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

#46: Tail Lights for Horses

April 1, 1961: In Milan, in 1961, many people from the surrounding countryside still rode their horses into the city. So La Notte newspaper announced that city authorities, in order to make sure the horses could continue to co-exist with motor traffic, had passed a law making it mandatory for horses to be outfitted with signaling and brake lights while being ridden through the streets. Many people subsequently brought their horses into car mechanics to have them outfitted with the necessary lights.

#47: Bombs Away!

April 1, 1915: A British pilot flew over the Lille Aerodrome (occupied by the Germans) and dropped what appeared to be a huge bomb. The German soldiers down below immediately scattered in all directions, but no explosion followed. After some time, the soldiers crept back and gingerly approached the bomb. They discovered that it was actually a large football with a note tied to it that read, "April Fool — Gott Strafe England!" [Note: 'Gott strafe England' was a slogan used by the German Army during World War I meaning, "May God punish England." Its use by the British aviator was evidently meant to be ironic.]

#48: The Night Watch Dissolves

April 1, 1950: VARA, the Dutch national radio network, broadcast an interview with an emotional employee of the Rijksmuseum who confessed that, while he had been attempting to clean and restore The Night Watch by Rembrandt, he had accidentally used the wrong fluid. As a result, the famous painting was dissolving. Paint, he said, was dripping from the canvas even as he spoke. By midnight the masterpiece would be entirely gone, merely a puddle on the floor. The confession mobilized hundreds of art-lovers who showed up at the Rijksmuseum to view the beloved painting one last time. As they queued in front of the museum, VARA radio announcers walked up and down the line interviewing them. Some waited patiently in line for hours before realizing they had been fooled.

#49: Rain-Deflecting Open Top Car

April 1, 1983: BMW's UK division ran an ad in British papers revealing that one of its engineers, Herr Blöhn, had designed a sunroof that could be kept open even in the rain, thanks to jets of air that blasted the water away from the top of the car. The system worked completely automatically, even in a car wash. Those seeking more information were directed to query "Miss April Wurst" in the BMW marketing department. The ad was the start of a long tradition of the company creating spoof ads every April 1st. In fact, BMW has been creating April Fool ads longer and more consistently than any other company that we're aware of, and the success of their ads played a large role in convincing other companies to run spoof ads on the first of April. This practice has now become so widespread that many companies say they feel compelled to create spoof ads for April 1, lest their customers think they lack a sense of humor.

#50: 15th Annual NYC April Fool Parade

April 1, 2000: A news release informed the media that the 15th annual New York City April Fool's Day Parade would begin at noon on 59th Street and proceed down to Fifth Avenue. It would include a "Beat 'em, Bust 'em, Book 'em" float created by the New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle police departments, portraying "themes of brutality, corruption and incompetence." There would also be an "Atlanta Braves Baseball Tribute to Racism" float featuring John Rocker "spewing racial epithets at the crowd." CNN and the Fox affiliate WNYW promptly sent news crews to cover the parade. They arrived at 59th Street at noon and patiently waited for the parade to start. It never did. The prank was the handiwork of long-time hoaxer Joey Skaggs, who had been issuing press releases announcing the nonexistent parade every April Fool's Day since 1986 (and, as of 2015, he's still maintaining the tradition).

#51: Retrobreeding the Woolly Mammoth

The April 1984 issue of MIT's Technology Review included an article titled "Retrobreeding the Woolly Mammoth" that described an effort by Soviet scientists to bring the woolly mammoth back from extinction. The Soviet team, led by Dr. Sverbighooze Yasmilov, had taken DNA from mammoths found frozen in Siberian ice and inserted it into elephant cells. The cells were then being brought to term inside surrogate elephant mothers. Despite clues that the story was not entirely serious (such as the comical name of the lead scientist, the cartoon accompanying the story, and the April 1 dateline), the story was reported as real news by the Chicago Tribune several weeks later and sent out via its news service. And several months after that, Sverbighooze Yasmilov and his mammoth resurfaced in Family Weekly, a Sunday supplement carried in over 350 newspapers. Family Weekly later apologized for its "mammoth mistake."

#52: The Wiesbaden Martian

April 1, 1950: The Wiesbadener Tagblatt (of Wiesbaden, Germany) announced that a flying saucer had crashed nearby and ran a photo of a small, one-legged extraterrestrial that had supposedly been found near the wreckage by American soldiers. The article elicited so many inquiries that the paper had to publish a disclaimer several days later. But the career of the hoax was far from over. An unknown informant sent a clipping of the photo to the FBI, and the agency duly filed it away, mistakenly labeling it a "Martian in the USA." Three decades later, the agency passed the photo along to UFO researcher Barry Greenwood, and through him it made its way into the influential 1980 book The Roswell Incident, whose authors presented it to readers as genuine evidence of contact with UFOs. The photo, on account of being in this book, is credited with playing a large role in popularizing the idea of extraterrestrials as "little grey men." The Wiesbadener Tagblatt photographer who created the image subsequently revealed that the alien was actually his five-year-old son (heavily doctored and airbrushed) posing with soldiers from the local U.S. base.

#53: Canned Unicorn Meat

April 1, 2010: Online retailer ThinkGeek announced an exciting new product — canned unicorn meat, which it described as "the new white meat" and an "excellent source of sparkles." It's unlikely that many people believed ThinkGeek was really selling unicorn meat, but the concept proved popular enough that a few months later the company started selling the product for real. Customers who ordered it received a stuffed unicorn toy inside a can. Except for customers in Germany who complained that they weren't receiving their orders. Eventually the reason for the delay was traced back to the shipments being halted by German customs officials — who apparently believed that unicorns were real and had therefore decided that the product fell afoul of regulations banning the importation of meat from "rare" animals.

#54: Lard From Live Pigs

April 1, 1921: The Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung reported that a German farmer had developed a method of obtaining lard from live pigs by operating on the pigs to remove the rashers, then bandaging the pigs up and letting them heal. The operation could be repeated three times a year and was made possible by the use of novocaine (which, at the time, was a relatively recent surgical innovation). The story was subsequently widely reprinted by American and British papers. Articles expressed admiration at the Teutonic efficiency of the technique, which could solve an "important food problem," but they simultaneously voiced concerns about the roughness of the method on the animal. It was only a full year later (at which point the story was still doing the rounds) that an English paper realized that the town of "Schleichegrieben," where this inventive German farmer supposedly lived, a) did not exist, and b) meant "sneaking bacon" in translation.

#55: YouTube Rickrolls the Internet

The Rickrolling prank involves tricking a person into clicking a link that leads them to a clip of Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up." For instance, a person might think they're clicking a link to see a preview of a new movie, but instead Rick Astley appears on their screen, singing his 1987 hit single. The prank became hugely popular in late-2007 and for a while seemed to be nearly ubiquitous online. But on 1 April 2008, YouTube took the joke to an entirely new level when the company redirected all the featured videos on its frontpage to Astley's clip. It was, without a doubt, the most extensive Rickroll of all time. As many people noted, the site had, because of its huge audience, essentially succeeded in Rickrolling the entire Internet.

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