6 Famous April Fools’ Jokes
As people all over the world make the most of this annual opportunity to prank their families, friends, and colleagues, we take a look back at some of the biggest and best April Fools’ jokes from around the globe. But one of these is an April Fool’s joke in its own right, in that it never really happened – can you guess which one? If you’re struggling to come up with a good prank or hoax to pull, we hope this provides you with some inspiration, but remember that April Fools’ only lasts until noon - so be quick, otherwise the joke’s on you!
Taco Liberty Bell
In 1996 Taco Bell made an April Fools’ Day announcement that it had purchased the Liberty Bell - an iconic symbol of American independence - and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Predictably, people were outraged and descended upon the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell was kept to protest against the purported name change. After it was revealed to be a prank, the national scandal turned into something of a PR coup for Taco Bell, and even the US government got in on the joke by suggesting that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
An audacious April Fools’ hoax in 2008 involved theBBC who tricked thousands of people into believing that camera crews filming in the Antarctic for a nature documentary had captured footage of penguins flying through the air. A fake video clip was also released to back up their astonishing claim. The advanced computer generated images went viral and were convincing enough to fool people all over the world. But the claim that the penguins flew thousands of miles to the beaches of South America where they "spend the winter basking in the tropical sun” was perhaps a claim too far, and alerted all but the most gullible people to the fact that it was an elaborate joke.
Possibly the most famous public prank of all time was staged on 1 April, 1957 when a TV news segment described a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland, which was attributed to an unusually mild winter and the "virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil". Much like the BBC’s penguin prank over 40 years later, the report included video footage of Swiss peasants supposedly pulling spaghetti off pasta trees and placing it into baskets. It’s hard to believe now, but this classic hoax had many people hook, line, and sinker, with hundreds phoning in to ask whether it was possible to grow spaghetti in their own gardens.
On March 31, 1989 police in London were inundated by reports of a UFO which seemed to be descending towards the city.Thousands of concerned citizens called in to describe a glowing flying saucer which finally landed in a field sparking fears of an alien invasion. As a plucky police officer approached the UFO, truncheon in hand, a silver-suited figure emerged from the alien “space ship”. It turned out to be Richard Branson, the eccentric chairman of Virgin Records, who had designed a hot air balloon – complete with flashing lights - to look like a stereotypical UFO according to popular imagination.
Only one television channel was available to Swedish viewers in 1962, and to make matters worse, it was broadcast solely in black and white. On 1 April, the channel suddenly declared that technicians had discovered an ingenious way of producing colour images on black-and-white TV sets. The presenter claimed that by covering the television screen with a pair of tights, the fabric would cause the light to refract in a way that would make the image appear colour to the human eye. Up and down the length and breadth of the country, people enthusiastically cut open pairs of stockings and taped them over their TV screens, only to quickly realise that they’d been fooled.
Revenge not always best served cold
In 2004, Levy Mwanawasa, who was then the President of Zambia came up with a novel way of getting his own back on ministers who had replaced the sugar with salt at a cabinet meeting the year before, giving him a nasty surprise when he took a sip of his tea. So as not to get fooled again, he decreed that 2004 would consist only of 364 days, and that the 1st of April would be removed from the Zambian calendar. But when the day came, the President secretly ordered that all of the sugar in government buildings be replaced with salt, paying his unsuspecting ministers back in full for their mischief the previous year, as they tucked into their morning cup of tea.