Three Great April Fool’s Day Pranks

1. The great spaghetti harvest

In 1957, the BBC pulled off what still ranks as one of the most famous April Fool’s Day gags of all time. Eight million people tuned in to watch Panorama’s three-minute feature on the ‘Swiss spaghetti harvest’. After an unseasonably warm winter brought an end to their dreadful spaghetti weevil pest control issue, the region of Ticino near the Italian border was said to have yielded an ‘exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop’. The footage showed people picking strands of spaghetti off trees and bushes before tucking into their home-grown feast. The prank occurred long before pasta became a staple in the average British diet, making the audience ripe for the picking. When viewers phoned in to find out how they could purchase their own spaghetti trees, the BBC told them to ‘place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best’.

2. Big Ben goes digital

In 1980, the BBC World Service announced that London’s most famous landmark was getting a facelift. The broadcaster told listeners that, to help tourists tell the time, the Big Ben clocktower would be going digital, and would henceforth be known as ‘Digital Dave’. The new and improved monument wouldn’t just tell the time – it would also issue a five-minute news bulletin every night. On top of that, the iconic bongs would be replaced with beeps. While some listeners clocked that this was an April Fool’s jest, many others rang in to express their outrage. A BBC spokesperson commented: ‘Surprisingly, few people thought it was funny.’

3. The incredible colour television hack

In 1962, years before colour television was rolled out in Sweden, viewers of Sveriges Television were tricked into believing they could transform their black and white screens with an easy DIY hack. Kjell Stensson, a ‘technical expert’, went into intricate detail on how stretching a mesh sheet over their screens could bend the light’s wavelengths, allowing viewers to see in full technicolour. Luckily, this could be easily achieved with an item found in many homes: nylon stockings. As it was the only TV network in Sweden at the time, enjoying the trust of the population, thousands of people fell for it.

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