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British April Fool's Day Hoaxes
The Madmen of Gotham. (circa 1200)
British folklore links April Fool's Day to the town of Gotham, the legendary town of fools located in Nottinghamshire. According to legend, it was traditional in the 13th century for any road that the King placed his foot upon to become public property. So when the citizens of Gotham heard that King John (1166-1216) planned to travel through their town, they refused him entry, not wishing to lose their main road. When the King heard this, he sent soldiers to the town. But when the soldiers arrived in Gotham, they found the town full of lunatics engaged in foolish activities such as drowning fish or attempting to cage birds in roofless fences. Their foolery was all an act to make the King believe they were insane. The King fell for the ruse and declared the town too foolish to warrant punishment. Ever since then, according to legend, April Fool's Day has commemmorated their trickery. (The thumbnail shows a 1630 woodcut depicting a citizen of Gotham trying to trap a bird inside a roofless fence.)
The Nun’s Priest’s Tale. (1392)
In the Nun's Priest's Tale (written around 1392), Chaucer tells the story of the vain cock Chauntecler who falls for the tricks of a fox, and as a consequence is almost eaten. The narrator describes the tale as occurring: When that the monthe in which the world bigan That highte March, whan God first maked man, Was complet, and passed were also Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two Some scholars have suggested this is a veiled reference to April 1st, since thirty-two days "Syn March bigan" (since March began) would be April 1. It is intriguing to think that Chaucer might have chosen this date purposefully, setting the tale on April 1st because of the tradition of tricks and foolery associated with the day. It would be appropriate for a story of a foolish cock and sly fox. If it is a reference to April Fool's Day, then it would be the earliest recorded reference to the day. However, Chaucer's choice of words is extremely ambiguous, and most scholars think he meant May 3, since that would be "thritty dayes and two" after March "was complet." More…
The Washing of the Lions. (1698)
The April 2, 1698 edition of Dawks’s News-Letter reported that “Yesterday being the first of April, several persons were sent to the Tower Ditch to see the Lions washed.” This is the first recorded instance of a popular April Fool's Day prank that involved sending people to the Tower of London to see the "washing of the lions." The joke was that there was no lion-washing ceremony. It was a fool's errand. (For more info, see the Hoaxipedia article: Washing The Lions) More…
Bickerstaff’s Predictions. (1708)
An almanac released by Isaac Bickerstaff in February 1708 predicted that a rival astrologer, John Partridge, would die on March 29 of that year. On March 31st Bickerstaff released a follow-up pamphlet announcing that his prediction had come true. Partridge was dead. Partridge (who was still very much alive) was woken on April 1st by a sexton outside his window announcing the news of his death. Isaac Bickerstaff was actually a pseudonym for Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels. Swift’s intention was to embarrass and discredit Partridge, apparently because he was annoyed by the astrologer’s attacks upon the church. More…
Signor Gaudentia de Lucca. (1800)
"On Tuesday the First of April, a few hand-bills were struck up in Kendal, purporting that a person, who styled himself Signor Gaudentia de Lucca, or The Little Devil, would perform the most surprising and extraordinary feats on the tight rope, that had ever been exhibited to the public, at the Old Castle Yard, on the Tuesday evening following. The bill contained a great deal of unintelligible jargon, which no person was able to make out, but which was supposed to be Welsh, from the great number of consonants in it. Notwithstanding the unintelligibleness of the bill, a concourse of people assembled, at the time appointed, to the number of five hundred, and upwards: the owner of the castle More…
Washing the Lions. (1857)
"Please to Admit the Bearer and friend, to view the ANNUAL CEREMONY OF WASHING THE LIONS on Wednesday, April 1st, 1857." Pranksters handed out these cards on the streets of London to unsuspecting out-of-towners. The joke was that there was no lion-washing ceremony at the Tower of London. By 1857, there weren't even lions at the Tower. Versions of this prank had been regularly perpetrated since the 17th century, making it the oldest April Fool's Day joke on record. More…

The Procession of the Animals. (1866)
Several hundred people showed up at the gates of the London Zoological Society demanding entrance in order to see the "procession of the animals." However, the Society was closed that day, it being Easter Sunday, and the guard refused to admit them. The members of the crowd insistently showed the guard their tickets and again demanded entrance. The tickets, which had cost them one penny each (considerably cheaper than the usual sixpence admission), read: Subscribers Tickets—Admit bearer to the Zoological gardens on Easter Sunday. The procession of the animals will take place at 3 o'clock, and this ticket will not be available after that hour.—J.C. Wildboar, Secretary. The guard 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…
Top Secret Atomic Papers. (1952)
Two teenage boys walked into a London police station and handed over a folder that appeared to contain designs for an atomic weapon. They said they had found it lying on the pavement at a bus stop. Word of the disturbing discovery soon went public, causing widespread alarm. The apparent security breach was even discussed in the House of Commons. But when atomic experts got around to examining the formulae and blueprints, they concluded they were meaningless. The mystery was solved when a friend of the two boys confessed he had created the "top secret" documents himself out of Norwegian billhead receipts and pieces of an old blueprint he had taken from the office where he worked. He wrote "a More…
The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. (1957)
The respected BBC news show Panorama ran a segment revealing that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best." More…
The Yonghy Bonghy Bo. (1957)
Rear Admiral Tully Shelley, managing director of a company of oil refinery and construction engineers, designed a match striking machine as an April Fool's Day joke. He called it his "Yonghy Bonghy Bo" (an allusion to Edward Lear's poem, "The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo"). However, the machine actually did work and could be used to light a cigarette. More…
I Must Fly. (1959)
A prankster painted a trail of white footprints along the main street of Wellingborough, England. At the end of the trail were the words, "I must fly." [Chicago Daily Tribune, Apr 2, 1959.] More…
School for girls up for sale. (1959)
An advertisement ran in the London Financial Times offering the highly respectable Francis Holland School for Girls for sale. Several dozen interested buyers phoned the school. A school spokesman later explained that the advertisement was a joke placed by a student "who'd got into trouble, trying to get back at the school." [Journal-Tribune, Apr 2, 1959.] More…
Four Perfect Bridge Hands. (1959)
At London's St. James' Club, on April 1, four perfect bridge hands (a full suit) were dealt at the same table. The odds of this happening were estimated to be 53,644,737,765,488,792,839,237,440,000 to 1. The players had to convince other club members that the perfect hands were not a hoax. The duke of Marlborough, with 13 spades, held the winning hand. [Chicago Daily Tribune, Apr 3, 1959.] More…
Lirpa Loof Concert. (1961)
The BBC promised radio listeners that they wouldn't want to miss the concert of the "distinguished continental pianist" Lirpa Loof. But when the scheduled time arrived, there was no concert. "Actually, of course, Lirpa Loof is April Fool spelled backward," an announcer explained.
Smellovision. (1965)
BBC TV interviewed a London University professor who had perfected a technology he called "smellovision," allowing viewers to smell aromas produced in the television studio in their homes. The professor explained that his machine broke scents down into their component molecules which were then transmitted through the screen. The professor demonstrated by placing some coffee beans and onions into the smellovision machine. He asked viewers to report by noon whether they had smelled anything. Numerous viewers called in from across the country to confirm that they had distinctly experienced these scents. Some claimed the onions made their eyes water. More…
Flight Over the Thames. (1971)
Ken Piper, former paratrooper, tried to fly over the Thames River by jumping off the Twickenham Bridge with wings attached to his arms. He flapped the wings and fell into the water. When he regained dry land, he said, "It was a good one for April Fool's Day." A few months later, Mr. Piper returned to the news on account of his cabaret act in which he cracked a thick slab of concrete by means of a head-on collision with his head.
Gerald Burley Honored. (1971)
BBC radio honored Gerald Burley, winner of the "Ettore Savini Memorial Prize." The program included taped tributes to the anthropologist and philanthropist from well-known persons, including violinist Yehudi Menuhin and the Bishop of Southwark. However, Gerald Burley was entirely nonexistent. A BBC spokesman reported that they later received a call from a woman claiming to be Gerald Burley's mistress demanding to know, "Why wasn't I asked to appear?"
The Body of Nessie Found. (1972)
Newspapers around the world announced that the dead body of the Loch Ness Monster had been found. A team of zoologists from Yorkshire's Flamingo Park Zoo, who were at Loch Ness searching for proof of Nessie's existence, had discovered the carcass floating in the water the day before. Initial reports claimed it weighed a ton and a half and was 15½ feet long. The zoologists placed the body in their van and began transporting it back to the zoo, but the local police chased them down and stopped them, citing a 1933 act of Parliament prohibiting the removal of "unidentified creatures" from Loch Ness. The police took the body to Dunfermline for examination, where scientists soon threw cold More…
Brunus edwardii. (1972)
The April 1972 issue of the British Veterinary Record contained an article about the diseases of Brunus edwardii (aka Teddy Bear), which was described as a species "commonly kept in homes in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe and North America." The article warned: "63.8 percent of households are inhabited by one or more of these animals... The public health implications of this fact are obvious, and it is imperative that more be known about their diseases." For months afterwards the correspondence section of the journal was dominated by letters about Brunus edwardii. More…
La Fornication Comme Une Acte Culturelle. (1972)
BBC Radio 3's In Parenthesis program were treated to a roundtable discussion of a few cutting-edge new works of social anthropology and musicology. First up was a discussion of La Fornication Comme Une Acte Culturelle by Henri Mensonge (translated as Henry Lie). This book argued that "we live in an age of metaphorical rape" in which "confrontation, assault, intrusion, and exposure are becoming validated transactions, the rites of democracy, of mass society." This sparked a blisteringly incomprehensible debate, which eventually segued into an exploration of the question "Is 'Is' Is?" Finally, the audience heard a rousing deconstruction of the 'arch form' of the sonata's first motif. Listeners seemed to accept the program's discussion as a legitimate exploration of new trends in the arts. However, it was a parody. 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…
The Village of Spiggot Boycotts Metric System. (1973)
Westward Television, a British TV studio, produced a documentary feature about the village of Spiggot whose residents were refusing to accept the new decimal currency recently adopted by the British government. The feature included interviews with local officials from Spiggot. The documentary prompted an outpouring of support for this rebellious village from the British public, and many people expressed a willingness to join it in its anti-decimal crusade. Unfortunately for this burgeoning rebellion, the village of Spiggot did not exist. More…
Dutch Elm Disease Infects Redheads. (1973)
BBC Radio interviewed a "Dr. Clothier" about the government's efforts to stop the spread of Dutch Elm Disease. Dr. Clothier described some recent discoveries, such as the research of Dr. Emily Lang who had found that exposure to Dutch Elm Disease immunized people to the common cold. Unfortunately, there was a side effect. Exposure to the disease also caused red hair to turn yellow. This was attributed to a similarity between the blood count of redheads and the soil conditions in which affected trees grew. Therefore, redheads were advised to stay away from forests for the foreseeable future. Dr. Clothier was actually the comedian Spike Milligan disguising his voice.
Foley Island to be Towed. (1975)
BBC Radio 4’s Today Show also reported about a controversy involving the Island of Foley, located between Sheppey and the Kent Coast. Apparently the island was the cause of numerous shipwrecks. Therefore, authorities had decided to destroy it. However, because this decision had been protested by conservationists, authorities had decided to tow it somewhere safer instead. Towing islands has been a source of jokes as far back as 1824, when a hoaxer supposedly had the residents of Manhattan believing that their island was going to be towed out to sea.
The Musendrophilus. (1975)
The naturalist David Attenborough gave a report on BBC Radio 3 about a group of islands in the Pacific known as the Sheba Islands. He played sound recordings of the island’s fauna, including a recording of a night-singing, yodelling tree mouse called the Musendrophilus. He also described a web-footed species whose webs were prized by inhabitants of the island as reeds for musical instruments.
Snell’s African Journey. (1975)
BBC Radio 4’s Today Show announced that as part of the centenary celebrations for Edgar Wallace’s Sanders of the River, Major John Blashford Snell had just completed a secret journey into the African interior in search of a rare tribe mentioned in that book. The heads of the members of this tribe supposedly grew beneath their shoulders, giving them a stooped appearance. It was also reported that the chief of this tribe had once been a lift attendant.
Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity. (1976)
During an interview on BBC Radio 2, astronomer Patrick Moore revealed that at exactly 9:47 a.m. Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, and that this alignment would result in a stronger gravitational pull from Jupiter, counteracting the Earth's own gravity and making people momentarily weigh less. He told listeners that if they jumped up and down while this was happening, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 a.m. arrived, BBC2 began to receive hundreds of calls from listeners who claimed to have felt the sensation. One woman insisted that she and her friends had floated around the room. Another caller complained that he ascended so rapidly that he hit his head on the 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…
Wordsworth’s Cottage Sold. (1977)
Radio Carlisle reported that Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage had been sold to an American and was being shipped to Arizona brick by brick. More…
Gasoline for Statue. (1977)
Radio Leeds reported that the city government had approved a plan to demolish the City Square and ship the Black Prince’s statue to an Arab buyer. In return, local citizens would receive a bargain price for gasoline—30 pence a gallon. More…
Bionic Horse. (1977)
Radio Merseyside in Britain reported about a ‘bionic’ horse. The broken leg of this horse had been replaced with a plastic leg that gave the horse more spring in its step. As a result, the horse was said to be favored to win the Grand National. More…
Hair-Restoring Well. (1977)
BBC TV's Nationwide news program ran a segment about a well located on the farm of James Coatsworth in Rothbury, Northumberland. This well supposedly had the power to make hair grow on bald men’s heads.
Operation Parallax. (1979)
London's Capital Radio station announced that Operation Parallax would soon go into effect. This was a government plan to resynchronize the British calendar with the rest of the world. Ever since 1945, the station explained, Britain had gradually become 48 hours ahead of all other countries because of the constant switching back and forth from British Summer Time. To remedy this situation, the British government had decided to cancel April 5 and 12 that year. Capital Radio received numerous calls as a result of this announcement. One employer wanted to know if she had to pay her employees for the missing days. Another woman was curious about what would happen to her birthday, which fell on More…
Ipswich Chunnel. (1980)
An Ipswich radio station reported there were plans for the construction of a tunnel under the North Sea, connecting Felixstowe in England with Zeebrugge, Belgium. The station claimed that 800 Felixstowe homes would have to be bulldozed to make way for a terminal and that digging would begin on April 1, 1981. Listeners jammed the switchboard. "We were amazed that so many people were taken in," the station admitted later. More…
Big Ben Goes Digital. (1980)
The BBC's overseas service reported that Big Ben was going to be given a digital readout. The news elicited a huge response from listeners shocked and angry about the change. "Surprisingly, few people thought it was funny," admitted Tony Lightley of the overseas service. The same news report also claimed that the clock hands would be given away to the first four listeners to contact the station. One Japanese seaman in the mid-Atlantic immediately radioed in, hoping to be among the lucky callers.
Bearskin Helmets Need Trimming. (1980)
Soldier, the magazine of the British Army, revealed that the fur on the bearskin helmets worn by the Irish guards while on duty at Buckingham Palace keeps growing and needs to be regularly trimmed: The most hair-raising fact about the bearskins has been discovered by scientists recently. The skins retain an original hormone, which lives on after the animal has been skinned. Scientists call it otiose and it is hoped it can be put to use in medical research — especially into baldness. The article quoted Maj. Ursa who noted, "Bears hibernate in the winter and the amazing thing is that in the spring the skins really start to sprout." An accompanying photo showed Guardsmen sitting in an 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…
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…
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 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…
Driverless London Buses. (1984)
The Sunday Times revealed that London Transport soon planned to start using driverless buses within the city. The buses would follow a magnetic track while cameras scanned the road, relaying images back to a controller at headquarters who could switch the vehicle to manual drive and steer it out of trouble, should that be required. LT hoped the plan would prove a "dynamic money-winner." Although a public opinion poll conducted for the Sunday Times noted 100% public opposition to the plan. More…
The Lirpa Loof. (1984)
The BBC Show That's Life aired a segment about an animal called the Lirpa Loof, a hairy biped from the eastern Himalayas, that had just arrived at the London Zoo. Naturalist David Bellamy talked about how excited he was to finally see this animal, which he had read about as a child. The creature was also a natural mimic, imitating whatever it saw a person doing. This delighted crowds at the zoo. Unfortunately, the total number of Lirpa Loofs in the world was "small and diminishing." The scientific name of the Lirpa Loof was Eccevita mimicus. "Eccevita" is Latin for "That's Life." 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…
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…
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…
Thatcher-Gorbachev Romance. (1987)
The Daily Mirror broke the news of a romance blossoming between Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev, during Thatcher's tour of the Soviet Union. It accompanied this revelation with photos of the two world leaders sitting together in Moscow's Gorky Park, with Thatcher tenderly tickling Gorbachev under his chin, as well as the two walking arm in arm, and even sneaking a kiss. The photos were posed by lookalikes, but they succeeded in fooling many. People were particularly shocked that Thatcher, a married woman, would act like that in public. In real life, when Thatcher left Moscow on April 2nd she told members of the press that she and Gorbachev "got on very well, considering that we are More…
The Clegg GTi Turbo. (1987)
A Yorkshire ad agency, Male Winram Tweddle and Associates, placed an ad in the Yorkshire Post describing a new super-car, the Clegg GTi Turbo. The ad claimed that compared to this car "Owt else is nobbut middlin". A phone number was also provided for those wanting more information. When people called this number they were informed that they had "bin 'ad by some poncey ad agency." 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…
The Napoleonic Chunnel. (1988)
The Daily Mail revealed the discovery of a tunnel linking England and France that had been constructed during the Napoleonic wars. Supposedly the tunnel was wide enough to allow an ass carrying two barrels of brandy to pass through it. The tunnel had supposedly been discovered beneath Dover Castle. The article explained, "It would have been used to rescue aristocrats from Napoleonic France, to transfer spies and to trade British goods with Europe." More…
Cerne Abbas Giant Practices Safe Sex. (1988)
Pranksters supplied the UK's Cerne Abbas Giant with a condom in the form of a 32-foot plastic sheet. The famous gigantic figure is an ancient chalk-carving of a naked man carrying a club, located in the British countryside in Dorset . The figure is supposed to be a fertility god and is said to possess the power to make childless women pregnant. A landlady at a local hotel commented, "It was quite a shock, but now everyone is laughing about it. We have no idea who did it, but he is now well secured against AIDS." More…
Grandstand’s Newsroom Brawl. (1989)
On the BBC Sports show Grandstand, as presenter Desmond Lynam talked about upcoming events to be covered a fight broke out behind him in the newsroom. As the fight escalated, Lynam continued to calmly discuss the news, assuring the audience that, "We'll continue to do our best to cover sport in the way that you like, backed up by our highly professional team." Later in the show, Lyman noted that viewers may have seen "a bit of an altercation" behind him and apologized for this. But then he proceeded to show an instant replay of the fight. After the replay the newsroom brawlers were shown standing together, holding a sign that read "April Fool." More…
UFO Lands Near London. (1989)
On March 31, British policemen were sent to investigate a glowing flying saucer that had settled down in a field in Surrey. As the policemen approached the craft with their truncheons held out, a door opened in the bottom of the ship and a small figure wearing a silver space suit walked out. The policemen immediately took off in the opposite direction. The alien turned out to be a midget, and the flying saucer was a hot air balloon that had been specially built to look like a UFO by Richard Branson, the 36-year-old chairman of Virgin Records. More…
Chunnel Blunder. (1990)
The News of the World reported that the two halves of the Channel Tunnel, being built simultaneously from the coasts of France and England, would miss each other by 14 feet, the reason being that French engineers had used metric specifications, whereas the British had used imperial feet and inches. The error would cost $14 billion to fix. More…
The One-Way Highway. (1991)
The London Times announced that the Department of Transport had finalized a plan to ease congestion on the M25, the circular highway surrounding London. The capacity of the road would be doubled by making the traffic on both carriageways travel in the same direction. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays the traffic would travel clockwise; while on Tuesdays and Thursdays it would travel anti-clockwise. The plan wouldn't operate on weekends. It was said that the scheme was almost certain to meet with the cabinet's approval, despite voices of protest coming from some quarters. More…
The Red-Foliaged Cabbage Patch Doll. (1991)
The Daily Star reported that a farmer named "Ivor Binhad" was making the equivalent of $2579 an hour in grants from the European Common Market under its crop diversification scheme. The crop he was growing went by the scientific name of brassica caulis pannus haedus, aka the "red-foliaged cabbage patch doll". More…
Slow-Growing Grass. (1991)
The London Times reported that a gardener had succeeded in developing a variety of grass that grew only one inch a year, no matter how wet or dry the year was. The inventor of the seed was Clement Marchdone, a 73-year-old retired Essex seedsman living in Cutter's Green, near Chelmsford. Marchdone had also solved the problem of keeping stripes in a lawn because "when the grass starts to show, you go up and down with a roller; the grass will continue to grow in that direction forever." More…
Stonehenge To Move. (1991)
The Daily Mail reported that on account of the "gradual slowing of the earth's rotation" the heel stone at Stonehenge had become out of line with the sun on Midsummer's Day. As a consequence there were plans afoot to dismantle the monument and re-assemble it "on another site of similar prominence." However, where to re-assemble it had become the source of controversy. The Ancient Society of Cosmologists wanted to re-assemble it on Mt. Snowdon. However, a Tokyo consortium had offered 484 billion yen to move it to Japan, saying it would "enhance Japan's status as the Land of the Rising Sun when re-sited on top of sacred Mount Fuji." More…
Queen Faces Challenger. (1991)
The Independent ran an article headlined "Queen faces challenge on her right to be monarch." It reported that a 65-year-old Welsh farmer, Arthur Wynd, had been identified as the illegitimate child of a forgotten son of the Queen's grandfather, King George V, thus making him the rightful heir to the British throne. Wynd was obtaining a court order to force the Queen to submit her DNA to genetic fingerprinting to prove his case. The article also noted that his mother had called him Wynd in the hope that people would call him "Mr. Wynd, sir." More…
Loch Ness Footprints. (1992)
The naturalist David Bellamy announced the discovery of gigantic footprints on the shore of Loch Ness, declaring it had now been proven that the famous monster was a dinosaur. The announcement appeared on numerous children's TV shows as well as on the front page of the Daily Record. It turned out that the announcement was a public relations campaign orchestrated by Handel Communications to promote a new chocolate biscuit called Dinosaurs. More…
Belgium Divides. (1992)
The London Times reported that formal negotiations were underway for the purpose of dividing Belgium in half. The Dutch-speaking north would join the Netherlands and the French-speaking south would join France. An editorial in the paper lamented, "The fun will go from that favorite parlor game: Name five famous Belgians." The report fooled the British foreign office minister Tristan Garel-Jones who almost went on a TV interview prepared to discuss this "important" story. The Belgian embassy also received numerous calls from journalists and expatriate Belgians seeking to confirm the news. A rival paper later criticized the prank, declaring, "The Times's effort could only be defined as funny More…
Skirts For Men. (1992)
The Independent Diary reported that a popular men's fashion store in London was having great success selling skirts for men. After this report appeared, the store was "flooded with calls" from people trying to order them. (Of course, skirts for men are a real thing. The image comes from skortman.com, which will happily sell a skirt to any man.) More…
Asterix Village Found. (1993)
The Independent announced the discovery by archaeologists of the 3000-year-old village of the cartoon hero Asterix — found at Le Yaudet, near Lannion, France, in almost precisely the location where Rene Goscinny, Asterix's creator, had placed it in his books. The expedition was led by Professor Barry Cunliffe, of Oxford University, and Dr. Patrick Galliou, of the University of Brest. The team found evidence that the small village had never been occupied by Roman forces. They also discovered Celtic coins printed with an image of a wild boar (the favorite food of Asterix's friend Obelix), as well as a large collection of rare Iron Age menhirs (standing stones) "of the precise size More…
Ostrich Buries Its Head in the Sand. (1994)
The Daily Mail published a photograph showing an ostrich burying its head in the sand, under the headline "The picture that will give all sceptics the bird." An accompanying article explained: "Despite years of trying, wildlife experts had been unable to find a single witness to confirm that the world's largest bird indulges in the extraordinary habit featured in the saying. Today, however, the Daily Mail can reveal that it does. Our picture means the sceptics can bury their heads in the sand no longer. It was taken by British wildlife photographer Jones Bloom, who ventured into the heart of Africa in his quest for the truth. He made contact with the Chostri Setear, a little-known tribe of the central Kalahari region whose members understand the ways of the ostrich better than any other people on earth... This week, after four years spent trying to win the tribe's confidence, Bloom was at last invited to accompany the Chostri Setear on a hunting expedition deep inside Ofolri Lap National Park... 'It was an astonishing experience,' Bloom said yesterday. 'For three hours we crept through the bush. When at last we spotted an ostrich, the lion cub ran straight at it. As soon as the More…
Flying Rabbit. (1994)
The British Today newspaper ran a feature on a flying rabbit from a northern Guatemalan rain forest, which was being brought to a theme park. Pictures showed it flying through the air by means of pigeon-sized wings on its back. The commentary explained that the rabbit was "a natural performer and totally at home working with parrots." More…
No-Hole Polo Mints. (1995)
Polo Mints announced that "in accordance with EEC Council Regulation (EC) 631/95" they would no longer be producing mints with holes. This regulation required all "producers of tubular foodstuffs... to delete holes from their products." In the future, a "EURO-CONVERSION KIT" would be included with all tubes of Polo mints. These kits would contain twenty 7mm "Hole Fillers" to be placed in the Polo mint. A "detailed instruction leaflet" would also be included. More…
Solar Complexus Americanus. (1995)
The Glasgow Herald described the recent arrival in Britain of a new energy-saving miracle: heat-generating plants. These plants, known by the scientific name Solar complexus americanus, were imports from Venezuela. One plant alone, fed by nothing more than three pints of water a day, generated as much heat as a 2kw electric fire. A few of these horticultural wonders placed around a house could entirely eliminate the need for a central-heating system, and when submerged in water, the plants created a constant supply of hot water. The Scandinavian botanist responsible for discovering these hot-air producers was Professor Olaf Lipro.
The Left-Handed Mars Bar. (1996)
Mars Inc. ran a half-page ad in London's Daily Telegraph announcing the introduction of left and right-handed versions of its signature candy bar. It explained that for years left-handed people had been opening the wrapper from the wrong end and consequently were "eating against the chocolate flow on the bar surface." Therefore, the wrapper would henceforth come in two different versions, marked "L" and "R", with a "tear here" perforation at the appropriate corner. More…
BMW’s Insect Deflector Screen. (1996)
BMW announced that it would be adding a new feature to its entire line of cars: an Insect Deflector Screen (or IDS for short), designed to keep windscreens bug free. The IDS, developed by Munich scientist Dr. Jurgen Afalfurit, consisted of a clear rubber coating applied to the windscreen. The coating itself was invisible to the eye, but it caused bugs to literally bounce off the window, "even at high speeds." Drivers were invited to find out more about IDS by filling out a coupon and checking one of the following options: "I find flies get stuck to my windscreen -- Hardly ever; Sometimes; Far too Often." More…
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