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Historic April Fools

April 1, 2016

It’s not unusual to find odd-but-true stories in the news these days. But if the date of the article is April 1, you might want to think twice before assuming it’s true.
1st of April Calendar

In 1959…

The Indiana Kokomo Tribune announced that due to budget cuts, the city police department would now be closing each night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Anyone who called the police after hours would have to leave a message on the answering machine, and in the morning a police officer would listen to the messages. “We will check the hospitals and the coroner, and if they don’t have any trouble, we will know that nothing happened,” the paper quoted a police department spokesperson as saying.

In 1980…

The BBC broadcast a report that London’s Big Ben was going to be remade into a digital clock and the clock hands would be offered for sale to the first listeners who called in. “Surprisingly, few people thought it was funny,” a BBC spokesman told reporters.

In 1981…

  • The Herald-News in Roscommon, Michigan, printed a warning that scientists were preparing to release 2,000 “freshwater sharks” into three area lakes as part of a government-funded study.
  • England’s Daily Mail newspaper published a story about a Japanese entrant in the London Marathon named Kimo Nakajimi who, thanks to an error in translation, thought he had to run for 26 days—not 26 miles. The paper reported that there had been several recent sightings of Nakajimi, but that all attempts to flag him down had failed.

In 1993…

  • A group calling itself “The Arm the Homeless Coalition” announced that volunteers dressed as Santa would be stationed outside local malls collecting donations to buy guns and ammo for the homeless citizens of Columbus, Ohio. “There are organizations that deal with food and jobs, but none that train homeless people to use firearms,” a spokesperson told reporters. A few days later three Ohio State University students admitted they’d made the whole thing up.
  • The German radio station Westdeutsche Rundfunk in Cologne broadcast a report that the city had issued a new regulation requiring joggers to run no faster than 6 mph; running faster than that “could disturb the squirrels who were in the middle of their mating season.”
  • San Diego’s KGB-FM radio station announced that the space shuttle Discovery was being diverted from Edwards Air Force Base to a local airport called Montgomery Field. More than 1,000 people descended on the tiny airstrip, snarling traffic for miles. “I had to shoo them away,” said airport manager Tom Raines. “A lot of them were really mad.”

In 1996…

  • At about the same time that Pepsi made a worldwide change from its traditional white soda cans to blue ones, England’s Virgin Cola announced an “innovation” of its own: its red cans would turn blue when the cans passed their sell-by date. “Virgin strongly advises its customers to avoid ALL blue cans of cola,” the company said in an April 1 newspaper ad. “They are clearly out of date.”
  • America Online published a report that NASA’s Galileo spacecraft had found life on Jupiter. The following day they admitted they made it up. “Yes, it is a hoax,” an AOL representative told reporters, “but it’s a good one, don’t you think?”

In 1998…

  • Burger King ran a full-page advertisement in USA Today announcing the new Left-Handed Whopper. “The new left-handed sandwich will have all condiments rotated 180°, thereby reducing the amount of lettuce and other toppings from spilling out the right side of the burger.”
  • In March 1998, the newsletter New Mexicans for Science and Reason published a story claiming that the Alabama state legislature had passed a bill changing the mathematical value of pi from 3.14159 to the “Biblical value” of 3.0. On April 1 a physicist named Mark Boslough came forward and admitted he wrote the article to parody legislative attacks on the teaching of the theory of evolution.

In 1999…

Just four months after most of western Europe adopted the euro as a standard currency, England’s BBC radio service announced that England was scrapping the national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” in favor of a European anthem that would be sung in German. “There’s too much nationalism,” a spokesperson for the EU supposedly told the BBC. “We need to look for unity.”
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