Monday is April Fools’ Day, which motivated CNN to publish the following list of 10 of the most memorable April Fools’ pranks of all time:
- Pasta grows on trees. On April 1, 1957, the BBC ran a segment about the Swiss spaghetti harvest enjoying a “bumper year” thanks to mild weather and the elimination of the spaghetti weevil.
- The fastest pitcher of all time. George Plimpton, always a wry writer, invented the tale of Mets pitcher Siddhartha “Sidd” Finch for Sports Illustrated. The story about Finch, who could throw 168 miles per hour, ran in the magazine’s April 1, 1985, issue, and eagle-eyed readers caught on immediately: The first letters in the words of the story’s secondary headline spelled out “Happy April Fools’ Day.” But others wondered whether the Mets had added another fireballer to their top-notch staff.
- Redefining Pi. Lawmakers in Alabama allegedly thought Pi was too hard to remember, passing a law in 1998 that redefined 3.14159 to, simply, 3. Though the news was a hoax from a man named Mark Boslough, it became widely disseminated and believed.
- Left-handed toilet paper. Why should right-handers be closer to cleanliness? In 2015, Cottonelle tweeted that it was introducing left-handed toilet paper for all those southpaws out there.
- The Taco Liberty Bell. In this now-classic 1996 prank, Taco Bell took out newspaper ads saying it had bought the Liberty Bell “in an effort to help the national debt.” Even some senators were taken in, and the National Park Service even held a press conference to deny the news. At noon, the fast-food chain admitted the joke and said it was donating $50,000 for the landmark bell’s care. The value of the joke, of course, was priceless.
- Big Ben goes digital. In 1980, the BBC’s overseas service said the iconic clock tower was getting a digital update. The joke did not go over well, and the BBC apologized.
- Better TV through nylon. In 1962, the Swedish national network put on a technical expert who told the public that its black-and-white broadcasts could be made color by viewing them through nylon stockings. Many Swedes fell for the hoax.
- The Space Needle falls down. In 1989, a Seattle comedy show went on the air and said the city’s Space Needle had fallen down. It even had pictures. The news was a joke, of course, but that was little comfort to 700 panicky callers alarmed by the story.
- Google Gulp. In 2005, Google said it was branching out with a new drink: Google Gulp. It would help “to achieve maximum optimization of your soon-to-be-grateful cerebral cortex.”
- Don’t drink and surf. In 1994, PC Magazine ran a column about a bill making its way through Congress that would prohibit the use of the internet while intoxicated. Although the name of the contact person was listed as Lirpa Sloof (spell her name backwards), many people took the story seriously. In retrospect, however, perhaps the bill — fake or not — wasn’t a bad idea.