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APRIL FOOLS BEST FOOLS OF ALL-TIME

SIDD FINCH

The April 1985 issue of Sports Illustrated revealed that the New York Mets had recruited a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a baseball at 168 mph — 65 mph faster than the previous record. Surprisingly, Sidd Finch had never played baseball before, but he had mastered the "art of the pitch" in a Tibetan monastery. Mets fans couldn't believe their good luck and, accepting at face value the peculiarities of Sidd Finch's past, flooded Sports Illustrated with requests for more information. But in reality this amazing player only existed in the imagination of author George Plimpton, who had left a clue in the sub-heading of the article: "He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga —and his future in baseball." The first letter of each of these words, taken together, spelled "H-a-p-p-y A-p-r-i-l F-o-o-l-s D-a-y — A-h F-i-b".

UFO LANDS IN LONDON

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.

 THE LEFT HANDED WOPPER

April 1, 1998: Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a "Left-Handed Whopper" specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, "many others requested their own 'right handed' version." Left-handed products of various kinds are actually an old joke on April first, but Burger King's announcement quickly became, by far, the most famous version of the joke

NEW ZEALND WASP SWARM

April 1, 1949: New Zealand DJ Phil Shone (of radio station 1ZB) warned his listeners that a mile-wide wasp swarm was headed towards Auckland, and he urged them to take steps to protect themselves, such as wearing their socks over their trousers when they left for work, and leaving honey-smeared traps outside their doors. Auckland residents dutifully heeded his advice, and panic grew until he finally admitted it had all been a joke. The New Zealand Broadcasting Service wasn't amused. Its director, Prof. James Shelley, denounced the hoax on the grounds that it undermined the rules of proper broadcasting. From then on, a memo was sent out each year before April Fool's Day reminding New Zealand radio stations of their obligation to report nothing but the truth.

NORWEIGIAN WINE SURPLUS

April 1, 1950: Aftenposten, Norway's largest newspaper, announced on its front page that the government-owned Wine Monopoly (Vinmonopolet) had received a large shipment of wine in barrels, but it had run out of bottles. To get rid of the extra wine, the stores were running a one-day bargain sale, offering wine at 75% off and tax-free. The catch was that buyers had to bring their own containers to put the wine in. "Buckets, pitchers, and the like" were recommended. When the Vinmonopolets opened at 10 a.m., Norwegian wine lovers rushed to line up, forming long queues that stretched around the block. According to legend, numerous empty buckets were later seen lying in the streets, left there by people who had realized, while standing in line, that the sale was a hoax.

MAN FLIES BY THE POWER OF HIS LUNGS

In April 1934, many American newspapers (including The New York Times) printed a photograph of a man flying through the air by means of a device powered only by the breath from his lungs. Accompanying articles excitedly described this miraculous new invention. The man, identified as German pilot Erich Kocher, blew into a box on his chest and 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 a joke. The photo had first appeared in the April Fool's Day edition of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. It made its way to America thanks to Hearst's International News Photo agency which not only fell for the hoax but also distributed it to all its U.S. subscribers. In the original article, the pilot's name was spelled "Erich Koycher," which was a pun on the German word "keuchen," meaning to puff or wheeze.

ALABAMA CHANGES THE POWER OF PI

The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. Soon the article made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly spread around the world, forwarded by email. It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. The original article, which was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was written by physicist Mark Boslough.

SPACE NEEDLE COLLAPSES

April 1, 1989: Seattle's "Almost Live" comedy show started their program with a news flash: the Seattle Space Needle had collapsed. A reporter presented the news, and then several shots of the Space Needle lying on its side in a pile of rubble were shown. The show's host, John Keister, appeared after a commercial break and assured viewers the announcement had only been a joke. Nevertheless, thousands of people were fooled. Staff at the Space Needle reported receiving over 700 calls from concerned viewers, and 911 lines jammed from the sudden rush of calls from people seeking more information. The false report remains infamous in Seattle to this day.

26 DAY MARATHON

April 1, 1981: The Daily Mail ran a story about an unfortunate Japanese long-distance runner, Kimo Nakajimi, who had entered the London Marathon but, on account of a translation error, thought that he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. Nakajimi was reported to be somewhere out on the roads of England, still running, determined to finish the race. Various people had spotted him, though they were unable to flag him down. The translation error was attributed to Timothy Bryant, an import director, who said, "I translated the rules and sent them off to him. But I have only been learning Japanese for two years, and I must have made a mistake. He seems to be taking this marathon to be something like the very long races they have over there."

THOMAS EDISON INVENTS FOOD MACHINE

April 1, 1878: After Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, Americans firmly believed that there were no limits to his genius. So when the New York Graphic announced on this day that Edison had invented a machine that could transform soil directly into cereal and water directly into wine, thereby ending the problem of world hunger, it found no shortage of willing believers. Newspapers throughout America copied the article, heaping lavish praise on Edison. The conservative Buffalo Commercial Advertiser was particularly effusive in its praise, waxing eloquent about Edison's brilliance in a long editorial. The Graphic subsequently took the liberty of reprinting the Advertiser's editorial in full, placing above it a simple, two-word headline: "They Bite!"

RAIN DEFELCTING OPEN TOP CAR

April 1, 1983: BMW's UK division ran an ad in British papers revealing that one of its engineers, Herr Blöhn, had designed a sunroof that could be kept open even in the rain, thanks to jets of air that blasted the water away from the top of the car. The system worked completely automatically, even in a car wash. Those seeking more information were directed to query "Miss April Wurst" in the BMW marketing department. The ad was the start of a long tradition of the company creating spoof ads every April 1st. In fact, BMW has been creating April Fool ads longer and more consistently than any other company that we're aware of, and the success of their ads played a large role in convincing other companies to run spoof ads on the first of April. This practice has now become so widespread that many companies say they feel compelled to create spoof ads for April 1, lest their customers think they lack a sense of humor.