Pulling off a truly legen-(wait for it)-dary prank is every teenagers dream. It’s easy to glue someone to a chair or scare someone in the dark, but to really fool everyone – and by everyone we mean entire nations – isn’t such an easy feat.
But it definitely can be done and these 6 amazing hoaxes prove it.
1. Guns for the Poor
It was early December 1993 in the state of Oregon. Christmas was upon us and someone felt especially charitable so they shared news that there was a fundraiser to be held soon. Namely, guns and ammo were to be collected for the poor so they would have the “necessary protection they so desperately needed”. The spokesperson of the fake ‘gunraiser’, Jack Kilmer, said: “Who has the right to bear arms, a right which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, more than the poor?”
The media went completely berserk. Even CNN’s Rush Limbaugh, a passionate supporter of pro-gun laws, said that the idea was preposterous. The whole nation was buzzing about it and it seemed that citizens love to have guns, but not so much when homeless people do as well.
Student Paul Badger went forward to confess that the whole thing was a hoax and an attempt to draw attention to the problem of homelessness and gun violence.
2. Not Laughing Now
Now this one is just asking for it. The Iraqi ambassador in Russia called a press conference on April 1, 2003 to say the following: “The U.S. has unintentionally fired a nuclear missile on members of the British Armed Forces and has killed 7 soldiers.” After this statement his face formed a smirk as he shouted “April’s fools!”
The joker’s dictator government was overthrown a few days later – bet he wasn’t laughing then.
3. It’s the End of the World
On October 30, 1938 one of the greatest hoaxes ever took place. Americans were eagerly listening to the radio after news broke out that our very existence is hanging by a thread.
It all started with a weird eruption on Mars, after which a meteor fell on Earth. The meteor turned out to be a space ship out of which a Martian popped out and started killing people with his powerful ray-gun, according to radio CBS. Then a mechanical contraption appeared and killed nearly 7,000 soldiers.
People were hiding in basements, shivering at the very thought of killer Martians. However, the program ended on a light note – it was all a radio drama written by Orson Welles.
Namely, even though radio CBS stated several times that it was all a recreation of Welles’ radio drama War of the Worlds, several hundred thousand Americans hid in the basement fearing for their life.
4. Smartest Teenager Ever
The master of deception, lord of fake checks and minister of all con artists, Frank Abagnale Junior made quite a career of making up things. A man whose life was turned into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio (Catch Me if You Can) was most active between the ages of 15 and 21, which makes his success even more unbelievable.
He conned gullible Americans during the 60s and made people believe he is a doctor, attorney, pilot, and teacher – he was what he needed to be at a given time. But above all he managed to cash in over $2.5 million in fake checks all over the U.S.
If you watched the movie you probably know that when he was finally apprehended the government offered him a job as a security consultant where he was well paid to help catch those who…well, do what Frank did best – forge checks. How cool is that!
5. Time According to Guinness
This one was a marketing stunt that went too far thanks to gullible people and newspapers. On April 1, 1998 Guinness released a statement saying that they have signed a contract with the Royal Observatory in Greenwich which made Guinness the sponsor of the new Millennium. According to the contract, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) was supposed to be renamed into Guinness Mean Time and this was to be in official use until January 1, 2000. Moreover, where the Observatory traditionally counted seconds in “pips”, it would now count them in “pint drips”.
Thanks to mass hysteria of the Millennium bug, a lot of people accepted this prank as the truth and even Financial Times published an article which described this prank as a “bold move fit for a new Millennium”.
6. The Amazing Mechanical Turk
In 1770, inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen presented his amazing Chess Turk – a robot which could play chess and perform chess tricks such as the Knight’s Tour, a puzzle in which the knight is moved around the board to occupy every square exactly one time. Until it was destroyed in a fire, the Chess Turk toured Europe and America to beat every challenger, including Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte.
As you could have expected, the Turk was operated by various chess masters who borrowed their brain power to make the mechanical Turk so bright. Still, the story behind the Turk was impressive enough that touring continued even after the hoax was revealed in the 1820s.