Hon, pulling pranks on April Fool’s Day may not be a tradition in my house, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a good one. After scouring lists of news reports, advertisements, and videos, I came up with a list of my favorite…
Top Ten April Fool’s Pranks
1) The Tasmanian Mock Walrus, 1984
In 1984, The Orlando Sentinel ran a story about a creature known as the Tasmanian Mock Walrus (or TMW for short) that it said made a perfect pet. The creature was only four inches long, resembled a walrus, purred like a cat, and had the temperament of a hamster. What made it such an ideal pet was that it never had to be bathed, used a litter box, and ate cockroaches. In fact, a single TMW could entirely rid a house of its cockroach problem.
Reportedly, some TMWs had been smuggled in from Tasmania, and there were efforts being made to breed them, but the local pest-control industry, sensing that the TMW posed a threat to its business, was pressuring the government not to allow them in the country. An accompanying photo showed protestors picketing outside the offices of the Orlando city government to call attention to the plight of the TMW. Dozens of people called the paper trying to find out where they could obtain their own TMW.
Skeptics noted that the photo of a TMW accompanying the article showed a creature that looked suspiciously like a mole rat.
2) UFO Lands Near London, 1989
On March 31, 1989, thousands of motorists driving on the highway outside London looked up in the air to see a glowing flying saucer descending on their city. Many of them pulled to the side of the road to watch the bizarre craft float through the air. The saucer finally landed in a field on the outskirts of London where local residents immediately called the police to warn them of an alien invasion. Soon the police arrived on the scene, and one brave officer approached the craft with his truncheon extended before him. When a door in the craft popped open, and a small, silver-suited figure emerged, the policeman ran in the opposite direction.
The saucer turned out to be a hot-air balloon that had been specially built to look like a UFO by Richard Branson, the 36-year-old chairman of Virgin Records. The stunt combined his passion for ballooning with his love of pranks. His plan was to land the craft in London’s Hyde Park on April 1. Unfortunately, the wind blew him off course, and he was forced to land a day early in the wrong location.
3) The Taco Liberty Bell
On April 1, 1996, a full page ad appeared in six major American newspapers (The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and USA Today) announcing that the fast food chain Taco Bell had purchased the Liberty Bell. The full text of the ad read:
Taco Bell Buys The Liberty Bell
In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country’s most historic treasures. It will now be called the “Taco Liberty Bell” and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country’s debt.
Taco Bell’s announcement generated an enormous response. Thousands of worried citizens called both Taco Bell’s headquarters and the National Park Service in Philadelphia to find out if the Bell had really been sold. Elaine Sevy, a Park Service spokeswoman, was quoted as saying, “We were shocked. We had no idea this was happening. We have just been getting hammered with phone calls from the public.”
The Philadelphia branch of the National Park Service arranged a midmorning news conference to assure the public that the Bell had not been sold. “The Liberty Bell is safe. It’s not for sale,” a spokeswoman announced.
In fact, the Bell could not have been sold by the federal government, as the ad implied, because the federal government did not own the Bell. It was the property of the City of Philadelphia.
At noon on April 1st, Taco Bell issued a second press release in which they confessed to the hoax, describing it as “The Best Joke of the Day.” The company also announced that it would donate $50,000 for the upkeep of the Liberty Bell.
Even the White House got in on the joke that same day when press secretary Mike McCurry told reporters that, as part of its ongoing privatization efforts “We’ll be doing a series of these. Ford Motor Co. is joining today in an effort to refurbish the Lincoln Memorial. It will be the Lincoln Mercury Memorial.”
4) Flying Penguins, 2008
The BBC 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.
5) Amazon, 2017
Amazon has created an Alexa-themed joke, with a new “Petlexa” integration, that purports to make your Echo capable of understanding queries from your pets. It mostly just consists of this video, since Amazon (understandably) didn’t build a functional version of this.
Part 2 of the “Top Ten April Fool’s Pranks” will be posted tomorrow. Which one was your favorite so far?
Related Post: Top Ten April Fool’s Pranks, Part 2