Some of the best April Fools' Day pranks in history

No one can really decide where April Fools' Day comes from, but one thing we can all agree on is that it’s hilarious to prank your mates on the 1 April.

Some people and organisations have managed to fool not only their friends, but whole countries. Here’s our breakdown of some of the funniest and most ambitious April Fools' Day pranks ever carried out.

The Swiss spaghetti harvest

In the programme, they explained that the uniform length of spaghetti was down to years of skilled harvesting.

No list of April Fools could miss this Panorama stunt from 1957.

Richard Dimbleby anchored the piece about a particularly bountiful crop of spaghetti in Switzerland.

This was in part due to the disappearance of the pesky spaghetti weevil, according to the report.

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 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”.

You wouldn’t be alone in wondering: “how do we sign up to go to school there?”!

Defying gravity

This prank was out of this world.

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.

This one would have made lots of people look very silly.

Pi in the sky

Do you find the value of pi impossible to remember? Well then, this one’s for you.

In 1998, news circulated that the state of Alabama was to pass a law that would redefine pi to the ‘Biblical value’ of 3, and it made people furious.

When people started to write in to the Alabama state department to ask why they would do such a thing, it was revealed that physicist Mark Boslough (renowned for his humorous takes on science education) had started the rumour as an April Fools prank.

Big Ben becomes Digital Dave

Could they install a snooze button as well?

Due to ongoing renovations, it’s been a while since we’ve heard the bongs of Big Ben. However, it’s been even longer since the BBC Overseas Service (now called the World Service) tried to convince the world that it would change to electronic beeps.

In 1980, 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!

Join the conversation!

What are some of your favourite April Fool's Day pranks? Tweet us @BBCBitesize, or use the hashtag #BBCBitesize.

This article was published in April 2019

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