Dafydd Ab Hugh directs us to a compendium of the 100 best April Fool’s Day hoaxes of all time. Most of them are very funny, and they go back at least to the early 18th century, when Jonathan Swift predicted the death of a rival almanac publisher, who could never thereafter convince the public that he was still alive.
Here is one of my more recent favorites:
#26: Tass Expands Into American Market
In 1982 the Connecticut Gazette and Connecticut Compass, weekly newspapers serving the Old Lyme and Mystic areas, both announced that they were being purchased by Tass, the official news agency of the Soviet Union. On their front pages they declared that this was “the first expansion of the Soviet media giant outside of the Iron Curtain.” The article also revealed that after Tass had purchased the Compass, its two publishers had both been killed by “simultaneous hunting accidents” in which they had shot each other in the back of the head with “standard-issue Soviet Army rifles.” The announcement was bylined “By John Reed,” and the new publisher, Vydonch U. Kissov, announced that the paper would be “thoroughly red.”
In response to the news, the offices of the Compass and the Gazette received calls offering condolences for the death of the publishers. One caller also informed them that he had long suspected them of harboring communist tendencies, and that it was only a matter of time before all the papers in the country were communist-controlled. When the publishers tried to explain that the article had been an April Fool’s prank, the caller replied, “You expect me to believe a bunch of Commies?”
I confess to a certain amount of sympathy with that caller, and would recommend a similar level of skepticism toward today’s mainstream press.