Happy Friday! Happy April Fools Day! How nice to have a day when we can all celebrate being a little silly. While it seems there is no real consensus on the origin of April Fool’s Day, it does have a long and storied history. The creative spirit of this day goes well beyond the little practical jokes we play on each other. Over the years there have been many publications and broadcasts that have joined in on the fun. The Museum of Hoaxes has complied a list of the 100 greatest April Fools Day Hoaxes of All Time. You can find the complete list at http://hoaxes.org/aprilfool/P40. I have chosen several of my favorites from their list to share with you this week. I remember, at some point, hearing about the spaghetti harvest and I recall the Sports Illustrated article about the amazing Sidd Finch. I even learned something myself this week as I read about rickrolling. Wishing you an enjoyable April Fools Day.
SOME OF THE GREATEST APRIL FOOLS HOAXES
Sidd Finch – The April 1985 issue of Sports Illustrated revealed that the New York Mets had recruited a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a baseball at 168 mph — 65 mph faster than the previous record. Surprisingly, Sidd Finch had never played baseball before, but he had mastered the “art of the pitch” in a Tibetan monastery. Mets fans couldn’t believe their good luck and, accepting at face value the peculiarities of Sidd Finch’s past, flooded Sports Illustrated with requests for more information. But in reality this amazing player only existed in the imagination of author George Plimpton, who had left a clue in the sub-heading of the article: “He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd’s deciding about yoga —and his future in baseball.” The first letter of each of these words, taken together, spelled “H-a-p-p-y A-p-r-i-l F-o-o-l-s D-a-y — A-h F-i-b”.
YouTube Rickrolls the Internet – The Rickrolling prank involves tricking a person into clicking a link that leads them to a clip of Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up.” For instance, a person might think they’re clicking a link to see a preview of a new movie, but instead Rick Astley appears on their screen, singing his 1987 hit single. The prank became hugely popular in late-2007 and for a while seemed to be nearly ubiquitous online. But on 1 April 2008, YouTube took the joke to an entirely new level when the company redirected all the featured videos on its front page to Astley’s clip. It was, without a doubt, the most extensive Rickroll of all time. As many people noted, the site had, because of its huge audience, essentially succeeded in Rickrolling the entire Internet. (Psst, hey buddy, check out this breaking news link!) Breaking News Alert
Tasmanian Mock Walrus – April 1, 1984: The Orlando Sentinel featured a story about a creature known as the Tasmanian Mock Walrus (or TMW for short) that many people in Florida were said to be adopting as a pet. The creature was four inches long, resembled a walrus, purred like a cat, and had the temperament of a hamster. What made it such an ideal pet was that it never had to be bathed, used a litter box, and ate cockroaches. In fact, a single TMW could entirely rid a house of its cockroach problem. However, the local pest-control industry was said to be pressuring the government to ban TMWs, fearing they would put cockroach exterminators out of business. Dozens of people called the paper trying to find out where they could obtain their own TMW. Skeptics noted that the photo of a TMW accompanying the article showed a creature that looked suspiciously similar to a Naked Mole Rat.
How To Cook A Unicorn – April 1, 2012: The British Library, on its Medieval Manuscripts Blog, announced the “near-miraculous” discovery in its archives of a long-lost medieval cookbook that included a recipe for how to cook a unicorn. “Taketh one unicorne,” began the instructions, and then marinade it in cloves and garlic before finally roasting it on a griddle. The cookbook even included hand-drawn illustrations, which the library reproduced, showing exactly how the unicorn should be grilled. The compiler of the cookbook was said to be one “Geoffrey Fule,” who worked in the kitchens of Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England from 1328-1369.
Dutch Elm Disease Infect Redheads – April 1, 1973: BBC Radio broadcast an interview with an elderly academic, Dr. Clothier, who discoursed on the government’s efforts to stop the spread of Dutch Elm Disease. Dr. Clothier revealed that some startling discoveries had recently been made. For instance, he referred to the research of Dr. Emily Lang of the London School of Pathological and Environmental Medicine who had found that exposure to Dutch Elm Disease immunized people to the common cold. Unfortunately, there was a side effect. Exposure to the tree disease also caused red hair to turn yellow and eventually fall out. This was attributed to a similarity between the blood count of redheads and the soil conditions in which affected trees grew. Therefore, Dr. Clothier warned that redheads should stay away from forests for the foreseeable future. Dr. Clothier was in reality the comedian Spike Milligan.
The Taco Liberty Bell – April 1, 1996: The Taco Bell Corporation took out a full-page ad that appeared in six major newspapers announcing it had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell was housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed, a few hours later, that it was all a practical joke. The best line of the day came when White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale. Thinking on his feet, he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold. It would now be known, he said, as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest – April 1, 1957: The respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.” Even the director-general of the BBC later admitted that after seeing the show he checked in an encyclopedia to find out if that was how spaghetti actually grew (but the encyclopedia had no information on the topic). The broadcast remains, by far, the most popular and widely acclaimed April Fool’s Day hoax ever, making it an easy pick for number one.
Boimate – April 1, 1983: New Scientist ran an article about the first successful “plant-animal hybrid” that had resulted in a tomato containing genes from a cow. The cow-tomato was said to have a “tough leathery skin” and grew “discus-shaped” clumps of animal protein sandwiched between an envelope of tomato fruit. The article included clues that it was a joke, such as the names of the researchers, MacDonald and Wimpey, who supposedly worked at the University of Hamburg. But these clues weren’t recognized by the Brazilian science magazine Veja which ran a feature about the new cow-tomato hybrid several weeks later. Veja dubbed the hybrid “Boimate,” and even created a graphic to show how the cow-tomato hybridization process occurred. The magazine was subsequently relentlessly ridiculed in the Brazilian media, until it eventually apologized for its “unfortunate mistake.”
Thought for the Week
April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four. ~Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson