The Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time
Because of high traffic to this site (and this page) around April 1st, I've had to make this a 'static.html' page, which means you can't see the comments that people have left about these hoaxes over the years (nor can you leave comments). Having the comments up was putting too much of a strain on the server. But return in about a week and they should be back up.
In 1965 BBC TV featured an interview with a professor who had just invented a device called "smellovision." This miraculous technology allowed viewers to experience directly in their own home aromas produced in the television studio. The professor offered a demonstration by cutting some onions and brewing coffee. A number of viewers called in to confirm that they distinctly experienced these scents as if they were there in the studio with him. Since no aromas were being transmitted, whatever these viewers thought they smelled coming out of their tv sets must be chalked up to the power of suggestion.
#52: Thomas Edison Invents Food Machine
After Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, Americans firmly believed that there were no limits to his genius. Therefore, when the New York Graphic
announced in 1878 that Edison had invented a machine that could transform soil directly into cereal and water directly into wine, thereby ending the problem of world hunger, it found no shortage of willing believers.
Newspapers throughout America copied the article, heaping lavish praise on Edison. The conservative Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
was particularly effusive in its praise, waxing eloquent about Edison's brilliance in a long editorial. The Graphic
took the liberty of reprinting the Advertiser
's editorial in full, placing above it a simple, two-word headline: "They Bite!"
#53: Washing the Lions at the Tower of London
Late in March 1860 numerous people throughout London received the following invitation: "Tower of LondonAdmit Bearer and Friend to view annual ceremony of Washing the White Lions on Sunday, April 1, 1860. Admittance only at White Gate. It is particularly requested that no gratuities be given to wardens or attendants." By twelve o'clock on April 1 a large crowd had reportedly gathered outside the tower. But of course, lions hadn't been kept in the tower for centuries, particularly not white liions. Therefore the crowd eventually snuck away disappointed. This prank had a very long pedigree. It had often been perpetrated (on a smaller scale) on unsuspecting out-of-towners, and an instance of it is recorded from as far back as 1698.
#54: Titanic Replica Cruises English Channel
In 2001 hundreds were lured out to a windy, treacherous outlook atop a cliff in Beachy Head, East Sussex in the hopes of catching a glimpse of a replica of the Titanic (constructed by the AFD Construction company) sail past through the English Channel. The fact that much of the land had been made off limits to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease did not deter them. They came anyway, many of them driving from 30 or 40 miles away. They had learned about the chance to see the Titanic from a deejay broadcasting on Southern FM radio. So many showed up that the cliffs actually developed a crack from their weight. A few days later portions of the cliffs collapsed into the water, but luckily by that time everyone had long gone.
#55: Portable Zip Codes
In 2004 National Public Radio's All Things Considered
announced that the post office had begun a new 'portable zip codes' program. This program, inspired by an FCC ruling that allowed phone users to take their phone number with them when they moved, would allow people to also take their zip code with them when they moved, no matter where they moved to. It was hoped that with this new program zip codes would come to symbolize "a citizen's place in the demographic, rather than geographic, landscape." Assistant Postmaster General Lester Crandall was quoted as saying, "Every year millions of Americans are on the go: People who must relocate for work or other reasons. Those people may have been quite attached to their original homes or an adopted town or city of residence. For them this innovative measure will serve as an umbilical cord to the place they love best."
#56: Y2K CD Bug
In 1999 a Canadian radio station, in conjunction with Warner Music and Universal Music Group, informed its listeners that the arrival of Y2K would render all CD players unable to read music discs created before the year 2000. Luckily, the deejay said, there was a solution. Hologram stickers were available that would enable CD players to read the old-format discs. These stickers would be sold for approximately $2 apiece. Furious listeners, outraged at the thought of having to pay $2 for the stickers, immediately jammed the phones of both the radio station and the record companies, demanding that the stickers be given away for free. They continued to call even after the radio station revealed that the announcement was a joke.
#57: IPO for F/rite Air
By April 2000 the dot.com bubble was rapidly deflating. This didn't deter hundreds of Dutch investors from lining up to buy shares in F/rite Air, which was being billed as a hot new technology company backed by supporters such as Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and George Soros. The announcement about the company's IPO was posted on iex.nl, a financial web site for Dutch investors. It was reported that shares in the IPO could be reserved for $18 each by email, although it was said that analysts anticipated the stock soaring to above $80 on the first day of its filing. The company seemed like a sure thing, and almost immediately orders worth over $7 million flooded in. The orders didn't stop coming in even after the newspapers had revealed the IPO to be an April Fool's Day joke. F/rite air was a pun for 'Fried air' (i.e. Hot Air).
#58: Chewy Vodka Bars
In 1994 Itar-Tass reported that an alcoholic beverage company had invented a new kind of candy sure to be a favorite with the Russian people: chewy Vodka Bars. These bars, designed to compete with Mars and Snickers bars, would come in three flavorslemon, coconut, and salted cucumber. The same company was also said to be perfecting another new product: instant vodka in tea bags.
#59: Nat Tate
A lavish party was held at Jeff Koons's New York studio in 1998 to honor the memory of the late, great American artist Nat Tate, that troubled abstract expressionist who destroyed 99 percent of his own work before leaping to his death from the Staten Island ferry. At the party superstar David Bowie read aloud selections from William Boyd's soon-to-be released biography of Tate, "Nat Tate: An American Artist, 1928-1960." Critics in the crowd murmured appreciative comments about Tate's work as they sipped their drinks. The only catch was that Tate had never existed. He was the satirical creation of William Boyd. Bowie, Boyd, and Boyd's publisher were the only ones in on the joke.
#60: La Fornication Comme Une Acte Culturelle
In 1972 listeners to England's Radio 3 program In Parenthesis
were treated to a roundtable discussion of a few cutting-edge new works of social anthropology and musicology. First up was a discussion of La Fornication Comme Une Acte Culturelle
by Henri Mensonge (translated as Henry Lie). This book argued that "we live in an age of metaphorical rape" in which "confrontation, assault, intrusion, and exposure are becoming validated transactions, the rites of democracy, of mass society." This sparked a blisteringly incomprehensible debate, which eventually segued into an exploration of the question "Is 'Is' Is?" Finally, the audience heard a rousing deconstruction of the 'arch form' of the sonata's first motif. Listeners seemed to accept the program's discussion as a legitimate exploration of new trends in the arts. Thankfully, it was a parody.
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Text copyright © 2005 Alex Boese