The Museum of Hoaxes lists the top 100 April Fools jokes of all time. Here’s their number one:
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 accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
Other April Fools hoaxes include a rookie pitcher who could allegedly throw a 165 mph fastball, the sale of the Liberty Bell to Taco Bell and Nixon returning from retirement to run for President again. My personal favorite is number 7:
1998: 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. Soon the article made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly spread around the world, forwarded by 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 physicist Mark Boslough.
The museum rates hoaxes on “notoriety, creativity, and number of people duped.” Not all hoaxes are April Fools jokes. The second biggest hoax in history is probably the October 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast which was an inadvertent hoax. Orson Wells and the Mercury Theater decided on the day before Halloween to present a dramatized version of the H. G. Wells classic and many people mistook it for a real newscast and thought New Jersey had been invaded by martians.
The biggest hoax in history is currently in London at the G20 Summit.