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Top 10 April Fool's Pranks

by Christy Taylor

For those of you who LOVE a good prank!

The Top 10 April Fools' Hoaxes
ranked by "The Museum of Hoaxes: A History of Outrageous Pranks and Deceptions," by Alex Boese.

1. The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
In 1957, the BBC news show "Panorama" announced that the dreaded spaghetti weevil had been virtually eliminated by the very mild winter weather. That meant Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. Cue the film footage: Swiss peasants were shown pulling strands of spaghetti from trees. Many viewers fell for it, calling the BBC asking how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. The answer: Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.

2. Sidd Finch
Sports Illustrated published a story in April 1985 about Sidd Finch, a rookie pitcher for the Mets who could throw a baseball with startling, pinpoint accuracy at 168 mph. That's 63 mph faster than anyone else has ever been able to throw a ball. Finch had never before played baseball, having mastered his pitch in a Tibetan monastery. Too bad for Mets' fans that Sidd Finch existed only in the imagination of the article's writer, the great George Plimpton.

3. Instant Color TV
In the black-and-white television days of 1962, the only TV network in Sweden announced that thanks to new technology, viewers could convert their existing black-and-white sets to color reception by pulling a nylon stocking over the screen. It was even demonstrated on air. Hundreds of thousands of people reportedly fell for it.

4. The Taco Liberty Bell
Taco Bell Corp. announced in 1996 that it had bought the Liberty Bell from Uncle Sam and would be renaming it Taco Liberty Bell. Citizens called in outrage! Hours later, Taco Bell revealed it was all a joke. When then White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale, he quipped that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

5. San Serriffe
Looking for the perfect vacation spot? Go to San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semi-colon-shaped islands, including Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. In 1977, the British newspaper The Guardian published a seven-page supplement promoting San Serriffe. The newspaper's phones rang all day with calls from readers wanting more information. Few ever noticed that everything about the place was named after printer's terminology.

6. Nixon for President
In 1992, National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" program announced that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for president again. His new campaign slogan was, "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again." Audio clips were aired of Nixon's speech announcing his candidacy. Host John Hockenberry, thanks to the voice of comedian Rich Little who impersonated Tricky Dick, kept the hoax up until the second half of his show.

7. Alabama Changes the Value of Pi
The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the "Biblical value" of 3.0. It was a parody about legislative attempts to dictate the teaching of evolution, but once it was published on the Internet as if it were real legislation, the Alabama state legislature received hundreds of protest calls.

8. The Left-Handed Whopper
Burger King published a full-page advertisement in USA Today in 1998 announcing the introduction of the "Left-Handed Whopper," especially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper, but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers.

9. Hotheaded Naked Ice Borers
Discover Magazine announced in April 1995 that the highly respected wildlife biologist Dr. Aprile Pazzo had discovered a new species in Antarctica: the hotheaded naked ice borer. These fascinating creatures had bony plates on their heads that, fed by numerous blood vessels, could become burning hot, allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speeds. They used this ability to hunt penguins. Dr. Pazzo theorized that the hotheads were responsible for the disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson in 1837.

10. Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity
In 1976, British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 a.m. a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur that listeners could experience at home. The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth's own gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. Hundreds of people claimed to have felt it. One woman even reported that she and her 11 friends floated around the room.