6 Completely Insane Pranks People Actually Fell For
There are more pranks on YouTube alone than any one person could watch in a lifetime. But let's be honest, most of them are stupid, and very few have any sort of lasting impact. You'd think that's just the nature of the game, though. Pranks are always inane and fleeting, right? Not so. Sometimes a good prank can make it halfway around the world before reason even gets out of bed in the morning. For example ...
The Supergroup That Didn't Exist, But Released A Hit Album Anyway
In the 1960s, rock 'n' roll supergroups like Cream, Led Zeppelin, and Humble Pie led the pack. But by 1969, the market was flooded. If a band so much as mingled with another musician, supergroup rumors started flying. Irked by this trend, Greil Marcus, the reviews editor of Rolling Stone, wrote up a piece for the bootleg album of a new supergroup, the Masked Marauders. The band was a collaboration between John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, and Bob Dylan. If it sounds too good to be true, that's because it very obviously wasn't.
Writing under the pseudonym T.M. Christian (a reference to the prankster in Terry Southern's novel The Magic Christian), Marcus viciously mocked the hyperbole of music media at the time. Or at least, he sure tried ...
All the hassles of creating a special label, of re-arranging schedules, chartering plane, and minimizing the inevitable "ego conflicts" were worth it. It can truly be said that this album is more than a way of life; it is life.
When people desperately requested more information on this nonexistent God Album, Marcus and his buddy Langdon Winner figured that if the people wanted it so badly, they'd get it. So the pair sat down, wrote a few intentionally shitty songs, and hired friends from Berkeley's Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band to throw something together.
The album was almost competent enough to count as music. One of their songs was called "I Can't Get No Nookie," which was a klutzy reference to Jagger's "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." It went a little something like this:
Langdon, who also wrote for Rolling Stone, penned his own satirical piece about visiting the band in Hudson Bay, Canada while they were recording in secret. He decided the whole thing wasn't stupid enough already, so he added in a secret arctic location only accessible by sled dog:
When I was asked to attend The Masked Marauders' recording session date several months ago, I couldn't believe it was true ... It was only as I mushed my dog sled that last two miles from the Hudson Bay Air Terminal to the basement studio of Igloo Productions that I was able to convince myself that a fantastic dream would become a reality. A meeting of the gods at last!
He even included a little tale about the origin of the nookie song:
"I Can't Get No Nookie," for example, was recorded at 4:00 in the morning after an all night party on the tundra with the local Eskimos. "Boy, those Eskimo women sure are something," the lead guitarist said to me as he shook the snow from his parka. He was right. The title of the song actually refers to one of them -- "Nookie," the lovely girl friend of Nanook of the North who attended the sessions. Rumors that the title and lyrics contain an obscene reference are nothing more than a vile ethnic slur cooked up by some demented mind.
You'd think people would've caught on to the joke there, but not everybody reads so good. The fake songs were aired on a couple of underground radio stations, and demand started pouring in -- especially after New York Magazine called it "this year's album." The hype was so real that Warner Bros. jumped at the opportunity to sign a $15,000 contract with the biggest fake band the world has ever seen.
Even though it was a sloppy collection of mostly improvised music by distinctly non-legendary musicians, and Rolling Stone came out and admitted it was a big fat hoax, the record still sold over 100,000 copies, and it is available for purchase today. Which means, sadly, that this intentionally terrible music attached to an out-of-control lie is far more successful than most real bands.
A Fake Brothel For Dogs Sort Of Won An Emmy
You might've heard of Joey Skaggs, a man known for taunting the media and exposing their irresponsible reporting. Well, in 1976, he struck prank gold after advertising a "cat house for dogs," where people could bring their beloved pooches for some dog-on-dog frolicking.
When calls started coming in from media outlets eager to believe something -- anything -- to fill their pages, Skaggs went ahead and staged the fake cat house, using 25 actors and 15 really slutty-looking dogs. He even had a "veterinarian" onsite to supply performance injections and contraceptives where necessary. A photographer was there to capture all the dog fucking memories, as was a video crew from a cable sex show, Midnight Blue. Of course, it was all staged, and there was never any exchange of money for dog sex. Though if you put 15 dogs on a porno set, you should expect a non-zero amount of humping.
The performance was covered in the media, and while some got the joke, others jumped on the controversy. ABC News did a huge piece showcasing the dog brothel for part of an animal abuse TV documentary, and it didn't take long before the authorities zeroed in on Skaggs. From the ASPCA to the Bureau of Animal Affairs to several religious organizations to the NYPD vice squad to the goddamn mayor, everyone wanted a piece of Skaggs. He was even subpoenaed by the attorney general's office. It seems some people will always have a problem with sex workers, even when they're adorable dogs and only kidding.
During a press conference fittingly taking place on April 1, Skaggs declared the whole thing another one of his hoaxes. This caused the authorities to back down, but ABC refused to retract their piece ... probably because it was nominated for an Emmy. Which it went on to win. Yes, there was once a Golden Age of television in which the industry's most prestigious award went to a show about a fake whorehouse for dogs.
The Anti-Gravity Prank (That Doesn't Want To Go Away)
On April 1, 1976, famous BBC Radio 2 astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told listeners that planet Earth would experience a temporary loss of gravity. At 9:47 a.m. precisely, Jupiter and Pluto would align and essentially suck up Earth's gravitational force. He also added that in order to feel the full effect, everyone should jump at the exact same time.
People today know the Earth is flat and all that is impossible, but in 1976 they weren't so savvy. And we don't mean that they believed it was going to happen -- people believed it did happen. By 9:48 a.m., the station's lines were flooded with callers sharing how they floated in zero gravity. Sir Moore called it the Jovian-Plutonian Gravitational Effect, because this was no random April Fool's joke. He staged the hoax as an answer to The Jupiter Effect, a book predicting that on March 10, 1982, a rare alignment of planets would occur, causing earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault, as well as other apocalyptic events around the world.
While scientists agreed that all nine planets in the Solar System would indeed align on the same side of the sun on that exact date, the rest was total nonsense. But science didn't stop the book from becoming a bestseller. It also didn't help that the book came out around the same time as a movie about a monster earthquake hitting LA. This would be like a book about dogs secretly knowing how to talk coming out the same week that Show Dogs premiered -- MASS HYSTERIA.
Years after this radio hoax, when the London Planetarium did a show about the science behind The Jupiter Effect, Sir Moore successfully campaigned to have it canceled, alarmed that people were still buying into it.
And with that, lessons were learned and the whole thing came to a- nope. The very same hoax resurfaced again in 2014 and 2015. Under the title "Zero G Day," these modern pranks changed the dates to reflect current times, pretended NASA announced the phenomenon as fact on Twitter, and asked people to upload their floating stunts on YouTube. Because you should never underestimate the unoriginality of the very stupid.
The "Lexicon Of Grunge" Is Completely Absurd
In 1992, following the success of local bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, everyone was talking about Seattle and the new genre of rock known as "grunge." That same year, Megan Jasper, a former employee of the record label Sub Pop (who was later rehired and became CEO), got a call from reporter Rick Marin at The New York Times. He wanted to talk about the recent boom of the so-called "grunge culture," and was putting together a list of "grunge slang" for his piece. There was only one problem: Grunge slang didn't exist, and assuming it did was hilariously out of touch.
So Jasper decided to have some fun with him. At first she kept to real things. "Rock on" was a type of happy goodbye, and "score" meant "great!" But when the reporter kept typing away, she started cranking up the absurdity, hoping that at some point he would catch on and share the joke. He did not, and the article detailing the "Lexicon of Grunge" was published:
It wasn't even the first time a journalist fell for Jasper's satirical glossaries. The British magazine Sky contacted her earlier that year and asked for some cultural terms as well. So she harshed their realm, but it was all rock on. Are we using that like a tom-tom club?
The History Of The Bathtub (Not Really)
On December 28, 1917, American journalist H.L. Mencken published an article in The New York Evening Mail titled "A Neglected Anniversary." The article was a tribute not only to the introduction of the bathtub to the U.S. in 1842, but also to Millard Fillmore, the first POTUS to have a bathtub with running water installed in the White House. The piece claimed that the first American bathtub was created and installed by one Adam Thompson, a Cincinnati merchant who frequently traveled to England. Wanting to improve on the inferior English bathtub, he built a modern one (and the rest of this sentence is just for the ladies) "large enough to admit the whole body of an adult man."
Mencken then hailed the true savior and pioneer of the bathtub, President Fillmore, who had one installed in the White House. It was the greatest moment in presidential restroom activities, until our 45th president mocked the size of a hostile nation's nuclear button while sitting on the toilet.
Hopefully you've inferred by now that the article was a joke. Mencken wrote it during World War I, thinking his audience could do with some light reading between all the bombing and racism. All of his facts were made up. In reality, the earliest reference to a POTUS bathtub was during the James Madison administration in 1814. Unless that source was also kidding. We're starting to realize you should never believe a president when he says he took a bath.
Mencken thought it would be a harmless joke, but chiropractors and academics started referencing his fabricated facts to fuel their respective arguments. The citizens of Cincinnati boasted that their town started the $200 million bathtub industry, and even Congress adopted his writings as truth. The insane story remained in articles and academic journals, waiting for any non-bathtub expert to come along and believe them. In 2001, The Washington Post fell victim to the hoax.
Kia also used the myth of President Fillmore's bath time delights in a strange soap-themed ad in 2008.
Because nothing says "Buy a Kia Sportage" like rubbing a soap sculpture of an American president on your junk..
In 1926, Mencken decided to write another article in which he explained that his claims were entirely satirical, and lamented the way we choose to write our history books. But Mencken ultimately learned the same lesson we do every day on Facebook: Bad facts don't disappear just because they come along with the real ones.
Alabama Never Wanted To Change Pi To Its "Biblical Value"
In 1998, an article was published by New Mexicans for Science and Reason. This obscure little article went viral, which was no small feat, considering it was published months before the advent of Google. For something to go viral in 1998, it had to be pretty significant.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- NASA engineers and mathematicians in this high-tech city are stunned and infuriated after the Alabama state legislature narrowly passed a law yesterday [March 30, 1998] redefining pi, a mathematical constant used in the aerospace industry. The bill to change the value of pi to exactly three was introduced without fanfare by Leonard Lee Lawson (R, Crossville), and rapidly gained support after a letter-writing campaign by members of the Solomon Society, a traditional values group. Governor Guy Hunt says he will sign it into law on Wednesday.
Yep, that'll do it.
The article goes on to report the opposing arguments, but Lawson's reasoning is the real kicker here. When mathematicians (and just anybody vaguely aware of what math is) tried explaining that pi is an irrational number, Lawson replied:
"I think that it is the mathematicians that are being irrational, and it is time for them to admit it. The Bible very clearly says in I Kings 7:23 that the altar font of Solomon's Temple was ten cubits across and thirty cubits in diameter, and that it was round in compass."
A state school board member welcomed the new legislation, but said that we should keep the old value as an alternative so that kids could decide for themselves.
"As far as I am concerned, the value of pi is only a theory, and we should be open to all interpretations."
While it's true that the state of Indiana proposed changing the value of pi to 3.2 back in 1897, this entire article was a parody. The people featured in it were modeled after real citizens, but there was no Leonard Lee Lawson, no bill was proposed or passed, and no school board member was interviewed. Written by physicist Mark Boslough, the article was meant as a satirical reaction to the pushback New Mexico schools were getting for teaching kids evolution.
Another big clue: The article was published on April 1, a day rendered useless for sharing information by "hilarious" pranksters long before the year 1998. Also, it was written under Boslough's pseudonym, "April Holiday." ALSO, he told everyone it was a hoax the very evening it was published. Little did he know what humans are capable of when outrage meets the internet.
Almost two months after the article was published, a version of it made its way back to the NMSR. They were stunned. When searching for "Alabama Pi," they got hundreds of hits. People all over the world were outraged about what they believed really came to pass. Protesters even started phoning in and yelling at Alabama legislators, no doubt certain the state's poorly measured circles would lead to disaster in both the radial tire and Moon Pie industries.
So the next time you see an obvious hoax circulating the internet, remember that this has all happened before, and it will all happen again. Or, to be sure, go ask Snopes. And to be double sure, ask a person claiming Snopes is a propaganda site paid for by a cabal of secret liberal billionaires. And to be triple sure, it's probably aliens.
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Silly Alabama, pi is for dessert, right? Consumed on some delightfully punny circular plates.
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