Wednesday, March 25, 2015

You've Been Pranked! the press

From Connor Magan's Luck and Other Stories by M.T. W., 1881
As April 1st approaches and thoughts turn to all things foolish, my research uncovered the fact that many April Fool's Day jokes have been played upon a gullible public by the newspaper industry. As a matter of fact, it appears to be a tradition with many newspapers but somehow many of us forget from one year to the next. I have been temporarily fooled, myself, by outrageous articles printed in the April 1st editions of the Virginian Pilot. Knowing that many folk over the ages have believed anything printed in the papers must be true, media pranksters have taken full advantage of that trait and had a field day each year. I have included three historical examples, below:

On an April 1st of the 1840s, the Boston Post announced that a cave full of treasure
was discovered beneath Boston Common, uncovered by workmen as they removed 
(Wikimedia Public Domain)
a tree. Beneath the tree they discovered a stone trap-door with a large iron ring set in it which opened to a stone stairway leading to an underground cave. In this cave, reported the Post, lay hoards of jewels, old coins, and weapons with jeweled handles. As word of the discovery spread throughout Boston, a large number of excited curiosity-seekers began crowding the Common to view the treasure. As time went on and no treasure was to be seen, it finally dawned upon them that the date was 
April 1 and they'd been duped.

A notice ran in Chicago papers announcing that on April 1,1858 at one o'clock, a "famous
St Paul's Church, photograph by John Carbutt, 1832-1905
gymnast" would climb to the top of the steeple of St. Paul's Church from the outside "and stand upright on the summit, returning the same way to the ground — all to be accomplished in the space of twenty minutes." By one o'clock, over 300 people gathered, including eager reporters from other newspapers. As the time passed and no such feat occurred, the spectators realized they'd been taken in by an April Fool's Day joke and according to the Weekly Hawkeye (Burlington, Iowa) "the crowd suddenly discovered it was time to go to dinner, which they did with a rush."

On April 1, 1938, North Carolina's Twin City Sentinel ran a front page story, complete with photo, stating that "a long sleek transatlantic steamer," the S.S. Santa Pinta, had "plowed through the muddy waters of Yadkin River and anchored ten miles west of Winston-Salem."  A huge traffic jam blocked the highways as hundreds of people drove out to see the steamer
Stranded "TransAtlantic Steamer" from Twin City Sentinel, April 1, 1938
stranded some 300 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. If they'd taken the time to finish reading the whole article they'd have seen the words at the end: "An April Fool's Dream!"

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! (And don't believe everything you read in the papers...especially on April 1st!)


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