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Published: Thursday, 3/31/2005

Best prank? Pasta harvest tops 'em all

No joke, these are the top five April Fool's Day pranks of all time, at least according to Alex Boese, author of Museum of Hoaxes (Plume, 2002).

1. The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest: In 1957, the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It provided footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in, and many called up wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees.

2. Sidd Finch: In an April, 1985, edition, Sports Illustrated published a story about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who planned to play for the Mets. He could reportedly throw a baseball with pinpoint accuracy at 168 mph (65 mph faster than anyone else has ever thrown a ball). He had mastered the "art of the pitch" in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the "great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa." Mets fans everywhere celebrated, but the player actually was made up by the writer, George Plimpton.

3. Instant Color TV: 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 by pulling a nylon stocking over a TV screen, viewers could quickly convert their existing sets to display color reception. Reportedly, hundreds of thousands of people, out of the population of 7 million, were taken in.

4. The Taco Liberty Bell: In 1996, Taco Bell Corp. announced that it had bought the Liberty Bell from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of angry citizens called the park in Philadelphia where the bell is housed in outrage. When White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale, he said the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold, and would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

5. San Serriffe: In 1977, the British newspaper The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement in honor of the 10th anniversary of San Serriffe, a small republic in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semi-colon-shaped islands. Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse, 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 technology.

- Ryan E. Smith



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