supplied by Sally Moody
San Serriffe was an island nation which appeared in an extended article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper. It was featured in a seven-page supplement, published in the style of contemporary reviews of foreign countries, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the island’s independence, complete with themed advertisements from major companies. The supplement provided an elaborate description of the nation as a tourist destination and developing economy. You could even buy t-shirts and other “tourist” type merchandise to show that you’d been there. There was just one slight discrepancy… Sans Seriffe didn’t actually exist!!
It was an elaborate April fools hoax, hitting the press on April 1st 1977.
Millions of readers were hoodwinked, fell hook line and sinker and many wrote in to the newspaper with details of holidays they had spent there, sent in photos to “prove it!” Many were very annoyed when The Guardian came clean and owned up to the hoax!
There have been many such hoaxes over the years. April 1st is a wonderful chance to trick your family, friends, and accomplices. And newspapers, television companies, radio stations and nowadays, the internet in all its forms try various methods to bamboozle and trick.
You may remember or have heard about Panorama in 1957, explaining all about Swiss Spaghetti trees… farmers in Switzerland were shown harvesting long strands of spaghetti from their trees. They claimed that the despised pest, the spaghetti weevil, had been eradicated. A large number of people contacted the BBC wanting to know how to cultivate their own spaghetti trees. It was, in fact, partially filmed in St Albans (where there are NO spaghetti trees either!!).
In 1962, Swedish national television broadcast a 5-minute special on how one could get colour TV by placing a nylon stocking in front of the TV. A rather in-depth description on the physics behind the phenomenon was included. Thousands of people tried it ….!
In 1965, the BBC purported to conduct a trial of a new technology allowing the transmission of odour over the airwaves to all viewers. Many viewers reportedly contacted the BBC to report the trial as a success.
In 2007, the BBC website repeated an online version of the hoax, as did Google in 2013. Still people were taken in!!
In 2005 The Today Programme announced in the news that the long-running serial ‘The Archers’ had changed its theme tune to an upbeat disco style. This was just too much for traditional radio 4 Archers fans to even contemplate! Thousands of horrified [listeners] complained before it was announced as a hoax!
In 1988, Capital Radio in London gave all their breakfast-show time-checks one hour early, panicking listeners who needed to get up for work. The following year, when 1st April fell on a Saturday, they broadcast the usual weekday programme, together with rush-hour travel news, again worrying people into thinking they should be getting up.
You may have survived the Ides of March… but maybe you’d better be a little suspicious of anything and everything that might happen on April 1st. Tricks and hoaxes may seem a little cruel and heartless but it does tend to be part of the sense of humour of many. From plastic spiders and rubber snakes to strange announcements on the radio, all these tricks have to be done and dusted by midday but that still leaves several hours for you to be caught out… or… for you to do the catching. What are you planning?