With April 1 just around the corner, I thought you might enjoy some of the greatest April Fool’s Day hoaxes ever perpetrated.
Here are the top three, as judged by The Museum of Hoaxes:
#1: The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
Date: April 1, 1957
On April 1, 1957 the British news show Panorama broadcast a three-minute segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed both to an unusually mild winter and to the “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.” The audience heard Richard Dimbleby, the show’s highly respected anchor, discussing the details of the spaghetti crop as they watched video footage of a Swiss family pulling pasta off spaghetti trees and placing it into baskets. The segment concluded with the assurance that, “For those who love this dish, there’s nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti.”
The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest hoax generated an enormous response. Hundreds of people phoned the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this query the BBC diplomatically replied, “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
To this day the Panorama broadcast remains one of the most famous and popular April Fool’s Day hoaxes of all time. It is also believed to be the first time the medium of television was used to stage an April Fool’s Day hoax.
#2: Sidd Finch
Date: April 1985
In its April 1985 edition, Sports Illustrated published an article by George Plimpton that described an incredible rookie baseball player who was training at the Mets camp in St. Petersburg, Florida. The player was named Sidd Finch (Sidd being short for Siddhartha, the Indian mystic in Hermann Hesse’s book of the same name). He could reportedly pitch a baseball at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. The fastest previous recorded speed for a pitch was 103 mph.
Finch had never played baseball before. He had been raised in an English orphanage before he was adopted by the archaeologist Francis Whyte-Finch who was later killed in an airplane crash in the Dhaulaglri mountain region of Nepal. Finch briefly attended Harvard before he headed to Tibet where he learned the teachings of the “great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa” and mastered “siddhi, namely the yogic mastery of mind-body.” Through his Tibetan mind-body mastery, Finch had “learned the art of the pitch.”
Finch showed up at the Mets camp in Florida, and so impressed their manager that he was invited to attend training camp. When pitching he looked, in the words of the catcher, “like a pretzel gone loony.” Finch frequently wore a hiking boot on his right foot while pitching, his other foot being bare. His speed and power were so great that the catcher would only hear a small sound, “a little pft, pft-boom,” before the ball would land in his glove, knocking him two or three feet back. One of the players declared that it was not “humanly possible” to hit Finch’s pitches.
Unfortunately for the Mets, Finch had not yet decided whether to commit himself to a career as a baseball player, or to pursue a career as a French Horn player. He told the Mets management that he would let them know his decision on April 1.
(Sports Illustrated received almost 2000 letters in response to the article, and it became one of their most famous stories ever. On April 8 they declared that Finch had held a press conference in which he said that he had lost the accuracy needed to throw his fastball and would therefore not be pursuing a career with the Mets. On April 15 they admitted that the story was a hoax.)
#3: Instant Color TV
Date: April 1, 1962
Sweden’s most famous April Fool’s Day hoax occurred on April 1, 1962. At the time, SVT (Sveriges Television) was the only television channel in Sweden, and it broadcast in black and white.
The station announced that their “technical expert,” Kjell Stensson, was going to describe a process that would allow people to view color images on their existing black-and-white sets.
The broadcast cut to Stensson sitting in front of a television set in the studio. He began to explain how the process worked. His discussion was highly technical, going into details about the prismatic nature of light and the phenomenon of “double slit interference.” But at last he arrived at the main point. Researchers, he said, had recently discovered that a fine-meshed screen placed in front of a black-and-white television screen would cause the light to bend in such a way that it would appear as if the image was in color.
Stensson told viewers they could experience the effect at home with the help of some simple, readily accessible materials. Nylon stockings, it turned out, were the perfect fabric to use as a fine-meshed screen. So all viewers had to do, Stensson said, was to cut open a pair of stockings and tape them over the screen of their television set. The image on the television should suddenly appear to be in color.
Stensson cautioned that the viewer would have to be seated at the correct distance from the screen in order to get the full effect. Also, it might be necessary to “move your head very carefully” back and forth, in order to align the color spectrum.
Thousands of viewers later admitted they had fallen for the hoax. Many Swedes today report that they remember their parents (their fathers in particular) rushing through the house trying to find nylon stockings to place over the TV set.
SVT attempted its first color broadcast four years later, in 1966. Regular color broadcasts were begun in Sweden on April 1, 1970.
Click on the following link to find the Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes
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