Being on the receiving end of a prank is frustrating to say the least. However, there are some pranks throughout history that are undeniably brilliant and hilarious. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the most genius pranks on the day of pranks! Happy April Fools’ Day!
1955: Contra-Polar Energy
Popular Electronics, in its April 1955 issue, published a story about declassified technology, supposedly developed in secret during World War II. The technology, called “contra-polar energy,” works by making something do the exact opposite of what it does. For example, a lamp, using contra-polar energy, would produce a beam of dark instead of light. Or, an iron would produce cold instead of heat. Even though the subheading of the article read, “In keeping with the first day of April,” people wrote Popular Electronics inquiring about the technology. Popular Electronics had to clarify, not once but twice, that the article was an April Fools’ joke.
1957: Spaghetti Trees
The BBC news show Panorama convinced people that farmers in Switzerland were growing spaghetti crops. They released a video showing Swiss farmers pulling strands of spaghetti from trees. BBC fooled audiences so much so that people called in asking how to grow their own spaghetti tree. Their answer? “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
1962: Color TV
Sweden’s SVT (Sveriges Television) invited technical expert, Kjell Stensson, on their news show to demonstrate how to convert a black-and-white television into color. Stensson used highly technical language when describing the prismatic nature of light and the phenomenon of “double slit interference.” After his scientific lecture, Stensson finally disclosed the secret to making a black-and-white TV show color: Simply pull a nylon stocking over the TV screen.
1976: Zero-G Day
The spaghetti crop was only the beginning for BBC. They’re also responsible for Zero-G Day. In a radio broadcast, BBC invited British astronomer Patrick Moore on-air to announce that Earth’s gravity would be temporarily affected by the alignment of planets as Pluto passed behind Jupiter. Moore told listeners that if they jumped at precisely 9:47 a.m. – the moment before Earth’s gravity kicked back in – they would feel as if they were floating. Many called in excitedly claiming to have felt it.
1996: The Taco Liberty Bell
Many Americans became outraged when Taco Bell announced it was buying the Liberty Bell. Having taken out several newspaper ads, Taco Bell claimed it was going to buy the American symbol and rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. Not only was the Taco Bell headquarters bombarded with calls from concerned citizens, but the National Park Services also had to field calls. Eventually, the National Park Service had to hold a press conference to deny the reports. By noon, Taco Bell revealed it was all a prank.
1998: The Left-Handed Burger
An ad featured in USA TODAY announced the newest addition to the Burger King menu – the “Left-Handed Whopper.” Though made from the same ingredients as the original, the Left-Handed Whopper is rotated 180 degrees to better accommodate the 32 million left-handed Americans. Many requested the new burger whole some requested their burger be made in the original right-handed style.
2008: Flying Penguins
BBC just doesn’t give up. And they shouldn’t. Their latest prank appeared in their natural history series Miracles of Evolution. The footage showed Adélie penguins flying in a convincing video clip, which was actually animated.
2014: Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?
To make a point, NPR pulled one of the great April Fools’ pranks when they posted the fake article, titled “Why doesn’t America read anymore?” The headline intended to elicit a response, and it succeeded. The comments section blew up with people defending their book consumption, complaining about America’s decline in literacy, or criticizing NPR for over-generalizations. However, for those that took the time to actually read the article, this is what they found:
“Congratulations, genuine readers, and happy April Fools’ Day! We sometimes get the sense that some people are commenting on NPR stories that they haven’t actually read. If you are reading this, please like this post and do not comment on it. Then let’s see what people have to say about this story. Best wishes and have an enjoyable day.”