The Museum of Hoaxes
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April Fool's Day Hoaxes by Government Officials
Critics of Catholicism receive Catholic medal. (1925)
The French government received a message from Athens, Greece, sent via official channels, announcing that three prominent Parisian critics of Catholicism had been awarded the Order of the Redeemer, the highest decoration awarded by the Greek government. The decoration is considered a high honor among Catholics, since it symbolizes the rebirth of the Greek nation through divine assistance. The three men who supposedly had been awarded the medal were M. Ferdinand Buisson and M. Aulard of the Sorbonne, and M. Victor Basch of the University of Paris. In reality, the decorations had been conferred on less controversial figures. It was not known who had found a way to use the Greek government to More…
Association for the Prevention of April Fool Jokes. (1940)
Fred Orsinger, self-proclaimed chairman of the Association for the Prevention of April Fool Jokes (A.F.P.O.A.F.J.), offered advice to help people avoid becoming the victims of April Fool jokes. "The telephone joker is the most common," he warned. "I figure out he'll consume more than 8,000,000 man hours of work throughout the Nation today." But he noted that should you see a pocket book lying on the street, it might be the setup for a standard gag, but it was nevertheless worth taking a look because "even if there is no money inside, you may get a good pocket book." Orsinger's regular job was Director of the National Aquarium in Washington DC. [Oakland Tribune, Apr 1, 1940.] More…
Speechmaker Fools Congress. (1941)
Robert Fleming Rich, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, was known for making a heated one-minute speech almost every day the House was in session. His constant subject was the national debt. His constant refrain was, "Where are we going to get the money?" On April 1st, looking grimmer than ever, he rose as usual and demanded sixty seconds of the House's time. Consent was granted. He cleared his throat and then grinned. "April Fool," he declared and sat down. He was greeted by tumultuous applause. More…
Texas Honors the Boston Strangler. (1971)
The Texas House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution honoring Albert DeSalvo, noting he had been "officially recognized by the state of Massachusetts for his noted activities and unconventional techniques involving population control and applied psychology." DeSalvo was more widely known as the "Boston Strangler." He had confessed to killing 13 women. The resolution was sponsored by Representatives Tom Moore and Lane Denton, who said they intended to demonstrate that "No one reads these bills or resolutions." More…
The Laytonsville Dump Stadium. (1982)
State Senator Victor Crawford of Montgomery, Maryland introduced a bill into the Maryland senate proposing that his district receive $45 million to buy the Baltimore Colts and build a new stadium for them at the Laytonsville dump site in upper Montgomery County. More…
Thermal Ties. (1985)
ITV News ran a segment about a "thermal tie" developed by the British Department of Energy: "Our research has discovered that heat loss from the body is particularly important in the front of the chest, and this thermally insulated tie is to prevent heat loss from that part of the body." Conservative MP Anthony Beaumont-Dark reprimanded the DOE for participating in the prank, noting that such pranks were "OK for the music hall, but we do not expect this type of thing from government departments." More…

Lowering the Congressional Minimum Age. (1985)
Representative Thomas J. Downey (shown), a Democrat from New York, issued a news release proposing that the minimum age for Congressmen be lowered from 25 to 15. He cited the need for "new blood in Congress." He argued that teenagers could usefully lead a Select Committee on Acne and noted that "junkets could become field trips; the carry-outs could sell Twinkies; missed votes could be excused with a note from Mom." He did concede, however, that there would be an increased risk of "food fights in the cafeteria." More…
The New York City Packers. (1985)
New York City Comptroller Harrison Goldin called a news conference at which he announced that the city was purchasing the professional football team, the Green Bay Packers. City retirement funds would be used to make the purchase, and the Packers would replace the Giants and the Jets. Reporters had already phoned the story into the New York Post and Daily News when a press representative in Golden's office announced that the news was an April Fool's day joke. The Post complained that they had almost put the story on their front page, a mistake which would have cost them $100,000 to correct. More…
Earth’s Axis To Be Shifted. (1986)
The British Department of Energy ran a full-page ad in the Times and Guardian newspapers announcing that the earth's axis would be shifted at 11:02 a.m. that day in order to warm Britain's climate and conserve energy. The advertisement, which reportedly cost £18,000 to place, included a map of how the earth would look after the shift. At the bottom of the ad appeared the phrase 'April Fuel.' The Department later explained that it placed the ad in order to provoke thought about energy conservation. However, the ad received some criticism. Mr Stan Orme, shadow energy secretary, remarked, "This is an outrageous expenditure of public money. Let us hope this is the last time we see such More…
Danish Government Demands British Stop Driving On Left Side of Road. (1986)
Danish Prime Minister Poul Schluter held a press conference at which he issued a demand that the British government make its motorists drive on the right side of the road, instead of the left. He said, "We see this as a very serious case and intend to raise the issue in the (European Economic) Community… It is one of our priorities." Schluter, known as an enthusiastic cyclist, noted that he was afraid to ride his bicycle in Britain. As he was leaving the press conference he turned and added, "April Fools." More…
Metro Station Name Change. (1994)
The Parisian Transport Authority (RATP) renamed three Paris metro stations, but only for the 24 hours of April 1st. Parmentier station became "Pomme de Terre" (potato). Madeleine station became "Marcel Proust," and Reuilly Diderot station became "Les Religieuses." At the stations, metro employees handed out potato chips, madeleines, and religieuses (a type of eclair). Tickets were also stamped with the shape of a fish (a "poisson d'avril" or "April fish" — the French equivalent of "April fool"). Unfortunately, many passengers became confused by the name changes and chaos ensued. Therefore, the stunt was never repeated. More…
£2,030 Tax Refund. (1996)
An ad in the London Times announced that everyone in the UK was due a tax refund of £2,030. The fine print revealed that the refund was an "apology" from the Conservative Party, and that to collect the money one needed to write to Conservative Party Headquarters. In reality, there was no refund heading everyone's way. The ad had been placed by the Labour Party. It was the first time a British political party had run an April Fool's Day ad. More…
European Committee Bans Single-Shelled Eggs. (2003)
The European Committee issued a communique in which it declared that it was banning single-shelled eggs, in order to prevent cracked eggs being found in food stores. The ban was a play on the French word "coque" which means both egg shell and ship's hull. More…
Overweight Canal-living Ducks. (2004)
British Waterways released a study claiming that a study conducted by Dr. Olaf Priol had found that ducks who lived on canals weighed, on average, a pound more than ducks who lived on rivers. The slow-moving canal water apparently provided the ducks with less opportunity for exercise, and so they gained weight. The study had an embargo date of April 1st (meaning the media was not supposed to make it public until then), but reporter Declan Curry of BBC Business News, not recognizing the study as a joke, broke the embargo and discussed it on-air on March 30th. More…
Scandinavian Earthlines. (2004)
The Norwegian Board of Tourism ran an ad in Swedish newspapers debuting a new underground super-train, Scandinavian Earthlines, that would connect Sweden and Norway and allow a trip from Stockholm to Lofoten to be made in under an hour. Readers were invited to call a phone number for more information. Those who phoned up were informed that the super-train wasn't actually real, but were given a pitch inviting them to visit Norway anyway. More…
Homo Metro. (2004)
An Oslo Township announced that city workers had discovered the remains of a 15,000-year-old body while digging part of a tunnel for the local subway system. As a result, work on the subway had been halted indefinitely. The skeleton was going to be named “Homo Metro” because of where it had been found. More…
Canada Buys Ely. (2008)
The Chamber of Commerce of Ely, Minnesota announced that Canada had expressed interest in buying the town and moving it north of the US/Canada border. In response to the offer, the town launched a "Keep Ely in Minnesota" campaign. Other buyers said to be interested in the town were Kansas, Oklahoma, Uzbekistan and a private party who wanted to move Ely to the South Pacific. The Ely Tourism Board subsequently said it dreamed up the hoax as a way to remind tourists that "we're still here." Reportedly, one woman phoned up the Chamber of Commerce in a panic, worried about what would happen to her property once the town moved to Canada. More…
Hillary Clinton’s Bowl Off. (2008)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton challenged rival Barack Obama to a "bowl off." "Today I am challenging Senator Obama to a bowl-off. A bowling night right here in Pennsylvania. Winner take all. I’ll even spot him two frames. It’s time for his campaign to get out of the gutter and allow all of the pins to be counted. And I’m prepared to play this game all the way to the tenth frame." The challenge was a joking reference to Obama's poor performance when he spent an afternoon bowling in Altoona, Pennsylvania, scoring a 37 out of a possible 300. More…
Playboy Invests in Rotorua. (2009)
The tourism board of Rotorua, New Zealand (a town famous for having a rotten egg smell caused by sulphur released from hot springs) ran full-page ads in The New Zealand Herald and The Dominion Post noting that scientists from Italy's University of Naples had recently discovered a positive link between the town's smell and male sexual arousal. This was true. But the ads went on to claim that, as a result, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner had decided to invest in Rotorua by converting the Rotorua Museum into his Holiday Mansion. Although some locals were unhappy, the long-term tourism benefits were expected to be huge. More…
Melbourne makes bid to host Running of the Bulls. (2009)
Melbourne Tourism Minister Tim Holding announced the city was making a bid to host the Running of the Bulls: "For too long the people of Pamplona have monopolised this event, the Brumby Government is determined to grab the bull by the horns and snare this important event for Melbourne." Holding said the bull run would "start in the historic theatre precinct at the Paris End of Collins Street, travel through Chinatown, across Swanston Street, through the quaint King Street district and end at a packed Etihad Stadium." More…
No fishy name jokes. (2013)
French MP Jean-Frédéric Poisson (shown) proposed a law that would protect politicians with "aquatic animal surnames" from being ridiculed. ("Poisson" in French means "fish" — "poisson d'avril" is the equivalent of "April fool"). Fellow MPs Franck Marlin and Philippe Goujon backed the proposal. (Marlin and Goujon, or gudgeon, both being types of fish.) They said, "We other aquatic MPs are very concerned about the respect of biodiversity and anything said against us could reduce biodiversity." However, Jean-Marie Tétart objected, even though his last name means 'tadpole' in spoken French.
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.