April 1 – All Fools’ Day – is enjoyed around the world with pranks and hoaxes. It’s origins are lost in history, but it’s still very popular, especially with the media.
Swiss farmers enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop
One has to be careful on that day because whatever you read in the newspaper, see on TV or hear on the radio might just be an April Fool’s joke.
One of the most famous April 1 hoaxes in the UK occurred in 1957, when the highly acclaimed BBC TV program Panorama announced that, thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees.
Man flies by own lung power
I recall watching the program as a ten year old. Huge numbers of viewers – me included – believed the story.
April Fools’ jokes in the media have been around for many years. On April 1 1934, many American newspapers printed a photograph of a man flying through the air by means of a device powered only by the breath from his lungs.
Tesco's whistling carrots
Accompanying articles excitedly described this miraculous new invention. The man, identified as German pilot Erich Kocher, blew into a box on his chest. This activated rotors that created a powerful suction effect, lifting him aloft. Skis on his feet served as landing gear, and a tail fin allowed him to steer.
What the American papers didn’t realize was that the ‘lung-power motor’ was an April Fools’ joke.
On April 1, 1965 Politiken, a Copenhagen newspaper, reported that the Danish parliament had passed a new law requiring all dogs to be painted white. The purpose of this, it explained, was to increase road safety by allowing dogs to be seen more easily at night.
On the same day in Britain, BBC TV featured an interview with a professor who had just invented a device called “smellovision.” This miraculous technology allowed viewers to experience directly in their own home aromas produced in the television studio.
The professor offered a demonstration by cutting some onions and brewing coffee. A number of viewers called in to confirm that they distinctly experienced these scents as if they were there in the studio with him. Since no aromas were being transmitted, whatever these viewers thought they smelled coming out of their TV sets must be chalked up to the power of suggestion.
And on April 1, 2002 British supermarket chain Tesco published an advertisement announcing the successful development of a genetically modified ‘whistling carrot.’ The ad explained that the carrots had been specially engineered to grow with tapered air holes in their side. When fully cooked, these air holes caused the vegetable to whistle.
April 1, 2013 is a year away. Plenty of time for us all to prepare a few April Fool pranks.