No one is really sure when all this nonsense got started, but it has been around a long time and isn’t a recent phenomenon. People having been pranking each other as far back as the 1500s in one form or another. Here are just a few of the more notable April Fool’s Day pranks.
1. Left-Handed Whopper
Burger King turned the hamburger world upside down when it introduced the “Left-Handed Whopper” in 1998. The company took out a full page ad in USA Today declaring to the world that it had developed a burger for the left set. The ad explained how the new Whopper was the same as the original but the ingredients had been rotated 180-degrees, thereby distributing the contents of the burger for the benefit of left-handed customers. Burger King revealed that the new burger was a hoax the next day, much to the chagrin of lefty paying customers everywhere.
2. Man Flies By Lung Power
A photograph of a man flying by using nothing but the air from his lungs ran in many American papers in April of 1934. The new invention was used by a German pilot named Erich Kocher, and he had a box attached to his chest that he blew into that sent him flying. He even had a tail fin for steering and skis as landing gear. The hoax initially appeared in the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung as an April Fool’s joke, but somehow that information didn’t pass on to the Hearst International News Photo Agency. They distributed the picture to American newspapers around the country.
3. Instant Color TV
In 1962, Swedish television, SVT, informed their viewers that they could make their black and white sets into color TVs, thanks to a new and amazing technology. There was only one channel in Sweden at the time in black and white, so people were excited about the news. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their existing TV set, and by the wonders of technology, the screen would be in color. Actual color TV didn’t get to Sweden until 1970.
4. Swiss Spaghetti Trees
A BBC news show in 1957 reported that Swiss farmers were having a wonderful year with their spaghetti crop. They even showed people pulling spaghetti off of trees. As people called in wondering how they could grow their own spaghetti tree, the BBC continued the hoax by instructing them to put “a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce.” According to The Museum of Hoaxes, this is the most popular April Fool’s Day hoax ever.
5. Taco Bell Buys the Liberty Bell
Taco Bell had their hand in a major April Fool’s Day hoax in 1996 when they took out ads in six major papers on April 1st that said they had purchased the Liberty Bell. Why the Liberty Bell you might ask? For one, it is a bell, and two, they said they bought it to reduce the country’s debt. They even said it would be renamed the “Taco Liberty Bell”. There was of course a mighty fervor over one of America’s prized possession being sold to a taco joint. It got so bad that Taco Bell had to issue a press release at noon on the same day saying the whole thing had been nothing but a joke.
6. An Iceberg in Sydney
In 1978, an iceberg was seen being towed into Sydney Harbor in Australia. It wasn’t as surprising a sight as one would expect, since Dick Smith, a local millionaire businessman, had said he planned to tow an iceberg from Antarctica. It appeared as if he had made good on his promise, and he also promised to carve it up and sell small cubes for ten cents apiece. As the iceberg came into Sydney Harbor, radio stations covered the big story, but when rain began to fall, the iceberg became something else. All the shaving cream and firefighting foam that was covering the supposed iceberg began to wash away, and white plastic sheets were revealed underneath.
What new hoaxes and jokes will happen on this April Fool’s Day? We’ll only really know on April 2nd.
To see a huge list of hoaxes, check out the top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes from the Museum of Hoaxes.