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April Fool's Day, 1959

←1958      1960→

Punch (1959) Cover of Punch magazine - April 1959. Illustration by Francis Wilford-Smith (aka Smilby).
Artificial Satellites Around Mars (1959) The April 1959 edition of the Great Plains Observer astronomical newsletter included a spoof report alleging that the moons of Mars had been discovered to be artificial satellites flung into orbit by some ancient civilization that had once inhabited the red planet.

American astronomers were shocked when this story was apparently taken seriously by a well-regarded Soviet scientist, Dr. Iosip Shklovsky, who repeated the claim in an interview with Komsomol Pravda. Dr. Gerald Kuiper of the Yerkes Observatory later said, "He is much too brilliant to believe such nonsense."
French Poodle (1959) "What's This? — Gail Speicher gives her French poodle 'Domino' an airing. But wait a minute ... that's no poodle! Seems like anything can happen today. It's April Fool."
[Lebanon Daily News - Apr 1, 1959]
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.]
Fake Snake (1959) A photographer for the Great Bend Tribune placed a fake snake on the pavement in downtown Great Bend and then hid in a car to capture people's candid reactions:

"Twice boys tried to steal the reptile, and the Tribune photographer had to reveal himself these times to save the snake. One old man kicked at it, but did no damage. Many of the pedestrians walked within inches of the creature without ever noticiing it, proving that a real Python could sun himself at Broadway and Main without disturbing too many residents. The best picture of all was ruined. A group of girls walked within a foot of the reptile before one of them noticed it. They all jumped and screamed. But it so startled the photographer that he moved the camera, spoiling the picture."
Kokomo Police Cut Costs (1959) The Kokomo Tribune announced that the city police had devised a plan to cut costs and save money. According to this plan, the police station would close each night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. An answering machine would record all calls made to the station during this time, and these calls would be screened by an officer in the morning. The police reportedly anticipated that the screening process would save the city a great deal of money, since many of the calls would be old by the morning and would not need to be answered. A spokesman for the police admitted, "there will be a problem on what to do in the case of a woman who calls in and says her husband has threatened to shoot her or some member of the family." But in such a situation, the spokesman explained, "We will check the hospitals and the coroner, and if they don't have any record of any trouble, then we will know that nothing happened."
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."
Kansas University Memorial Tower Launched Into Orbit (1959) The Lawrence Daily Journal-World reported that a group of science students had launched Kansas University's World War II Memorial Tower into orbit:

"A group of Kansas University science students Tuesday night sneaked up on Mt. Oread, equipped the Memorial Campanile with rockets and as APRIL 1 dawned today they ran their count-down and sent the famed 'singing silo' of Lawrence zooming toward orbit. There was some question today, however, as to whether Ronald Barnes, KU carilloneur, was allowed to get out of the tower before it was launched from its Jayhawk pad."
Pogo (1959)
Bison march on Warsaw (1959) Wire services reported a variety of April Fool's Day hoaxes perpetrated by the Polish media. One newspaper reported that a herd of thirty bison was marching on Warsaw; another that Buckingham Palace sentries were to be allowed to lick ice cream cones on duty. A third paper reported that gasoline stations were being converted into underground milk tanks in order to ensure a supply of cold milk during the summer.
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.]
Zoo reroutes prank calls (1959) The New York Times reported that "The Bronx Botanical and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens are awaiting, wearily, their usual calls for Messrs Astor, Bush and Flower, and the Planetarium the usual requests for Mr. McCloud or Mr. Starr." However, the employees of the Bronx Zoo and the Coney Island Aquarium were given secret numbers to use, so that all calls to the regular numbers could be intercepted by the telephone company, "and the joke victims told the hard truth." The telephone company estimated that it intercepted well over 5000 prank calls. [New York Times, Apr 1, 1959.]
Morgue Phone Operator Interviewed (1959) The Chicago Daily Defender interviewed Otto Ebar, the man responsible for answering the phones at the Cook County Morgue on April 1st, the day when numerous calls are received for Mr. Stiff, Mr. K. Dever, Mr. Casket, Mr. Graves, Mr. Rigor, or Mr. Mortis. Ebar said, "he has to brace himself for when business executives and general office girls discover they have been tricked by some of their associates, some let their venom out on him. 'But the vast majority are terribly nice about it.'"

"Ebar said the calls average about four or five a minute and that the men are more likely to berate him than the women who readily admit their embarrassment and refuse to give their name. One important lawyer called, Ebar disclosed, and asked if he could speak to 'Mr. Stiff.' His secretary had left the message for him, he added. When Ebar finally got around to telling him it was the County Morgue number his secretary had given him, but that for him to call any time he liked, the lawyer replied: 'Don't worry, you'll be hearing from me real soon because my secretary will be visiting you. Her name will be Mrs. Stiff.'" [The Chicago Defender, Apr 2, 1959.]
Ultra-Steered-Stereo Projector (1959) Radio-Electronics ran an article by its perennial April Fool contributor Mohammed Ulysses Fips, in which Fips described his discovery of how anyone could amplify the sound of their stereo system without using electronic amplifiers, and at a "piddling" cost. This "amplificationless stereo" was achieved by using parabolic reflectors — two 25-inch reflectors mounted on the walls and two 12-inch loudspeaker reflectors on top of the console. The console-top reflectors projected the sound onto the wall-mounted reflectors, which radiated the sound to the rest of the room. Or, at least, to "a small stereo spot" in the room. Fips wrote:

"The arrangement gives excellent stereo reproduction without electronic amplification. Of course, such natural amplification does not give an ear-splitting output. It gives beautiful, soft, undistorted music."
Runaway Missile (1959) The Light of San Antonio, Texas reported that a huge army missile had accidentally escaped from Kelly Air Force Base during testing, "screamed over San Antonio," and crashed into a water tank near Trinity University. An accompanying picture showed the missile embedded in the ground as water from the tank poured over it. An Airforce Colonel was quoted as saying, "We're spending a great deal of money and much of this nation's international diplomacy is based on the armed strength this and other units like it achieve. So I hope you'll understand why I have no more time for this damned April Fool gag."
The Smell of Beef (1959) An ad in the Chicago Tribune for Carl Buddig Smoked Sliced Beef not only depicted beef, but smelled like it too. This was achieved by mixing "a 12 per cent concentrate of oil of cassia, oil of clove, and maple syrup — ingredients used in the beef curing process" with the printer's ink. Although the ad ran on April 1st, the Tribune insisted there was "No fooling." It was a real smoked beef smell.
Soap Fudge (1959)
Jurors believe summons to be a joke (1959) Residents of St. Joseph, Missouri who received a notice on April 1st informing them they had been selected for jury duty thought the notices were a joke and none of them showed up. Deputy sheriffs had to make a special trip to their homes to inform them that the summons were real. The Sheriff's Department later made a special plea to the circuit judges: "Please don't draw a panel of jurors on April Fool's Day again." [The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune - Apr 3, 1959]