101 Hoaxes & Pranks

1) Michael Barrymore entered a late-night radio phone-in contest under an assumed name and as a hoax impersonated himself. He came seventh out of ten.

2) The BBC World Service caused worldwide consternation by announcing that Big Ben was to be modernised - by a digital face.

3) When actor John Barrymore died, Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre bribed the undertaker to borrow his body. They sat it in a chair in Errol Flynn's living room where Barrymore always used to sit. Flynn entered, nodded at Barrymore and strode towards the bar....then he froze.

4) Student Jeffrey Vallance persuaded a Los Angeles pet cemetery to bury a supermarket frozen chicken in a satin-lined coffin, claiming it was his pet, Blinky.

5) Airline passengers looking out of the windows as they approached Los Angeles Airport were confused to see a massive sign erected by hoaxers announcing "Welcome to Chicago."

6) Fifty animal lovers turned up with kettles of hot water after a report that a crocodile was stranded in a freezing village pond in Sedgefield, Co Durham.

7) American prankster Alan Abel set up a hoax campaign to make animals wear clothes. He received 40,000 letters of support.

8) Abel also invented a French topless string quartet accompanied by a topless bald man. Frank Sinatra wanted to sign them for his record label.

9) Extras fitted to Rolls-Royce cars have included a spiral staircase, a Black and Decker Workmate and a nuclear fall-out shelter, according to their April Fool adverts.

10) Richard Dimbleby fooled millions of viewers with a Panorama programme on Italian spaghetti trees.

11) Hollywood publicist Al Horowitz bamboozled struggling actors with a wire reading: "Disregard my previous telegram. Zanuck." Zanuck was the head of 20th Century Fox.

12) Fourteen publishers were left blushing after turning down the first chapter of a novel called Steps by an unknown journalist. Unbeknown to them, it had sold 400,000 copies just a few years before.

13) People queueing at a bus stop watched in disgust as a tramp scavenged in a row of dustbins. He found a chicken and a bottle of champagne and left. The passengers then emptied every other dustbin. Comedian Barry Humphries had planted the goodies earlier.

14) Humphries also pretended to be ill into an airline sick bag which he had already filled with Russian salad. He then scooped out the salad and ate it.

15) The Cruise of the Kawa, written by mythical explorer Walter E. Taprock, described the Filbet Islands where birds laid square eggs and crabs were big enough to pull boats. It became a best seller.

16) Michael Bentine put peanut butter and a luminous watch dial in a test tube and left it in a briefcase near London's Victoria station. Police sealed off the area and rushed the test tube to Harwell Nuclear Research Establishment.

17) An advert in the New York magazine Village Voice offered "A Cathouse For Dogs" for frustrated canines. The ad was so successful that the hoaxers were almost prosecuted.

18) A milkman fainted as he read the note under the door of the tomb of former US President Ulysses S. Grant. It read: "Please leave two pints and one pint whipping cream. U.S.G." It was left by drunken humourist Robert Benchley.

19) German forger Konrad Kajau fooled eminent historians and newspapers with Hitler's diaries which he wrote to pay for a drunken affair.

20) Thousands of listeners protested when Capital Radio announced that because of switching between GMT and BST, Britain was now two days adrift in time from Europe and that April 5th and April 12th were cancelled.

21) All evening, students carrying a barber's pole around Boston were stopped by the police and each time they produced a phoney receipt. Finally, police HQ told its officers to lay off - just what the students had been waiting for. Next morning there was not a barber's pole left in the city.

22) BBC listeners were shocked to hear that humans with ginger hair can catch Dutch Elm Disease.

23) Journalist Mike McGrady and 23 colleagues each wrote a chapter of a book in the worst possible taste to protest against the low standard of American fiction. The book, Naked Came A Stranger, sold 100,000 copies.

24) Worried curators at a New York Art Museum found a jemmy, rope ladder, wire cutters and six empty ornate picture frames in the grounds but try as they might, they could find nothing stolen. The tools were left by prankster Brian Hughes.

25) Miserly comedian Phil Silvers earned ten times more than the other actors for his part in Carry On Follow That Camel. One evening, after Silvers had gone to bed, the cast wrote an enormous bill for a fictitious party at their hotel. Next morining they thanked him for his hospitality. He went white when he saw the bill.

26) Commuters cancelled their journeys after radio presenter Chris Morris announced that London's Liverpool Street tube station had become unbolted from the system and slipped three miles to Holborn.

27) Prof. R.W. Wood enjoyed hiding a large spinning gyroscope inside a suitcase and watching as railway porters tried to carry it around a corner. The gyroscope would only travel in a straight line.

28) Thirty families near Brussels each had to pay 6 excess postage on an unexpected parcel. When opened, they found a house brick and the phone number of the Portuguese NATO delegation. No-one knows who sent them.

29) When working on The Three Musketeers, Oliver Reed stayed in a hotel with a pond in the lobby stocked with goldfish. Reed cut carrots to look like the fish and then sat on the edge of the pond eating them.

30) Sightseers flocked to Alaska when told about ice worms which came to the surface when the temperature dropped and kept residents awake with their chirping. They were invented by journalist E.J. White.

31) American drug agencies became worried about a new mind-bending drug Bananadine, made by baking the inside of banana peel and smoking it, until it was shown to be a hoax.

32) South Yorkshire police trapped people who listened to police radio frequencies by transmitting a message saying a flying saucer had landed. Those who turned up to look were arrested.

33) Comedians Eddie Gray and Charlie Naughton, posing as Post Office officials, successfully persuaded workmen installing a London post box that the slot should face the road.

34) The famous 1934 picture of the Loch Ness monster in fact showed a model based on a Woolworth's toy submarine with a plastic head made by a team of hoaxers led by big game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell.

35) Sandhurst Military College officials were horrified when a stream of cars flowed on to the parade ground the morning of the annual passing-out parade. Students had diverted traffic from the nearby A30.

36) Showman Harry Reichenbach travelled around America with a bowl of water containing "The Only Living Invisible Brazilian Fish".

37) Reichenbach met an unemployed actor friend at Hollywood station with pockets full of coins which he deliberately dropped at intervals. A large crowd followed them to the film studios. Studio bosses were so impressed they hired the actor on $1,000 a week.

38) On April Fools Day 1977, The Guardian carried a supplement about an exotic island called San Serriffe. Sans serif is the name of a type face.

39) While making the original Thirty Nine Steps, Alfred Hitchcock pretended to lose the key to the handcuffs which bound Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll together. They were unable to go to the lavatory all day.

40) Hollywood stars tried to impress the mysterious, aristocratic old lady who frequently attended Alfred Hitchcock's dinner parties. She was hired from central casting.

41) Students working in Yellowstone Park fell out with the park ranger who used to show tourists a famous geyser. The students stood behind the ranger but in sight of the tourists with a car steering wheel on a stick. As the geyser began to shoot hot water in the air, they turned the wheel.

42) Art lovers who eagerly snapped up the modern paintings of Pierre Brassau were left with red faces. Pierre was a four-year-old chimpanzee.

43) Animators who drew the original version of Snow White And The Seven Dwarves made the princess reveal more than she should in one split-second frame.

44) An American cable TV company was fed-up with viewers watching their programmes illegally so they offered a free T-shirt in a broadcast which could be seen only illegally. All callers were prosecuted.

45) A Cambridge student lowered a full chamberpot so that it bumped against the barred windows of a crusty professor's room below. The professor opened the window and angrily grasped the pot. The student released the string. The professor could not pull it into the room nor let go.

46) When he was a student, MP Humphrey Berkeley invented an English public school called Selhurst and, as its head, wrote to other headmasters asking: "What do you have to do to attract a visit from a Royal ?"

47) Winchester residents were puzzled to find footprints leading from the statue of King Alfred to the nearby conveniences and back again. Police blamed students.

48) Comedian Eddie Grey used to shout into the slot in a post box: "Well, how did you get in there then ?" As a crowd gathered, Grey explained that a postman was trapped inside and would the crowd talk to him while he went for help

49) When Chuck Connor left college to visit his girlfriend, his fellow students made him a non person. His room door was plastered over, his name removed from pigeon holes and lecture lists and everyone denied ever having seen him before.

50) Artist Hugh Troy put Van Gogh's severed ear on display at an exhibition of Van Gogh's paintings. It was really made from corned beef.

51) Troy painted human feet on a lecturer's galoshes....and then covered them in a different paint which washed off and revealed them when it rained.

52) One snowy winter, Troy used a rhinoceros foot wastepaper basket to create tracks leading to a lake which fed the local water supply. Everyone stopped drinking the water because they believed there was a dead rhino in the lake.

53) Monty Python did a TV sketch about people who wanted to become mice, giving a phone number to call. It was David Frost's home number. He had to change it.

54) An airline pilot's favourite jape was to leave the co-pilot to fly the plane through turbulence while he strolled through the cockpit reading a book called How To Fly In Twenty Easy Lessons.

55) In 1919, Francis Wright took photos of her schoolgirl friend Elsie Griffiths playing with fairies in her garden in Cottingley, Yorks. Experts declared the photographs were genuine. The women admitted the hoax in 1976.

56) TV viewers near Reading were alarmed when the evening news was replaced by an alien voice warning that the human race was destroying itself. Students had jammed the transmission.

57) Humourist Michael Bentine bombarded the Houses of Parliament from a Chinese junk on the Thames with polystyrene cannon balls.

58) Radio Four last year broadcast The Diary Of A Young Lady Of Fashion - the journal of a high-spirited Irish girl in the 18th Century. It was written in 1925.

59) The story that a spider farm had been set up to provide special cobwebs to make wine bottles appear older was believed by the US Department of Agriculture.

60) So many readers brought The New York Sun to read stories that a new giant telescope showed the moon was populated by "man bats" that it became the the biggest-selling paper in the world at the time.

61) A.E. Matthews was acting in a comedy when the telephone on stage unexpectedly rang. As the rest of the cast started giggling, Matthews picked it up and said "Hello. Yes. I see." Then, turning to the actor who had set up the joke, he said: "It's for you."

62) For 35 years on the Evening Citizen in Winsted, Conneticut, Lou Stone wrote about a tree bearing baked apples, a squirrel which brushed its owner's shoes with its tail and a shy cow that would only let women milk her.

63) More than 100 Americans scoffed free Bunny Burgers - allegedly made from rabbit - in a new fast-food shop, even though there was a cage of rabbits clearly on view.

64) German schoolteacher Winfried Bornemann wrote to hundreds of personalities claiming to be a rich, old woman and asking them to become her heir. Liza Minnelli, Meryl Streep, Shirley Bassey and Seb Coe accepted.