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

#30: Boimate

April 1, 1983: New Scientist ran an article about the first successful "plant-animal hybrid" that had resulted in a tomato containing genes from a cow. The cow-tomato was said to have a "tough leathery skin" and grew "discus-shaped" clumps of animal protein sandwiched between an envelope of tomato fruit. The article included clues that it was a joke, such as the names of the researchers, MacDonald and Wimpey, who supposedly worked at the University of Hamburg. But these clues weren't recognized by the Brazilian science magazine Veja which ran a feature about the new cow-tomato hybrid several weeks later. Veja dubbed the hybrid "Boimate," and even created a graphic to show how the cow-tomato hybridization process occurred. The magazine was subsequently relentlessly ridiculed in the Brazilian media, until it eventually apologized for its "unfortunate mistake."

#29: The Danish Currency Exchange

April 1, 1980: In early 1980, the National Bank of Denmark had issued a 20-kroner banknote featuring a picture of two sparrows. Curiously, one of the sparrows appeared to be one-legged. This was the backdrop for the April first announcement in the Roskilde Tidende that all bills with one-legged birds were actually fake, but that they could be exchanged at the post office for genuine bills depicting two-legged birds. The paper showed a picture of a supposedly authentic bill — which was just a regular bill onto which the paper's cartoonist, Jan Robert Thoresen, had drawn an extra leg. Lines at post offices soon became so long, with people eager to exchange their money, that post office employees had to put notices on the doors explaining that no currency exchange was taking place. Thoresen was subsequently questioned by the police, but was let go without any charges filed.

#28: The Swiss Moon Landing Hoax

April 1, 1967: Swiss Radio interrupted its regularly scheduled program with a news flash: U.S. astronauts had just landed on the moon. For the next hour, listeners heard a series of elaborately staged updates, complete with reports from correspondents around the world and interviews with experts. Belief was near total. Telephone exchanges became jammed, and even U.S. authorities in Switzerland, unsure what to believe, began to celebrate. The broadcast concluded with the report that the "moonship" would take off from the moon at 7 p.m., and listeners were told they could see it return to Earth by watching from a high vantage point, away from the city lights. In Zurich this prompted a mass exodus of people out of the city up to nearby Mt. Uetliberg. The railroad had to add additional trains to handle the sudden rush of passengers. It was another two years before U.S. astronauts actually did land on the moon.

#27: Texas Honors the Boston Strangler

April 1, 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." The Texas politicians were embarrassed when it was later revealed to them that DeSalvo was better known as the "Boston Strangler." He had confessed to killing 13 women. The resolution had been submitted by Representatives Tom Moore and Lane Denton, who said they did it to demonstrate that "No one reads these bills or resolutions."

#26: Hawaiian Tax Refund

April 1, 1954: Hawaiian DJ Hal "Aku Head" Lewis announced on KHON radio that the U.S. Senate had not only approved Statehood for Hawaii but had also provided for an "immediate" refund of all 1953 Federal taxes to Island residents. The news caused massive turmoil throughout Hawaii. Radio stations, newspapers, and the Internal Revenue Bureau were flooded with calls from people seeking more information. Many banks received calls from people who wanted to place orders for stock and bond purchases with their forthcoming refund. The announcement seemed plausible because a Hawaiian tax refund had been in the news recently. Congressman Joseph Farrington had suggested that islanders should be given a refund of all federal taxes they had ever paid if Hawaii wasn't granted full statehood. In reality, Hawaii only achieved statehood in 1959, not 1954, and islanders' taxes were never refunded.

#25: Flying Penguins

April 1, 2008: The BBC announced that camera crews filming near the Antarctic for its natural history series Miracles of Evolution had captured footage of Adélie penguins taking to the air. It even offered a video clip of these flying penguins, which quickly became one of the most viewed videos on the internet. Presenter Terry Jones explained that, instead of huddling together to endure the Antarctic winter, these penguins took to the air and flew thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America where they "spend the winter basking in the tropical sun." A follow-up video explained how the BBC created the special effects of the flying penguins.

#24: Drunk Driving on the Internet

An article by John Dvorak in the April 1994 issue of PC Computing magazine described a bill going through Congress that would make it illegal to use the internet while drunk, or even to discuss sexual matters over a public network. The bill was supposedly numbered 040194 (i.e. 04/01/94), and the contact person was listed as Lirpa Sloof. Passage of the bill was felt to be certain because "Who wants to come out and support drunkenness and computer sex?" Dvorak explained that the bill had come about because the Internet was often referred to as an "Information Highway." He noted that, "Congress apparently thinks being drunk on a highway is bad no matter what kind of highway it is." The article generated so many outraged phone calls to Congress that Senator Edward Kennedy's office had to release an official denial of the rumor that he was a sponsor of the bill.

#23: Space Needle Collapses

April 1, 1989: Seattle's "Almost Live" comedy show started their program with a news flash: the Seattle Space Needle had collapsed. A reporter presented the news, and then several shots of the Space Needle lying on its side in a pile of rubble were shown. The show's host, John Keister, appeared after a commercial break and assured viewers the announcement had only been a joke. Nevertheless, thousands of people were fooled. Staff at the Space Needle reported receiving over 700 calls from concerned viewers, and 911 lines jammed from the sudden rush of calls from people seeking more information. The false report remains infamous in Seattle to this day.

#22: The Great Comic Strip Switcheroonie

April 1, 1997: When comic strip fans opened their papers, they discovered that their favorite strips looked different. Not only that, but in many cases characters from other strips popped up out of place. The reason for the chaos was the Great Comics Switcheroonie. Forty-six comic-strip artists conspired to pen each other's strips for the day. For instance, Scott Adams of Dilbert took over Family Circus by Bil Keane, where he added a touch of corporate cynicism to the family-themed strip by having the mother tell her kid to "work cuter, not harder." Jim Davis of Garfield took over Blondie, which allowed him to show his famous overweight cat eating one of Dagwood's sandwiches. The stunt was masterminded by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, creators of the Baby Blues comic strip. When asked why he participated, Scott Adams noted, "You don't get that many chances to tunnel under the fence."

#21: The Predictions of Isaac Bickerstaff

February 1708: A previously unknown London astrologer named Isaac Bickerstaff published an almanac in which he predicted the death by fever of the famous rival astrologer John Partridge on March 29 of that year. Partridge indignantly denied the prediction, but on March 30 Bickerstaff released a pamphlet announcing that he had been correct: Partridge was dead. It took a day for the news to settle in, but soon everyone had heard of the astrologer's demise. And so, on April 1st the joke came to full fruition when Partridge was woken by a sexton outside his window wanting to know if there were any orders for his funeral sermon. As hard as he tried, Partridge couldn't convince people that he wasn't dead. Bickerstaff, it turned out, was a pseudonym for the satirist Jonathan Swift. His prognosticatory prank worked so well that Partridge was eventually forced to stop publishing almanacs, unable to shake his reputation as the man whose death had been foretold.

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