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Four Famous British April Fools Pranks

No one can really decide where April Fools' Day comes from, but one thing is for sure: it's here to stay. It's not just the pranks on friends and family that come around year after year, news organisations seem to have just as much fun pranking their audiences too. Like these four examples...

Spaghetti on a fork
Spaghetti-tree hoax is probably the most famous of them all.

Swiss Spaghetti Harvest: No list of April Fools could miss this BBC stunt on their flagship TV news programme Panorama in 1957. Richard Dimbleby anchored the piece about a particularly bountiful crop of spaghetti in Switzerland. The sequence was shot at a hotel in Castiglione on the shore of Lake Lugano. The crew bought 20 pounds of uncooked homemade spaghetti and hung the strands from the branches of the laurel trees around the lake to make it seem like they were "spaghetti trees." The spaghetti tree harvest was partly due to the disappearance of the pesky spaghetti weevil, according to the report. The camera cut to footage of people picking spaghetti off of trees and bushes, then sitting down at a table to eat some of their “real, home-grown spaghetti.” When viewers contacted the programme to ask how they could grow their own spaghetti trees, they were reportedly told to stick some spaghetti in a tin of chopped tomatoes and hope for the best.

The Islands of San Serriffe: If you think typefaces can’t be funny, think again. In 1977, The Guardian newspaper ran a special report on a semicolon-shaped island paradise near the Seychelle Islands, and published a travel guide to the mysterious island grouping of San Serriffe. The two islands, Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse, formed the shape of a semicolon. If that wasn’t enough to raise your suspicions, the part detailing education on the island read: “in addition to the mainstream subjects a San Serriffe teenager may well be offered pearl-diving as an A level choice”.

Defying Gravity: In 1976, renowned astronomer Patrick Moore appeared on BBC Radio 2 and announced that at 9:47am, we would feel what he called the ‘Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect’. He said that at that exact moment, the planets would align and gravity on Earth would get a tiny bit weaker, so if you jumped in the air at exactly the right moment, you would almost float. Evidently this was a load of rubbish, but it doesn’t stop the pseudo-science from being recirculated every so often by people who fall for it.

Big Ben Becomes Digital Dave: In 1980, the BBC Overseas Service (now called the World Service) tried to convince the world that it would change to electronic beeps. They announced to listeners that not only was the iconic clock face going digital, but that the first people to get in touch could win the hands of the clock. Unfortunately, this did not go down as well as they’d hoped and the BBC was apologising for weeks after the joke was made. Some people just clearly didn’t see the funny side!


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