10 Greatest April Fools’ Day Hoaxes

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1Alabama State changing the value of Pi

The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. Soon the article made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly spread around the world, forwarded by email. It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. The original article, which was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was written by physicist Mark Boslough.

2Taco Bell buying the Liberty Bell

In 1996, Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to "reduce the country's debt" and renamed it the "Taco Liberty Bell." Hundreds of outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell was housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed, a few hours later, that it was all a practical joke. When asked about the sale, White House press secretary Mike McCurry replied tongue-in-cheek that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would henceforth be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

3Tower of Pisa falling over

Dutch television news reported in 1960 that the Tower of Pisa had fallen over. Many shocked people contacted the station.

4The Guardian switching to Twitter publication

On April 1, 2009, British newspaper The Guardian and the alternative-weekly Mountain Xpress in Asheville, N.C. announced that they were dropping their print editions and would publish exclusively via Twitter. According to the newspaper, all news would be 140 characters long.

5Big Ben becoming digital

In 1980, the BBC reported that the Big Ben, in order to keep up with the times, was going to be given a digital readout. The announcement received a huge response from listeners shocked and angered by the proposed change. The BBC Japanese service also announced that the clock hands would be sold to the first four listeners to contact them. One Japanese seaman in the mid-Atlantic immediately radioed in a bid.

6BK launching a left-handed Whopper

In 1998, Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a "Left-Handed Whopper" specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, "many others requested their own 'right handed' version."

7The flying penguins

In 2008, The BBC together with the Telegraph announced that camera crews filming near the Antarctic for its natural history series Miracles of Evolution had captured footage of Adélie penguins taking to the air. It even offered a video clip of these flying penguins, which became one of the most viewed videos on the internet. Presenter Terry Jones explained that, instead of huddling together to endure the Antarctic winter, these penguins took to the air and flew thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America where they "spend the winter basking in the tropical sun." A follow-up video explained how the BBC created the special effects of the flying penguins.

8The Eiffel Tower being moved to Euro Disney Park

In 1986 thousands of French citizens were outraged after The Parisien reported that an agreement had been signed to dismantle the Eiffel Tower and have it reconstructed in the Euro Disney theme park. In the space where the Tower used to stand, a 35,000 seat stadium would be built for use during the 1992 Olympic Games.

9The stretching surgery of French President Sarkozy

In 2008, the French first couple inspired a spoof for The Sun newspaper, which told how Nicolas Sarkozy was to undergo stretching treatment to add five inches to his height. The technique involved was said to have been developed on guinea pigs by Israeli academic Professor Ura Schmuck, while the paper also quoted French spokesman Luc Bigger, who said Sarkozy would have the treatment at the Poisson d'Avril centre in Geneva.

10The eruption of the Great Blue Hill in Massachusetts

In 1980, the Channel 7 news in Boston ended with a special bulletin announcing that a 635-foot hill in Milton, Massachusetts, known as the Great Blue Hill, had erupted, and that lava and ash were raining down on nearby homes. Footage was shown of lava pouring down a hillside. The announcer explained that the eruption had been triggered by a geological chain reaction set off by the recent eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington. An audio tape was played in which President Carter and the Governor of Massachusetts were heard declaring the eruption to be a "serious situation." At the end of the segment, the reporter held up a sign that read "April Fool." However, by that time local authorities had already been flooded with frantic phone calls from Milton residents. One man, believing that his house would soon be engulfed by lava, had carried his sick wife outside in order to escape. The Milton police continued to receive worried phone calls well into the night. Channel 7 was so embarrassed by the panicked reaction that they apologized for the confusion later that night, and Homer Cilley, the executive producer responsible for the prank, was fired.