April Fools’ Day pranks can be lighthearted and fun activities on a holiday that encourages comedy and hoaxes.
For years, companies, news outlets, governments and other groups have organized various gags to trick the public on the first of April every year.
The list below contains some of the most well-known and notorious pranks on April Fools’ Day.
- Pasta grows on trees
- Big Ben goes digital
- America loses its gold
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1. Pasta grows on trees
April Fools’ Day in the United Kingdom has a deep history dating back to the 18th century, when it was typically observed through lighthearted tricks for about two days.
One of the most famous April Fools’ pranks to happen in recent decades occurred in 1957 on the BBC daytime television show “Panorama” regarding a group of pasta farmers in Switzerland.
The network ran a report on April Fools’ Day that featured a Swiss family harvesting a record number of spaghetti crops from a purported “spaghetti tree.” In the footage, the farmers discuss how to grow the length of the spaghetti noodle and the necessary farming process for the trees.
Millions of people around Britain watched the report, as the BBC was the biggest broadcaster in the nation at the time.
Hundreds of people called the network asking how to grow their own spaghetti tree.
The BBC did not issue a statement before the three-minute report was released that it was actually a satirical prank for the April holiday.
Many U.K. citizens during this period had limited knowledge of pasta. Therefore, hundreds of people called the network asking how to grow their own spaghetti trees before the BBC clarified it was a prank.
2. Big Ben goes digital
Another infamous gag on April Fools’ Day occurred in the U.K. by the BBC decades later in 1980, when the network reported that Big Ben, the legendary clock tower in the heart of London, would be replaced with a digital clock.
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The report stated that the clock, which hangs over the Palace of Westminster, would transition into a digital readout of the time instead of a typical clock.
The BBC radio report also told listeners they could win the clock hands if they were one of the first four listeners to call into the program.
Overall, this prank was not taken lightly by much of the British public, which views Big Ben as an important historical icon.
The BBC issued an apology shortly after receiving the negative response in the United Kingdom.
3. America loses its gold
One of the most famous pranks that fooled both Americans and Europeans was in April 1905, when the German newspaper, Berliner Tageblatt, published an article about a group of thieves stealing America’s silver and gold from the U.S. Federal Treasury building in Washington, D.C.
The story was important for its time because this was before the federal government had moved the country’s silver and gold storage to Fort Knox, Kentucky.
The newspaper stated that the thieves had dug a massive tunnel over the course of three years under the Treasury building — and were able to steal more than $268 million in gold and silver.
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News of the heist quickly spread across Europe as many believed a nationwide manhunt by U.S. law enforcement was underway to find the thieves.
Readers soon discovered, however, that the story was a hoax when its author used a fake name.