The Museum of Hoaxes
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Notable April Fool's Day Hoaxes by Newspapers
The Great Cave Sell. (circa 1845)
On an undetermined April 1 in the 1840s, a story appeared in the Boston Post announcing that a cave full of treasure had been discovered beneath Boston Common. It had supposedly been uncovered by workmen as they removed a tree from the Common. As the tree fell, it revealed a stone trap-door with a large iron ring set in it. Beneath the door was a stone stairway that led to an underground cave. In this cave lay piles of jewels, old coins, and weapons with jeweled handles. As word of the discovery spread throughout Boston, parties of excited curiosity-seekers marched out across the Common to view the treasure. A witness later described the scene: "It was rainy, that 1st of April, the More…
Gymnast To Ascend Church Steeple. (1858)
A notice ran in Chicago papers advertising that on April 1st, at one o'clock, a "famous gymnast" would ascend the steeple of St. Paul's Church from the outside "and stand upright on the summit, returning the same way to the ground — all to be accomplished in the space of twenty minutes." At the time appointed, a crowd of over 300 people gathered, including reporters, pencils in hand. But as the hours wore on, the truth gradually stole over the minds of the sightseers that it was "All fools day," and "the crowd suddenly discovered it was time to go to dinner, which they did with a rush." [Weekly Hawk-Eye (Burlington, Iowa) — Apr 20, 1858] More…
Grand Exhibition of Donkeys. (1864)
On March 31st, 1864, the Evening Star of Islington announced that a "grand exhibition of donkeys" would be held the next day at the Agricultural Hall. Early the next morning a large crowd gathered outside of the hall. Slowly it dawned on them that they themselves were the donkeys. More…
Edison’s Food Machine. (1878)
After Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, Americans were sure there was no limit to his genius. So when the New York Graphic announced on April 1, 1878 that Edison had invented a machine capable of transforming soil directly into cereal and water directly into wine, thereby ending the problem of world hunger, it found a willing audience of believers. Newspapers throughout America copied the article and heaped lavish praise on Edison. The conservative Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, in particular, waxed eloquent about Edison's genius in an editorial that dwelled upon the good fortune of a man like Edison having been born in the progressive nineteenth century when his genius could More…
The Monster of Deadman’s Hole. (1888)
The San Diego Union reported that two hunters had killed a bizarre, half-human half-animal beast in an out-of-the-way location called Deadman's Hole northwest of San Diego. The creature was said to have the body of a bear, but stood upright like a man and had a human face. The hunters were reportedly bringing the body into the city for public exhibit. The next day the paper boasted, "throughout the day the police station was visited by a number of persons who were anxious to view the body of the strange being that was reported killed. They were told to come in next April Fool's day and see it." More…
The Boston Globe Price Cut. (1915)
Readers of the Boston Morning Globe could have purchased their papers for half the cost on April Fool's Day, if they had been alert. The price listed on the front page had been lowered from "Two Cents Per Copy" to "One Cent." But almost 60,000 copies of the paper were sold before anyone noticed the unannounced price change. When the management of the Globe found out about the change, they were just as surprised as everyone else. The new price turned out to be the responsibility of a mischievous production worker who had surreptitiously inserted the lower value at the last minute as the paper went to print. More…

Brandenburg Gate Photo. (1919)
Hundreds of people, mostly shop girls and women, gathered in front of the Brandenburg gate in Berlin, drawn there by an announcement placed in Berlin papers the night before stating that a motion picture camera was going to take a picture in front of the gate at noon, and that everybody who was in front of the gate would be in the picture. The announcement was a prank perpetrated by a night worker at the papers. The Chicago Tribune foreign news service reported: "Some people stood there for hours before they realized that this was the first day of April, known in Germany as in the United States as April Fools' day." [Chicago Daily Tribune, Apr 5, 1919.] More…
Atmospheric Energy Harnessed. (1923)
The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung reported that a Russian scientist, Professor Figu Posakoff, had discovered a method of "harnessing the latent energy of the atmosphere," the energy displayed in thunderstorms and other atmospheric catastrophes. Harnessing this energy would allow the Soviets to hurl objects "of any weight almost unlimited distances." The Soviets were said to have promised to use this discovery only for peaceful purposes. However the Allgemeine Zeitung noted that it would certainly give the nation a powerful advantage in warfare. The New York Times ran the story on its front page on April 3, having failed to realize that it was a joke. More…
Mummies found in Berlin underground. (1923)
A Berlin newspaper reported that a large find of mummies and Egyptian antiquities had been unearthed during the excavation of an extension of the city's underground railway. The paper quoted an expert, Dr. Lirpa, who said that the find rivaled Tutankhamen's tomb and indicated "the presence of an Egyptian colony in Germany in prehistoric times." (Archaeologist Howard Carter, shown in the picture, had recently — on Feb. 16, 1923 — opened the burial chamber of Tutankhamen.) More…
Mme. Pompadour’s Metric Measure. (1925)
Merle Blanc, a humorous Parisian newspaper, laid a trap for André Perate, curator of the Versailles Palace. They sent him a letter, using the aristocratic signature "Madame de Mesnil-Heurteloup," offering to donate a "double decimeter measure in rosewood" once used by Mme. de Pompadour. They suggested it could be placed in the recently reopened Pompadour apartments in Versailles. The newspaper later reproduced a facsimile of the curator's reply, noting that he had failed to realize that Mme. Pompadour died thirty years before the metric system was invented. They suggested that they might seek space in French museums "for Napoleon's automobile, a bracelet worn by the Venus de Milo, and More…
Contagious Health. (1931)
The Los Angeles Times ran a front-page "exclusive" reporting that Hamburg scientist Dr. Eugene Lirpa had discovered good health to be caused by a bacteria, "Bacillus sanitatis." Sick people were lacking this "germ of health," but they could be cured simply by breathing in the same air as healthy people. This story appears to be the only time the LA Times ever perpetrated an April Fool hoax. More…
Wisconsin State Capitol Collapses. (1933)
The Madison Capital-Times ran a picture on its front page showing the dome of the Wisconsin State Capitol collapsing. A headline announced, "Dome Topples Off Statehouse." The subhead read, "Officials Say Legislature Generated Too Much Hot Air." The image provoked strong public reaction and became one of the most notorious April Fool's Day photo hoaxes ever. More…
Man Flies By Own Lung Power. (1934)
In April 1934, many American newspapers (including The New York Times) printed a photo of a man flying through the air by means of a device powered by the breath from his lungs. The man, identified as German pilot Erich Kocher, was said to be blowing into a box on his chest, which activated rotors that created a powerful suction effect, lifting him aloft. Skis on his feet served as landing gear, and a tail fin allowed him to steer. The photo was actually a joke from the April Fool's Day edition of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. More…
Vikings in Hawaii. (1936)
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin ran a story about the discovery of an ancient Viking ship in a sandstone quarry near Waimanalo, Oahu. The article was written in a tone of absolute seriousness, discussing details of the ship such as its dimensions and objects found alongside it. The only clue that the article wasn't entirely serious came at the end, when it was revealed that the letters A—R—FJOL—E. had been found inscribed on the stern of the vessel. Lest this was too subtle, the article noted that, "Its equivalent in English is APRIL FOOL." More…
Philadelphia Sea Monster. (1936)
The Philadelphia Record ran a story, with accompanying picture, titled, "Deep Sea Monster Visits Philadelphia." Although modern viewers have little difficulty in spotting the picture as a fake, it fooled many of the Record's readers. More…
Stealing the Alamo. (1936)
The San Antonio Light revealed that a plot to move the Alamo from San Antonio to Dallas had been foiled at the last minute: "Vigilance of patriotic San Antonians Wednesday was all that saved the historic Alamo for this city. Since Dallas was awarded main Centennial celebration, its citizens have been casting envious eyes on the shrine of Texas liberty. Early rising San Antonians today were astounded to find the Alamo had been loaded on trucks, preparatory to being taken bodily to Dallas for exhibition at the Centennial. Irate citizens and hastily summoned police halted the outrage and restored Alamo to its proper place." More…
Stranded Steamer. (1938)
North Carolina's Twin City Sentinel ran a story on its front page claiming that "a long sleek transatlantic steamer," the S.S. Santa Pinta, had "plowed through the muddy waters of Yadkin River and anchored ten miles west of Winston-Salem." An accompanying photo showed the stranded steamer. Hundreds of people (who hadn't read to the end of the article to see the phrase "An April Fool's Dream!") drove out to see the steamer, resulting in a traffic jam on the highway. More…
War Bird Over Waikiki. (1940)
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported that Norwegian scientist Thorkel Gellison (fellow of the King Haakon Loof Lirpa Society) had invented wings that allowed men to fly. He had recently demonstrated his invention in Hawaii. He had also supplied these wings to the Finnish army, leading the Russians to decide to move for a truce with Finland. More…
Flying Bus. (1950)
International Soundphoto distributed a photo of a flying bus swooping over the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France. The photo ran in many papers, accompanied by the caption: "Well, Well, look how all those Parisians are being missed by the bus at Place de la Concorde. Anything can happen in the French capital on April Fool's day, they say, but it is suspected that some zany darkroom jokester had something to do with this." [Newsweek - Apr 10, 1950.]
Pennsylvania Flying Saucer. (1950)
The Progress (Clearfield, Pennsylvania) published a picture of a flying saucer, supposedly hovering over the business section of Clearfield. The photo caption read, "Scoring an unquestioned scoop on the other newspapers of the nation, Life, and Look magazines and other pictorial publications, The Progress proudly presents today the first published picture of a 'flying saucer' in the air."
The Norwegian Wine Surplus. (1950)
Aftenposten, Norway's largest newspaper, announced on its front page that the government-owned Wine Monopoly (Vinmonopolet) had received a large shipment of wine in barrels, but it had run out of bottles. To get rid of the extra wine, they were running a one-day sale, offering wine at 75% off and tax-free. The catch was that buyers had to bring their own containers to put the wine in. "Buckets, pitchers, and the like" were recommended. When the Vinmonopolets opened at 10 a.m., long queues formed outside. According to legend, numerous empty buckets were later seen lying in the streets, left there by people who had realized, while standing in line, that the sale was a hoax. More…
Hawaiian Flying Saucer. (1950)
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported that a flying saucer had crashed into the side of the Punchbowl crater on the island of Oahu. The joke unintentionally took in victims thousands of miles away when a local ham radio operator, believing the report to be real, broadcast a description of the flying-saucer. An amateur radioman in Michigan then heard this broadcast and reported it to his local paper, the Herald-Press which, in turn, only realized the report was an April Fool's Day joke after it queried the AP, who queried their office in Hawaii. More…
Extraterrestrial Silverman. (1950)
The Cologne Neue Illustrierte published a picture of "a tiny, aluminum-covered man" who had supposedly been rescued from a saucer that had crash landed after being shot by American anti-aircraft guns. The planet this being came from was unknown. More…
French Poodle. (1959)
"What's This? — Gail Speicher gives her French poodle 'Domino' an airing. But wait a minute ... that's no poodle! Seems like anything can happen today. It's April Fool."[Lebanon Daily News - Apr 1, 1959] More…
Fake Snake. (1959)
A photographer for the Great Bend Tribune placed a fake snake on the pavement in downtown Great Bend and then hid in a car to capture people's candid reactions: "Twice boys tried to steal the reptile, and the Tribune photographer had to reveal himself these times to save the snake. One old man kicked at it, but did no damage. Many of the pedestrians walked within inches of the creature without ever noticiing it, proving that a real Python could sun himself at Broadway and Main without disturbing too many residents. The best picture of all was ruined. A group of girls walked within a foot of the reptile before one of them noticed it. They all jumped and screamed. But it so startled the More…
Kokomo Police Cut Costs. (1959)
The Kokomo Tribune announced that the city police had devised a plan to cut costs and save money. According to this plan, the police station would close each night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. An answering machine would record all calls made to the station during this time, and these calls would be screened by an officer in the morning. The police reportedly anticipated that the screening process would save the city a great deal of money, since many of the calls would be old by the morning and would not need to be answered. A spokesman for the police admitted, "there will be a problem on what to do in the case of a woman who calls in and says her husband has threatened to shoot her or some member of the family." But in such a situation, the spokesman explained, "We will check the hospitals and the coroner, and if they don't have any record of any trouble, then we will know that nothing happened." More…
Kansas University Memorial Tower Launched Into Orbit. (1959)
The Lawrence Daily Journal-World reported that a group of science students had launched Kansas University's World War II Memorial Tower into orbit: "A group of Kansas University science students Tuesday night sneaked up on Mt. Oread, equipped the Memorial Campanile with rockets and as APRIL 1 dawned today they ran their count-down and sent the famed 'singing silo' of Lawrence zooming toward orbit. There was some question today, however, as to whether Ronald Barnes, KU carilloneur, was allowed to get out of the tower before it was launched from its Jayhawk pad." More…
Bison march on Warsaw. (1959)
Wire services reported a variety of April Fool's Day hoaxes perpetrated by the Polish media. One newspaper reported that a herd of thirty bison was marching on Warsaw; another that Buckingham Palace sentries were to be allowed to lick ice cream cones on duty. A third paper reported that gasoline stations were being converted into underground milk tanks in order to ensure a supply of cold milk during the summer. More…
Runaway Missile. (1959)
The Light of San Antonio, Texas reported that a huge army missile had accidentally escaped from Kelly Air Force Base during testing, "screamed over San Antonio," and crashed into a water tank near Trinity University. An accompanying picture showed the missile embedded in the ground as water from the tank poured over it. An Airforce Colonel was quoted as saying, "We're spending a great deal of money and much of this nation's international diplomacy is based on the armed strength this and other units like it achieve. So I hope you'll understand why I have no more time for this damned April Fool gag." More…
Atomic Sub in Bedford. (1960)
The Pennsylvania Bedford Express ran a photograph on its front page of an atomic submarine floating in the Raystown River. The paper was subsequently flooded with calls from its readers: "Was there really a sub in the river? Where is it now? Has it left yet?" The image was created by a Gazette photographer who superimposed a picture of the sub onto a picture of the river. The Raystown River is only three feet deep in the Bedford area. [Syracuse Herald-Journal, Apr 2, 1960.] More…
Mantle Traded to Angels. (1961)
The Long Beach Independent reported that the New York Yankees had traded center fielder Mickey Mantle to the Los Angeles Angels. In return for Mantle, the Yankees received "$1 million dollars, half interest in radio station KMPC and a player package of Ned Garver, Del Rice, Aubrey Gatewood and Gene Leek." 1961 was the first year of the LA Angels existence. So it would have been extremely unlikely for them to have acquired a player as prominent as Mantle in any trade. More…
Tail Lights for Horses. (1961)
Milan's La Notte newspaper reported that city authorities had passed a law making it mandatory for horses to be outfitted with signaling and brake lights while being ridden through the streets or neighboring countryside. Many people subsequently brought their horses into car mechanics to have them outfitted with the necessary lights. More…
Discovery of Odd Beast. (1962)
The Appleton Post-Crescent reported that a bizarre "half-animal half-reptile" creature had been discovered by a local resident, Lester E. Grube: "Possessed of a head and fore-legs like a dog, the creature's body-trunk and tail is reptile-like — similar to an alligator or iguana. It weighs about 35 pounds and thus far has uttered not one sound." The next day, the Post-Crescent noted that Lester Grube (who was a real Post-Crescent employee) had received calls all day from people wanting to see the creature. More…
Pittsburgh Pirates Move to Titusville. (1963)
The Titusville Herald ran a headline across the top of its sports page declaring that the Pittsburgh Pirates Major League Baseball team was moving to the small town of Titusville, Pennsylvania (population 5000). The team reportedly was making the move because it was "tired of battling the city fathers for a new stadium on Pittsburgh's North Side." Players for the Pirates were said to be happy with the move, although reliefer Roy Face asked, "Where's Titusville?" The April Fool's Day announcement caused the first sellout of the Titusville Herald in many years, as people bought copies for their scrapbooks. More…
Dogs to be painted white. (1965)
Politiken, a Copenhagen newspaper, reported that the Danish parliament had passed a new law requiring all dogs to be painted white. The purpose of this, it explained, was to increase road safety by allowing dogs to be seen more easily at night. [Appleton Post-Crescent, Apr 1, 1965.] More…
Taxes Fund Private Club. (1965)
The Kokomo Tribune reported that city officials planned to increase taxes in order to fund construction of "a modern and handsomely furnished health and social club for local public officials." The article pointed out that "our public officials are hard-working individuals who deserve a convenient place for recreation." It went on to quote a local official who said, "We believe the idea will be well received by our citizens. It will mean an increase in taxes, but this is well accepted by people when they realize that it is for a good thing." More…
Bridge Removal. (1967)
The French newspaper L'Ardennais reported that two giant helicopters were going to remove the Meuse River bridge at Montey-Notre-Dame and replace it with a new one. A crowd of over 2000 people assembled to witness the event. Eventually a loudspeaker announced that the bridge-removal operation had been delayed until April 1, 1968. More…
Scottdale Sinkhole. (1967)
The front page of the Scottdale Daily Courier showed a photo of a large sinkhole that had reportedly formed at a busy intersection downtown. The crater was estimated to be 45 feet deep. The picture fooled many readers, despite the "April Fool" notation in the caption. The Courier later reported: "One family was indignant when a member returned home from downtown Saturday and did not even mention the fact that a large portion of the street had caved in. Other readers expressed concern for the safety of passengers in the autos in the picture. Others coming downtown later Saturday to see the hole marveled at the rapid fill-in and repavement of the mythical 'mine sink.'" More…
The Creature of Cranberry Marsh. (1969)
The Newark Advocate reported that strange "monster footprints" had been found in Cranberry Marsh on the shore of Buckeye Lake: "The footprints were evidently made Sunday when what is described as a wild-eyed, scaly animal crashed through a row of hedges lining the south-side of the lake. 'Definitely prehistoric' was the explanation of one official, blanching at the first sight of the weird prints." More…
Soviets Land in Kankakee. (1969)
The Daily Journal, based in Kankakee, Illinois, reported that a Soviet space capsule had landed just outside of the city. Apparently the cosmonauts had seriously miscalculated their trajectory during reentry. The Soviet government was said to be keeping its silence about the capsule. An accompanying photograph showed a space capsule with a hammer and sickle displayed on its side. The article said that one of the cosmonauts, Lirpa Loof, had been missing for over a year. Many people drove to the supposed site of the landing to see the capsule. More…
Around the World for 210 Guineas. (1972)
The London Times ran a small article noting that in honor of the 100-year anniversary of Thomas Cook's first round-the-world tour, the travel agent Thomas Cook was offering 1000 lucky people the chance to buy a similar package deal — at 1872 prices. The offer would be given to the first 1000 people to apply. Applications should be addressed to "Miss Avril Foley." The public response to this bargain-basement offer was swift and enthusiastic. Huge lines formed outside the Thomas Cook offices, and the travel agent was swamped with calls. Belatedly the Times identified the offer as an April Fool's joke and apologized for the inconvenience it had caused. The reporter who wrote the article, More…
King Kong Climbs CN Tower. (1976)
The Toronto Star printed on its front page a picture of King Kong hanging from the top of the CN Tower, which at the time was nearing completion. (It opened to the public in June 1976.) In a nod to the original movie, Carmen Nigro, who claimed to have played King Kong in the 1933 film (although a rubber model was used in most shots) was inside the ape costume. More…
Pennsylvania Capitol Building Collapses. (1976)
The Patriot (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) published a photograph of the state capitol building collapsing. A caption below the picture read, “Custodian A.F. Day said the blast occurred during a joint House-Senate session addressed by Hubert Humphrey and Gov. Milton Shapp… Day attributed the explosion to an abnormal expansion of hot air which usually is absorbed by acoustic seats in the chamber.“ The hoax elicited negative comments from many readers who accused the paper of “confusing fun with irresponsibility.“ Two days later the paper apologized for the hoax and promised that it would never publish another. The hoax recalled a similar April Fool’s Day joke published by the Madison Capital-Times in 1933. More…
San Serriffe. (1977)
The Guardian published a seven-page "special report" about San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semi-colon-shaped islands. A series of articles described the geography and culture of this obscure nation. The report generated a huge response. The Guardian's phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot. However, San Serriffe did not actually exist. The report was an elaborate joke — one with a typographical twist, since numerous details about the island (such as its name) alluded to printer's terminology.The success of the hoax is widely credited with inspiring the British media's enthusiasm for April More…
Naked Canoeists Missing. (1977)
The first edition of The Whistler Answer (of Whistler, British Columbia) was published, featuring a front-page story about three naked canoeists "Missing on Alta Lake." Alta Lake was frozen at the time. The Whistler Answer was a mostly hand-drawn, hand-lettered counterculture paper — "the expression of the ski bum population of Whistler in its early days as a ski resort. [Whistler Museum] More…
Fishing Line Banned. (1978)
Dave Heberle, outdoors columnist for the Erie Times-News, reported that monofilament fishing line (a popular type of line used in trout fishing) was being banned in Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania after an EPA researcher, Dr. Ayper Ilfu, found it caused cancer in brook trout. Dr. Ilfu conceded however, "We're not 100 percent sure about rainbows or browns." Violators would be fined $50 on a first offense and $75 for repeat infractions. The Pennsylvania Fish Commission was flooded by calls from concerned fishermen. Also, anglers rushed to tackle shops to stock up on the popular line. Robert Herbert, owner a tackle shop south of Erie, said, "I'll tell you, it was brutal. People just More…
The Talking Pelican. (1979)
The Sunday News-Journal in Daytona Beach reported the discovery of a talking pelican, found by a Georgia tourist, Sam P. Suggins, when the pelican asked Suggins for fish as he was walking along a dock. Unfortunately the pelican would not talk to anyone else. Nor was it very bright, as Suggins remarked that it said “Kitty” while looking at a small dog. The article noted that there have been recorded instances of sailors teaching pelicans to speak, just as parrots can be taught to speak, and theorized that this must have been such a case. More…
Radiation Rouses Prehistoric Creatures. (1979)
Frank Jones, of the Toronto Star, reported that radiation leaking into Lake Ontario was causing prehistoric creatures to crawl up out of the lake and onto the shores of Ward’s Island. More…
The Danish Money Exchange. (1980)
On March 11, 1980, the National Bank of Denmark issued a 20 kroner banknote that featured a picture of two house sparrows. Curiously, one of the sparrows appeared to be one-legged. This inspired the Roskilde Tidende newspaper to run a story that year announcing that all bills with one-legged birds were fake, but that they could be exchanged at the post office for genuine bills depicting two-legged birds. Lines at post offices soon became so long, with people eager to exchange their fake bills, that post office employees had to put notices on the doors explaining that no currency exchange was taking place. The hoax was the brainchild of artist/cartoonist Jan Robert Thoresen. He was More…
Gazette Buys New London Day. (1980)
The Connecticut Gazette, a small weekly newspaper, announced that it was purchasing the New London Day, a large daily newspaper. The article also announced the Gazette planned to expand the news staff of the New London Day “by cutting it in half—literally, at the waist; this would create twice as many reporters although, of course, they would be half their former stature.“ The article concluded with an “April Fool.“ Nevertheless, according to the paper’s editor their phones were ringing off the hook for weeks. In addition, the fictitious purchase was reported as fact in the New England Printer and Publisher, a trade journal. More…
The Island of Murango. (1980)
The London Times reported on a small, Pacific island state named Murango whose inhabitants (most of whom seemed to be of British descent) were busy preparing to send a delegation to the Moscow Olympics, despite the western boycott of the games. The Murango islanders were said to enjoy two things most in life: their local drink, ourakino, and sports. In 1972 the small island state had supposedly achieved a brief moment of glory on the international stage by winning a bronze medal in boxing during the 1972 Munich Olympics. The winner of the medal had been named Dick T. Murango. However, Dick T. Murango and the island of Murango were entirely fictitious, though in 1972 a man named Dick T. More…
Rat Fur Coats. (1980)
The South African Johannesburg Star ran a story exposing an illicit ring of rat furriers. It said the police had raided a sewer where the ratters were breeding a special strain of imported Irish rats and selling the pelts as mink, seal skin, and other furs. Hundreds of rat fur coats had been sold. Women were warned that if their coats smelled fishy, they were probably made of rat fur. As a result of the story, furriers were besieged with calls from worried customers. After receiving complaints, the Star reminded its readers that the story had been run on April 1st. More…
The Real Sherlock Holmes. (1980)
The London Times published an article revealing shocking revelations about the private life of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. The revelations had been unearthed in a collection of papers found at the home of Sherlock Holmes’s former physician, Dr. Moore Agar. According to the Agar papers, Holmes’s faithful sidekick, Dr. Watson, had engaged in a systematic cover-up of the true character of Holmes “in order that so great a man as Sherlock Holmes should not be pilloried in the public prints.“ The most shocking revelation was that Holmes’s arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty, was merely “a figment of the detective’s imagination, distorted by stress and More…
The 26-Day Marathon. (1981)
The Daily Mail ran a story about an unfortunate Japanese long-distance runner, Kimo Nakajimi, who had entered the London Marathon but, on account of a translation error, thought that he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. The Daily Mail showed pictures of Nakajimi running and reported that he was still somewhere out on the roads of England, determined to finish the race. Supposedly he had been spotted occasionally, still running. The translation error was attributed to Timothy Bryant, an import director, who said, "I translated the rules and sent them off to him. But I have only been learning Japanese for two years, and I must have made a mistake. He seems to be taking this marathon to be More…
CBS Newsmen Buy Local Weekly. (1981)
The Connecticut Gazette, a weekly paper based in Old Lyme, Connecticut, announced it was being purchased by the CBS newsmen Walter Cronkite and Charles Kuralt, who owned a vacation home in nearby Essex, Connecticut. Although the story was not true, it was picked up by the New York Post and run as fact several months later. The Post was forced to admit its blunder several days later. More…
The British Weather Machine. (1981)
The Guardian reported that scientists at Britain's research labs in Pershore had "developed a machine to control the weather." A series of articles explained that, "Britain will gain the immediate benefit of long summers, with rainfall only at night, and the Continent will have whatever Pershore decides to send it." Readers were also assured that Pershore scientists would make sure that it snowed every Christmas in Britain. A photograph showed a scruffy-looking scientist surrounded by scientific equipment, with the caption, "Dr. Chisholm-Downright expresses quiet satisfaction as a computer printout announces sunshine in Pershore and a forthcoming blizzard over Marseilles." More…
The Michigan Shark Experiment. (1981)
The Herald-News in Roscommon, Michigan reported that 3 lakes in northern Michigan had been selected to host "an in-depth study into the breeding and habits of several species of fresh-water sharks." Two thousand sharks were to be released into the lakes including blue sharks, hammerheads, and a few great whites. The experiment was designed to determine whether the sharks could survive in the cold climate of Michigan, and apparently the federal government was spending $1.3 million to determine this. A representative from the National Biological Foundation was quoted as saying that there would probably be a noticeable decline in the populations of other fish in the lake because "the sharks will eat about 20 pounds of fish each per day, more as they get older." County officials were said to have protested the experiment, afraid of the hazard it would pose to fishermen and swimmers, but their complaints had been ignored by the federal government. Furthermore, fishermen had been forbidden from catching the sharks. The report concluded by again quoting the National Biological Foundation representative, who said that "We can't be responsible for people if they are attacked. Besides, More…
Hong Kong Powdered Water. (1982)
The South China Morning Post announced that a solution to Hong Kong’s water shortage was at hand. First, scientists had found a way to drain the clouds surrounding the island’s peak of their water by electrifying them via antennae erected on the peak. The paper warned that this might have a negative impact on surrounding property values, but the government had approved the project nevetheless. Second, more clouds could be attracted to the region by means of a weather satellite positioned over India. And finally, packets of powdered water imported from China would be distributed to all the residents of Hong Kong. A single pint of water added to this powdered water would magically transform into ten pints of drinkable water. Hong Kong’s radio shows were flooded with calls from people eager to discuss these solutions to the water shortage. Many of the calls were supportive of the plans, but one woman pointed out that the pumps needed to supply powdered water would be too complicated and expensive. More…
The Interfering Brassieres. (1982)
The Daily Mail published an article titled "Do not adjust your set—it could be your bra!" in which it reported that 10,000 brassieres made by a local manufacturer had developed a serious problem. The support wire in the bras had been fashioned out of specially treated copper originally been designed for use in fire alarms. When this wire came into contact with nylon and body heat, it was producing static electricity which, in turn, was being emitted by thousands of unsuspecting women, causing interference with the reception of television signals throughout the country. As the article put it, "Widespread television interference, which has brought complaints from viewers all over Britain More…
Tass Expands into American Market. (1982)
The Connecticut Gazette and Connecticut Compass, weekly newspapers serving the Old Lyme and Mystic areas, both announced they were being purchased by Tass, the official news agency of the Soviet Union. On their front pages they declared that this was "the first expansion of the Soviet media giant outside of the Iron Curtain." The article also revealed that after Tass had purchased the Compass, its two publishers had both been killed by "simultaneous hunting accidents" in which they had shot each other in the back of the head with "standard-issue Soviet Army rifles." An accompanying picture showed Gazette and Compass staff members wearing winter coats and fur hats, and carrying hockey sticks and bottles of vodka. The announcement itself was bylined "By John Reed," and the new publisher, Vydonch U. Kissov, announced that the paper would be "thoroughly red." A new delivery system was also promised: cruise missiles (the publisher then admitted that this proposal was a 'leetle Soviet joke.') In response to the news, the offices of the Compass and the Gazette received calls offering condolences for the death of the publishers. One caller also informed them that he had long suspected More…
The Tasmanian Mock Walrus. (1984)
The Orlando Sentinel ran a story about a creature known as the Tasmanian Mock Walrus (TMW for short) that it said made a perfect pet. The creature was only four inches long, resembled a walrus, purred like a cat, and had the temperament of a hamster. What made it such an ideal pet was that it never had to be bathed, used a litter box, and ate cockroaches. In fact, a single TMW could entirely rid a house of its cockroach problem. But the local pest-control industry, sensing that the TMW posed a threat to its business, was said to be pressuring the government not to allow them in the country. Undeterred, dozens of people called the paper trying to find out where they could obtain their own More…
The Durand Auto Plant. (1984)
The Durand Express, a Michigan weekly, reported that Nissan planned to build an auto plant outside of Durand City. The new plant was going to employ thousands of people and pay higher wages than the nearby General Motors plant. Furthermore, Nissan would pay farmers $10,000 an acre for the land on which the plant was to be built. Many unemployed auto workers believed the story and inquired about how to apply for jobs at the plant. However, the story was exposed as a fake by a reporter working at a newspaper in Flint, Michigan. The prank story attracted a lot of angry criticism. Many readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions. In response, the paper's editor explained that he hadn't been trying to hurt anyone, and thought that he had exaggerated his story enough to make it unbelievable.
Daylight Savings Contest. (1984)
The Eldorado Daily Journal, an Illinois paper, announced a contest to see who could save the most daylight for daylight savings time. The rules of the contest were simple: beginning with the first day of daylight savings time, contestants would be required to save daylight. Whoever succeeded in saving the most daylight would win. Only pure daylight would be allowed—no dawn or twilight light, though light from cloudy days would be allowed. Moonlight was strictly forbidden. Light could be stored in any container. The contest received a huge, nationwide response, with the paper's editor interviewed by correspondents from CBS and NBC and featured in papers throughout the country. More…
Gourmet Bingo. (1985)
The Guardian announced that under a new incentive plan, each of its readers would be eligible to receive a "Guardian Gourmet Card," allowing them to gain a 15% discount at participating restaurants. The card would also allow holders to be eligible for 850,000 pounds in prize money. Each card would display a ten digit number broken into a sequence of three-four-three. Each week top chefs would be asked to select their favorite three course dinner. A menu would be randomly selected from among these choices, and then the total calories in each course would be determined. These calorie amounts would become the prize-winning number, to be matched against the numbers on a card. In a separate article, the Guardian admitted there was some similarity between their Gourmet bingo game and a bingo-style scheme launched by their competitor, the Standard, to earn reductions on restaurant meals (a scheme which the Guardian had derided as tawdry and commercial). But the Guardian's editor noted: "I cannot of course deny that there is pounds 850,000 at stake here... Nevertheless the whole tone and refined taste of the competition, redolent of wild strawberries rather than the sweaty armpits of the More…
Families limited to .75 children. (1985)
The Rivereast News Bulletin (Glastonbury, Connecticut) announced that the city's Board of Education had devised a plan to eliminate overcrowding in classrooms. The plan was to forbid families from having more than .75 children per household for the next 15 years. The Board of Education admitted that it had not yet figured out how families could limit themselves to .75 children, but that a computer had determined that this was the ideal number. It was suggested that families unhappy with this ruling move to California. The Board added that the new ruling would not become law for another ten months. Therefore, parents who wanted more than .75 children were urged to "get started this afternoon." More…
Eiffel Tower Moves. (1986)
Le Parisien newspaper reported that an agreement had been signed to take down the Eiffel Tower and move it to the new Euro Disney theme park being constructed east of Paris. Where the tower used to be, a 35,000-seat stadium would be built for the 1992 Olympic Games. More…
Imelda Marcos Auction. (1986)
TagesAnzeiger, a daily Zurich newspaper, reported that an auction of Imelda Marcos's clothes and jewelry was to be held at the Swiss Volksbank. Almost 30 people showed up for it. More…
Le Sac Pourii. (1986)
The Nashville Banner reported on the latest, trendsetting fashion from France—waterproof outer garments dubbed "Le Sac Pourii" by their designers. The garments strongly resembled plastic garbage bags. More…
First Photograph Discovered. (1987)
The camera manufacturer Olympus ran an ad in The Guardian announcing the discovery of "the first picture ever taken." The picture had been discovered "in a cave high in the remote Outer Fokus Mountains." It had been taken by Yorimoto Hishida around 1782, "almost a full half century before the earliest work of either Fox Talbot or Nicéphore Niépce." More…
Privatizing the Army. (1988)
The Daily Telegraph reported that Margaret Thatcher was considering privatizing the Army and selling off the Brigade of Guards. According to the article, "Strict flotation terms would prevent hostile foreign interests gaining majority control over the brigade." More…
The Cumbrian Bogart. (1988)
The Independent ran a photo of a rare sighting of the Cumbrian Bogart — a creature that was half-badger, half-fox and roamed the Cumbrian fells in the Lake District. For years a stuffed Bogart had been on display in The Twa Dogs pub in Keswick. The creature and its habitat were tirelessly guarded by a "small group of conservationists" who were members of the British Bogart Preservation Society. The photograph was taken by Brian Duff, a member of this society. BBC's Nationwide news program later ran a follow-up segment about the Bogart, in which they interviewed the members of the society. More…
Maradona Joins Soviet Soccer Team. (1988)
The Soviet newspaper Izvestia reported that the Moscow Spartak soccer team was in negotiations with Argentine star Diego Maradona. On the table was an offer of $6 million for him to come play for them. If all went well, he would join the team within a year. The report was met with astonishment around the world — not because many people believed it, but because it was the first time the normally very serious Izvestia had ever published an April fool's day hoax. Frivolity of this kind had previously been frowned upon by the Kremlin. More…
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