Historians trace April Fool's Day back to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, in the late 14th century. But in our view, the April Fool's red letter dates all happened in the last 50 years. Here are 10 favorite pranks, half of them pulled by "responsible" news media organizations.
On April 1, 1957, the BBC broadcast a documentary spoof that convinced viewers the Swiss were growing spaghetti in trees. Some viewers railed at the network afterwards, but others called the Beeb to find out where they could get their own spaghetti bushes.
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Don't call them flightless birds. Not anymore...
The first sign of a hoax in this documentary clip is the narrator: Terry Jones from Monty Python. Jones explains that the first flying penguin colony has been discovered, and they migrate in winter to tropical rainforests of South America.
The beautifully shot nature clip is, in fact, a spoof ad for BBC programming online.
In a 1998 a a newsletter titled "New Mexicans for Science and Reason" claimed that Alabama's legislature was going to make things simpler for everybody and round off pi to 3.
The piece was meant to be a satire of the debate over teaching evolution in New Mexico public schools. But, like all good post-Internet pranks, the joke was taken seriously by some and widely circulated online.
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Got an old gaming console around, but can't seem to find your way around town with it? Google in 2012 announced it would release Google Maps in 8-Bit for Nintendo.
A Google product manager walks you through the simple process of blowing on the cartridge when it won't work after being inserted the first time. Follow along with this simple instructional video.
"We realized that we may have left behind a large number of users who couldn't access Google Maps on their classic hardware," the company said on its web site. "Surprisingly, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was unsupported, despite its tremendous popularity with over 60 million units sold worldwide."
Lars Andersen/Wikipedia Commons
During the construction of Copenhagen's new subway in 2001, a train car appeared on the street as if it were breaking through the surface. A sign for Gevalia coffee appears in the back window -- the brand was known for a marketing campaign that encouraged coffee drinkers to be ready for unexpected guests.
In 2000, Taco Bell bought a full-page ad in the New York Times with some patriotic news: The fast food chain had purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it The Taco Bell Liberty Bell.
The company said the move would help reduce the national debt, inspiring thousands to protest what they considered corporate sponsorship run amok.
The following year, Taco Bell said they would offer everyone in the United States a free taco if the descending Mir Space station hit a target that the company had placed in the middle of the South Pacific.
NPR announced in a 1992 broadcast that Richard Nixon would run again for president, after resigning in disgrace in 1974. His slogan? "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again."
Since then, they've hoaxed their audience with stories on the first farm-raised whales, Twitter reducing its character count to 133, and a movement called slow-net wave made up of people who enjoy the "more tactile experience" of dial-up Internet.
Sports Illustrated played on the hopes of long-suffering New York Mets fans with a story about a fast-throwing rookie. The article claimed that young Sidd Finch could throw a fastball ball 168 mph -- about 70 mph faster than the record -- and without warming up.
George Plimpton penned the 1985 story, "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch," explaining the phenom had been raised in an orphanage, learning yoga in Tibet and whose name was short for Siddhartha.
The magazine published a small article about his retirement in the next issue, and announced it as a hoax on April 15.
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In 2008, YouTube sent everyone who clicked on their featured videos to the Rick Astley video "Never Gonna Give You Up."
And now we formally apologize for putting that song in your head. One possible way of alleviating the condition is to "Rickroll" a friend or associate Monday by describing an enticing YouTube clip, and then pulling a bait-and-switch with the following link.
NPR's flagship program, All Things Considered, announced in 2005 that low-carb diet fads had reduced demand for maple syrup. Untapped maples were exploding, reported host Robert Siegel, creating a dangerous situation for New Englanders.
"An untapped tree," Siegel intoned seriously, "is a time bomb waiting to go off. Quiet stands of nature's sweeteners can turn into spindly demons of destruction."
Untapped maple trees that year caused 87 fatalities, 140 maimings, and a dozen decapitations, Siegel said. "That's the highest, ever."