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Only Joe King

A light-hearted look at life in Andalucía and Spain in general. Its good points and its bad. This blog doesn't pull any punches.

April Fool!
Monday, April 1, 2024 @ 11:15 PM

By Joe King

From Orson Welles’ infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast to Richard Dimbleby's Panorama TV programme about spaghetti trees, we British have always been suckers for a good April Fool prank!

In this article, Joe King lists a selection of famous pranks that have hoodwinked the people over the years.







April Fools' Day or All Fools' Day is a holiday celebrated in a number of countries on April 1st, although not in Spain, where the equivalent is el Día de los Inocentes, celebrated on  December 28th, the date which somewhat bizarrely commemorates the slaughter of new-born male babies by King Herod following the birth of Christ.

April 1st is marked by the perpetration of hoaxes and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members, enemies, and neighbours, or sending them on a fool's errand, the aim of which is to embarrass the gullible.

The earliest recorded association between April 1st and foolishness can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392).



Celebrated April Fools’ Day pranks         

•            Alabama Changes the Value of Pi: The April 1998 newsletter of New Mexicans for Science and Reason contained an article written by physicist Mark Boslough claiming that the Alabama Legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi.

•            Left-Handed Whoppers: In 1998, Burger King ran an ad in USA Today, saying that people could get a Whopper for left-handed people whose condiments were designed to drip out of the right side.  Not only did customers order the new burgers, but some specifically requested the "old", right-handed burger.

•            Smell-o-vision: In 1965, the BBC purported to conduct a trial of a new technology allowing the transmission of odour over the airwaves to all viewers. Many viewers reportedly contacted the BBC to report the trial's success.  In 2007, the BBC website repeated an online version of the hoax.

•            Tower of Pisa: The Dutch television news reported in the 1950s that the Tower of Pisa had fallen over. Many shocked people contacted the station.

•            BBC Radio 4 (2005): The Today programme announced in the news that the long-running serial The Archers had changed its theme tune to an upbeat disco style.

•            Death of a mayor: In 1998, local WAAF shock jocks Opie and Anthony reported that Boston mayor Thomas Menino had been killed in a car accident. Menino happened to be on a flight at the time, lending credence to the prank as he could not be reached. The rumour spread quickly across the city, eventually causing news stations to issue alerts denying the hoax. The pair were fired shortly afterwards.

•            Phone call: In 1998, UK presenter Nic Tuff of West Midlands radio station Kix 96 pretended to be the British Prime Minister Tony Blair when he called the then South African President Nelson Mandela for a chat. It was only at the end of the call when Nic asked Nelson what he was doing for April Fools' Day that the line went dead.

•            Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect: In 1976, British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told listeners of BBC Radio 2 that unique alignment of two planets would result in an upward gravitational pull making people lighter at precisely 9:47 am that day. He invited his audience to jump in the air and experience "a strange floating sensation." Dozens of listeners phoned in to say the experiment had worked.

•            U2 Live on Rooftop in Cork: In 2009 hundreds of U2 fans were duped in an elaborate prank when they rushed to a shopping centre in Blackpool in Cork believing that the band were playing a surprise rooftop concert. The prank was organised by Cork radio station RedFM. The band were in fact just a tribute band called U2opia.

•            Cellphone Ban: In New Zealand the radio station the Edge's Morning Madhouse enlisted the help of the Prime Minister on April 1st to inform the entire country that mobile phones were to be banned in New Zealand. Hundreds of callers rang in disgruntled at the new law.

•            In 1962 the Swedish national television did a 5-minute special on how one could get colour TV by placing a nylon stocking in front of the TV. A rather in-depth description on the physics behind the phenomenon was included.

•            In 2004, British breakfast show GMTV presented a story claiming that Yorkshire Water were trialling a new 'diet tap water' that had already helped one customer lose a stone and a half in four months. After heralding the trial as successful, it was claimed that a third tap would be added to kitchen sinks, allowing customers easy access to the water. Following the story, Yorkshire Water received 10,000 enquiries from viewers.

•            In 2006, the BBC reported that the door to No. 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the Prime Minister of the UK, had been painted red. They showed footage of workmen carrying a red door. Red was the official colour of the political party which formed the government at the time. The same story was also reported in the British newspaper, The Daily Mail which credited the new design to someone called “April Fewell”. The door is in fact black.

•            In 2008, the BBC reported on a newly discovered colony of flying penguins. An elaborate video segment was even produced, featuring Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) walking with the penguins in Antarctica, and following their flight to the Amazon rainforest.

•            Coldplay to back the Tories - On April 1st, 2006 the Guardian journalist "Olaf Priol" claimed that Chris Martin of rock band Coldplay had decided to publicly support the Conservative Party leader David Cameron due to his disillusionment with previous Labour Party prime minister Tony Blair, even going so far as to produce a fake song, "Talk to David", that could be downloaded via the Guardian website. Despite being an obvious hoax, the Labour Party's Media Monitoring Unit were concerned enough to circulate the story throughout "most of the government".

•            Google announces a joint project with the Virgin Group to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars - This operation has been named Project Virgle. The announcement includes videos of Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Group) as well as Larry Page and Sergey Brin (the founders of Google) on YouTube, talking about Virgle.

•            Assassination of Bill Gates: In 2003, many Chinese and South Korean websites claimed that CNN reported Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, was assassinated, resulting in a 1.5% drop in the South Korean stock market.

•   does an annual bogus article. In 2006, it was "How Animated Tattoos Work"; in 2007 "How Phone Cell Implants Work"; in 2008 "How the Air Force One Hybrid Works"; in 2009 "How Rechargeable Gum Works".

But, my favourite of the lot was San Serriffe.  The Guardian printed a supplement in 1977 praising this fictional resort, its two main islands, Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse, its capital, Bodoni, and its leader, General Pica. Intrigued readers were later disappointed to learn that San Serriffe (sans serif) did not exist except as references to typeface terminology.





Have a nice day!  But watch out!  Pranksters are all over the place! 


© Joe King





Paul Whitelock






10 Downing Street, 2007, 2008, 2009, Alabama Changes the Value of Pi, Amazon, Amazon rainforest, April 1, April Fewell, April Fool, April Fools’ Day, Assassination of Bill Gates, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4, Bodoni, breakfast show GMTV, Burger King, CNN, Canterbury Tales, Cellphone Ban, Chaaucer, Chris Martin, Coldplay, colony of flying penguins, Conservative Party, Daily Mail, David Cameron, Día de los Inocentes, diet tap water, Edge's Morning Madhouse, General Pica, Google, Guardian, "How Animated Tattoos Work", "How Phone Cell Implants Work", "How Rechargeable Gum Works", "How the Air Force One Hybrid Works", Joe King, Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect, King Herod, Kix 96, Labour Party, Larry Page, Left-Handed Whoppers, Lower Caisse, Mark Boslough, Media Monitoring Unit, Microsoft, Monty Python, Nelson Mandela, New Mexicans for Science and Reason, New Zealand, Nic Tuff, Olaf Priol, Opie and Anthony, Orson Welles, Panorama, Pi, Project Virgle, RedFM, Richard Branson, Richard Dimbleby, sans serif, San Serriffe, Sergey Brin, Sir Patrick Moore, Smell-o-vision, South African President Nelson Mandela, spaghetti trees, Swedish national television, "Talk to David", Terry Jones, The Archers, The Today programme, Thomas Menino, Tony Blair, Tories, Tower of Pisa, U2 Live on Rooftop in Cork, U2opia, Upper Caisse, USA Today, Virgin group, WAAF, War of the Worlds, Whopper, Yorkshire Water, YouTube

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