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

#31: Thomas Edison Invents Food Machine

April 1, 1878: After Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, Americans firmly believed that there were no limits to his genius. So when the New York Graphic announced on this day that Edison had invented a machine that could transform soil directly into cereal and water directly into wine, thereby ending the problem of world hunger, it found no shortage of willing believers. Newspapers throughout America copied the article, heaping lavish praise on Edison. The conservative Buffalo Commercial Advertiser was particularly effusive in its praise, waxing eloquent about Edison's brilliance in a long editorial. The Graphic subsequently took the liberty of reprinting the Advertiser's editorial in full, placing above it a simple, two-word headline: "They Bite!"

#32: The Robbery of the U.S. Treasury

April 1, 1905: The Berliner Tageblatt broke the news of a shocking and massive crime — all the gold and silver in the U.S. Federal Treasury had been stolen. A group of thieves funded by American millionaires, the paper explained, had tunneled beneath the Potomac River and then beneath the Treasury, robbing it from below and getting away with over $268,000,000. The U.S. Government was said to be desperately trying to conceal the crime, even as its forces chased the criminals across the oceans of the world. Much of the German media accepted the story without question and reprinted it, making it a major news story throughout Europe. Some newspapers even created illustrations to show the exact location of the tunnel dug by the thieves. When word reached America, most U.S. newspapers were bemused by the gullibility of their European counterparts. However, there were a few calls for a congressional investigation of the crime. It was noted that European editors probably accepted the story so readily because many of them were already firmly of the opinion that America was a country in the grips of millionaire criminals.

#33: Atomic Mist Invades Eindhoven

March 31, 1947: "Een zwarte dag voor Eindhoven" declared the headline on the front page of the Eindhovensch Dagblad (Translation: "A black day for Eindhoven"). The accompanying article reported that the Dutch town might be destroyed the next day (April 1) by an "atomic mist" blowing into the town because of an accident at the nearby N.V. Philips factory, unless the situation could be contained. The article proceeded to offer nonsensical advice in case the worst should occur, such as to sit on a thin pole with your arms and legs stretched out in front of you. But most people didn't read beyond the headline, and the result was widespread panic. Thousands of people attempted to flee. Even the RAF base at The Hague phoned the police, wanting to know if they should avoid flying over the area. The situation only began to calm down when the mayor went on the radio, emphatically assuring everyone that the story was false. The event is remembered as one of the more notorious media-created panics in the history of the Netherlands.

#34: The Interfering Brassieres

April 1, 1982: The Daily Mail reported that a local manufacturer had sold 10,000 "rogue bras" that were causing a unique and unprecedented problem, not to the wearers but to the public at large. Apparently the support wire in these bras had been made out of a kind of copper originally designed for use in fire alarms. When this copper came into contact with nylon and body heat, it produced static electricity which, in turn, was interfering with local television and radio broadcasts. The chief engineer of British Telecom, upon reading the article, is said to have immediately ordered that all his female laboratory employees disclose what type of bra they were wearing.

#35: Kremvax

April 1, 1984: A message distributed to the members of Usenet (the online messaging community that was one of the first forms the internet took) announced that the Soviet Union was joining the network. This generated enormous excitement, since most Usenet members had assumed that cold war security concerns would forever prevent such a link-up. The message purported to come from Konstantin Chernenko (from the address [email protected]) who explained that the Soviet Union wanted to join the network in order to "have a means of having an open discussion forum with the American and European people." The message created a flood of responses. Two weeks later its true author, a European man named Piet Beertema, revealed it was a hoax. This is believed to be the first hoax on the internet. Six years later, when Moscow really did link up to the internet, it adopted the domain name 'kremvax' in honor of the hoax.

#36: Whistling Carrots

April 1, 2002: The British supermarket chain Tesco ran an ad in The Sun announcing the successful development of a genetically modified 'whistling carrot.' The ad explained that the carrots had been specially engineered to grow with tapered airholes in their side. When fully cooked, these airholes caused the vegetable to emit a "97 decibel signal" indicating they should be removed from the stove. (97 decibels is roughly equivalent to the noise level of a jackhammer or pneumatic drill). Opponents of their carrots envisioned "a nightmare scenario for future generations becoming as deaf as a post, albeit with improved vision."

#37: Gmail Motion

April 1, 2011: Google announced the introduction of Gmail Motion, a new technology that would allow people to write emails using only hand gestures. Gmail Motion, the company explained, used a computer's webcam and a "spatial tracking algorithm" to track a person's gestures and translate them into words and commands. For instance, a person could 'open a message' by making a motion with their hands as if opening an envelope. Or they could 'reply' to a message by pointing backward over their shoulder. By 2011, Google had become well-known for making spoof announcements every April first, with its annual spoofs both highly anticipated and widely shared. (The company earns a place in the Top 100 largely on the basis of that alone). But Gmail Motion was one of its more believable jokes. In fact, within a few days programmers had demonstrated that it was possible (if not practical) to create a working, gesture-based email system like Gmail Motion using existing, off-the-shelf technology.

#38: The 26-Day Marathon

April 1, 1981: The Daily Mail ran a story about an unfortunate Japanese long-distance runner, Kimo Nakajimi, who had entered the London Marathon but, on account of a translation error, thought that he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. Nakajimi was reported to be somewhere out on the roads of England, still running, determined to finish the race. Various people had spotted him, though they were unable to flag him down. The translation error was attributed to Timothy Bryant, an import director, who said, "I translated the rules and sent them off to him. But I have only been learning Japanese for two years, and I must have made a mistake. He seems to be taking this marathon to be something like the very long races they have over there."

#39: Wisconsin State Capitol Collapses

April 1, 1933: The front page of the Madison Capital-Times announced with large headlines that the Wisconsin state capitol building lay in ruins following a series of mysterious explosions. The explosions were attributed to "large quantities of gas, generated through many weeks of verbose debate in the Senate and Assembly chambers." Accompanying the article was a picture showing the capitol building collapsing. The picture probably wouldn't fool many people nowadays, but by all accounts it fooled quite a few people at the time. Many readers were outraged. One reader wrote in declaring the hoax "was not only tactless and void of humor, but also a hideous jest." In fact, the "capitol building exploding because of a buildup of hot air" was a fairly old joke, even in 1933. But the Capital-Times's photo has come to be considered the classic representation of the joke.

#40: The Frankfurt Zoo's White Elephant

April 1, 1949: A crowd of over 1000 people, paying a mark each, showed up at the Frankfurt Zoo to see a "snow-white elephant." Newspaper ads had said that the legendary animal had come all the way from Burma, accompanied by its handlers dressed in their traditional robes, and would be at the zoo for only a day before leaving for Copenhagen. And as promised, the crowd did get to see a snow-white elephant. But the next day they learned that it wasn't a genuine snow-white elephant. It was just one of the zoo's regular grey elephants painted white. However, the people of Frankfurt were willing to forgive the deception since it was the work of the zoo's director, Berhard Grzimek. He had become a hero in post-war Germany because of the passion with which he fought to save the animals of the Frankfurt Zoo, and he was known for being willing to do anything (including promising snow-white elephants that didn't exist) to lure people back to the zoo.

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