Happy April Fool’s day, loyal readers! Today, I have successfully been duped at least three times, and due to my early-spring foolishness, I’ve decided to commemorate this occasion by bringing to you some of the best pranks in history that really duped a lot of people. That way, we can all laugh together at those silly historical fools. So without much further ado, I bring you…
#3. New planet discovered, named “Bob”
In the spring of 2002, NASA scientists pranked the general public by sending out a press release touting the discovery of a new planet in the space zone just beyond the Kuiper belt. The planet was presented as having “earth-like qualities, which could indicate habitability.” What really go the attention of the general public, however, was the apparent decision by the agency to name the planet, “Bob”, saying that the new name was reached at by “submitting a resolution to the US Congress to name the new planet after NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe’s dog. The resolution passed the House and Senate and was signed by President George W. Bush” The contact who was listed on the release was Jack Hudgins, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. NASA later reported that Hudgins’ office was inundated with calls from citizens expressing concern about the choice of name and process by which it was conceived.
Eventually NASA revealed the story as a hoax, to the great disappointment of all the fans of “Bob”.
#2. Town to be demolished for experimental “forest” resort
In 1988, Westward Television of Oregon announced that the small town of Snowhill, Oregon (population 1,472) had just lost a settlement with the state’s Supreme Court that would now allow for the small town to be demolished and for a multi-million dollar “forest” resort to be built in its place. The TV station reported that the residents would be relocated and compensated for their property, but also criticized the court’s decision, saying that observers said the judge may have been bribed.
Naturally, Oregonians were horrified and the TV station received thousands of letters and phone calls expressing outrage at the decision and support for the residents of Snowhill. The problem? The TV station made the whole thing up, including the name of the town. Even after the admission was made on air, the station still continued to receive letters from unconvinced Oregonians about the planned demolition of “Snowhill”.
#1. Evidence found of a saber-toothed flamingo, scientists in disbelief
This is clearly the most ridiculous of the April Fool’s pranks that I found, and it’s amazing that people actually believed it, but they did. This one was from 1974, which was the same year the famous skeleton “Lucy” was discovered, which was seen as a big boost for evolutionary science. Perhaps that helped people swallow this big whopper.
BBC News reported that scientists had discovered a new species of bird in the Cirta archaeological site in Algeria, thought to be an ancient relative of the flamingo. The report went on to say that scientists had to completely rethink their history of how birds evolved, as this discovery seemed to indicate that birds once had teeth. And not just teeth, but this particular species was thought to have had large frontal tusks, much like the saber-toothed tiger. Appropriately, the bird was nicknamed “the saber-toothed flamingo”.
The report cited the famous British archaeologist Mary Leakey as saying, “I’m absolutely speechless. Something like this is just completely outside the realm of possibility, but here it is, and with this evidence, the only choice we have is just to completely rethink the evolution of avian species in Northern Africa and beyond. I’m just speechless; it’s dumbfounding.”
The news service received hundreds of incredulous readers calling and writing in to express their astonishment. BBC kept up the ruse for a solid day before revealing it all as a hoax. Mary Leakey, when she discovered that she had been quoted in the fake article, jokingly said, “Well, I should certainly hope people realize I would never really anything ridiculous like that. Bravo, BBC News.”
That’s all folks! If you figured out that I made up every single one of those stories, good job! Let me know when you figured it out, because indeed, not a single one of these is true. 🙂 Happy April Fool’s Day!