20 of the Best April Fools' Day Pranks and Hoaxes of All Time
20 of the Best April Fools’ Day Pranks and Hoaxes of All Time

20 of the Best April Fools’ Day Pranks and Hoaxes of All Time

Larry Holzwarth - April 1, 2019

20 of the Best April Fools’ Day Pranks and Hoaxes of All Time
London’s iconic Big Ben has often been the subject of April Fools’ Day hoaxes. Wikimedia

20 London’s Big Ben converted to digital, April 1, 1980

Once again, in 1980 the BBC perpetrated a hoax in celebration of April Fools’ Day which bemused some and outraged others. Clocks and watches with digital faces rather than traditional dials were all the rage in the late 1970s and early 1980s. On April 1, the BBC reported that in accordance with the times the famed London hallmark, Big Ben, would be equipped with a digital face replacing its dial. The report included much of the history of what is arguably the world’s most famous clock, and closed with the announcement that the hands would be given away to listeners on a first come, first served basis. Calls from around the world began immediately, hoping to obtain a relic of the clock.

Not all of the calls were about gaining one of the clock’s hands. The British public was outraged at the idea. The volume of calls and the anger expressed in them forced the network to issue a statement that the entire report had been an April Fools’ Day joke. That announcement merely increased the numbers of calls into the BBC, from viewers and listeners who did not find the joke the least bit funny. The BBC issued several apologies for the gaffe. The joke has been repeated over the years by British tabloids and magazines, with reasons for the conversion given as an effort to boost tourism and the need to upgrade the clock, but never with the overwhelmingly negative reaction expressed in 1980, which gives an indication of the credibility the BBC held with the public at the time.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The Curious Case of Sidd Finch”. George Plimpton, Sports Illustrated. April 1, 1985

“1957: BBC fools the nation”. On This Day, April 1. BBC Online.

“Top ten April Fools’ day pranks that people fell for”. Sorcha Pollak, Irish Times. April 1, 2015

“Planetary Alignment – 1976”. Dan Fletcher, TIME Magazine. April 1, 2011

“Lung powered flying machine”. The Museum of Hoaxes. Online

“7 of the Best Food Pranks in April Fools’ Day History”. Noah Kaufman, Food and Wine. March 31, 2015. Online

“The Hawaiian Tax Refund (1954)”. Entry, The Museum of Hoaxes. Online

“4 Far-Out Space Hoaxes for April Fools’ Day”. Becky Little, National Geographic. March 31, 2016

“The Hoax That Claimed Thomas Edison Could Turn Dirt Into Food”. Anne Ewbank, Atlas Obscura. March 28, 2018

“April Fools! The top pranks, hoaxes, and hijinks in sports”. Lafe Peavler, Deseret News. March 31, 2015

“Brides for Liechtenstein”. The Museum of Hoaxes. Online

“15 Best April Fools’ Day Hoaxes”. David Morgan, CBS News. April 1, 2012. Online

“The Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time”. Hoaxes.org. Online

“BMW’s April Fools’ Hoaxes”. The Museum of Hoaxes. Online

“A Martian in the USA”. The Museum of Hoaxes. Online

“Lard from live pigs”. The Museum of Hoaxes. Online

“Apple IIe Reference Manual”. Apple Computer. 1982

“Contra Polar Energy: In keeping with the first day of April”. Popular Electronics Magazine. April, 1955

“Sixty years of April Fools’ on the BBC”. BBC News, March 31, 2017