Great Gotchas: Happy April Fools’ Day

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

Since the late 1990s, Hoaxes.org has monitored April Fools’ Day and collected the best hoaxes for its archives.

Hoaxes.org’s top five April Fools’ Day pranks:

1. The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. On April 1, 1957, the BBC’s Panorama reported that due to a mild winter and the virtual elimination of the spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were seeing a big spaghetti crop. The report included video of people pulling spaghetti noodles from trees. The BBC heard from viewers who wanted to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees.

2. Sidd Finch. The April 1985 issue of Sports Illustrated contained a story about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who planned to play for the Mets. He could throw a baseball at 168 mph and had pinpoint accuracy. But, SI said, Finch had never played baseball. He learned to pitch in a Tibetan monastery. What clue did SI give to readers that the story was fake? The first letter of each word in the subhead spelled “Happy April Fools Day — Ah Fib.”

3. Instant Color TV. On April 1, 1962, Sweden’s only TV channel, which broadcast in black-and-white, aired a news report announcing that new technology made it possible for people to easily convert their sets to display color reception. Viewers were instructed to tape nylon stockings over their televisions and then sit a certain distance from the box, possibly with their heads at a tilt. Hoaxes.org said Swedes today still talk about houses being ransacked in search of hosiery.

4. The Taco Liberty Bell. On April 1, 1996, Taco Bell purchased full-page ads in six major newspapers and announced it was the new owner of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The bell, the company said, would be renamed the “Taco Liberty Bell.” White House press secretary Mike McCurry joined in the prank when he was asked about the sale. He said the Lincoln Memorial also was sold and was renamed the “Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.”

5. San Serriffe. On April 1, 1977, The Guardian newspaper published a seven-page special section about San Serriffe, a small republic in the Indian Ocean that consists of several islands shaped like semi-colons. The capital was identified as Bodoni and the republic was governed by a Gen. Pica. Readers wanted to know all about the vacation destination.