There have been some really great April Fools’ Day pranks over the years, in fact, over the centuries! The tradition has been around since the Middle Ages at least. But with modern technology the reach of media pranks today is vast, so the number of people slapping palms against foreheads when realising they’ve been hoaxed has increased exponentially. This April Fools’ Day let’s cast a look back at some of the most successful pranks from delightfully sneaky minds …
Top 10 April Fools’ Day pranks
In this short video clip we are given a round-up of the 10 best pranks over the years, from a BBC report of flying penguins that summer in the jungles of South America to Burger King’s new, “left-handed burger” where all the ingredients are rotated 180 degrees!
Honourable mention: nylon TVs, a modern Big Ben, and the island of Sans Serriffe
There are certain hoaxes that didn’t make the above list, but that we feel are definitely worthy of honourable mention!
Sweden’s first colour TV screens
In the 60s Sweden only had one TV channel, and it was broadcast in black and white. On 1 April 1962 Kjell Stensson, the station’s technical expert, appeared on TV to announce a breakthrough technology that would allow viewers to convert their black-and-white sets into colour ones: they simply needed to pull nylon stocking over the screen.
Stensson explained that it was all to do with the prismatic nature of light and the “double slit interference” phenomenon, and he proceeded to demonstrate how to place stretched nylon over a black-and-white TV set to obtain colour reception. The number of people taken in by the joke? Thousands.
In a nice touch, colour television, when it was finally introduced to the country in 1970, was launched on … 1 April.
Big Ben goes digital
In 1980 the BBC announced that the analogue clock on Big Ben was to be replaced by a digital one, in keeping with the times. The flurry of protests was epic!
A new island in the Indian Ocean
In 1977 the British newspaper The Guardian ran a special seven-page report about a newly discovered nation in the Indian Ocean called San Serriffe. The republic’s two main islands formed the shape of a semi-colon, and were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. The capital was Bodoni, and the people’s leader was General Pica. The report went on to describe the geography and culture of the archipelago.
The hoax was a huge success, with only a few people spotting that all the terminology was named after printers’ lingo.
South African pranks
South Africa has had its fair share of winning April Fools’ jokes, and we’re sure each of you can recall at least one time when you were taken in! Was it the time a shopping complex was going to be built on the Rondebosch Commons? Or when Kulula was developing airplanes that could land on water runways to help alleviate airport congestion and reduce airport taxes? They’re very amusing in retrospect, but these hoaxers are very clever in how they present their case and so often we’re conned at the time! In homage to all the good pranks that have taken place on our own turf, here is one memorable prank from the archives:
Rat fur coats
In 1980 the Johannesburg Star ran an exposé about a ring of local rat furriers who had been selling rat pelts as seal skin, mink and other furs. The report said the police had raided a sewer where they found the furriers breeding a special strain of Irish rats. The public was warned that if their fur coats smelled slightly fishy then they might have been a victim of the fraud. The response was an onslaught of phone calls to furriers by worried customers!