Published 01/04/2011 | 03:06
The classic BBC April Fool's hoax -flying penguins discovered in Antartica
The Swiss spaghetti harvest In 1957 the BBC news show Panorama broadcast a programme reporting that farmers in the Swiss canton of Ticino were enjoying a bumper spaghetti harvest. The clipped BBC voiceover states benevolently: "Spaghetti cultivation here in Switzerland isn't carried out on a scale similar to the huge spaghetti plantations of Italy, but is a more domestic industry". He goes on to describe the regions' struggle with the depredations of the dastardly spaghetti weavel and their recent triumph over it. The story was so convincing that hundreds phoned into the BBC either to query it or to ask how to grow their own spaghetti trees
Burger King launched a marketing campaign for its 'Left-handed whopper' on April 1 1998. A press release sent out at the time estimated that nearly 11 million left-handed customers visited the fast food outlet in the UK each year. A spokesperson from the Left Handed Club is quoted as saying: "We are delighted that Burger King has recognised the difficulties of holding a hamburger in your left hand that has a natural right bias to it. We urge all left handed hamburger lovers to visit their nearest Burger King and taste the difference for themselves."
In 1982 the Daily Mail reported a series of signal interferences in fire and burglar alarms, television and radio broadcasts due, it claimed, to the manufacture and sale of bras containing extremely conductive copper underwire. The report claimed that the combination of body heat and nylon caused the copper to produce static electricity which interfered with signals.
Jumping at it
Well known television astronomer and national treasure Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 on April fool's in 1976 that due to an unusual alignment of planets, known as the Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect, Earth would have a temporary reduction in the gravitational pull. He urged listeners to jump at exactly 9.47am to experience weightlessness. Thousands called in to say they'd felt the decrease in gravity and one woman even claimed that she and eleven friends "wafted from their chairs and orbited gently around the room."
Flying penguins Ex-Monty Python Terry Jones wanders starry-eyed over ice and penguin covered hills, saying: "This recently discovered species of penguins is unlike any other. They don't need to huddle together in the winter against the cold. These little fellows can do something no other penguins can...it's amazing!" At which point (and to strains of heraldic music) the penguins launch themselves elegantly into the skies "to fly thousands of miles to the South American tropics". This BBC hoax was broadcast on April 1 2008, with plenty of viewers and several well-known newspapers falling for the joke.
Tales of Nessie
Loch Ness and its mythical monster have provided a wealth of material for hoaxers. In 1972 a team of zoologists from Yorkshire's Flamingo Park Zoo had gone out in search of the legendary monster and soon discovered a large body floating in the water. They retrieved the corpse, which reportedly measured between 16 and 18 feet and weighed up to 1.5 tonnes, and was described by the Press Association as having "a bear's head and a brown scaly body with clawlike fins." The creature was put in a van to be taken away for testing, whereupon police chased them down and took the cadaver under an act of parliament which prohibits the removal of "unidentified creatures" from Loch Ness. The case attracted worldwide attention, with the press reporting the discovery of the "son of Nessie." But it was later revealed that Flamingo Park's education officer John Shields was responsible for setting up his colleagues in an elaborate hoax. He had shaved off the whiskers and disfigured a bull elephant seal which had died the week before, and dumped it in Loch Ness to dupe them.
On April 1 1977 The Guardian published a seven-page supplement on the semi colon-shaped islands of San Serriffe, situated somewhere in the Indian Ocean. The two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse and the editorial was littered with other puns and plays on words relating to typography. The islands were used for subsequent hoaxes in 1978, 1980 and 1999 and they often turn up in the paper's cryptic crossword.
The magic of colour TV
In 1962 colour TV seemed like a magical thing in Sweden. So when its one television channel broadcast an advisory by the station's technical expert Kjell Stensson telling viewers that they could manually convert their black and white sets into colour by covering the screen in a nylon stocking, thousands of people gave it a try. His technical explanation for the peculiar activity was that the fine mesh of the material would cause a reconfiguration of the light particles emanating from the screen. Viewers were advised to tilt their heads from side to side to help with the readjustment process.
You say Pinana...
Last year Waitrose supermarket announced it was stocking an exotic new fruit: the Pinana, a hybrid combination of a pineapple and a banana. The advert read: "Fresh in today and exclusive to Waitrose. If you find that all Waitrose pinanas have sold out, don't worry, there's 50% off our essential Waitrose strawberries."
Stuffy global agencies aren't known for their jokes. Which made it all the more believable in April 2002 when the World Health Organization released a report claiming that natural blondes were likely to be extinct within 200 years. It said that due to the proliferation of dyed blondes and a genetic weakness, the last natural blonde would probably be born in 2202. The study was revealed to be a hoax and the WHO denied conducting the research
Check out our pick of the ten best April Fools' hoaxes.
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