Published on April 1st, 2017 | by Michelle Roper-Shaw
Fooled You! The Greatest April Fool’s Day Pranks
Have you been victim to an April Fool’s Day prank today? It is 60 years since the infamous Panorama Spaghetti Tree hoax. Are we still that gullible?
Celebrated across the world, we have all fallen for an April Fool’s Day prank at one time or another. Whether it be a mischievous sibling, friend or even via a newspaper, TV or radio broadcast, the call of “April Fool” always brings a smile, or look of embarrassment to our faces.
Five Unforgettable April Fool’s Day Pranks
If you think “fake news” is a recent phenomenon, here are five of the most unforgettable April Fool’s Day pranks.
The Spaghetti Tree
The Panorama Spaghetti Tree April Fool seems laughable to us today. Yet, back in the 1950’s, unless you read the cookery books of Elizabeth David, featured in the Great Britons Vivien Leigh Stamp Cover, you probably had never even tasted pasta.
Presented by TV broadcasting legend Richard Dimbleby, featured in the Great Britons Bill Shankly Stamp Cover, the 1957 Panorama programme showed women harvesting spaghetti from trees. They were then shown laying the strands out in the sun to dry. The three-minute report stated there had been a bumper harvest due to a mild winter and “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil”.
As a result, the BBC received hundreds of calls from viewers asking how they could grow their own spaghetti plant. Their reply?
“Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
Big Ben Goes Digital
We recently covered the planned renovations for Big Ben in our article Spring Forward This Weekend. However, back in 1980 the BBC Overseas Service reported Big Ben would have an upgrade and include a digital readout. Listeners were outraged at the change.
In the same news report it was claimed the clock hands would be given away to the first four listeners to contact the station. A Japanese seaman in the mid-Atlantic immediately called in.
Colour TV in 1962 Sweden was a pipedream. One station fooled their viewers by claiming covering the screen with a nylon stocking would convert their black and white TV sets into colour. Viewers were advised to tilt their heads from side to side to help with the readjustment from mono to colour.
Many Swedes today amusingly recall watching their parents frantically looking for a pair of stockings. It wasn’t until 1970 that regular colour broadcasts began in Sweden.
Here in the UK, our gullibility is enhanced when the voice of authority tells us something that otherwise we would not believe. On a Radio 2 show in 1976, astronomer Sir Patrick Moore declared a unique astronomical event was to take place. As Pluto passed behind Jupiter it would cause a gravitational alignment. Moore told listeners if they jumped in the air at 9.47am they would experience a floating sensation.
Callers flooded the station with their stories. One lady even said she and eleven friends rose from their chairs and floated around the room.
Washing the Lions
Finally, possibly one of the earliest April Fool’s Day hoaxes. In 1856, Londoners received an invitation to the “Annual Ceremony of Washing The Lions” at the Tower of London. An expectant crowd waited patiently outside the white tower gates. Alas, they were to discover there were no lions and hadn’t been since the 14th Century.
One of the original invitations is kept in the archives at the Tower of London.
“Don’t laugh at me ‘cause I’m a fool”, sang Norman Wisdom. The much loved comedian is remembered in the Comedy Greats Stamp Cover. If you are a fan of pranks and jokes, this stamp cover is just for you.
It features five giants of British Comedy:
- Morecambe and Wise
- Spike Milligan
- The Two Ronnies
- Billy Connolly
- Norman Wisdom
No doubt, they were fond of pulling the odd practical joke now and then.