April Fool’s Day has become something of a modern challenge to pranksters of the world. For as long as the day has existed, mischief makers have sought to have a little fun in bigger and better ways. As technology improves and people get more daring and more creative, the pranks become harder to detect and fool more and more people.
So from crops of spaghetti to UFOs to an iceberg driven all the way down to Sydney Harbor, here are some of the greatest pranks of the 20th century.
It was April 1, 1957 when the British news show Panorama decided it was time to play a joke on the entire world. The show featured a 3 minute segment in which the show’s highly respected anchor Richard Dimbleby spoke about the very successful spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. He announced that the disappearance of the spaghetti weevil and a mild winter led to a huge bumper crop. The report also featured video of people harvesting spaghetti noodles from trees and placing them into baskets. The prank worked and hundreds phoned the BBC asking where they could get their own spaghetti tree.
The idea for the prank was hatched by Charles de Jaeger who was a cameraman for Panorama. He had a reputation for being a bit of a practical joker so it is not surprising that he is behind the very first instance of television being used for a practical joke. At the time Charles de Jaeger was set to be filming in Switzerland anyway so he could combine travel expenses.
After pitching the idea, it was approved and he was given a budget £100. During his March trip to Switzerland he purchased 20 pounds of uncooked spaghetti. He found that the best way to make it hang from the trees was to keep it uncooked and pressed between wet cloths until they were ready to hang and film.
He then hired local girls in national dress to harvest the crop, place them into wicker baskets and then lay them in the sun to dry. He also had a huge spaghetti feast afterward for his actors which he also filmed. The whole bit was sent to London, edited and then shown on the most respected news program in Britain. The BBC did release a statement about the joke that evening but calls requesting spaghetti trees continued to pour in. Frustrated BBC operators finally just said “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”