NEW YORK, AFP
From television revealing that spaghetti grows on trees to advertisements for the left-handed burger, the tradition of April Fool’s Day stories in the media has a weird and wonderful history. Here are 10 of the top April Fool’s Day pranks ever pulled off, as judged by the San Diego-based Museum of Hoaxes for their notoriety, absurdity, and number of people duped. ☛ In 1957, a BBC television show announced that thanks to a mild winter and the virtual elimination of the spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. Footage of Swiss farmers pulling strands of spaghetti from trees prompted a barrage of calls from people wanting to know how to grow their own spaghetti at home. ☛ In 1985, Sports Illustrated magazine published a story that a rookie baseball pitcher who could reportedly throw a ball at 270 kilometers per hour (168 miles per hour) was set to join the New York Mets. Finch was said to have mastered his skill — pitching significantly faster than anyone else has ever managed — in a Tibetan monastery. Mets fans’ celebrations were short-lived. ☛ Sweden in 1962 had only one television channel, which broadcast in black and white. The station’s technical expert appeared on the news to announce that thanks to a newly developed technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to receive color pictures by pulling a nylon stocking over the screen. In fact, they had to wait until 1970. ☛ In 1996, American fast-food chain Taco Bell announced that it had bought Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, a historic symbol of American independence, from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Outraged citizens called to express their anger before Taco Bell revealed the hoax. Then-White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale and said the Lincoln Memorial in Washington had also been sold and was to be renamed the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial after the automotive giant. ☛ In 1977, British newspaper The Guardian published a seven-page supplement for the 10th anniversary of San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semicolon-shaped islands. A series of articles described the geography and culture of the two main islands, named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. ☛ In 1992, U.S. National Public Radio announced that
Richard Nixon was running for president again. His new campaign slogan was, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” They even had clips of Nixon announcing his candidacy. Listeners flooded the show with calls expressing their outrage. Nixon’s voice actually turned out to be that of impersonator Rich Little. ☛ In 1998, a newsletter titled New Mexicans for Science and Reason carried an article that the state of Alabama had voted to change the value of pi from 3.14159 to the “Biblical value” of 3.0. ☛ Burger King, another American fast-food chain, published a full-page advertisement in USA Today in 1998 announcing the introduction of the “Left-Handed Whopper,” specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new burger included the same ingredients as the original, but the condiments were rotated 180 degrees. The chain said it received thousands of requests for the new burger, as well as orders for the original “right-handed” version. ☛ Discover Magazine announced in 1995 that a highly respected biologist, Aprile Pazzo (Italian for April Fool), had discovered a new species in Antarctica: the hotheaded naked ice borer. The creatures were described as having bony plates on their heads that became burning hot, allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speed — a technique they used to hunt penguins. ☛ Noted British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on the radio in 1976 that at 9:47 a.m., a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event, in which Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, would cause a gravitational alignment that would reduce the Earth’s gravity. Moore told listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment of the planetary alignment, they would experience a floating sensation. Hundreds of people called in to report feeling the sensation.