1. OPRAH WINFREY ADDED TO THE HOLY TRINITY
On April Fools Day 2004, Belief.net duped believers all across the globe by announcing that a consortium of world religious leaders had deemed the loquacious talk-show maven Oprah Winfrey as “co-equal with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”:
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 1 — Oprah Winfrey has been declared the fourth person of the Trinity, according to an astonishing new theological agreement hammered out by the world’s major Christian denominations. Along with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the popular talk show host will be recognized as one person in the sacred and indivisible unity of the Godhead–or Quadhead, as the updated Trinity will now be called….
“Christianity must overcome its sexism and racism or die,” says Episcopalian bishop and author John Shelby Spong. “The revelation that an African-American woman is co-eternal and co-equal with God the Father, uncreated and omnipotent, is something all modern Christians need to hear–and embrace.”
The fake news article noted that Oprah had higher TV ratings “than most other spiritual leaders.” It’s undeniably true that in most countries across the world, people can more easily identify Oprah’s face than that of God the Father, son, or—especially—the Holy Spirit.
2. VIAGRA FOR HAMSTERS
England’s Independent ran a hoax story on April 1, 2000 with the headline “Scientists develop wonder pill to boost libido of sexually inadequate pets.”
“It’s not unknown for a guinea pig to sit in its cage thinking, ‘I haven’t had sex for months. Am I so unattractive?'”
The story claimed that the new Boner Pill for Pets was being sold under the brand name “Feralmone” and should be administered by sprinkling it into your pet’s food. But alas, it was only an April Fools prank and house pets nationwide were forced to continue suffering the shame, agony, social ostracism, and endless Facebook defriending that accompany persistent erectile dysfunction.
3. WHY DOESN’T AMERICA READ ANYMORE?
On 4/1/14, NPR News posted a link on its Facebook page to an article titled “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?” The link generated 1.7K comments on Facebook. It quickly became evident that many commenters hadn’t bothered to actually read the article, which is reprinted here in its entirety:
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,
Your friends at NPR
4. TEXAS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES HONORS THE BOSTON STRANGLER
On April Fools Day 1971, the Texas House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution honoring Albert DeSalvo, AKA “The Boston Strangler” who had murdered thirteen women in the 1960s. The resolution stated that DeSalvo had been “officially recognized by the state of Massachusetts for his noted activities and unconventional techniques involving population control and applied psychology.” A pair of state representatives had submitted the bogus bill and said they did it to prove that “No one reads these bills or resolutions.”
5. THE MICHIGAN SHARK EXPERIMENT
In 1981, the Herald-News in Roscommon, MI reported that the federal government had allocated $1.3 million to release two thousand sharks into three northern Michigan lakes in order to perform “an in-depth study into the breeding and habits of several species of fresh-water sharks.” A spokesman for the nonexistent National Biological Foundation dismissed reported fears expressed by local fishermen and swimmers by stating:
We can’t be responsible for people if they are attacked. Besides, anyone foolish enough to believe all this deserves to be eaten.
6. THE SWISS SPAGHETTI TREES
In 1957, the BBC ran a hoax segment on a show called Panorama depicting video footage of Swiss peasants allegedly harvesting limp spaghetti strands from trees. It claimed that a mild winter and a near total annihilation of the “spaghetti weevil” had led to a larger than average crop of the famous and beloved pasta. The BBC was deluged with requests from viewers who wanted to know how they can grow their own spaghetti tree. The BBC’s stock answer was, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.” CNN refers to this prank as “the biggest hoax any reputable news establishment ever pulled.”
7. THE WASHING OF THE LIONS
According to the Museum of Hoaxes, the earliest recorded April Fools prank was in 1698. Rumors were spread throughout London that the ritual “Washing of the Lions” would occur at the Tower of London on April 1. Several curious Britons showed up, only to see neither lions nor washing. On April 2, 1698, a publication called Dawks’s News-Letter reported that “Yesterday being the first of April, several persons were sent to the Tower Ditch to see the Lions washed.” This hoax was repeated for years, as is evidenced by a fraudulent invitation from 1857 that reads, “Please to Admit the Bearer and friend, to view the ANNUAL CEREMONY OF WASHING THE LIONS on Wednesday, April 1st, 1857.”
8. THE STINGLESS BEE
A full-page article in The Washington Post from 1924 announced that a Washington State beekeeper named E. J. Campbell would be displaying his genetically modified “stingless bee” that he’d developed from a strain of “industrious but peevish” bees. Mr. Campbell claimed that his new breed of honeybee would fly away if attacked and also made a terrific playmate for kids. After being showered with inquiries from beekeepers across North America, Campbell revealed it was only an April Fools prank.
9. ‘Chicago Invaded by Hordes of Prehistoric Monsters Dealing Death and Destruction’
That was the headline for a two-page spread in the Chicago Tribune from April 1, 1906. The article claimed the prehistoric beasts had originated from “Atlantis,” and the photo spread was replete with wonderfully cheesy digitally retouched pics of brontosauruses and pterodactyls wreaking holy hell upon the Windy City.
10. TWITTER DOWNSIZES TO 133 CHARACTERS
In 2012, a Tweet from NPR News announced that “Tweets Will Shrink To 133 Characters: The seven-character change is expected to save Twitter $1.4 billion this year.” After revealing the prank, NPR said that other April Fools ideas they’d rejected included “Facebook Adds ‘Meh’ Button” and “Penguin Brawls Reported From Shrinking North Pole.”
11. THE ‘GOOGLE GULP’
The digital oligarchs at Google have pulled multiple April Fools pranks nearly every year since 2000. One shining example was 2005’s “Google Gulp,” a soft drink that would facilitate one’s search-engine experience by increasing the intelligence of whomever imbibed Google’s new beverage, which came in flavors such as Glutamate Grape, Beta-Carroty, and Sero-Tonic Water. Anyone who fell for the prank unwittingly revealed that they would benefit from having their intelligence increased.
12. WYOMING LEGALIZES MARIJUANA
On April 1, 1977, the Cheyenne Star-Gazette ran a hoax article claiming that the Wyoming State Legislature had legalized the possession of under one ounce of marijuana for personal use. Lawsuits from people subsequently arrested for marijuana possession eventually drove the paper to declare bankruptcy.
13. THE LEFT-HANDED WHOPPER
On April 1, 1998, Burger King took out a full-page ad in USA Today claiming that they were releasing a “Left-Handed Whopper” to enhance the fast-food dining experience of the 32 million or so of us—like me—who are left-handed. The new Whopper was exactly like the regular Whopper, only it had been “rotated 180 degrees” to accommodate the unique gustatory needs of lefties. Similar April Fools pranks include a left-handed Mars bar, a left-handed Toshiba notebook, a left-handed cellphone, and a left-handed golf ball.