The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: April Fools Day
Salton Sea Freezes, 1906—the NYT’s only April Fool’s Day Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Mon Mar 31, 2014
The New York Times does not participate in the custom of April Fool's Day. It's the paper that only publishes "news that's fit to print," and April fool absurdities don't make the cut. Except for one time that maybe it did publish an April fool story. It was way back on April 1, 1906 when the following story appeared on the front page of the Times. It's an odd story. It's not really laugh-out-loud funny. But anyone familiar with the climate around the Salton Sea would immediately realize that the idea that it had frozen solid was absurd. And ice skating on the Salton Sea? Never happened.
What’s the earliest German reference to April Fool’s Day?
Posted by The Curator on Thu Mar 20, 2014
With April Fool's Day fast approaching, I've been working on the April Fool Archive, trying to add supplementary material, etc. In the course of which, I realized that I didn't have much information about the early history of April Fool's Day in Germany. Specifically, what is the earliest German reference to April Fool's Day? Knowing this would give us an idea of how long the Germans have been celebrating April first. That question was harder to answer than I had anticipated. The Diet of Augsburg, 1530There's a German origin story about April Fool's Day that alleges the celebration started on account of a meeting of the Reichstag in Augsburg in 1530.…
Hairy Chest Sweater
Posted by The Curator on Sun Mar 02, 2014
On April 1, 2013, Internet commerce site Firebox.com released a new product — the 70s Hairy Chest Sweater. From the product description: What makes lumberjacks, 70s television stars and the giant Brown Bears of Alaska so irresistibly attractive to others? Simple. Their long, luxuriant chest hair. Sadly, the recent 'man-scaping' trend has led to an epidemic of people pedantically plucking their pecs. Oh, the humanity. Thankfully, we’ve found a solution (while you wait for your rug to regenerate). The 70s Hairy Chest Sweater. This 100% polyester sweater is almost guaranteed to increase your masculinity, virility and ability to chop wood. Pull it on to…
April Fool UFO Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Thu Feb 27, 2014
One problem is that the planned hoax is too late in the day. According to the rules of April Fool's Day, pranks have to be done before noon! If you do it after noon, then you become the fool. (Does no one care about the rules any more???) So it would be better to do this early in the morning on the 1st, rather than in the evening. RC Group Plans UFO Hoax A Group of RC enthusiasts plan a April Fools Day UFO hoax. This group of RC enthusiasts seem to have a secret plan to create an apocalyptic UFO doomsday hoax on April Fools Day.…
Did Chaucer Mention April Fool’s Day?
Posted by The Curator on Mon Feb 17, 2014
The Nun's Priest's Tale in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales tells the story of a vain rooster, Chauntecleer, whose vanity leads him to drop his guard while showing off how splendidly he crows. As a result, he almost gets eaten by a fox. But Chauntecleer outwits the fox that carries him away in its mouth by taking advantage of the fox's own vanity. He persuades the fox to stop and mock his pursuers. As soon as the fox opens its mouth to do so, Chauntecleer flies to safety up into a tree. The story is one of the most popular of Chaucer's tales, because of its playful humor involving talking barnyard animals, much like a…
Tail Lights for Horses—a case of satirical prophecy
Posted by The Curator on Sat Dec 07, 2013
On April 1, 1961, Milan's La Notte newspaper reported that city authorities had passed a new law making it mandatory for horses to be outfitted with signaling and brake lights while being ridden through the streets or neighboring countryside. Back then, quite a few people in the area still rode horses, so the law was going to have quite a broad impact. And, so the story goes, many people subsequently brought their horses into car mechanics to have them outfitted with the necessary lights. This is considered to be one of Italy's classic April Fool's Day hoaxes. And, as is so often the case, it's only a matter of time before reality…
Starting Gate for Sprinters?
Posted by The Curator on Sun Dec 01, 2013
I'm not sure whether or not this was an April Fool's Day joke. I found it in the Mar 31, 1934 issue of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, which contained quite a few April Fool spoof articles, such as the "Loch Ness Monster Captured" article that I posted about recently. But this feature about a new starting gate for sprinters... I just don't know. I've never heard of such a thing before. But on the other hand, it sounds kinda plausible. In fact, some googling revealed that the Ancient Greeks used a starting gate for sprinters, which they called a husplex. However, I can't find any references…
A Brief History of Prescription Windshields
Posted by The Curator on Fri Nov 01, 2013
I've been spending a lot of time recently adding to the April Fool archive, and in doing so I've noticed that a lot of April 1st jokes get repeated again and again over the years. One joke in particular caught my eye. In the past 20 years, prescription windshields (or windscreens, as the British say) have been the theme of corporate April Fool campaigns at least 4 separate times — and possibly more, for all I know. This made me wonder: how old is the 'prescription windshield' joke? It's probably as old as automobile windshields. But one of the earliest references to it I found was in a Gracie…
Posted by The Curator on Fri Sep 13, 2013
Paul Krassner’s Stereophonic Hoax, 1960
Posted by The Curator on Mon Aug 26, 2013
Back in 1960, a story got around about a TV viewer in the South who thought he saw a black man kissing a white woman on a popular TV show. So he wrote to the sponsor of the show to complain. The sponsor acted quickly to calm the man and assure him that they would never sponsor a show on which such an act occurred. They flew an account executive down to see the man and held a private screening for him, to demonstrate to him that the actor in question was actually white. His local station had accidentally broadcast the show at a high contrast ratio, making the actor appear darker than he really was. When…
Mirro Dress for Fatso Figures
Posted by The Curator on Tue Aug 06, 2013
The "Mirro Dress" for "fatso figures" was one of a number of unusual items that Kaufmann's Department Store included in an ad that it ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on April 1, 1949. Other items included a "Sun-Tan Umbrella" that browned you with ultraviolet rays as you walked in the rain, and "Grow Cup" ceramic paste that could regrow handles on broken coffee cups. The ad was an April Fool's Day spoof. Nowadays spoof ads are a dime a dozen on April 1st, but back in the 1940s they were nonexistent — except for this one. In fact, this is the earliest April 1st spoof ad that I'm aware of.
Posted by The Curator on Thu Apr 25, 2013
A video of a news segment about marshmallow farming in North Carolina recently appeared on youtube: It looks like it was inspired by the BBC's famous Swiss Spaghetti Harvest April fool's day segment. The reporter identifies himself as being from Channel 9 news in Iredell County. But there's no info about what year this first aired. So I sent the station an email to find out what they might know.
Museum Mail: The Norwegian Wine Surplus
Posted by The Curator on Wed Apr 03, 2013
I received this message from a reader in Norway: Thank you for your list of good April Fool jokes. I think the best jokes are where you get people to do something stupid, but still rather harmless. My personal favourite is from my home country, where there is a state "Wine Monopoly" — the only place you can buy wine and liquor. You find a wine monopoly in most cities, several in the larger ones. One year in the late 1940ies, one of the major newspapers announced that the wine monopoly had surplus stock of red wine, but lack of empty bottles. Customers were asked to bring buckets and would…
Posted by The Curator on Sun Mar 31, 2013
Slightly in advance of April 1st, Scope is introducing Bacon Mouthwash. From their product info page: Scope Bacon is the newest addition to our line of products. It tastes like bacon, while still killing 99.9% of bad breath germs. And, it keeps your breath minty fresh 5 times longer than brushing alone. Does Scope Bacon make my breath smell like bacon? No. Scope Bacon just tastes like bacon while you swish, but leaves your breath smelling minty fresh 5 times longer than brushing alone. Is Scope Bacon a sufficient replacement for my breakfast? No. Scope Bacon contains zero nutritional value and does not serve as…
How to make cotton cakes
Posted by The Curator on Fri Mar 29, 2013
Back in the 19th century, food pranks were very popular on April Fool's Day. And one of the most popular forms of trick food was the "cotton cake." Instructions for how to make this delicacy were reported by Jane Eddington in the Chicago Daily Tribune on Apr 1, 1929: One of the older American cooking jokes of the days was the cotton cakes. I heard a woman tell how to do this in an up to date way, imitating what her great grandmother did who made cotton cakes and sent them around to her neighbors on April Fool's day. This woman has had fame as a cook, and this is what she…