Some of the best April Fools’ Day pranks used the airwaves and newspapers to fool audiences, cause uproar and even ask the question: Well, if it’s on TV or in the paper it must be true, right?
Check out some of the more infamous hoaxes pulled by mainstream media and try not get duped this April Fools Day:
The BBC documentary show “Panorama” aired a three-minute segment on April 1st 1957 about a family farm’s annual spaghetti harvest in the Alps of Switzerland. This particular pasta farm was much smaller than the typical pasta farms of Italy, and due to a mild winter, the spaghetti harvest was earlier than usual. The narrator describes the ability for uniform lengths of pasta to grow off of trees was the product of expert farming. The annual harvest is then celebrated by a traditional supper of what else? Pasta!
“For those who love this dish,” the narrator says, “there is nothing like real, homegrown spaghetti.”
People fell for the pasta prank, and hundreds of people called into the BBC to find out how to grow a spaghetti tree. This was one of the first April Fools’ Day hoaxes to utilize the relatively new medium of television to pull the prank.
Burger King’s “Lefthanded Whopper”
The April 1st, 1998 issue of USA Today had a full page ad announcing Burger King’s newest menu item... the Lefthanded Whopper. That’s right, finally a sandwich that caters to the southpaw crowd! The Lefthanded Whopper had all of the same ingredients as the traditional Whopper, but the condiments and bun were rotated 180 degrees to the left to accommodate lefties everywhere.
Believe it or not, customers rejoiced and thousands of people showed up to Burger Kings to try out the new burger, some even requested their own “righthanded” versions.
Nixon For President (Again)
An institution like National Public Radio surely wouldn’t sacrifice journalistic integrity for sake of a ruse, right? The April 1st, 1992 broadcast of NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” program broke news of former President Richard Nixon throwing his hat into the presidential race. The show even aired “exclusive” audio of the former POTUS announcing his campaign and saying “I never did anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.”
Calls of shock and outrage flooded NPR stations, and eventually the show admitted that the story was a hoax, and the Nixon’s voice was actually comedian Rich Little.
The Fastest Pitcher of All Time
George Plimpton, always a wry writer, invented the tale of Mets pitcher Siddhartha "Sidd" Finch for Sports Illustrated. The story about Finch, who could throw 168 miles per hour, ran in the magazine's April 1, 1985, issue, and eagle-eyed readers caught on immediately: The first letters in the words of the story's secondary headline spelled out "Happy April Fools' Day." But others wondered whether the Mets had added another fireballer to their top-notch staff.
Plimpton later turned the story into a novel.
Pi is so challenging. How can anybody work with an irrational number that goes on and on and on? Lawmakers in Alabama allegedly thought so, passing a law in 1998 that redefined 3.14159 ... to, simply, 3. Though the news was a hoax from a man named Mark Boslough, it became widely disseminated and believed. No wonder: In 1897, the Indiana Legislature attempted to pass a bill establishing pi as 3.2 (among other numbers).
Left-handed Toilet Paper
Why should right-handers be closer to cleanliness? In 2015, Cottonelle tweeted that it was introducing left-handed toilet paper for all those southpaws out there.
Few people may have been taken in by Cottonelle, but that wasn't the case in 1973, when Johnny Carson cracked a joke about a toilet paper shortage. Worried Americans immediately stocked up. Well, you can never be too sure.
The Taco Liberty Bell
In this now-classic 1996 prank, Taco Bell took out newspaper ads saying it had bought the Liberty Bell "in an effort to help the national debt." Even some senators were taken in, and the National Park Service even held a press conference to deny the news. At noon, the fast-food chain admitted the joke, along with donating $50,000 for the bell's care. The value of the joke, of course, was priceless.
Big Ben Goes Digital
The Brits are masters of April Fools' gags, and in 1980, the BBC's overseas service said the legendary clock was getting an update. The joke did not go over well, and the BBC apologized. That hasn't stopped it from popping up again in the digital era, however.
Color TV? Try Nylon
In other TV-related jokes, in 1962, the Swedish national network put on a technical expert who told the public that its black-and-white broadcasts could be made color simply by viewing through nylon stockings. Many Swedes fell for the hoax. There's no truth to the rumor, however, that some have gotten their revenge by burning a giant goat every year.
Goodbye, Space Needle
In 1989, a Seattle comedy show went on the air and said the city's Space Needle had fallen down. It even had pictures. The news was a joke, of course, but that was little comfort to 700 panicky callers alarmed at the story. Skip to the 2:25 mark on the video:
Google loves April Fools' Day almost as much as making doodles. In 2005, the company said it was branching out with a new drink: Google Gulp. It would help "to achieve maximum optimization of your soon-to-be-grateful cerebral cortex." Also, low in carbs!
Add it to fake Google products including Google Romance, Gmail Paper and Google Voice for Pets. But not Gmail itself, however: That was real.
Don't Drink and Surf
In 1994, PC Magazine ran a column about a bill making its way through Congress that would prohibit the use of the Internet while intoxicated. Despite the name of the contact person, Lirpa Sloof ("her name spelled backward says it all," the column concluded), many people took the story seriously.
In retrospect, however, perhaps the bill -- fake or not -- wasn't such a bad idea.