One Monday evening in 1957, the switchboard at the London office of the BBC came ablaze with blinking lights, as overwhelmed operators frantically explained that, no, they had no information about where one could purchase a spaghetti plant.

That’s not a typo. The English current-affairs program called Panorama — much like our 60 Minutes — had shown a video clip allegedly of Swiss farmers harvesting freshly grown spaghetti in their annual spaghetti harvest.

The next day on the London news, the BBC admitted that what they had aired was an April Fools’ Day prank.

Twenty-three years later, again on April 1, those fun-loving BBC Brits announced that Big Ben’s clock face was going digital, and that whoever called the office first would win the clock’s massive hands. It is unknown how many people fell for that one.

The playing of practical jokes has been around for centuries, but exactly when folks started to embrace them is anybody’s guess. Over the years, historians have cited numerous rites and festivals as possible beginning points, but few have agreed about just when April Fools’ Day became somewhat of a holiday.

One thing for sure is that much chuckle-producing activity has transpired in our lifetimes here in the USA:

  • April 1, 1985, saw the printing of a Sports Illustrated magazine article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch, who could throw a fastball 168 miles an hour. (The current record is 106 mph.)
  • Even the folks at NPR (National Public Radio) have exhibited a first-of-April sense of humor. In 1992, the Talk of the Nation show aired Richard Nixon (voiced by master imitator Rich Little) announcing another run for the presidency with the slogan, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.”
  • Apparently, fast-food folks also enjoy a good April 1 hoax. In 1996, the Taco Bell chain announced it had purchased the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and would rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. Two years later, Burger King folks promised that a “left-handed Whopper” was forthcoming.
  • Over the years, some people have fallen for the same old absurdities, which have included being sent to a hardware store for a left-handed wrench, to a pharmacy for “pigeon’s milk,” or to a bookstore for a copy of The History of Eve’s Grandmother.
  • Of course, not everybody has a sense of humor. In 2021, the Thailand police force announced that posting or sharing false news online could lead to a maximum of five years’ imprisonment. (C’mon, guys, lighten up!)


While some April Fools’ Day hoaxes, pranks, and practical jokes have garnered praise for their innovation and creativity, some people — usually victims — have described such antics as crude, insensitive, or rude.

Whatever our take on this issue is, we should be on our guard when it comes to April 1 and what is announced in newspapers, on radio and TV stations, and on internet websites that keep us informed — and some long-running traditions alive. You have been warned.

Anybody hungry for some freshly harvested spaghetti?


Although Randal C. Hill’s heart lives in the past, the rest of him resides in Bandon, Ore. He can be reached at

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