April Fools’ Day is thought to have been celebrated in some form or another since the 16th century and is now celebrated in all corners of the world. Typically this day marks the time to play innocent and fun pranks on family and friends (toothpaste Oreos, anyone?), but over the course of history there have been some rather epic pranks pulled off around the world.
We’ve gathered a list of some of the craziest ones here—enjoy!
- U.S Treasury Robbed in 1905
You’re probably thinking “I don’t recall ever learning about a robbery at the U.S. Treasury in history class” and you’d be right! But in 1905 a German newspaper thought it would shake things up on April 1 by sharing an article that all the gold and silver had been stolen from the Treasury. What they didn’t expect was for the story to take off across Europe with many people believing it had actually happened. Due to the slow spread of information back then it took months for people to learn that the article had all been a hoax. Over time people realized that the U.S. Treasury and its treasures were safe and sound.
- The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest of 1957
This pranks marked one of the first times television was used to spread an April Fools’ Day prank to the masses. The BBC’s well-respected news show “Panorama” ended its April 1 broadcast with a story on that year’s successful Swiss spaghetti harvest, which was possible thanks to mild winter weather and the eradication of the (fictional) spaghetti weevil bug. The television station thought it would be fairly obvious this was a tongue-in-cheek segment, so they were surprised by the flood of phone calls they got from people across Great Britain asking how they could grow their own spaghetti! BBC telephone operators came up with an appropriately whimsical response to these inquiries: “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
- Bringing Back the Woolly Mammoth in 1984
Everyone can conjure up an image of a woolly mammoth—it’s a common image for anyone who’s learned about the Ice Age. It is also common knowledge that these animals went extinct millennia ago. So when an MIT Technology Review thought of celebrating April Fools’ Day by sharing an article about scientists planning to resurrect the woolly mammoth they were wholly unprepared for the story being picked up by the Chicago Tribune and other
well respectednews sources as if it were scientific fact. It took a few days for the other news outlets to realize theymistake and publish corrections—dashing the hopes of any woolly mammoth fans.
- The Liberty Bell Gets a New Owner is 1996
There are few historical landmarks as famed as Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, so it should come as no surprise that when Taco Bell released a full-page ad
stating theyhad purchased the piece of American history people were less than thrilled. The ad claimed they had made the purchase and going forward its name would be the “Taco Liberty Bell.” Workers at the national park that housed the Liberty Bell had to field numerous phone calls from confused and downright angry citizens who couldn’t believe it was sold. While it didn’t take long for unsuspecting lovers of American History to realize it was all an elaborate prank, this did mark the first time a company strayed into the pranking territory with its April Fools’ advertising.
- NPR Stirs Up Some Literary Drama in 2014
In the most recent of well-known April Fools’ pranks, National Public Radio (NPR) decided to get a little cheeky with its readers by sharing an article titled “Why doesn’t America read anymore?” on April Fools’ Day. Those who actually clicked on the article were greeted with this short and sweet note:
Like NPR suspected the comments rolled in quickly with many people incensed at the suggestion Americans no longer read. Some went so far as to share just how many books they read in any given week or month. To this day there are probably many commenters still unaware of the article’s true contents.
Have you heard of any other great April Fools’ Day pranks we missed here? If so feel free to share!