There seems to be no clear origin of April Fools’ Day but there are references to 1st of April as a day of japes and jests that can be found as far back as 1392 in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and in European literature of the Middle Ages. in many countries the jokes only last until midday, and anyone who plays a trick after noon is the “April Fool”. In other countries the jokes can last all day.
With April Fools day fast approaching, it seems only right to compile a selection of some of the best well know and daring pranks and spoofs carried out on the first day of April, as inspiration for all those tricksters looking for good ideas. Some are audacious in their execution and certainly tricked large numbers of people, not all of them so gullible.
In 1949, Phil Shone devised a prank on April Fools’ Day that forced the New Zealand Broadcasting Service to send out a memo each year to all radio stations to report ‘only’ the truth in keeping with broadcasting rules. Shone was a New Zealand D.J. and the hoax that put his name in the history books was about a vast wasp swarm that he announced to be headed towards Auckland. He even advised the listeners about safety measures to employ such as wearing their socks over their trousers when going outside and leaving honey smeared traps outside all doors. Thousands of his listeners were taken in and followed his directions until he finally admitted that it was just a joke!
A chap with the unlikely name of Porky Bickar created widespread panic and alarm to the residents of Sitka, Alaska in 1974 by throwing hundreds of old tires into the local, but long dormant volcano Mount Edgecumbe and set alight to them releasing billows of black smoke. Many local people thought that volcano was about to erupt and mayhem ensued.
In 1957, the well respected BBC television programme Panorama ran a now famous April Fools hoax, showing Swiss farmers harvesting spaghetti from trees. They also claimed that the despised pest, the spaghetti weevil, had been all but eradicated. A large number of people contacted the BBC wanting to know how to grow their own spaghetti trees. It was, in fact, filmed in St. Albans in England and not Switzerland.
1962 saw Swedish national television broadcast a 5 minute special on how viewers could get colour TV simply by placing a nylon stocking in front of the screen. A rather in-depth description on the physics behind the phenomenon was included, I wonder how many people suddenly felt foolish as they excitedly followed the advice and it then dawned on them that it was all a hoax.
British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told listeners of BBC Radio 2 in 1976, that at precisely 9:47 a.m. that day a unique alignment of two planets would result in an upward gravitational pull making people feel noticeably lighter. He invited his audience to experience “the strange floating sensation” by jumping up in the air a few times. Bizarrely dozens of listeners phoned in to say the experiment had worked.
in 1983 an Australian millionaire businessman Dick Smith claimed that he had towed a huge iceberg all the way from Antarctica to Sydney Harbour. He covered a barge with white plastic and fire extinguisher foam to convince the locals.
A classic April Fools Day 2022 Fool jest in 1998 was when Burger King ran an advert in the USA Today, stating that you could get a Whopper specially created for left handed people, it stated that the condiments were designed to drip out of the right side of the burger. Not only did customers order the new burgers in their restaurants, but some specifically ordered the “old”, right-handed burger. It must have bemused some of their customers, but surely would have boosted their sales at the same time.
In New Zealand the popular radio station the Edge’s Morning Madhouse enlisted the help of the Prime Minister on April fools’ day to inform the entire nation that mobile phones are to be banned in New Zealand. Hundreds of callers rang in to complain at the unfairness of the new law.
In 2007, an illusionist posted on his website some images portraying the corpse of an eight inch high figure, which he claimed to be the mummified remains of a real fairy. He later sold the ‘fairy’ on eBay for £280.
On April 1st 2008, the BBC reported about a recently discovered colony of flying penguins. They broadcast an elaborate video sequence, featuring Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) among the penguins in Antarctica, and then following their migration flight to the Amazon rain forest.