Biggest April Fools’ Pranks in History

The first of April commemorates the funniest –if not- the cruelest holiday of the year.  From prank calls to unexpected scares, the joy of tricking someone you know is an absolute delight.  However, some jokes are played on a much larger scale and ends up shaking countries and governments. Times New pays tribute to the most notorious, yet hilarious April Fools’ pranks in the history of mankind

Alien Invasion

On March 31st 1981, the city of London came to a standstill when thousands of citizens looked up to see a UFO hovering the sky and approaching toward them. Traffic came to a halt as people stepped out of their vehicles to gaze at the alarming sight. 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, a squad of terrified police officers surrounded the spaceship before a door in the craft opened and a small, silver-suited figure emerged, causing the policemen to flee in the opposite direction. The alien turned out to be a midget, and the flying saucer was simply 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. One of the officers who approached the craft stated that it was the scariest incident in his 20 year career.  The Brits should have remembered what movies taught us all these years: aliens land only in the USA!


Spaghetti that grows on trees

The BBC aired the biggest April fools’ prank in history, according to CNN and, on April 1, 1957.  One of its popular shows, Panorama, ran a segment about Swiss spaghetti farmers enjoying an abundant harvesting season due to favorable weather conditions. The report was accompanied by footage of peasants pulling spaghetti strands from trees. Tens of thousands of Britons actually bought the idea that pasta grew on trees and even telephoned the BBC to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. They humorously replied, “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best”. The broadcast remains as one of the most popular and widely accepted pranks of all time.


Water on Mars

On April 1, 2005, NASA took to twitter claiming that they have just discovered water on Mars. Since it was an important discovery for the expansion of human civilization to the red planet, people frantically shared this information without checking the image attached to the tweet which was a photograph of a glass of water placed on top of a Mars chocolate bar, making it one of the funniest April fools’ pranks ever played by a major organization.    


Seattle’s Space Needle Collapse

In 1989, a comedy show called Almost Live started its broadcast with a special news report which stated that Seattle’s iconic Space Needle had just collapsed. Presented in the style of a genuine news broadcast, the viewers thought that the comedy program was interrupted to telecast the news report which contained several images of the Space Needle lying on its side in a pile of rubble. Even though the show’s host declared after a commercial break that it was just a joke, thousands of people fell for it. Staff at the Space Needle reported that they received over 700 phone calls from concerned citizens and 911 lines were reportedly jammed due to the influx of calls from the viewers who wanted to know more about the incident.


Thomas Edison’s food machine

On April 1st 1878, the New York Graphic reported that Edison had invented a food machine that can convert soil into cereal and water into wine which would eventually end world hunger. The prank was widely accepted as Thomas Edison had invented the phonograph the previous year along with a series of important inventions which testified the sentiment that there was no limit to his genius. Newspapers across the country copied the article and praised the intellect of Edison. Major news organizations such as the Commercial Advertiser wrote long editorials on the topic that lauded the inventor. The Graphic then reprinted the Advertiser’s editorial in full and placed a headline over it which said, “They Bite!”


Nylon powered Color TV

SVT, Sweden’s only television network at the time, played a humorous prank on its citizens on April 1, 1962. During a news bulletin, they brought out their technical expert Kjell Stenson who claimed that scientist have made an amazing discovery that helps black and white televisions to be viewed in color. This was exciting news to the Swedes who were only familiar with black and white broadcasts. Stenson claimed that all they needed to do was place a nylon stocking over their TV screens and the mesh would cause the light to bend in such a way that it would appear as if the image was in color. He even demonstrated this process. Thousands were convinced.  Many Swedes today still report remembering their fathers rushing through the house trying to find stockings to place over the TV set.

Man-made Volcano

If you think the others on this list have gone too far, wait till you hear about the eruption of Mount Edgecumbe. On the first of April, 1974, the residents of Sitka, Alaska were greeted with an alarming sight of smoke rising from the crater of their nearby mountain. People panicked and rushed to evacuate as they feared it might erupt soon. However, it turned out to be a prankster who flew hundreds of tires into the volcano’s crater and lit them on fire.     


Robbery of the US Treasury

The Berliner Tageblatt on April 1, 1905 reported that all the gold and silver in the U.S. Federal Treasury had been stolen. The paper explained that a group of thieves, funded by American millionaires, tunneled their way through the Potomac river and robbed a total of $268 million (approximately $ 7.5 billion when adjusted for inflation).  The U.S. Government was accused of concealing the information regarding the crime . The German media readily accepted the hoax without verifying it and reprinted it, making it a popular news story across Europe. Some media outlets walked the extra mile by drawing illustrations to show the exact location of the tunnel dug by the thieves. The story was soon revealed to be a hoax written by its New York correspondent Louis Viereck. The revelation of the hoax then made front page news throughout the world, especially in America where reporters were amazed that their German counterparts had so easily fallen for what seemed like an absurd claim.