Every year when 1 April rolls around, many newspapers participate in the historic tradition of trying to trick their readers.
These are some of the best fake April Fools’ Day stories that have been published, either today or from previous years, according to newspaper editors.
‘The digital clock tower’ - Skegness Standard
Skegness Standard readers weren’t fooled by the announcement that the resort’s historic Clock Tower landmark might be made digital in a move to complement the modernisation of the area.
The Skegness Standard even got a comment from a former councillor saying that the younger generation were all digital now, and that the town needed to move with the times - but it wasn’t enough to trick readers.
‘The ancient brewery found in a sinkhole’ - Peterborough Today
Using real images of the construction site for Peterborough’s new university, Peterborough Today published a story which claimed that the construction for the new university had come to a stop after a digger plunged into a sinkhole.
The sinkhole actually revealed underground catacombs and an ancient medieval brewery. A team of archaeologists are being led by Professor Trent O’Learyul (which is an anagram for “really not true”). The team is investigating the ancient order of Camracisan monks who created the brewery, led by the charismatic Abbot Laforpilo (April Fool).
While most readers managed to solve the mystery of the anagrams, there were a few that seemed to be fooled by the fictitious article, with one Facebook commenter writing: “It will be a great visitor attraction.”
‘Gatwick space centre’, and more - Crawley Observer
Over the years, the Crawley Observer has posted its fair share of hoax stories on 1 April.
Editor Mark Dunford offered up these favourites from the late 90s and early 2000s:
- Gatwick being used as a hub for space flights
- Loch Ness monster hunters gathering at Tilgate Lake after reports of a mystery creature in the water
- Gatwick aligning itself with European time zones, and because of that, the people of Crawley could see in the millennium twice in the space of an hour
- Crawley Town getting taken over by a Russian billionaire
‘Flair Pool’ - Sleaford Standard
In the late 90s, the Sleaford Standard reported that a huge splash waterslide park and boating marina, called Flair Pool, was going to be built alongside the local canal, the Slea Navigation.
This was despite the fact that parts of the river dries up for periods of time in the summer.
The Sleaford Standard got a local architect to draw up an artist’s impression of the park, with quotes from the Chamber of Commerce and the Navigation Trust.
A local paper was so convinced by the April Fools’ Day article that they ran an advertising feature on the town, quoting the “fact” that a water park was due to be built.
‘Painting the HMS Victory green’ - The News
In 2019, Portsmouth publication The News announced that the HMS Victory was due to be painted green in order to support the Royal Marines Museum Campaign.
The News exclusively revealed that it would remain green for the next two years, with the article featuring a photoshopped image of the nation’s most famous ship being painted.
The story also featured quotes from Deputy Director of Heritage, Andrew Baines, and National Museum Director General Professor Dominic Tweddle.
‘The real White House’ - Leighton Buzzard Observer
In 2014, the Leighton Buzzard Observer ran a story that fooled quite a few - it claimed that the Leighton-Linslade Town Council had received an ultimatum from solicitors representing the US President at the time, Barack Obama.
Sources at the White House, in Hockliffe Street, had told the Leighton Buzzard Observer that a legal team from the White House in Washington DC had contacted them over building naming rights.
A few were fooled by the prank - despite the fact that the US White House spokesperson was called April Phoule.
‘The lost village of Erehton’ - West Sussex County Times
A number of publications from West Sussex have also enjoyed fooling readers over the years with April Fools’ Day articles.
One of the articles includes claiming that a tiny West Sussex village, which was known to be part of the area associated with the historic Wealden iron industry, was also the home of toothpaste.
Local newspaper West Sussex County Times exclusively revealed that the paste that keeps your teeth white, gums healthy and a smile permanently on your face was harvested from the village of Colgate a few miles north-east of the town of Horsham.
Editor in Chief of the title Gary Shipton recalled that the spoof some years ago set a lot of teeth on edge. "We were amazed how many people swallowed that one," he observed.
"Although I think the sister weekly title the West Sussex Gazette pulled off the best April 1 stunt when it included in its series of full page village profiles a special look at the village of Erehton.
"Ramblers and visitors were determined to track down the beautiful thatched 'lost' village - until they worked out that Erehton was Not Here spelled backwards and all the photos were from other Sussex villages published in reverse."