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A Day to Celebrate Malonians

Posted by thedarwinexception on April 1, 2007

Today is April Fools Day. This observance is considered the highest of Holy Days in Malone, since it is a day made to honor the people who reside here. Here in Malone, there are signs and banners along Main Street welcoming the day with phrases such as “Be a Fool!” and “Embrace Your Fool Neighbor!”, and at daybreak on this , everyone gathers in the Arsenal Green, joins hands in a circle around the old cannon and sings “A – Do doray, A Do Doray, Welcome, Welcome, We are fools.”

Well, maybe it’s not all that elaborate, but I do find a certain synchronicity between April Fools Day and Malone.

And, to be fair, you don’t have to live in Malone to be a perfect fool. In the past there have been some very elaborate and beautiful practical jokes and hoaxes pulled on the public – who willingly believed them and showed themselves to be a gullible and as foolish as some of the best Malone residents.

The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

On April 1, 1957 the British news show, Panorama, broadcast a segment about the incredible spaghetti harvest they were experiencing in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed to an unusually mild winter. The audience heard Richard Dimbleby, the show’s highly respected anchor, discussing the details of the spaghetti crop as they watched a rural Swiss family pulling pasta off spaghetti trees and placing it into baskets.

“The spaghetti harvest here in Switzerland is not, of course, carried out on anything like the tremendous scale of the Italian industry,” Dimbleby informed the audience. “Many of you, I’m sure,” he continued, “will have seen pictures of the vast spaghetti plantations in the Po valley. For the Swiss, however, it tends to be more of a family affair.”

The narration then continued in a tone of absolute seriousness:

“Another reason why this may be a bumper year lies in the virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil, the tiny creature whose depradations have caused much concern in the past.”

Dimbleby anticipated some questions viewers might have. For instance, why, if spaghetti grows on trees, does it always come in uniform lengths? The answer was that “this is the result of many years of patient endeavor by past breeders who succeeded in producing the perfect spaghetti.”

And apparently the life of a spaghetti farmer was not free of worries: “The last two weeks of March are an anxious time for the spaghetti farmer. There’s always the chance of a late frost which, while not entirely ruining the crop, generally impairs the flavor and makes it difficult for him to obtain top prices in world markets.”

But finally, Dimbleby assured the audience that, “For those who love this dish, there’s nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti.”

Of course, the broadcast was just an April Fool’s Day joke. But soon after the broadcast ended, the BBC began to receive hundreds of calls from puzzled viewers. Did spaghetti really grow on trees, they wanted to know. Others were eager to learn how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC reportedly replied that they should “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

To be fair to the viewers, spaghetti was not a widely eaten food in Britain during the 1950s and was considered by many to be very exotic. Its origin must have been a real mystery to most people. Even Sir Ian Jacob, the BBC’s director general, later admitted that he had to run to a reference book to check on where spaghetti came from after watching the show.

The prestige of the Panorama show itself, and the general trust that was still placed in the medium of television, also lent the claim credibility. The idea for the segment was dreamed up by one of the Panorama cameramen, Charles de Jaeger. He later said that the idea occurred to him when he remembered one of his grade-school teachers chiding him for being “so stupid he would believe spaghetti grew on trees.” 

 The Taco Liberty Bell

On April Fool’s Day, 1996 the fast food chain Taco Bell took out a full page ad in the New York Times to announce their purchase of the Liberty Bell. The full text of the ad read as follows:

Taco Bell Buys The Liberty Bell
In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country’s most historic treasures. It will now be called the “Taco Liberty Bell” and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country’s debt.

In a related release, the company explained that people and corporations had been adopting highways for years, and that Taco Bell was simply “going one step further by purchasing one of the country’s greatest historic treasures.”

Reaction to this announcement was decidedly mixed. Thousands of people called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the Liberty Bell is housed to angrily protest the decision to sell the bell. However, most people seemed to realize that the advertisement was an April Fool’s Day joke. Taco Bell revealed the prank at noon on April 1st in a press release describing their earlier announcement as “The Best Joke of the Day.”

The White House even got in on the joke when Mike McCurry, the White House spokesperson, suggested that the federal government would also be “selling the Lincoln Memorial to Ford Motor Co. and renaming it the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial.”

The hoax paid off for Taco Bell. Their sales during the week of April 1st spiked upwards by over half a million dollars compared to the week before

San Serriffe

In 1977 the British newspaper The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement in honor of the tenth anniversary of San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semi-colon-shaped islands.  A series of articles affectionately described the geography and culture of this obscure nation. Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its capital was Bodoni, and its leader was General Pica. The Guardian’s phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot. Few noticed that everything about the island was named after printer’s terminology. The success of this hoax is widely credited with launching the enthusiasm for April Foolery that then gripped the British tabloids in the following decades.

Nixon For President

In 1992 National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation program announced that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President again. His new campaign slogan was, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” Accompanying this announcement were audio clips of Nixon delivering his candidacy speech. Listeners responded viscerally to the announcement, flooding the show with calls expressing shock and outrage. Only during the second half of the show did the host John Hockenberry reveal that the announcement was a practical joke. Nixon’s voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.

Alabama Changes the Value 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. Before long the article had made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly made its way around the world, forwarded by people in their 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 a physicist named Mark Boslough.

The Left Handed Whopper

In 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.”

Hotheaded Naked Ice Borers

In its April, 1995 issue Discover Magazine announced that Dr. Aprile Pazzo, a noted wildlife biologist, had found a fascinating new Antarctic species: the hotheaded naked ice borer. These bizarre creatures were each about half a foot long, very light, and had a bony plate attached to their head that could become
burning hot, allowing them to bore tunnels through ice at high speeds. They used this ability to hunt penguins. Packs of them would melt the ice beneath a penguin causing it to sink into the slush, at which point the borers would surround the hapless creature and consume it.

Dr. Pazzo discovered the borers by chance as a result of their predatory nature. While studying a group of penguins, she noticed one frightened member of the group rapidly sinking into the ice. When she pulled the hapless creature out of the fast-growing slush pool that surrounded it, she found a host of small creatures attached to it. These creatures turned out to be the Hotheaded Ice Borers.

After careful research of this fascinating new species, Dr. Pazzo theorized that the hotheads might have been responsible for the mysterious disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson in 1837. “To the ice borers, he would have looked like a penguin,” the article quoted her as saying.

Discover received more mail in response to this article than they had ever received for any other article.

Kremvax

In 1984, back in the Stone Age of the internet, a message was distributed to the members of Usenet (the online messaging community that was one of the first forms the internet took) announcing that the Soviet Union was joining Usenet. This was quite a shock to many, since most assumed that cold war security concerns would have prevented such a link-up. The message purported to come from Konstantin Chernenko (from the address chernenko@kremvax.UUCP) who explained that the Soviet Union wanted to join the network in order to “have a means of having an open discussion forum with the American and European people.” The message created a flood of responses. Two weeks later its true author, a European man named Piet Beertema, revealed that it was a hoax. This is believed to be the first hoax on the internet. Six years later, when Moscow really did link up to the internet, it adopted the domain name ‘kremvax’ in honor of the hoax.

The Eruption of Mount Edgecumbe

In 1974 residents of Sitka, Alaska were alarmed when the long-dormant volcano neighboring them, Mount Edgecumbe, suddenly began to belch out billows of black smoke. People spilled out of their homes onto the streets to gaze up at the volcano, terrified that it was active again and might soon erupt. Luckily it turned out that man, not nature, was responsible for the smoke. A local practical joker named Porky Bickar had flown hundreds of old tires into the volcano’s crater and then lit them on fire, all in a (successful) attempt to fool the city dwellers into believing that the volcano was stirring to life. According to local legend, when Mount St. Helens erupted six years later, a Sitka resident wrote to Bickar to tell him, “This time you’ve gone too far!”

15th Annual New York City April Fool’s Day Parade

In 2000 a news release was sent to the media stating that the 15th annual New York City April Fool’s Day Parade was scheduled to begin at noon on 59th Street and would proceed down to Fifth Avenue. According to the release, floats in the parade would include a “Beat ’em, Bust ’em, Book ’em” float created by the New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle police departments. This float would portray “themes of brutality, corruption and incompetence.” A “Where’s Mars?” float, reportedly built at a cost of $10 billion, would portray missed Mars missions. Finally, the “Atlanta Braves Baseball Tribute to Racism” float would feature John Rocker who would be “spewing racial epithets at the crowd.” CNN and the Fox affiliate WNYW sent television news crews to cover the parade. They arrived at 59th Street at noon only to discover that there was no sign of a parade, at which point the reporters realized they had been hoaxed. The prank was the handiwork of Joey Skaggs, an experienced hoaxer. Skaggs had been issuing press releases advertising the nonexistent parade every April Fool’s Day since 1986.

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3 Responses to “A Day to Celebrate Malonians”

  1. Pattymaci said

    I got punked by the Hotheaded Ice Borers and even worried that if they emigrated to the Arctic they’d suck down Eskimos. And my son brought the article to school to show his science teacher. She was the one that noted it was in the April issue and surely a joke.

  2. njgill said

    Instant Color TV image
    In 1962 there was only one tv channel in Sweden, and it broadcast in black and white. The station’s technical expert, Kjell Stensson, appeared on the news to announce that thanks to a newly developed technology, all viewers could now quickly and easily convert their existing sets to display color reception. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their tv screen, and they would begin to see their favorite shows in color. Stensson then proceeded to demonstrate the process. Reportedly, hundreds of thousands of people, out of the population of seven million, were taken in. Actual color tv transmission only commenced in Sweden on April 1, 1970.

  3. Anonymous said

    it’s great when take chances with their marketing campaigns (such as with the Taco Liberty Bell)

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