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5 Outlandish April Fools’ Hoaxes That People Actually Fell For

What do unicorns, pasta and volcanoes have in common? Here are our top five April Fools’ hoaxes of all time.



Photo: Robert Couse-Baker

It’s April Fools’ Day and the internet has inexplicably managed to become even crazier than usual. Today is the day when even the most straight-laced of individuals can engage in a bit of harmless tomfoolery without upsetting too many people. Of course, the April Fools’ tradition predates the internet by more than a century. We’ve been trawling the internet for the best April Fools’ hoaxes of all time. Here are our top five.

5. How to Cook a Unicorn

Photo: Stirling Castle via Dun Deagh

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and the largest library in the world, holding around 170 million items.

On 1 April 2012, the British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts Blog announced that a long-sought-after medieval cookbook had been discovered. The cookbook was said to contain recipes for herring, tripe and codswallop, amongst other unremarkable medieval cuisine.

The book did, however, contain one “spine-tingling” recipe. “Taketh one unicorne”, the recipe begins, before going on to explain how to marinate and grill said unicorn. The book’s author had helpfully provided illustrations.

This long-lost cookbook, said to be written by Geoffrey Fule, personal chef to the Queen of England, seemingly confirmed the existence of unicorns as non-mythical creatures. Was this a playful April Fools’ hoax by an esteemed institution, or are there unicorns grazing on the Balmoral Estate right now?

4. The Swedish Colour TV Converter

Sveriges Television (SVT) is Sweden’s state-funded television broadcaster, initially modelled on our very own BBC. SVT was Sweden’s only television broadcaster from its launch in 1956 until the establishment of TV3 in 1987. The channel broadcast only in black and white until 1966, when it started to experiment with colour broadcasts. Regular colour broadcasts were not introduced to Sweden until 1970.

On 1 April 1962, “technical expert”, Kjell Stensson, went on air to explain to SVT viewers that a fine-meshed material stretched over a standard black and white television screen would bend the light in such a way that the image would appear to be in colour. Stensson recommended nylon stockings as the ideal material for a homemade colour TV converter.

Stensson’s highly technical explanation of how the process was supposed to have worked convinced thousands of viewers to try it out for themselves. Needless to say, they were left disappointed.

3. The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

Panorama is the world’s longest running current affairs television programme, having aired on the BBC since 1953.

On 1 April 1957, Panorama aired a report about spaghetti growers in southern Switzerland. The report, showing footage of a family harvesting spaghetti from “spaghetti trees”, claimed that spaghetti farmers were enjoying a particularly successful harvest due to the “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil”. The report was made more believable by having respected broadcaster, Richard Dimbleby, provide the voice-over.

With pasta being a relatively exotic dish in 1950s Britain, the BBC reportedly received many calls from viewers eager for information on how to grow their own spaghetti trees. The standard response from the BBC was that aspiring spaghetti growers should “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best”.

2. Zero Gravity Day

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sir Patrick Moore was a famed British astronomer, most well known as the presenter of the BBC documentary series The Sky at Night from its first airing in 1957 until his death in 2012.

On the morning of 1 April 1976, Moore informed BBC Radio 2 listeners that a “unique astronomical event” would occur at 9:47 am that morning, with Pluto passing directly behind Jupiter. This rare event, Moore claimed, would result in a noticeable albeit temporary reduction of Earth’s gravity. Moore insisted that anyone who jumped in the air at precisely 9:47 am would experience a strange floating sensation.

The BBC was later flooded with calls from listeners claiming to have experienced the effects of the fictional astronomical event, with reports of people and furniture floating around rooms. There was even a demand for compensation, with one caller claiming to have risen so quickly that he hit his head on the ceiling.

1. Alaska’s Volcanic Eruption

Photo: The Guardian

The city of Sitka in the US state of Alaska is home to Mount Edgecumbe, a volcano that has been dormant for thousands of years.

On 1 April 1974, residents of Sitka were surprised to see black smoke rising from the long-dormant volcano. Fearing that the volcano was set to erupt, concerned locals inundated local authorities with calls and the Coast Guard was sent to investigate. Flying over the volcano in a helicopter, the Coast Guard pilot was surprised to see the words “APRIL FOOL” painted in large black letters beside a massive pile of burning tyres that had been placed in the volcano’s crater.

The elaborate prank was the work of 50-year-old practical joker, Oliver “Porky” Bickar. Porky had been collecting tyres in preparation for the prank for three years and pulled it off with the help of a few friends and a helicopter pilot. The prankster had notified air traffic control and the local police force about his plan, but had forgotten to notify the Coast Guard. Luckily for Porky, the residents of Sitka and the Coast Guard saw the funny side. The hoax made it into papers all around the world and Porky was even featured in an ad campaign for Alaska Airlines.

What do you think? Were these the best April Fools’ hoaxes of all time? Let us know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to avoid missing out on new articles!

Chris is a pop culture nerd from London. He has a master's degree in Criminology and a pretty solid Pokémon card collection. His favourite Star Wars character is Jar Jar Binks, because he likes an underdog.

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How Long Have We Believed in Vampires?

The history of vampires is a disputed and uncertain one whatever your perspective.



Image: Pixabay

Vampires have a contested history. Some claim that the creatures are “as old as the world”. But more recent arguments suggest that our belief in vampires and the undead was born in the 18th century, when the first European accounts appear.

We do know that 1732 was the vampire’s annus mirabilis. There were 12 books and four dissertations on the subject published over that year, as well as the term’s first appearance in the English language, according to gothic expert Roger Luckhurst. But archaeological discoveries of deviant burials in Europe in the last few years have unearthed a belief in vampirism and revenants before 1500, much earlier than was previously understood by literary scholars.

The body of a 500-year-old “vampire”, for example, is currently on display in an ancient cemetery in the town of Kamien Pomorski, Poland. The vampire corpse, discovered two years ago, has been reported on widely in the world’s press. Archaeologists have confirmed that it has a stake through its leg (presumably to prevent it from leaving its coffin) and a rock in its mouth (to stop any unfinished blood sucking). Even older deviant burials have been discovered in villages in Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, the medieval remains of the first English vampires in Yorkshire’s village of Wharram Percy have reputedly been found. The inhabitants who fled the village in 1500 showed widespread belief in the undead returning as revenants or reanimated corpses. They fought back against the risk of vampire attacks and showed a medieval belief in an English zombie apocalypse, an episode that would not be out of place in a scene from The Walking Dead.

So some form of vampire was evidently believed in throughout much of Europe from the medieval period. But the seductive Romantic vampire does not leave his calling card in polite society in London until 1819, when the first fictional vampire, the satanic Lord Ruthven is born in a story by John Polidori. So how did our understanding of vampires transition from dishevelled peasants into alluring Byronic aristocrats? We must return the creature to its beginnings in early folk belief to fully understand its history.

Vampire, Vrykolakoi, Velku

In the first written accounts of European vampires, the creatures are understood as revenants or returners, often taking the form of a diseased family member who reappears in the unfortunate guise of a vampire. In such tales, “unfinished business”, even something as trivial as the want of clothing or shoes, is enough to make the dead return to the world of the living.

The number of words for “vampire” can frustrate scholars: Krvoijac, vukodlak, wilkolak, varcolac, vurvolak, liderc nadaly, liougat, kullkutha, moroii, strigoi, murony, streghoi, vrykolakoi, upir, dschuma, velku, dlaka, nachzehrer, zaloznye, nosferatu … the list goes on.

The Oxford English Dictionary takes seven pages to define a vampire, but the earliest entry, of 1734, is of most interest here:

These Vampyres are supposed to be the Bodies of deceased Persons, animated by evil Spirits, which come out of the Graves in the Night-time, suck the Blood of many of the Living and thereby destroy them.

There is evidently little appeal or attraction felt for these early revenant figures. Unlike the English aristocratic vampire, modelled on Lord Byron, these early folkloric vampires are peasants and tend to appear en mass like modern-day zombies.

Agnes Murgoci explored this folk belief further. She argued in 1926 that the journey from death to the afterlife is perilous – in Romanian belief it took 40 days for the soul of the deceased to enter paradise. In some cases, it was thought that it lingered for years, and during this time there are a myriad of ways that deceased family members can succumb to vampirism.

It was thought that dying unmarried, unforgiven by one’s parents, through suicide or being murdered could all lead to a person returning as a vampire. Events after death could also have the same effect – beware breezes blowing across corpses before burial, dogs or cats walking over coffins, or leaving a mirror (a soul trap) not turned to the wall at this precarious time.

Image: Public Domain

Entering Literary Spheres

It was a treatise written in 1746 by the French monk Antoine Augustin Calmet that famously gave British writers access to a number of encounters with vampires. Calmet took inspiration from Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, a botanising man of science, who had earlier claimed to have come face to face with a plague of bloodsucking vampires in Mykonos in 1702. His account was still being read in 1741.

Three decades after Tournefort’s encounter, the London Journal of 1732 reported some enquiries into “vampyres” at Madreyga in Hungary (a story later referred to by John Polidori). Greece and Hungary feature prominently in these early accounts – and this is mirrored in Romantic literature: Lord Byron for example makes Greece the setting of his unfinished vampire story A Fragment (1819).

But it was Polidori who was responsible for the vampire’s English pedigree and its elevation of social rank. There seems never to have been an urban, nor an educated bourgeois bloodsucker prior to The Vampyre (1819). A predatory sexuality is also introduced. We see for the first time the vampire as rake or libertine, a real “lady killer” – a trend that metamorphosed into Bram Stoker’s Dracula and anticipated the arrival of vampire romance in the beautiful undead form of Twilight’s Edward Cullen.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

As this all reveals, the history of vampires is a disputed and uncertain one whatever your perspective, scientific or literary. But the “vampire” burials discovered by archaeologists of late do cohere with practices that are known to suggest a belief in vampirism (such as piercing the corpse, nailing down the tongue, putting a needle in the heart and placing small stones and incense in the mouth and under the finger nails to stop blood sucking and clawing). These “vampire” corpses do therefore go some way towards finding out how old our belief in vampires actually is.

But the history of vampires is still impossible to chart with any certainty, and we should probably take heed from British vampirologist Montague Summers (1880-1948) in our search for the lair of the original fiend. He referred to vampires as “citizens of the world”: to him, they existed beyond temporal or geographical boundaries.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

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The Black Monk of Pontefract (Europe’s Most Violent Poltergeist)

Is 30 East Drive really haunted by the sinister spirit of a 16th-century monk or is it all just a trick of the mind?



Image: Pixabay

The Black Monk of Pontefract is one of the most notorious poltergeists in Europe.

Infamous for many reasons, the ghost’s reputation has been immortalised through its pranks, violent actions, and a 2012 horror film.

The History

One day young Diane Pritchard was minding her own business in her home at 30 East Drive, Pontefract, England. It was then that Pritchard’s long hair stood on its end. Without warning, something pulled Diane by her hair and dragged her up the stairs of her home, causing her to kick and scream for her life. Then it was over and all that was left of the event were finger marks on her neck and trauma on her psyche.

To anyone else, this occurrence would have been out of the ordinary. Though for the Pritchard family it wasn’t. Jean, Joe, Phillip, and Diane Pritchard knew they were living with a poltergeist since their move-in in August 1966. They named the entity Fred. What was strange about the event was the violent nature of Fred’s actions.

Prior to Fred dragging Diane up the stairs, Fred made his presence known in other ways. Witnesses saw chalk dust falling from head level, pools of water appearing and reappearing instantaneously after continuous cleanup, lights going on and off, the tea dispenser activating by itself, cupboard doors shaking, plant pots jumping out of their containers, items levitating, and photographs being slashed by some invisible blade.

Very little is known about Fred except that the poltergeist has a sense of humour and violent tendencies. Some theorise that Fred is the subject of a local legend. In the legend, it is said that a 16th-century monk was tried and executed for a heinous crime on the grounds the house is on. The monk’s body was disposed of in a well on the grounds too.

One fact that supports this theory is that when Fred does appear he takes the form of a dark shadowy figure in black monk’s robes. This image has earned him the title of “The Black Monk of Pontefract” and the “The Black Monk Poltergeist”.

The Movie

The 2012 horror movie When the Lights Went Out is loosely based on the events at 30 East Drive.  The house’s official website says the movie takes place in 1974 and is “the story of a down-to-earth Yorkshire family and the malevolent spirit who turns their existence upside down”.

The movie is directed by local Pontefract resident Pat Holden and produced by Bil Bungay, the current owner of 30 East Drive.

The movie’s premiere actually took place in the house! While brainstorming creative ways to promote the movie, Bungay realised there was no better place to hold the premiere than in the very location the story takes place.

Bungay would later reflect: “After completing the movie, I was looking for original ways of promoting When the Lights Went Out when I discovered that the actual house, where all these incredible events allegedly happened, was for sale – and it was…er, cheap – so I bought it!”

Bungay was sceptical of Fred’s residency and figured after 40 years, if there was a ghost, it would no longer be there. Bungay said he assumed wrong.

Over the next several months, the one-time sceptic became a firm believer when he witnessed unexplainable events in the house. Occurrences like a fully charged phone shutting off while taking a photo, reports of early morning bumps and bangs coming from the house, glowing blue balls of energy in the corridor, and the black shadow of a very tall entity coming through the wall into the neighbour’s house have all allegedly taken place.

The Present

While you can visit Fred at 30 East Drive, the owner does not recommend it.

That’s not surprising considering there have been 288 recent interactions with the demonic entity. From spirit balls floating around, doors opening and closing on their own, large black shadows, and scratches appearing on guests’ bodies, the recounts go on and on.

If you do visit, there is a list of rules to abide by. Visitors must also sign a release form relinquishing all legal rights in order to visit the house.

Image: 30 East Drive Ltd


30 East Drive has a long list of paranormal encounters to its name. Though some may think these occurrences are caused by something else rather than a ghost named Fred.

The power of expectation could be much more powerful than Fred ever will be. Visitors see the Black Monk of Pontefract at the house because they are looking for him.

Psychologists call this experience motivated perception. Based on what one witnesses, they pick and choose the information that will best support their bias and experience. Perception is malleable.

So, if you walk into a haunted house with the hopes of meeting a poltergeist, you are going to select moments from the experience that support your ideas.

That being said, the Pritchard family didn’t move into the house with the intention of living with a ghost.

Was their experience real because they weren’t looking for a poltergeist? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

What do you think? Is 30 East Drive really haunted by the spirit of a 16th-century monk? Let us know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to avoid missing out on new articles!

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Jinmenken: The Human-Faced Dogs of Japan

Could the Jinmenken from Japanese folklore be real? Could these mythical creatures have really existed and, more importantly, are they still around today?



Image: Yo-kai Watch © LEVEL-5 abby Inc

Could the Jinmenken from Japanese folklore be real? Could these mythical creatures have really existed and, more importantly, are they still around today?

The Jinmenken, or “The Human-Faced Dog”, was first reported back in the “Edo Era” from the early 1600s to the mid 1800s. They were often seen by locals and were so common that they were featured in some newspapers of that era. Many of the creepy critters that weave their way through Japanese mythology are purely imagined fantasies. They border between fact and fiction, thus blurring one’s perspective of what is reality and what is just pure fantasy.

But what if this bizarre creature is still among us today? Sighting locations of this strange animal can vary, from dark rural roads to bustling city streets, where they have reportedly been seen to rummage through rubbish bins for scraps of food.

Unlike most of the mythical creatures in Japanese folklore, it is said that the Jinmenken means you no harm. They are known to plead with those who have come in contact with them to leave them alone. Or in some rare cases, have held simple conversations with those who would choose to stay and listen.

These sad-eyed beasts are said to look like ordinary dogs from a distance, but have dirty, matted coats with their tails between their legs as if to cower or be submissive. To the observer, these pathetic creatures seem to be sad and scared.

Image: Pixabay

Jinmenken are said to look like ordinary dogs from a distance

It has been reported that Jinmenken were once used in “misemono” – the Japanese equivalent to a travelling sideshow. These exhibits would typically feature an assortment of exotic creatures, mummified monsters and mysterious artefacts of the strange and macabre.

After visiting a misemono, one noted zoologist of the time described his reaction to seeing a purported Jinmenken on display:

“There, cowering and whimpering in the corner of the display booth I saw the hunched over form of what I first took to be a typical Shiba Inu, although of a somewhat more pungent odour. Then the thing looked up with sad eyes and I could see clearly that it was the face of a human being, albeit with the empty, soulless gaze of an animal. I was eager to be on my way from such a ghastly abomination and the thing’s gaze left me with a deep unease long after I had left.”

The zoologist was not the only one to feel such unease. Foreboding feelings of dread and despair are common among those who claim to have encountered Jinmenken. There are even reports of observers being hypnotised by these peculiar creatures, which some say are omens of tragedy and misfortune.

But can there be a logical explanation for the bizarre beasts?

One theory is that these creatures are nothing more than Japanese macaques, or “snow monkeys”. These primates, the most northern inhabitants of the monkey world, can be found all over Japan and resemble a small dog from a distance. They also have human-like faces and have a varied range of vocal abilities that could easily be mistaken as speech buy the anxious observer.

Image: Pixabay

Could the Jinmenken be nothing more than Japanese macaques?

That leaves us the question, is the mystery of the Jinmenken just a myth? Or is there some truth to the stories that are still being told today? Could they just be the imaginations of a people steadfastly engrossed in the fables of their culture? Or are they just a misunderstood little monkey?

Look deep into your soul, could you have seen one of these creatures in your dreams? Did you recognise your own face on the body of a desperate animal? Could these mythical beasts be real?

We’ll leave that up to you to decide.

What do you think? Could the Jinmenken really exist? Let us know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to avoid missing out on new articles!

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