In 1957 Panorama aired a story about an unusually good spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. The segment was narrated by the trusted and respected presenter, Richard Dimbleby. Viewers saw black and white news footage of women carrying baskets plucking lengths of spaghetti from trees as Dimbleby went on to say, “… another reason this may be a bumper year lies in the virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.” Back in 1957, people had no reason to question the news story. Spaghetti was relatively new to England and most were only familiar with tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce. Hundreds of people called the BBC to ask how they could grow their own spaghetti trees, usually met with the reply “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best”.
Eruption at Mount Edgecumbe
On the morning of April 1st 1974 residents of Sitka, Alaska were in for a rude shock. They woke to find clouds of black smoke rising from the crater of Mount Edgecumbe, the volcano neighbouring them and dormant for about 400 years. Terrified that it was active again and might soon erupt they stared helplessly. Later, a Coast Guard pilot who went investigating found hundreds of burning tires and the words “APRIL FOOL” spray painted into the snow. Luckily, as it turned out, a local named Porky Bickar had flown the tires into the volcano’s crater and then lit them on fire, in a (successful) attempt to give the city dwellers a little fright.
In 1976, BBC Radio 2 broadcasted that the gravity of Earth would decrease for a short time on 1 April. English astronomer Patrick Moore led the prank, stating that due to the conjugation of Jupiter and Pluto at 9:47 am and the powerful combination of the two planets’ gravitation, people will be able to feel the reduction in gravity on Earth for a brief time. He managed to convince the listeners that if they would jump at that exact moment, they would feel a floating sensation. Soon after 9:47 am, the BBC received hundreds of calls from people claiming that they felt the effect of decreased gravity. One woman even stated that she and eleven of her friends were sitting and had been “wafted from their chairs and orbited gently around the room”.
In 1977 The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement on San Serriffe, a small country consisting of semi-colon shaped islands located in the Indian Ocean. Articles affectionately described the geography and culture, while its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot and only a few noticed that everything about the island was named after printer’s terminology. The success of this hoax is widely credited with launching the enthusiasm for April Foolery that gripped the British tabloids from then on wards.
Big Ben Going Digital
The BBC were at it again in 1980 when they reported on the World Service that Big Ben would be going digital and that the clock hands would be given away to the first four listeners to contact the station. As expected the response was huge, with many listeners furious about the change, ringing in to complain and failed to see the funny side even after it was revealed that it was a prank.