The Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time

We've researched the entire history of April Fool's Day and selected its top 100 hoaxes ever, as judged by creativity, historical significance, the number of people duped, and notoriety. The first version of this list was created in the late 1990s. Over the years it's been revised a number of times, based upon reader feedback and ongoing research. The most recent major revision occurred in March 2015.

Other April Fool resources at the Museum include: the April Fool Archive (a year-by-year archive of the entire history of the celebration), the Origin of April Fool's Day, the April Fool FAQ, and the Top 10 Worst April Fools Ever. Also, you can find more info about most of the hoaxes in the Top 100 list by clicking their title or thumbnail.
The Top 100:   100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

#70: Atmospheric Energy Harnessed

Headlined at the top of the front page of the April 3, 1923 issue of the New York Times was an article about a terrifying new weapon recently invented by a Soviet scientist, Figu Posakoff. It was capable of "harnessing the latent energy of the atmosphere," and thereby hurling objects of any weight almost unlimited distances. The Soviets were said to be committed to using the invention for peaceful purposes, although the possession of such a weapon was bound to give it military superiority over all other nations. As the Times noted the next day, the story would have been "important if true." However, it wasn't true. It was an April Fool hoax that had run two days prior in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. But the New York Times wasn't alone in falling for it. The LA Times also subsequently printed it as fact, as did many other American papers, some up to a month later.

#69: Big Ben Goes Digital

April 1, 1980: The BBC's overseas news service reported that Big Ben, in order to keep up with the times, was going to be given a digital readout. The segment included people's nostalgic reminiscences about the world's most famous clock, such as anecdotes about the day it stopped and when it chimed 13 instead of 12. Finally, the service announced that the clock hands, being no longer needed, would be given away to the first four listeners to contact them. One Japanese seaman in the mid-Atlantic immediately radioed in, hoping to be among the lucky callers. However, the BBC was shocked when it then began receiving a massive volume of calls from listeners who were furious that Big Ben was going to be meddled with. "Surprisingly, few people thought it was funny," admitted Tony Lightley of the service. The BBC had to spend several days apologizing to listeners for upsetting them.

#68: One-Way Highway

April 1, 1991: The London Times reported 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 instantly doubled by the simple but revolutionary technique of making the traffic on both carriageways travel in the same direction. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays the traffic would travel clockwise. On Tuesdays and Thursdays it would travel anti-clockwise. The plan was predicted to easily gain the cabinet's approval. However, there were a few critics. One resident of Kent pointed out, "Villagers use the motorway to make shopping trips to Orpington. On some days this will be a journey of two miles, and on others a journey of 117 miles. The scheme is lunatic." Despite the lunacy, the BBC Radio News fell for the joke and broadcast interviews with residents of Swanscombe who, when the plan was described to them, became irate over its implications.

#67: Webnode

April 1, 1999: A press release issued over Business Wire announced the creation of a new company called Webnode, which had been granted an exclusive government contract to regulate ownership of 'nodes' on the 'Next Generation Internet.' The release linked to Webnode's corporate website, which offered a "technical explanation" that nodes were "points of presence" (pops) on the web, which would be collected into megapops and then into gigapops and that "connections among gigapops will be negotiated by the gigapops themselves through the Collective Entity." Numerous media outlets picked up on the story, including Yahoo and Wired, and stock message boards filled with posts from people eager for more info about the company. But would-be Webnode investors were let down later that day when three pranksters from the Silicon Investor stock-chat site admitted the company was their hoax, created, they said, to educate investors about fraud on the Internet by demonstrating that "Anybody can put out a press release and say pretty much anything they want." Business Wire didn't find the prank funny and successfully sued the three for $27,500.

#66: Nat Tate

April 1, 1998: A celebrity-studded party was held at Jeff Koons's SoHo studio to celebrate the release of William Boyd's biography of the late American artist Nat Tate — a troubled abstract expressionist who had leapt to his death from the Staten Island ferry. David Bowie read aloud selections from the biography, while art critics in the crowd murmured appreciative comments about Tate's work. It was a week later that journalist David Lister revealed the secret in the Independent: Nat Tate didn't exist. He was a figment of Boyd's imagination. Lister, who had attended the SoHo party, noted that although no one in the crowd had claimed to know Tate well, also no one admitted they had never heard of him — although no one had. The London newspapers declared it "one of the great literary hoaxes of all time" and gloated over New York's "bamboozled celebs."

#65: Metric Time

April 1, 1975: Australia's This Day Tonight (TDT) news program revealed that the country would soon be converting to "metric time." Under the new system there would be 100 seconds to the minute, 100 minutes to the hour, and 20-hour days. Furthermore, seconds would become millidays, minutes become centidays, and hours become decidays. The report included an interview with Deputy Premier Des Corcoran who praised the new time system. The Adelaide townhall was even shown sporting a new 10-hour metric clock face. The image to the right (courtesy of shows TDT Adelaide reporter Nigel Starck posing with a smaller metric clock. TDT received hundreds of calls from viewers who fell for the hoax. One frustrated viewer wanted to know how he could convert his newly purchased digital clock to metric time.

#64: Man-Eating Piranhas

April 1, 1974: An article by sports writer Bob Peel in the Syracuse Post-Standard warned anglers to stay at least three feet away from the banks of streams and to absolutely NOT go in the water. An "accidental mix-up" at the hatchery had led to several dozen man-eating piranhas being released along with the thousands of trout set free in preparation for trout-fishing season. The piranhas, the article warned, could "completely devour an ox in less than five minutes." Even the fountain outside the downtown Courthouse was potentially not safe because it had been stocked with a few fish. The article ended with the line, "This is baloney. ALL PURE BALONEY." But a reporter for WSYR-TV, who apparently hadn't read to the end of the story, shared the warning with viewers, causing piranha-fear to spread throughout the county. Bob Peel reportedly had to spend the next few days answering calls from worried anglers, reassuring them that there weren't really piranhas loose in the waters of upstate New York.

#63: Grandstand's Newsroom Brawl

April 1, 1989: Viewers of the BBC Sports Show Grandstand thought that tensions among BBC employees must have reached a breaking point when, as presenter Desmond Lynam talked about upcoming events the program was going to be covering, a fight broke out behind him in the newsroom. As the fight escalated, Lynam acted like a consummate professional, calmly continuing to discuss the news and 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, slow-motion replay of the fight. Only after the replay was the joke revealed, as the newsroom brawlers were shown standing together, holding a sign that read "April Fool." The segment is widely considered to be a classic moment in TV sports reporting.

#62: The Loonie Takes a Tumble

April 1, 2002: International currency markets were rattled by the unexpected news that Canada's finance minister, Paul Martin, was quitting his job in order to breed "prize Charolais cattle and handsome Fawn Runner ducks." The Canadian dollar (known as the 'loonie' because it bears an image of a loon bird) promptly experienced a sell-off and fell to its lowest level in a month. The currency only began to recover after Martin's office issued a denial, insisting that the minister had no plans to become a cattle and duck farmer. The fake news was quickly traced back to, a news site run by Pierre Bourque, where it had been posted the day before as an April Fool joke. Dennis Gartman, editor of The Gartman Letter (a widely followed financial newsletter), had mistaken the announcement for real news and included it in his daily e-mail report, thereby giving it wider distribution. Bourque later told a reporter that he was astonished his spoof hadn't instantly been recognized for what it was, noting, "The ducks were the tell-tale sign."

#61: Contra-Polar Energy

The April 1955 issue of Popular Electronics included an article about "contra-polar energy" — a kind of negative energy that, so it was claimed, would cause electrical devices to produce the opposite effect of what they normally would do. For instance, if contra-polar energy were applied to an ordinary table lamp, the bulb would cast darkness instead of light (as shown in the illustration). Similarly, if applied to a soldering iron or a hot plate, the devices would grow freezing cold. Contra-polar energy technology was said to have been developed during World War II, but had recently been declassified because of its potential use to the general public. The article elicited enormous interest from readers, with many writing in requesting more information. And they continued to do so for years, forcing the magazine to have to point out twice (in 1959 and then again in 1963) that the subheading of the article, which read "In keeping with the first day of April," should be taken literally.

The Top 100:   100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1