The media has a long tradition of April Fool’s stories that have gone viral…long before that term even existed.Despite the fact the holiday has been around, according to some, since antiquity, people still seem to forget.
Or perhaps they just like to be fooled and shocked — and generally believe what they see because it’s been printed, broadcasted, and posted around the world.
The classic April Fool's media story. The German magazine Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung ran this photo in 1934 with a joke story about a flying machine propelled by human lung power. The photo appeared as factual news in many American papers, including in the New York Times, after the International News Photo wire service mistakenly distributed the image as real.
Considered the first distribution of April Fool's pranks on television, BBC news show Panorama played a short segment about a 'spaghetti harvest' in southern Switzerland in 1957, with the crop's success attributed to the 'virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.' Hundreds of viewers called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree.
In 1976 on BBC Radio 2, British astronomer Patrick Moore announced that at exactly 9:47 a.m. the then-planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, and the alignment of the planets would counteract the Earth's own gravity and make people weigh less for a short period -- he told viewers to jump in the air to feel the sensation. Hundreds of calls poured in, some confirming the fake phenomenon, including one who claimed to have hit her head on the ceiling.
The morning of April 1, 1992 NPR's Talk of the Nation program announced that Richard Nixon was running for President again, under the new slogan 'I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again.' The show also played audio clips of Nixon announcing his run, performed by famed Nixon impressionist Rich Little. Hundreds of outraged listeners called the show in protest.
On April 1, 1996 Taco Bell took out a full-page ad in The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, Washington Post, and several other national newspapers, to announce they had bought the Liberty Bell to reduce the country's national debt. Before the afternoon thousands of people had already protested the renamed 'Taco Liberty Bell.'
On April 1, 2008 the BBC released a video starring Terry Jones -- the former member of Monty Python who has narrated numerous documentaries -- introducing a breed of Antarctic penguins who could fly. The video appeared on the websites of the Telegraph and the Daily Mirror, and then spread around the world.
Brilliantly engineered, the video was created to promote the new BBC iPlayer. Check it out below.
In 2008 YouTube pranked the world by RickRolling --the practice of fooling an online reader into clicking supposedly legitimate link which then directs the browser to a video of Rick Astley's hit song Never Gonna Give You Up -- all of its feature videos on April 1.
Last year music industry guru Bob Lefsetz announced on his blog that Apple was going to buy the financially stricken music label EMI -- the group owns the rights to Apple Music, the Beatles's music label. The news began to spread rapidly throughout the world, until everyone realised what day it was.
April Fool's has always been a big deal at Google, and last year on April 1, the homepage claimed that the company was changing its name to Topeka. Naturally, it was just a reference to a story about how the mayor of Topeka, Kansas, Bill Bunten, changed the city's name as part of a Google technology sponsorship program.
'We are very proud of our city and Topeka is an Indian word which means 'a good place to grow potatoes.' We're not going to change that,' Bunten later said.
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