentious; all man's boastful gadding about, all his pretty pomps, his hoary customs, his wornout creeds, changing the glitter of them into the dullest hue of lead. The bigger the subject, the sharper the laugh.

"No one can escape it: not the grave judge in his robe and threatening wig; the parson and his saw; the general full of his sword and his medals; the palled prelate, tripping about, a blessing in one hand, a curse in the other; the politician carrying his magic wand of Wendy windy words; they all fear laughter, for the quiet laugh or the loud one upends them, strips them of pretense, and leaves them naked to enemy and friend.

"Laughter is allowed when it laughs at the foibles of ordinary men, but frowned on and thought unseemly when it makes fun of superstitions, creeds, customs, and the blown-up importance of brief authority. ..."

And so, televised 'humor' is for the most part limited to situation comedies — which are in reality nothing but castrated sermons with a laugh track — and the panel shows.

Betsy Palmer, who has risen in the panel show hierarchy from Masquerade Party to I've Got a Secret, crystallizes the philosophy of that institution thusly:

"The thing on a panel show is, you have to seem as if you're having fun. That's what it's all about, you know. The guessing bit doesn't matter al all."

The prevailing theory in the television industry is that every letter received represents 50,000 that weren't sent — and commercial backers of a medium certainly don't want to alienate their market. The Realist's hoax in effect satirized the frightened state of mind that propagates this theory.

Accordingly, we'd like to sugest now a few constructive 'hoaxes' in which Realist readers may want to participate.

1. CBS Views the Press was a courageous radio program which was pressured off the air. Jack Paar has eulogized it. Paar, however, criticizes the press only when he is involved, directly or indirectly. Let's call his bluff and request that a qualified journalist appear once a week on his show with a special "Tonight Views the Press" feature.

2. If you have seen Joyce Brothers' show, you have probably been aware that it is devoted to the dissemination of pseudo-liberal advice in a most unspontaneous format. Dr. Albert Ellis is a willing would-be antidote to her conventionality. Channel 13 (NTA) is the most likely late-night spot for him. If you have felt rapport with Dr. Ellis' rationality (issues #16 and #17) — and if NTA is seen in your area — write.

3. There are those afternoon children's programs which exploit family relationships in their commercials ("And be sure to ask your Mommy nicely"). Letters with specific grievances about this might have more effect than you think.

We discussed this with syndicated political cartoonist John Fischetti. He has two sons, age 8 and 10. A few years ago, they pestered their mother for Pie-O-My pudding cake, and she finally gave in and bought it — and it was absolutely awful; no one in the Fischetti household could eat it. On another occasion, there was a very dramatic and misleading film of an animated space station. The kids thought they were going to get something like it; instead, it turned out to be a piddling plastic toy.

Twice sold — twice burned.

The kids are now quite disillusioned with advertising, and when an announcer makes his claims, they'll say, "That's a lot of baloney." To what extent this alienation of the future market is typical, is purely speculative.

But the implications are indescribably delicious.
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 26, 2013
Comments (2)
The "Mirro Dress" for "fatso figures" was one of a number of unusual items that Kaufmann's Department Store included in an ad that it ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on April 1, 1949. Other items included a "Sun-Tan Umbrella" that browned you with ultraviolet rays as you walked in the rain, and "Grow Cup" ceramic paste that could regrow handles on broken coffee cups.

The ad was an April Fool's Day spoof. Nowadays spoof ads are a dime a dozen on April 1st, but back in the 1940s they were nonexistent — except for this one. In fact, this is the earliest April 1st spoof ad that I'm aware of.

The practice of creating April Fool spoof ads only really took off in the 1980s, following the success of the Guardian's 1977 San Serriffe hoax. And it was only during the past decade that just about every company you could imagine jumped on the spoof ad bandwagon, resulting in the present situation, which is a flood of spoof ads every April 1st.
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 06, 2013
Comments (0)
A video of a news segment about marshmallow farming in North Carolina recently appeared on youtube:

It looks like it was inspired by the BBC's famous Swiss Spaghetti Harvest April fool's day segment.

The reporter identifies himself as being from Channel 9 news in Iredell County. But there's no info about what year this first aired. So I sent the station an email to find out what they might know.
Categories: April Fools Day, Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 25, 2013
Comments (1)
I received this message from a reader in Norway:

Thank you for your list of good April Fool jokes.

I think the best jokes are where you get people to do something stupid, but still rather harmless. My personal favourite is from my home country, where there is a state "Wine Monopoly" — the only place you can buy wine and liquor. You find a wine monopoly in most cities, several in the larger ones.

One year in the late 1940ies, one of the major newspapers announced that the wine monopoly had surplus stock of red wine, but lack of empty bottles. Customers were asked to bring buckets and would then get red wine for free or very cheap. Lack of bottles sounded absolutely reasonable just after the second world war, so when the wine monopoly opened at 10 am, there were long queues outside some places. People who read about the splendid offer in the paper on the bus or tram on their way to work, quickly went to hardware stores to buy themselves a bucket and line up.

Amusingly, many people realised that it was a hoax either when in the queues or on their way to the wine monopoly, and then — embarrased — just left the bucket somewhere along the streets or in a corner. So in the afternoon, you could find buckets everywhere around many towns.

That's a good one, and I'd never heard of it before. Unfortunately the language barrier makes it difficult for me to find out any more details about this, such as the exact date when it happened. But perhaps someone out there knows more details!
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 03, 2013
Comments (2)
Slightly in advance of April 1st, Scope is introducing Bacon Mouthwash. From their product info page:

Scope Bacon is the newest addition to our line of products. It tastes like bacon, while still killing 99.9% of bad breath germs. And, it keeps your breath minty fresh 5 times longer than brushing alone.

Does Scope Bacon make my breath smell like bacon?
No. Scope Bacon just tastes like bacon while you swish, but leaves your breath smelling minty fresh 5 times longer than brushing alone.

Is Scope Bacon a sufficient replacement for my breakfast?
No. Scope Bacon contains zero nutritional value and does not serve as an acceptable substitute for food.

Should I use Scope Bacon before or after breakfast?
We recommend using Scope Bacon after breakfast.

Does Scope Bacon contain real bacon?
No. No pigs are harmed during the making of Scope Bacon. The bacon taste you’ll find in Scope Bacon is a perfectly healthy synthetic flavoring.

How is Scope Bacon made?
A synthetic bacon flavoring is infused in the unflavored mouthwash formula at a specific time in the manufacturing process.

Categories: April Fools Day, Food
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 31, 2013
Comments (2)
Back in the 19th century, food pranks were very popular on April Fool's Day. And one of the most popular forms of trick food was the "cotton cake." Instructions for how to make this delicacy were reported by Jane Eddington in the Chicago Daily Tribune on Apr 1, 1929:

One of the older American cooking jokes of the days was the cotton cakes. I heard a woman tell how to do this in an up to date way, imitating what her great grandmother did who made cotton cakes and sent them around to her neighbors on April Fool's day. This woman has had fame as a cook, and this is what she said:

"Make a batter for fried cakes — that is, what people used to call doughnuts, often — of one egg, two tablespoons of sugar, three tablespoons of milk, one tablespoon melted shortening, one-half teaspoon salt, two teaspoons baking powder, one cup of flour. Take four pieces of absorbent cotton, enclose them in the batter, made by this formula, and fry them in deep fat."

She made only four of these cheats, and fried the rest of the batter — dropping same sized portions into the fat — in the normal way, and the plate of fried cakes could be served so that the one who was fooled did his own choosing.
Categories: April Fools Day, Food
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 29, 2013
Comments (0)
Thanks to Joy for sharing this:

After college, I took a job as a legal secretary at a law firm in Atlanta, GA. At the time, we all used Selectric III typewriters (PCs weren't around, and WANGs had just come on the market). We had a very nice, intelligent associate who had started about a month or so before April 1st, and although he was extremely smart at law, he was also a little too trusting and pretty naive. I clued the attorney I worked for into my plan, gave him some lines, and asked him to please call the associate and ask him to come to his office to receive a research assignment. The firm had a glass elevator that ran between the floors, and I sat at the very end of the building with a straight line of sight view of the elevator, so I could see when the associate was about to get off at our floor. As soon as the elevator door opened, I popped a smoke bomb into my Selectric typewriter and began to type madly (I typed about 100 wpm at that time), and acted intense and focused on what I was doing, while black smoke streamed up toward the ceiling! As he began walking toward me and drew near, I looked up at him and said, "Go on in. We have a Supreme Court brief due in just over an hour," and then looked down and kept going. He walked into my attorney's office and said, "do you see that?" My attorney answered, "yes, she's really fast, and in fact, we had to modify that typewriter because it wasn't fast enough for her to use her Dvorak typeball on it. Did you know that she can type 300 words per minute?" The associate was completely in awe - until my attorney started laughing.
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 29, 2013
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Unicorn Cookbook
The British Library's Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Blog announced the discovery of a long-lost medieval cookbook that included recipes for unicorns: "Taketh one unicorne," marinade it in cloves and garlic, and roast it on a griddle.

Bacon-Scented Cat Litter
Fresh Step announced the introduction of Organic Bacon-scented cat litter: "The power of activated carbon meets the scrumptious scent of freshly cooked bacon."

Mars Attacks: The Musical
Topps and IDW Publishing announced on Facebook that they were producing a broadway musical based on Mars Attacks, to be titled Mars Attacks: 21st Century Slaughter. It was going to be, "a science fiction version of West Side Story: a human and a Martian involved in a star-crossed romance, set against the backdrop of a violent interstellar war - with all of humanity caught in between." Actually they made the announcement two days before April 1, so they violated the rules of April Foolery. And given how many weird musicals there really are (such as Thalidomide: The Musical), this one sounded quite reasonable.

Spielburgers Restaurant
Both a website and a press release announced there was going to be a new chain of Steven Spielberg-themed restaurants called Spielburgers. It would be kind of like Planet Hollywood, but focused entirely on Spielberg's movies. Another hoax that wouldn't be a bad idea if it were real. I'm not sure who was behind this hoax, but I think it may have been the site

Japan's Public Broadcasting Adopts North-Korean Style
NHK (Japan's national public broadcasting organization) tweeted on its official PR account that it was going to merge with all the Japanese commercial broadcasting stations to form a state-run network, on which the news would be read by a kimono-clad announcer "in front of a blue background in a slightly alarmed voice." It was a tongue-in-cheek reference to North Korea's media. But the tweet caused enough complaints that NHK took it down and issued an apology.

Invasion of the Geese
132 plastic lawn geese, dressed in various outfits, appeared around Portage, Wisconsin on April 1st. The geese cost around $30 each. So whoever did this spent almost $4000 on the prank -- unless they got a volume discount on the geese.

Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 05, 2012
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