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

#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.

#56: Pregnancy Revealed via Speakerphone

April 1, 2014: Stephen Barrows, professor of economics at Aquinas College, had a strict rule that if a student's phone rang during class they had to answer it on speakerphone, in front of everyone. So when Taylor Nefcy's phone rang on April 1, he enforced the rule and the entire class proceeded to hear this, "Hi, this is Kevin from the Pregnancy Resource Center. Per your request, I'm calling to inform you that the test results have come back positive. Congratulations!" Barrows' face immediately turned red, and he muttered, "OK, you might want to shut that down." When the call finally ended, he gravely apologized to her, but she assured him it was okay. She had been expecting the news. In fact, she already had a name picked out for the baby. Its first name would be April, and the middle name Fool. A video of the prank was uploaded to YouTube a few days later and quickly racked up over 25 million views and was featured on multiple national news programs. It's been hailed as the best classroom April Fool prank ever, and at this point it's certainly the most widely shared and celebrated one ever.

#57: Origin of April Fool's Day Revealed

April 1, 1983: The Associated Press reported that the mystery of the origin of April Fool's Day had finally been solved. Joseph Boskin, a Boston University professor, had discovered that the celebration began during the Fourth Century when Emperor Constantine jokingly appointed a court jester named Kugel as ruler for a day. As temporary ruler, Kugel immediately decreed that only the absurd would be allowed in the kingdom on that day. And so the tradition of April Fools was born. The AP story appeared in hundreds of papers, but several weeks later Boskin confessed that none of it was true. He had intended his story about Kugel the jester as a joke, but the AP reporter who had interviewed him had taken it seriously. Boskin noted that a Kugel is actually a kind of Jewish casserole. He also admitted that he didn't know how April Fool's Day began.

#58: Write-Only Memory

April 1, 1973: The Signetics corporation issued a press release announcing their invention of a revolutionary new electronic memory that promised to "improve the quality of life for billions of people who are affected by computer data." As opposed to the common "write-and-read" or "read-only" memories (ROM), they had perfected Fully-Encoded 9046XN 25120 Write-Only Memory (aka WOM). Data could be written to the device, but never read back, thus ensuring Eternally Inaccessible Storage (EIS). Accompanying the press release was a data sheet (written by Signetics engineer John Curtis) detailing the chip's technical specifications. Write-Only Memory subsequently became a favorite inside joke within the engineering community, with engineers over subsequent years repeatedly trying to convince their managers of the need to purchase quantities of this vital component.

#59: The Game That Never Was

The official football season was over, and Brazil's São Paulo FC was touring Europe, playing a series of "friendly" games. On 1 April 1951, fans heard a live broadcast from Italy where the team was playing Milan, with Geraldo José de Almeida reporting for Radio Panamericana. But there was horror and despair throughout São Paulo when the match ended in a humiliating 4-0 rout. (Some accounts say 8-1). Adding to the outrage was a series of referee decisions that had shamelessly favored Milan. But in reality, no game had been played nor even scheduled. The entire broadcast had been recorded in the garage of the owner of the radio station before the team had left for Europe, with the shouts of the crowd and the sound of the ball created by a sound engineer. The revelation of the joke the following day brought relief to fans, but this was quickly followed by anger and cries for legal action to be taken against the station for "tarnishing" the image of Brazilian football.

#60: Welcome To Chicago!

April 1, 1992: Airline passengers descending into Los Angeles Airport might have experienced a momentary feeling of panic when they looked out the window and saw an 85-foot-long yellow banner on the ground that spelled out, in 20-foot-high red letters, "Welcome to Chicago." It was raised above the Hollywood Park race track, which lay directly along the flight path for arriving planes, about three miles from the airport. Park spokesman Brock Sheridan explained, "It was something we always wanted to do. We thought it would be kind of funny and our new management... thought it would be a great practical joke." The sign remained up for two days.

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