April Fools’ Day has become a sort of tradition in the media world, with publications and websites relishing the opportunity to get one over on readers with fake news stories.
However, sometimes these pranks are so believable that they leave audiences speechless rather than laughing.
Here we delve into six of the worst April Fools’ fake news stories that have occurred over the years and how they have backfired.
1. Undrinkable water — In 2002 two Kansas City DJs thought it would be funny to warn listeners that high levels of “dihydrogen monoxide” had been discovered in their drinking water, Best Life Online reported.
What they did not explain is that dihydrogen monoxide is simply another term for H20, and the announcement escalated quickly, with more than 150 panicked audience members contacting the water department. A water official later criticized the station, calling the prank a “terrorist attack.”
2. Chinese Ph.D. holders exempt from one-child policy — Local Chinese publication China Youth Daily came under fire in 1993 after it published a full front page containing fake news stories that included an article on how the government had decided to exempt all science Ph.D. holders from the country's one-child policy, the South China Morning Post reported.
The prank was a little too convincing, with unimpressed government censors and media outlets forcing the newspaper to run an apology.
3. Space shuttle landing diverted — Chaos ensued when a DJ at KGB-FM in San Diego announced in 1993 that a space shuttle set to land at the Edwards Air Force Base had been diverted to the small airport, Montgomery Field, which is located in a residential area, The Washington Post noted.
As a result, thousands of commuters headed to the area to witness the landing of the shuttle that did not even exist, causing massive traffic congestion and overcrowding that required police presence to control.
Police threatened to bill the radio station for the costs involved in having to allocate officers to the area to monitor the scene.
4. The end is near — The Franklin Institute did not bank on causing mass panic when it decided to promote a new planetarium show by issuing a fake news release to KYW in 1940 announcing the apocalypse.
“Your worst fears that the world will end are confirmed by astronomers of Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. Scientists predict that the world will end at 3 P.M. Eastern Standard Time tomorrow,” the announcement read, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“This is no April Fool[s'] joke. Confirmation can be obtained from Wagner Schlesinger, director of the Fels Planetarium of this city.”
The fake news item caused panic among residents, who inundated the city’s emergency lines with calls. The prank resulted in the canning of the Franklin Institute spokesperson.
5. Atomic mist to destroy Dutch town — In 1947, the Eindhoven Dagblad ran an article stating that “atomic mist” blowing into the Dutch town of Eindhoven would destroy it the following day, causing widespread panic among residents who frantically planned their exit from the town, according to the Museum of Hoaxes.
As a result, various media outlets had to issue announcements to the public assuring them that the news was fake. Municipal authorities considered legal action against the newspaper.
6. Inactive volcano is going to blow — It has been about 600 million years since the Great Blue Hill in Milton, Massachusetts, could be described as a volcano, but in 1980 Boston residents panicked after WNAC-TV reported the hill had become active again, according to Best Life Online.
Police received hundreds of calls and the show’s producer was fired.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.