Brilliant April Fool's Hoaxes

Posted by M ws On Saturday, March 31, 2012 0 comments
The 1957 Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

On 1 April 1957, the BBC made an announcement that Swiss farmers had a bumper spaghetti crop that year, even broadcasting doctored photos of farmers harvesting spaghetti from trees. The news reported that the crop was good “thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil.” What made this prank stand out was the number of people who believed the report, even calling into the BBC to find out how they could grow their own spaghetti tree.

Instant Color TV, 1962

This prank comes to us from Sweden, where on April 1, 1962, the only Swedish channel in existence announced that users could turn their old black and white sets into color TVs by pulling a nylon stocking over the TV’s screen. Apparently, thousands of Swedes fell for it, stretching nylons over their TVs in hopes of seeing a color broadcast.

Australian Metric Time, 1975

When the Australian government announced a move to “metric time” on April 1, 1975, thousands of viewers grew concerned that their old clocks and watches would no longer work. Apparently, the national news that night stated that metric time meant there would be 100 seconds in each minute, 100 minutes in each hour, and that days would only be 20 hours long. The station went so far as to doctor a photo of the townhall in Sydney to show a new 10-hour metric clock.

Modern April Fool’s Day Pranks

Now that we’ve seen what the greats have done in the past, it’s time to see how modern times have affected the great April Fool’s Day pranks in history.

The 1996 Taco Liberty Bell

Taco Bell got into the April Fool’s Day prank game in 1996, with the purchase of a full-page ad in the country’s six largest newspapers on April 1st. In the ad, Taco Bell announced they had purchased naming rights to the Liberty Bell and were planning on renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. The National Historic Park in Philadelphia reported thousands of outraged calls after the ad appeared. Taco Bell was forced to announce that it was a practical joke, since Americans took it so seriously.

Nixon for President, 1992

NPR often plays April Fool’s Day pranks, including a famous 1992 broadcast during the NPR show Talk of the Nation that stated that Richard Nixon was planning on running for President again. According to the story, his new campaign slogan was going to be: “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” The show made the story sound legit by adding fake audio clips of Nixon delivering a new candidacy speech. Immediately, the show was flooded with callers shocked by Nixon’s gravitas and outraged that he would be allowed to do such a thing. The producers were forced to announce live on air that the story was a prank, and that Nixon’s voice was impersonated by comedian and impersonator Rich Little.

The Left-Handed Whopper, 1998

In 1998, Burger King tried to outdo Taco Bell with their own full-page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new menu item. Burger King called it the “Left-Handed Whopper,” saying it had been specially designed for the large number of left-handed Americans currently cut out of the Whopper market by “right-handed prejudice.” The advertisement itself was genius: according to the ad, the new left-handed Whopper included all the same ingredients as the original Whopper (even listing the ingredients: lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), except all the toppings and condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of the 32 million left-handed customers in America. According to Burger King, even though the Left-Handed Whopper was obviously a joke, tens of thousands of customers showed up at their restaurants in the following days wanting to try out the new sandwich. Even more hilarious, according to Burger King, “many other customers requested their own ‘right handed’ version of the Whopper.” Since the word whopper is an American slang for a big lie, this particular prank was well-designed from beginning to end.

n its April 1985 edition, Sports Illustrated published an article by George Plimpton that described an incredible rookie baseball player who was training at the Mets camp in St. Petersburg, Florida. The player was named Sidd Finch (Sidd being short for Siddhartha, the Indian mystic in Hermann Hesse's book of the same name). He could reportedly pitch a baseball at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. The fastest previous recorded speed for a pitch was 103 mph.

Finch had never played baseball before. He had been raised in an English orphanage before he was adopted by the archaeologist Francis Whyte-Finch who was later killed in an airplane crash in the Dhaulaglri mountain region of Nepal. Finch briefly attended Harvard before he headed to Tibet where he learned the teachings of the "great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa" and mastered "siddhi, namely the yogic mastery of mind-body." Through his Tibetan mind-body mastery, Finch had "learned the art of the pitch."

Finch showed up at the Mets camp in Florida, and so impressed their manager that he was invited to attend training camp. When pitching he looked, in the words of the catcher, "like a pretzel gone loony." Finch frequently wore a hiking boot on his right foot while pitching, his other foot being bare. His speed and power were so great that the catcher would only hear a small sound, "a little pft, pft-boom," before the ball would land in his glove, knocking him two or three feet back. One of the players declared that it was not "humanly possible" to hit Finch's pitches.

Unfortunately for the Mets, Finch had not yet decided whether to commit himself to a career as a baseball player, or to pursue a career as a French Horn player. He told the Mets management that he would let them know his decision on April 1.

Sports Illustrated received almost 2000 letters in response to the article, and it became one of their most famous stories ever. On April 8 they declared that Finch had held a press conference in which he said that he had lost the accuracy needed to throw his fastball and would therefore not be pursuing a career with the Mets. On April 15 they admitted that the story was a hoax.

George Plimpton actually left an obscure hint that the story was a hoax within the article itself (the non-obscure hint being that the story was absurd). The sub-heading of the article read: "He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga —and his future in baseball." The first letter of each of these words, taken together, spells "H-a-p-p-y A-p-r-i-l F-o-o-l-s D-a-y."

In an odd follow-up, a baseball team in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, after reading the Sports Illustrated article, tried to invite Finch to its annual banquet. They received a reply that read, "The challenge is reaching the Eightfold Path of right belief or the ninth inning with the proper relief. May you have peace of mind." They announced that they interpreted the reply to mean that Finch would be attending their banquet. It is not known whether Finch did attend.

When it comes time to invent your own April Fool’s Day joke, you don’t have to go as big as the classics listed above. Most of those pranks were pulled off with big corporations backing them, institutions with large budgets and lots of built-in authority. For your own pranks, consider small pranks and jokes, such as convincing your family that you’re entering the priesthood, or staging a very public fight and break-up between you and your spouse. What seems mean-spirited the rest of the year becomes laughable when people realize that it’s April 1st, and the joke is indeed on them.

Sourced from various sites including HERE.

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