5 of the Most Famous Practical Jokes in History

These five hilarious pranks made headlines around the world! See which ones you can remember.

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Famous practical jokes in history
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1. Spaghetti Doesn’t Grow on Trees

On April 1, 1957, BBC’s Panorama television program ran a segment documenting a family’s “spaghetti harvest” in Switzerland. The segment claimed noodles were grown and showed the family picking them off trees. Back then, spaghetti was a delicacy in Britain, so many viewers fell for the hoax, some even asking where to buy their own plant. The video, still available online, has become one of history’s most popular practical jokes.

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Planet Earth
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2. Head in the Clouds

In the lead-up to April Fool’s Day in 1976, Patrick Moore, an astronomer and charismatic BBC radio host, imbued the term “leap of faith” with new meaning. On air, he claimed that at 9:47 a.m. on April 1, Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, reducing gravity on earth. If listeners jumped at that moment, he said, they’d float. Soon after, the BBC received calls from people claiming they’d defied gravity. The prank has since been revived, going viral online as recently as 2015.

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Seychelles Islands
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3. An Unreachable Destination

In 1977, Guardian readers fell in love with San Serriffe, a country near the Seychelles islands. There was one problem: it didn’t exist. The report on the country’s history, which was printed as an April Fool’s gag, was riddled with printing puns, including the main islands, shaped like a semi-colon, called Upper and Lower Caisse. The obvious signs of trickery didn’t deter readers, who phoned in asking for more information about the new hot spot.

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Vatican City in Italy
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4. When Church Gets High-Tech

In December 1994, a fake Associated Press article, spread by a prankster via email, announced Microsoft had bought the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican City and all. In it, Bill Gates was quoted saying the faithful could get Communion and reduce their time in Purgatory, all on the web. It was one of the first successful online practical jokes.

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Former candidate for Vice President Sarah Palin
Photo: mistydawnphoto/Shutterstock

5. A Case for Caller ID

In 2008, the Masked Avengers, a Montreal comedy duo, showed Canadians can pull off a good gag, too. The group recorded themselves calling Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate at the time, posing as French president Nicholas Sarkozy. “Sarkozy” told Palin he’d love to go hunting—so long as Dick Cheney didn’t come. The recording received international attention, forcing Palin’s campaign to admit she’d been fooled.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada

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