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Great Gotchas: Happy April Fools’ Day

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.

No foolin’ Actual news can be stranger than fiction

The Secret Service wants millions of dollars to build another White House.

The highest elevation in Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s state is just 345 feet above sea level, but state employees can’t refer to “climate change.”

The U.S. military says elephants might be better at detecting explosives than dogs.

OK, now, are you double-checking the calendar? Wondering if WiG is feeding you April Fools Day fodder? But no, we’re not putting you on. Those stories are for real.

Read on through our second annual celebration of silly, strange, comical and confounding stories that are true.

Ready, or not

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently issued new rules requiring state and local governments to address concerns related to climate change when planning for disasters. That may be difficult in Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration allegedly barred the use of the words “climate change” and “global warming.”

Watchdog and environmental groups are calling for an investigation after former government employees say they were forbidden from using the terms in one of the states most at risk from rising seas and stronger storms.

Scott said the allegations are false. But the ex-employees are sticking with their claims. 

In a recent speech, Secretary of State John Kerry weighed in on the matter. “Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say ‘climate change,’” he said. “Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.”

Flash games

About 19,000 people recently signed up on a Facebook event page to play hide-and-seek at an Ikea in Amsterdam. And another 13,000 signed up to play at a store in Utrecht.

But the Swedish retailer says no more fun and games in its model kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms. The numbers are out of hand. Ikea spokeswoman Martina Smedberg said the company contacted the organizers of the games via social media and “humbly asked them to have their hide-and-seek games somewhere else.”

Red plate special

Did you hear the one about people writing $1,000 checks to have lunch at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Rep. Glen Grothman of Wisconsin. It’s true. A thousand dollars. Must be some menu, because it certainly isn’t the personality, wit and charm of the gaffe-prone, lunatic-fringe Grothman.

Damaging domain

Looking for a domain name to really make an online statement? The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has approved for sale .SUCKS.

But don’t expect to get chickfila.sucks for a song. Vox Populi Registry owns exclusive rights to sell .SUCKS and set premium pricing levels — $300–$2,500, depending on the name.

Analysts said the first buyers likely would be businesses seeking to protect their brand identities.

Still, we know of one newspaper publisher who’d spend his savings — and maybe his husband’s savings — to buy scottwalker.sucks.

Binge-watching bidding?

eBay is up-classing its online auction offerings. On April 1, bidders will be able to get online — live.ebay.com — to watch livestreams from Sotheby’s and participate in auctions, with the exception of major sales of certain art.

First up on the calendar, an auction of photographs, followed by an auction of New York-themed art and then European silver.

An announcement on the site says live-action bidding is quick and lively — each item is for sale for about 2 minutes. That’s going, going, gone.

Princely tunes

Last year on April Fools Day, Bloodshot Records conned consumers into believing it had lined up 21 artists for a rough and rugged roots-take on Prince tunes. Well, Bloodshot apparently misjudged fans, who got really pissed off because they really wanted those Prince covers.

So, this time around, Bloodshot announced the release of Prince covers by Lydia Loveless and Cory Branan and — and then really released the tunes. Loveless covers “I Would Die 4 U” and Branan covers “Under the Cherry Moon.”

Bathroom birth

Isn’t there a saying about a baby and bathwater?

An Iowa woman says she stepped into her shower and started to feel stomach pains. A few minutes later, she stepped out of the shower, with a baby, who is named “Miracle,” weighing in at 6 pounds, 8 ounces.

The 24-year-old woman knew she was pregnant but says she must have misunderstood a hospital worker during a check up. She thought that she was “12 weeks pregnant,” but she must have been told she had 12 weeks left.

Cleanup in the women’s

A meth suppression team was called to a Wal-Mart near Muncie, Indiana, after an employee at the discount store discovered a mobile meth lab in the women’s restroom. The employee saw a suspicious man enter the bathroom with a backpack but leave without the bag. Two people face charges of manufacturing meth, criminal recklessness and dumping controlled substance waste.

The Muncie Star Press, which first reported the story, followed up with a report of other mobile meth-lab busts: Missouri authorities arrested a man for a meth lab on his motorcycle. A man in Florida was arrested for allegedly carrying a mobile meth lab in his pant legs. A woman was arrested after the Louisiana casino where she was cooking meth caught fire. Three people were arrested at an Alabama campsite for manufacturing meth in their tent. And a 64-year-old man was arrested in Fresno, California, for cooking and selling meth from his room at a retirement home.

Brotherly love

A Pennsylvania man was due in court late this month after an arrest for allegedly assaulting his brother. State police said the guy threw a vanity license plate at his older brother. The blue-and-gold plate read, “You’ve got a friend in JESUS,” and had a “John 15: 13-15” sticker, which refers to a passage in the Bible rather than an expiration date for the plate. The passage begins, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Droopy drawers, Dopey law

The police chief in Opelousas, Louisiana, recently asked his city council to consider an ordinance prohibiting people from wearing saggy pants. The proposed ordinance, modeled on a measure adopted in another Louisiana community, states, “Pants worn by any person, regardless of age, should be size appropriate and secured at the waist to prevent the pants from falling more than 3 inches below the hips (crest of ilium).”

The ACLU says such a law would be unconstitutional — clothing is a form of expression.

Still, city officials continue to discuss a possible ban, as well as extending the prohibition to apply to “daisy dukes.” Now, why do we think more cops would be willing to take a measurement of short shorts than sagging pants?

Strong sniffer

Ringling Brothers Circus says it has plans to retire its circus elephants by 2018. Is it possible the U.S. military has plans for them?

New research that involved the U.S. military as a partner revealed that elephants excel at identifying explosives by smell. They also remember training longer than dogs.

The research took place at a game reserve in South Africa, where elephants learned to raise a front leg when they sniffed out TNT.

Researchers conducted the experiments after learning that elephants in Angola intentionally avoided areas that contained land mines.

Thou shalt not remove

A federal judge is allowing a privately funded Ten Commandments monument to remain at the Oklahoma Capitol. The granite monument, which is about 6 feet tall, was approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2012. The original monument was destroyed last October, when a car drove across the Capitol lawn, but a replica has since been installed.

American Atheists Inc. sued to remove the monument, alleging the government was sanctioning a specific religion and violating the First Amendment.

The state now faces petitions from various groups — an animal rights group, a Hindu leader, a satanic association and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — to erect Capitol monuments.

Incarcerated electorate

Anyone old enough to remember the election of 2000 — hanging chads, Katherine Harris, theft of the presidency — won’t be surprised. The ACLU recently filed a federal lawsuit against Jefferson County, Florida, which counted the 1,157 inmates incarcerated at a local state prison in its redistricting. The thing is, Florida inmates can’t vote. In fact, in Florida they’ll have to fight for voting rights even after their release from prison. With more than 100,000 state inmates, the ACLU is now trying to determine the degree of prison-based gerrymandering in Florida. 

White House in the ’burbs

The Secret Service, under scrutiny for security breaches and high-profile gaffes, is asking Congress to appropriate $8 million to build a replica of the White House for training purposes. The second White House — with East and West wings, the grounds and guard booths — would be built at the Secret Service training site in Beltsville, Maryland, about 20 miles from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Secret Service Director Joseph P. Clancy told the House Appropriations Committee that Secret Service agents currently train in a parking lot. “We don’t have the bushes, we don’t have the fountains, we don’t get a realistic look at the White House,” he complained.

Now, wouldn’t it be fun to elect the fake president of the fake White House?

Holy rollers

The Life Center church in Panama City Beach, Florida, has lost its local tax-exempt status for hosting naked paint parties and slumber parties featuring “sexist ladies on the beach” during a weeklong celebration dubbed “Amnesia: The Tabernacle.”

The local sheriff called the church activity a “blatant slap in the face” to taxpayers. And the local property appraiser was bothered by the church’s selling of novelty T-shirts, the collection of donations at the door and signage like, “I hate being sober.”

No foolin’.