2. The spaghetti harvest in Switzerland, April 1, 1957
In 1957 the British Broadcasting Corporation ran a segment on their popular television program Panorama, presented by the widely respected newsman, called a presenter in the UK, Richard Dimbleby. The three minute segment depicted spaghetti being harvested from the trees on which it had been grown in Switzerland. The report described a bumper crop of Swiss spaghetti, in part because the Swiss government had successfully eradicated the spaghetti weevil. Footage of an annual spaghetti harvest festival was included in the segment. Dimbleby’s deadpan voice-over and his reputation as a newsman gave the segment the air of authenticity, and over eight million Britons watched the program.
How many of them were fooled is unknown, but the BBC received hundreds of telephone calls in the aftermath, many of them asking how they could successfully grow their own spaghetti. Spaghetti was a recently introduced food in the UK in the late 1950s, usually purchased already prepared in tomato sauce in cans, which the British refer to as tins. It was considered somewhat exotic, even in that less than delicious presentation. Callers were told to try to seed their spaghetti in tomato sauce. Decades later the spaghetti hoax was described by CNN as one of the greatest ever pulled by a professional news organization, no matter how unbelievable it seems today.