April Fools Day History

Historic April Fools’ Day Pranks

As well as people playing pranks on one another on April Fools' Day, elaborate practical jokes have appeared on radio and TV stations, newspapers, and web sites. Today, April Fools’ pranks can catch and embarrass a wider audience than ever before.

Home Grown Spaghetti Trees: One of the most famous April Fools' pranks occurred in 1957, when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) news program Panorama reported on Switzerland's spaghetti harvest. The region's mild winter and lack of natural spaghetti pests allowed for the production of home-grown spaghetti. The BBC received many calls from people interested in growing their own spaghetti: They were told that they should place a sprig of spaghetti in tomato sauce. This is believed to be the first time the medium of television was used to stage an April Fool's Day hoax.

Swedes Cover Their TVs in Tights: In 1962, Sweden's only television channel, which was in black and white, announced that the station could be viewed in color if one cut up tights and placed it over the television's screen, this would bend the television's light to make it appear in color. Thousands of Swedes cut up stockings and taped them over their television only to realize they were victims of a hoax.

Loch Ness Monster Found: In 1972, a photo surfaced from the Flamingo Park Zoo in Yorkshire, England: It was claimed to show the body of the Lock Ness Monster, discovered by a team of zoologists at Loch Ness. However, upon further inspection, the photo appeared to be of a seal. The zoo's education officer eventually confessed to the prank, saying that he'd placed the seal in the water after shaving its whiskers.

Millionaire Auctions off Iceberg: In 1978, a businessman and adventurer named Dick Smith announced he would be towing an iceberg from Antarctica to break into smaller cubes for sale. He advertised that these Antarctic ice cubes would freshen the taste of any drink for the price of ten cents a cube. The media was on site in Sydney Harbor to report on the barge towing the iceberg, which was revealed to actually be sheets covered with shaving cream and fire extinguishing foam.

Renaming the Liberty Bell: The Taco Bell Corporation took out a full-page ad that appeared in six major newspapers on April 1, 1996, announcing it had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia, where the bell was housed, to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed, a few hours later, that it was all a practical joke.

The Left-Handed Whopper: Burger King published a full page advertisement in the April 1, 1996 edition of USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item: a "Left-Handed Whopper" specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. 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.