01 April 2015

Best 'April Fools' Gags of All Time:

'Taco Liberty Bell' (1996):

Taco Bell Corp placed a full-page ad in seven major newspapers announcing it had 'bought the Liberty Bell' and was renaming it the 'Taco Liberty Bell'
in-order to help pay-down the national debt.

Predictably, angry (+ slightly naive and/or lacking a calendar) citizens melted the phones at the offices of the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell is kept.

Taco Bell executives let them stew for a few hours before revealing it was all an April Fools gag at noon. 

President Clinton's quick-on-his-feet White House press secretary Mike McCurry responded when asked about the bell that the Lincoln Memorial
had also been sold. It would now be known, he said, as the 

-Ford Lincoln-Mercury Memorial'.

'Thomas Edison Invents Food Machine' (1878)

By the time Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, Americans thought his genius to be boundless. 

So when the next year a NY newspaper broke a story that Edison had now invented a machine that could 'transform soil directly into cereal and water directly into wine, thereby ending the problem of world hunger', millions fell for it, hook-line-and-sinker. 

Other major US newspapers then ran with the story too, nearly glorifying Edison.  The conservative Buffalo Commercial Advertiser even praised Edison's brilliance in a particulary gushing editorial. 

The NY Graphic -the paper that pulled the original stunt- then reprinted the Buffalo paper's editorial the next day April 2nd, graced with the celebratory headline 'They Bite'...

Mt. Edgecumbe 'Eruption' (1974)

Overlooking Sitka, Alaska, a hulking volcano sat silently dormant for cca 9,000 years when suddenly one spring morning in 1974, residents noticed a pillar of black smoke... 

As they were freaking-out, loading up their cars, and rounding up the kids, a Coast Guard chopper went up to investigate and found that the local prankster -a guy named Porky Bickar who had been planning the April Fools joke for 4 years- had placed 100 old tires in the crater and dousing them in kerosene to create the -highly effective- illusion.  

Porky also spray-painted 'April Fool' in 50-ft letters in the snow at the top of the volcano.

According to local legend, when Mount St. Helens erupted six years later down in Washington state, a Sitka resident wrote to Bickar to tell him,
'This time Porky, you've gone too far!

'Lung-powered flight' (1934)

Apparently reporters at the Fish-Wrap-of-Reference weren't any more clued-into-reality in 1934 than today's bunch--

The newspaper went with a 1934 spoof story scraped from German publication Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, said to show a test pilot successfully using a device that enabled personal flight via lung power.

It had two wind-tubes propelled by breathing, and he wore snow-skis for landing. 

Rival publications had a field day, dumping on the supposedly bulletproof NYT news department.

You'd think somebody down there in that big, shiny building would have perhaps noticed the men in the photo were laughing-

Burger King 'Left-Handed Whopper' (1998)

BK placed a full page advertisement in USA Today trumpeting the intro of a new 'Left-Handed Whopper' with the same ingredients as a normal Whopper, but with all the condiments rotated 180 degrees (including seeds on the bun, place to minimize lossage. 

Thousands attempted to order them at BK outlets across the US, with many right-handed people even specifying 'a RIGHT-hand' one.

Next day BK said it was a hoax, adding 'Everyone knows that it takes two hands to hold a Whopper!', keeping-it-real, and on-message...
these marketing types really know how to work ya.

'Easter Island Statue Washes Ashore' (1962)

A Dutchman strolling the beach near the town of Zandvoort on March 29, 1962 reported finding a small stature washed-up that very much resembled those found on Easter Island.

It became popularly assumed that the ocean currents must have carried it from the South Pacific all the way to the Holland, and the story made headlines around the world.

'Experts' confirmed that it appeared to be an authentic Easter Island artifact, and huge crowds soon appeared. Nobody seemed to question the authenticity at that point.

Alas, on April 1, a local artist named Edo van Tetterode -same guy who had 'discovered' the statue- said he had created and placed it on the beach. Later Mr. Tetterode created the 'National April First Society' in the Netherlands, which annually awarded small bronze replicas of the Easter Island statue to those who made the best April Fools joke of the year.

'Spaghetti Harvest in Switzerland' (1957)

In 1957, the BBC news show Panorama -widely respected in Britain- announced that thanks to various factors, Swiss farmers were enjoying a 'bumper spaghetti crop'. 

Seems like it wouldn't fool anyone today, but in 1957, people weren't eating all that much Italian food in England, hard to imagine in today's globalized, hybridized, multi-cuisine environment. Since most of those who had experienced spaghetti had no idea where it came from, 'huge numbers' of viewers were taken-in by the gag story.

Panorama played film footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Many subsequently rang-up the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree... 

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