By Nigel Nassar
As it is, April 1st, which is Fool’s Day around the world, will forever prank all and sundry although it is an informal holiday.
Basically, people play practical jokes on one another, and the holiday originates from the Western world. The newspapers, especially, have enjoyed pranking the world with some really classic dupes.
Uganda, of course, has not been left behind, with New Vision’s sports cover this year leading with a super prank of Manchester United manager David Moyes having visited Bwindi. To that effect, Nigel Nassar hit the files and compiled some of the best April Fool's Day hoaxes of all time, judged by notoriety, creativity, and number of people duped. Enjoy, some of them local, others from elsewhere around the world.
Bebe Cool’s Death (2010)
On April 1 2010, Kampala woke up to sad news of local artiste Bebe Cool’s death, a story Dembe FM’s early morning news bulletin had led with as breaking news. The story which extended further into the station’s morning show, spread like a wild fire, with several fans of the artiste’s music calling in to ask for details about their star’s death and others sending in their condolence messages. It was only towards midday that listeners were told it had been an April Fool’s day prank.
Former President of Uganda, Idi Amin
Saddam Hussein Offered Job in South Africa (2003)
South Africa's Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper scooped its rivals by reporting that, in a last minute deal to avoid war, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had accepted an offer of exile in South Africa. In exchange he would run South Africa's oil industry. Details of the arrangement included: Hussein would be given a game farm on which to live, and he would travel in a jet outfitted with a missile defence system. The US was said to be happy about the deal because it would make Hussein "somebody else's problem."
Pork causes impotence (2004)
The New Vision reported that a research by some scientists indicated that excessive consumption of pork would cause a decline in male sexual potency. It added that a hormonal imbalance caused by the consumption would lead to more feminine features in males. Pork’s fat, it explained, clogs arteries, making blood not flow well to the penis, killing its strength. It claimed women around the world who had reported a drop in their men’s potency also revealed that their husbands consumed a lot of pork. But the story went on and advised that however on fool’s day, men could eat all the pork they wanted.
Obama’s visit to Uganda (2009)
On Tuesday March 31st, 2009, The New Vision reported that U.S President Barrack Obama, who had just assumed office as the first ever black president for the states, would visit Uganda. The article went ahead by detailing a number of cooked-up activities his itinerary in the country would entail, including meeting Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to discuss foreign aid among others. It went on to breakdown Obama’s background and how the descendant of a Kenyan was happy with Uganda’s support while he ran for president. And just when the story had picked tempo, it went ahead and wished the reader a happy April Fool’s Day.
The Return of Idi Amin (2001)
Tanzania’s Sunday Observer reported there was panic in the town of Tabora when former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was seen walking down the main street of the town dressed in a kilt. Accompanying him were an entourage of armed, semi-naked warriors, 37 of his children, and a member of the Saudi royal family. The Observer noted: "Unfortunately, because of the presence of the Saudi prince, nobody was allowed to photograph this unique whistle-stop visit." At the time, Amin was actually living in exile in Saudi Arabia. He had been deposed from power in 1979 by rebels backed by Tanzanian forces.
Olara Otunnu Weds (2010)
The new Vision reported that UPC Presidential flag bearer, Olara Otunnu, was set to walk down the aisle with a one Jocelyn Bafokugamba. The story claimed this would rest one of Uganda’s most vexing questions – when/whether Otunnu would ever get married (he’s not married to date).
Olara Otunnu, the president, Uganda People's Congress
The story claimed details of the wedding were scanty, but that a close source to the couple intimated to The new Vision that the two had met three years ago in France, and that their romance had assumed a new sense of urgency only weeks ago. After making speculations about the politician’s choice of wife, the story referred readers to www.itsaprilfoolsday.com for further details.
The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest 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 the 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."
Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity 1976
The British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur that listeners could experience in their very own homes. The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth's own gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 AM arrived, BBC2 began to receive hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even reported that she and her 11 friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room.
US President, Brack Obama
Sports Illustrated published a story about a new rookie pitcher who planned to play for the Mets. His name was Sidd Finch, and he could reportedly throw a baseball at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. This was 65 mph faster than the previous record. Surprisingly, Sidd Finch had never even played the game before. Instead, he had mastered the "art of the pitch" in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the "great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa." Mets fans celebrated their teams' amazing luck at having found such a gifted player, and Sports Illustrated was flooded with requests for more information. In reality this legendary player only existed in the imagination of the author of the article, George Plimpton.
Instant Color TV 1962
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 thanks to a new technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to display color reception. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their tv screen. Stensson proceeded to demonstrate the process. Thousands of people were taken in. Regular color broadcasts only commenced in Sweden on April 1, 1970.
San Serriffe 1977
The Guardian newspaper published a special seven-page supplement devoted to San Serriffe, a small republic said to consist of several semi-colon-shaped islands located in the Indian Ocean. A series of articles affectionately described the geography and culture of this obscure nation. Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its capital was Bodoni, and its leader was General Pica. The Guardian's phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot. Only a few noticed that everything about the island was named after printer's terminology. The success of this hoax is widely credited with launching the enthusiasm for April Foolery that gripped the British tabloids in subsequent decades.
Nixon for President 1992
National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation program announced that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President again. His new campaign slogan was, "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again." Accompanying this announcement were audio clips of Nixon delivering his candidacy speech. Listeners responded viscerally to the announcement, flooding the show with calls expressing shock and outrage. Only during the second half of the show did the host John Hockenberry reveal that the announcement was a practical joke. Nixon's voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.
Former Iraq president, Saddam Hussein
The Left-Handed Whopper1998
Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a "Left-Handed Whopper" specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, "many others requested their own 'right handed' version."
Hotheaded Naked Ice Borer1995
Discover Magazine reported that the highly respected wildlife biologist Dr. Aprile Pazzo had found a new species in Antarctica: the hotheaded naked ice borer. These fascinating creatures had bony plates on their heads that, fed by numerous blood vessels, could become burning hot, allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speeds. They used this ability to hunt penguins, melting the ice beneath the penguins and causing them to sink downwards into the resulting slush where the hotheads consumed them. After much research, Dr. Pazzo theorized that the hotheads might have been responsible for the mysterious disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson in 1837. "To the ice borers, he would have looked like a penguin," the article quoted her as saying. Discover received more mail in response to this article than they had received for any other article in their history.
The Eruption of Mount Edgecumbe1974
Residents of Sitka, Alaska were alarmed when the long-dormant volcano neighboring them, Mount Edgecumbe, suddenly began to belch out billows of black smoke. People spilled out of their homes onto the streets to gaze up at the volcano, terrified that it was active again and might soon erupt. Luckily it turned out that man, not nature, was responsible for the smoke. A local practical joker named Porky Bickar had flown hundreds of old tires into the volcano's crater and then lit them on fire, all in a (successful) attempt to fool the city dwellers into believing that the volcano was stirring to life. According to local legend, when Mount St. Helens erupted six years later, a Sitka resident wrote to Bickar to tell him, "This time you've gone too far!"
The Case of the Interfering Brassieres 1982
The Daily Mail reported that a local manufacturer had sold 10,000 "rogue bras" that were causing a unique and unprecedented problem, not to the wearers but to the public at large. Apparently the support wire in these bras had been made out of a kind of copper originally designed for use in fire alarms. When this copper came into contact with nylon and body heat, it produced static electricity which, in turn, was interfering with local television and radio broadcasts. The chief engineer of British Telecom, upon reading the article, immediately ordered that all his female laboratory employees disclose what type of bra they were wearing.
1915: On April 1, 1915, in the midst of World War I, a French aviator flew over a German camp and dropped what appeared to be a huge bomb. The German soldiers immediately scattered in all directions, but no explosion followed. After some time, the soldiers crept back and gingerly approached the bomb. They discovered it was actually a large football with a note tied to it that read, "April Fool!"
Dogs to be painted white
1965: Politiken, a Copenhagen newspaper, reported that the Danish parliament had passed a new law requiring all dogs to be painted white. The purpose of this, it explained, was to increase road safety by allowing dogs to be seen more easily at night.