April Fool's Day: How it came to be?
The exact origins of April Fool's Day remain a mystery. However, it is widely agreed that the tradition dates back to 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII ordered the adoption of the Gregorian calendar from the Julian calendar which changed New Year's Day to 1 January from March-end. On this April Fool's Day, we bring you some of the best hoaxes in history.
In 1957, a show called Panorama aired a three-minute clip about a flourishing spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. It showed farmers plucking spaghetti off trees and placing them in baskets. Hundreds of people called the BBC wanting to know how to grow spaghetti trees, to which they responded, "Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."
In 1962, Sweden's only television channel (which was black-and-white) announced that their "technical expert" Kjell Stensson would teach people how to instantly make their TV sets show coloured images. He said researchers had recently discovered that if one stretched a stocking over the TV screen, light would bend, thus producing colour images. Thousands fell for the hoax and hilarity ensued in the Scandinavian nation.
On the morning of 1 April 1976, astronomer Patric Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that on that very same day Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a decrease in the Earth's gravity. Moore said if people jumped in the right moment, they would experience a floating sensation. Hundreds fell for it - one woman even reported that she had floated around.
On 1 April 1988, a Soviet newspaper called Izvestia reported that Diego Maradona was in negotiations to join Spartak Moscow for $6 million. The Associated Press fell for the story, distributed it to their subscribers and queried Izvestia for details. Izvestia replied to the AP saying that they should have been mindful of the date. A Soviet newspaper had never published a joke before.
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On 1 April 1972, newspapers around the world announced that the Loch Ness monster's body had been found by zoologists from a Yorkshire zoo. The report claimed that the body weighed over a tonne and was 15-and-a-half feet long. Upon inspection, the body turned out to be a bull elephant seal. The zoo's education officer, John Shields, admitted to having played the prank.
On the evening of 1 April 1989, British business magnate and philanthropist Richard Branson flew across London in a hot-air balloon designed to look like a UFO. Branson's plan was to land in Hyde Park to everyone's amusement and promote his airline Virgin Atlantic; however, wind blew him off course to the Surrey county. Police admitted to having received several calls from panicked citizens.
On 1 April 1998, fast-food chain Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the new "Left-handed Whopper", a burger for 32 million left-handed Americans. The burger included all the ingredients of a Whopper, but the ingredients were rotated 180 degrees. Thousands went to Burger King joints and ordered the new burger, while many others requested their old right-handed version.
On 1 April 1878, American newspaper The Daily Graphic published news that Thomas Alva Edison had invented a machine that turned soil to food and water to wine. Although the final paragraph stated that the machine was purely fictional, not many readers got that far. Edison confirmed that he had received "a flood of letters from the whole country" and called the hoax "ingenious".
A few days before 1 April 2007, images of an 8-inch mummified creature resembling a fairy were released on the website of Dan Baines, founder of Lebanon Circle Prop and Illusion Design. The site, which got 20,000 hits in a day, explained how it had been found by a man in Derbyshire. At the end of April 1, Baines revealed it was a hoax.