FAMOUS APRIL FOOL’S
jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk BLOG Thursday 1st April 2021
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
TOP TEN OF THE DAY
Today we are combining the Thought For The Day with the Top Ten of the Day.
The Top 10 + SOME OF FAMOUS APRIL FOOL’S PRANKS THROUGH HISTORY
#1: The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
April 1, 1957: The respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.” Even the director-general of the BBC later admitted that after seeing the show he checked in an encyclopedia to find out if that was how spaghetti actually grew (but the encyclopaedia had no information on the topic). The broadcast remains, by far, the most popular and widely acclaimed April Fool’s Day hoax ever, making it an easy pick for number one.
#2: Instant Colour TV
April 1, 1962: Sweden’s SVT (Sveriges Television) brought their technical expert, Kjell Stensson, onto the news to inform the public that, thanks to a new technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to display colour reception. At the time, there was only the one TV channel in Sweden, and it broadcast in black and white, so this was big news. Stensson explained that all viewers had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their tv screen, and the mesh would cause the light to bend in such a way that it would appear as if the image was in colour. He proceeded to demonstrate the process. Thousands of people were taken in. Many Swedes today still report remembering their fathers rushing through the house trying to find stockings to place over the TV set. Regular color broadcasts only commenced in Sweden on April 1, 1970.
#3: The Eruption of Mount Edgecumbe.
April 1, 1974: The residents of Sitka, Alaska woke to a disturbing sight. Clouds of black smoke were rising from the crater of Mount Edgecumbe, the long-dormant volcano neighbouring them. People spilled out of their homes onto the streets to gaze up at the volcano, terrified that it was active again and might soon erupt. Luckily it turned out that man, not nature, was responsible for the smoke. A local practical joker named Porky Bickar had flown hundreds of old tires into the volcano’s crater and then lit them on fire, all in a (successful) attempt to fool the city dwellers into believing that the volcano was stirring to life. According to local legend, when Mount St. Helens erupted six years later, a Sitka resident wrote to Bickar to tell him, “This time you’ve gone too far!”
#4: The Sydney Iceberg
April 1, 1978: A barge towing a giant iceberg appeared in Sydney Harbour. Sydneysiders were expecting it. Dick Smith, a local adventurer and millionaire businessman, had been loudly promoting his scheme to tow an iceberg from Antarctica for quite some time. Now he had apparently succeeded. He said that he was going to carve the berg into small ice cubes, which he would sell to the public for ten cents each. These well-travelled cubes, fresh from the pure waters of Antarctica, were promised to improve the flavour of any drink they cooled. Slowly the iceberg made its way into the harbour. Local radio stations provided blow-by-blow coverage of the scene. Only when the berg was well into the harbour was its secret revealed. It started to rain, and the firefighting foam and shaving cream that the berg was really made of washed away, uncovering the white plastic sheets beneath.
#5: San Serriffe
April 1, 1977: The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement devoted to San Serriffe, a small republic said to consist of several semi-colon-shaped islands located in the Indian Ocean. A series of articles affectionately described the geography and culture of this obscure nation. Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its capital was Bodoni, and its leader was General Pica. The Guardian’s phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot. Only a few noticed that everything about the island was named after printer’s terminology. The success of this hoax is widely credited with launching the enthusiasm for April Foolery that gripped the British tabloids in subsequent decades.
#6: Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity
April 1, 1976: During an early-morning interview on BBC Radio 2, the British astronomer Patrick Moore announced that at 9:47 AM that day a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur. Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, and this planetary alignment would temporarily counteract and lessen the Earth’s own gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment the alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 AM arrived, the station began receiving hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman reported that she and her friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room. Moore had intended his announcement to be a spoof of a pseudoscientific theory that had recently been promoted in a book called The Jupiter Effect, alleging that a rare alignment of the planets was going to cause massive earthquakes and the destruction of Los Angeles in 1982. More…
#7: UFO Lands in London
March 31, 1989: Thousands of motorists driving on the highway outside London looked up in the air to see a glowing flying saucer descending on their city. Many of them pulled to the side of the road to watch the bizarre craft float through the air. The saucer finally landed in a field on the outskirts of London where local residents immediately called the police to warn them of an alien invasion. Soon the police arrived on the scene, and one brave officer approached the craft with his truncheon extended before him. When a door in the craft popped open, and a small, silver-suited figure emerged, the policeman ran in the opposite direction. The saucer turned out to be a hot-air balloon that had been specially built to look like a UFO by Richard Branson, the 36-year-old chairman of Virgin Records. The stunt combined his passion for ballooning with his love of pranks. His plan was to land the craft in London’s Hyde Park on April 1. Unfortunately, the wind blew him off course, and he was forced to land a day early in the wrong location.
#8: The Washing of the Lions
April 1, 1698: As reported in Dawks’s News-Letter the following day, “several persons were sent to the Tower Ditch to see the Lions washed.” This is the earliest known record of an April Fool’s Day prank. The joke was that there were no lions being washed in the Ditch (i.e. moat) of the Tower of London. It was a fool’s errand. For well over a century after this, the prank of sending unsuspecting victims to see the “washing of the lions” at the Tower of London remained a favorite April Fool’s Day joke. In the mid-nineteenth century, pranksters even printed up official-looking tickets that they distributed around London on April first, promising admittance to the (non-existent) annual lion-washing ceremony.
#9: New Zealand Wasp Swarm
April 1, 1949: New Zealand DJ Phil Shone (of radio station 1ZB) warned his listeners that a mile-wide wasp swarm was headed towards Auckland, and he urged them to take steps to protect themselves, such as wearing their socks over their trousers when they left for work and leaving honey-smeared traps outside their doors. Auckland residents dutifully heeded his advice, and panic grew until he finally admitted it had all been a joke. The New Zealand Broadcasting Service wasn’t amused. Its director, Prof. James Shelley, denounced the hoax on the grounds that it undermined the rules of proper broadcasting. From then on, a memo was sent out each year before April Fool’s Day reminding New Zealand radio stations of their obligation to report nothing but the truth.
#10: The Left-Handed Whopper
April 1, 1998: Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a “Left-Handed Whopper” specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, “many others requested their own ‘right handed’ version.” Left-handed products of various kinds are actually an old joke on April first, but Burger King’s announcement quickly became, by far, the most famous version of the joke.
#69: Big Ben Goes Digital
April 1, 1980: The BBC’s overseas news service reported that Big Ben, in order to keep up with the times, was going to be given a digital readout. The segment included people’s nostalgic reminiscences about the world’s most famous clock, such as anecdotes about the day it stopped and when it chimed 13 instead of 12. Finally, the service announced that the clock hands, being no longer needed, would be given away to the first four listeners to contact them. One Japanese seaman in the mid-Atlantic immediately radioed in, hoping to be among the lucky callers. However, the BBC was shocked when it then began receiving a massive volume of calls from listeners who were furious that Big Ben was going to be meddled with. “Surprisingly, few people thought it was funny,” admitted Tony Lightley of the service. The BBC had to spend several days apologizing to listeners for upsetting them.
#97: No-Hole Polo Mints
April 1, 1995: Spoofing the increasingly complex regulations mandated by the European Economic Community, Polo Mints (“the mint with a hole”) ran ads in British papers announcing that “in accordance with EEC Council Regulation (EC) 631/95” they would no longer be producing mints with holes. This regulation supposedly required that all producers of “tubular foodstuffs” delete the holes from their products. To satisfy the regulation, all the existing stock of Polo mints would be supplemented with a “EURO-CONVERSION KIT” containing twenty 7mm “Hole Fillers” to be placed inside each Polo mint. A “detailed instruction leaflet” would also be included.
25 authors on Naked Came the Stranger get together after they revealed they had perpetrated what may become the literary hoax of the century.
Naked Came the Stranger
One of the best-selling erotic books in American history was actually written as a joke. No, it’s not Fifty Shades of Grey (though that did famously start as Twilight fan fiction)—it’s a 1969 parody called Naked Came the Stranger. The book’s author was listed as “Penelope Ashe,” but the real authors were a group of journalists at Newsday, a Long Island newspaper.
The project’s ringleader was Mike McGrady, a Newsday journalist frustrated with the popular romance and erotic novelists he’d interviewed. “I saw the writing that was being accepted and it seemed absurd,” he told the Associated Press. So McGrady rounded up about 25 journalists and asked each to contribute a ridiculous, over-the-top chapter to an erotic parody novel. He and columnist Harvey Aronson then patched these chapters together into a story about a Long Island housewife who suspects her husband is unfaithful and starts cheating on him.
The hardcover sales earned it a number four spot on the The New York Times’ bestseller list. Because it was exposed as a parody soon after publication, readers were likely in on the joke and bought it for the laughs (after one intimate encounter, a character says, “I’d forgotten there was more to life than mowing a lawn”). The next year, McGrady published a book about the experience called Stranger Than Naked, or How to Write Dirty Books for Fun & Profit.
Prankster in a Bottle
January of 1749 saw London newspapers advertising that in a forthcoming new show, a man would cram his entire body into a wine bottle and after that sing while inside of it. The ad claimed that, “during his stay in the bottle, any person may handle it, and see plainly that it does not exceed a common Tavern Bottle.” The ad also said that people will be communicating with the dead on the show. The Duke of Portland was right in his bet when he said that he will easily find fools in London to fill a playhouse. The show was housefull and that night no performer ever showed up.
’T FORGET TO LAUGH EVERYDAY
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE FOR THE DAY
The only impossible journey is the one you never begin. Tony Robbins
Happiness is…being able to pull off a successful April Fool’s Day prank on someone.
GRANDAD’S ONE LINER JOKE OF THE DAY
I saw an ad for burial plots, and I thought… “That’s the last thing I need!”
Love is…no fool.
A time to grow spaghetti in your back garden…A time to visit: San Serriffe (if foreign travel was allowed of course).
On April 1, 2004 Google introduces Gmail: the launch is met with scepticism on account of the launch date
1976 Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs found Apple Computer in the garage of Jobs’ parents house in Cupertino, California
LITTLE NUMBERS: SOME HORRBLE SOME NICE
©2021 Phil M Robinson