The first of April is widely recognized and celebrated as All Fools’ Day. The master of irony, Mark Twain, once said that “April 1. is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four”. Believe it or not, some of the biggest companies and governments get into the spirit of this ‘holiday’. So, to arm you for this crazy day, here are some of the greatest April Fool’s Day hoaxes of all time:
10. The Origins of April Fool’s Day
There are so many theories about the meanings and origins of April Fool’s Day, but the most original one was provided by Prof. Joseph Boskin during an interview. Boskin was interviewed by an Associated Press reporter. The notable history professor explained that April Fool’s Day originated during the reign of King Constantine. The fools and court jesters of the kingdom decided to unionize and wondered if King Constantine would allow one of them to be king for one day. They were convinced that they could better run the empire. King Constantine was so amused that he agreed to give up the throne for one day and let Kugel, one of the court jesters, to run the empire. (Kugel is a Jewish noodle pudding) According to Joseph Boskin, that was the first time in history when April 1 was celebrated. What the reporter didn’t realize was that the so-called theory explaining the Roman origins of April Fools’ Day was a hoax itself. The professor figured the reporter would catch on. When Associated Press published the article, Boskin got calls from many other popular newspapers, radio, magazines and TV networks to go into detail. The news spread very quickly, however, a few weeks later, the big hoax was revealed by Buskin and that’s how a professor fooled Associated Press.
9. The Guardian on Twitter
After 188 years of ink, The Guardian announced on April 1, 2009 that they will become the world’s first newspaper to be exclusively published via Twitter. According to the famous British newspaper, any story can be told in exactly 140 characters.
The history of the British newspaper dates back to 1821 and The Guardian’s next ambitious project was to rewrite the entire archive in the form of tweets. Here are some of the ‘twittered’ stories: “OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see tinyurl.com/b5x6e for more”; “1832 Reform Act gives voting rights to one in five adult males yay!!!”; and “JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?”
Twitter and The Guardian were planning to also launch Gutter, an innovative service designed “to filter noteworthy liberal opinion from the cacophony of Twitter updates.”
8. Drunk Driving on the Internet
17 years ago, John Dvorak wrote in PC Magazine an April Fool’s joke article titled Drunk Driving on the Internet. According to Dvorak, Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the 04/01/94 bill designed to prohibit Internet usage while intoxicated. Information Highway was a popular term during the 1990s and it looked like Congress apparently thought that drunk driving on highways is very dangerous no matter what highway drivers/users were on. So many readers thought it was real when published. Lirpa Sloof was listed as contact person. Lirpa Sloof? Seriously? Well, try to read it backwards Dvorak’s article generated so much controversy, an explosion of phone calls, that Edward Kennedy’s office had to release a press release denying everything.
7. Viagra for Hamsters..Or For Fools
The Independent revealed in 2000 that American researchers developed Feralmone, a Viagra-like pill to help treat sexually frustrated animals: dogs, hamsters, guinea pigs, cats etc. Animal wellness consultants and veterinarians were said to have met the product with derision.
The Independent’s funny article emphasized that there are “few things as sad as a pet suffering from feelings of sexual inadequacy, noting that it’s not unknown for a guinea pig to sit in its cage thinking, ‘I haven’t had sex for months. Am I so unattractive?’”
Owners were instructed to crush the pill and sprinkle the contents into their pet’s normal food and mix it in. They were also advised to lay some newspapers on the floor once Feralmone starts to work.
6. Jovian-Plutonian Gravitational Effect
The UK stands up when it comes to good old-fashioned humor. Sir Patrick Moore is a popular British astronomer who announced on BBC Radio 2 a major astronomical phenomenon in 1976. Pluto would pass behind the fifth planet from the Sun, Jupiter, temporary causing a once in a lifetime event, a gravitational alignment! Jupiter’s and Pluto’s conjunction was believed to decrease the Earth’s gravity. Moore said that anyone who jumped into the air at 9:47 AM, exactly when the conjunction was supposed to occur, would experience a strange weightless sensation. BBC received thousands of notifications from its listeners claiming to have felt Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect.
5. Belgian Break-Up
Despite its small geographic size, Belgium is a diverse country, a mix of languages, local governments, and population groups. Belgium is divided into the French-speaking Walloons and the Dutch-speaking Flemings and its 10.4 million citizens vote along ethnic lines. The multi-party political system (11 parties), the five regional parliaments and many other factors make it impossible to overcome Belgium’s political crisis, the longest political crisis in history!
As part of an April Fool’s joke on April 1, 2000, The Times published an article detailing the official negotiations undertaken to divide Belgium in half. The Dutch speaking (Flemish) communities of northern Belgium would join Netherlands and the Walloons France. The article was a hit. It fooled many journalists, expatriated Belgians, embassies, including former British Foreign Office minister Tristan Garel Jones.
4. European Union Wants to Ban April Fool’s Day
The Sun’s European correspondent reported in 2005 that Brussels bureaucrats decided to ban April Fool’s Day because of mental and physical health damage caused by celebrating it. Many lawsuits were filed, so the holiday was labeled as dangerous for the population.
The EU directive UVBN 814/2005 stated that “in reflection to the 452% increase in compensatory claims with relation to the date of April 1, member states must cease to use the term ‘All Fool’s Day’ and in accordance they will not be recognized in law…”
3. The Ruins of Asterix’s Home Village
The third place goes to one of the greatest hoaxes in history.
English and French researchers revealed an unprecedented archaeological discovery that dated back to the time of cartoon heroes Asterix and Obelix. The Independent confirmed in 1993 the discovery of a 3000-year old village located in Le Yaudet, near Lannion, France.
The buried remains were said to be Asterix’s home village. The spot of the discovery was exactly the same place where author Rene Goscinny located his hero’s village. The excavations, directed by Dr. Patrick Galliou of the University of Brest and by Oxford University Professor Barry Cunliffe, gave archaeologists an important body of information about Asterix and Obelix. The findings included “rare Iron Age menhirs (standing stones) of the precise size favored by the indomitable Obelix”, unique Celtic coins, Asterix-period pottery and a statue of bard Cacofonix. The back of the Celtic coins depicted the image of a wild boar. Obelix’s favorite food was roast wild boar which he usually hunted with Asterix.
2. Richard Nixon for President
On April 1, 1992, one of National Public Radio’s programs announced that Richard Nixon, the only American president to resign in disgrace, was running again for presidency. The slogan of the presidential campaign was “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” Funny stuff! The announcement was made through a series of radio spots. The president’s voice was impersonated by The Man of a Thousand Voices, incredibly talented Rich Little. It’s no surprise that listeners flipped out. They called in to express their outrage. The host revealed during the second half of the program that the announcement was a hoax.
1. Instant Color TV
Kjell Stensson was a well-known technical expert of the 60s who informed the viewers of Sveriges Television on how to turn black and white television into color. Sveriges Television was the only TV channel in Sweden at that time.
Kjell explained that viewers could experience the instant color effect at home with the help of nylon stockings. All they had to do was to pull the nylon stockings over the TV’s screen. The host of the program demonstrated the entire process and claimed that 25 denier nylons were preferred. 40 denier and tights were not recommended because they caused the TV screen to go very dark. Thousands of people gave it a try and were taken in.