Worst April Fools’ Day pranks that backfired spectacularly

It is that time of year again, when friends, family and increasingly brands, try to pull the wool over our eyes with April Fools' Day pranks. From harmless pranks around the home to elaborate schemes cooked up by the likes of Google[1], newspapers and the BBC[2], April Fools' has become a major event with people competing to out-do each other with the best prank. But not every trick works out the way it was intended, in fact some go horribly wrong with unintended consequences that can end up with red faces all around.

From a stunt involving a UFO[3] "landing" in London sparking alarmed calls to the army, to a tech giant forced to apologise after their idea of a joke backfired, there are plenty of pranks that have gotten out of hand over the years.

Virgin Galactic

At 5am on April 1, 1989, the trickle of morning commuters heading into London on the M25 saw an oddly shaped object with flashing lights moving through the sky. Motorists stopped on the motorway to get a better look at the "spacecraft" and the police were quickly informed of the UFO hovering above an area of Surrey just South of the capital. Three police forces were mobilised as the otherworldly craft drifted above Surrey with squad cars in hot pursuit.

Panicked calls were even made to the army, which was put on alert. Things only got weirder when the craft eventually landed. "The police surrounded us and then sent one lone policeman with his truncheon across the field to greet the alien," Branson recalled in his blog. "The UFO's door opened very slowly, with plenty of dry ice billowing from it.

ET (ok, somebody in an ET costume!) walked down the platform towards the policeman. He quickly spun around and sprinted off back where he had come from! "To begin with, the police didn't see the funny side of it and threatened to arrest us for wasting their time.

Thankfully, they soon joined in the fun and left with smiles on their faces."

Part of Beachy Head collapsed into the sea after an April Fools' prank saw crowds head to the top to spot the Titanic (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A cracking good time

When a Brighton radio DJ told listeners that a replica of the Titanic could be seen off the coast of Beachy Head hoardes of people swarmed to the top of Britain's highest chalk cliffs to take a look. However, after hundreds of people had rushed to the viewpoint in Eastbourne, East Sussex, keen to get a glimpse, it turned out there was nothing to be seen. The whole thing had been a prank, but unfortunately it came with some very real consequences.

Coastguards discovered a five-foot crack in the cliff, likely caused by the weight of all the crowds and police were forced to issue a warning to stay away from the area. A few days later part of the site collapsed into the ocean, the local radio station issued an apology for their part.

Pasta prank

One of the most famous April Fools' Day pranks was perpetrated by the BBC. Back in 1957, the BBC broadcast a film on Panorama showing Swiss farmers picking freshly grown spaghetti.

They called it the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest and the BBC was flooded with requests about the plant. The hoax Panorama programme, narrated by trusted broadcaster Richard Dimbelby fooled millions, and not everybody saw the funny side. Many criticised the BBC for airing the item on what was supposed to be a serious factual programme.

Tech giant Google was left red faced after a prank involving minions went wrong
Minion madness

Search giant Google was left red-faced after it had a genius idea to add a 'Mic Drop' feature in honour on April Fools' day back in 2016.

Users were able to send GIFs of a minion from the film 'Despicable Me' at the end of conversations. But what was intended to be a fun feature quickly went wrong when users kept pressing the icon by mistake because it was right next to the 'send' button. Google removed the feature and issued an apology after it was feared the minion GIF might accidentally be sent at inappropriate times, like during exchanges about job interviews or bereavement leave.

Big Ben bustup

In 1980 the BBC decided to do another April Fools' prank on its audiences.

This time the broadcaster reported that Big Ben, in order to keep up with the times, was going to be given a digital readout. The announcement shocked listeners, who protested at the change. "Surprisingly, few people thought it was funny," Tony Lightley of the overseas service said.

Felony fool

A prankstress from Tennessee who claims to be a veteran of April Fool's Day went a step too far here. She 'confessed' to her sister that she had killed her husband, which the dopey sibling believed.

Within a few minutes armed police had surrounded the house in Kingsport looking for a wise-cracking homicidal wife.

Close encounters of the absurd kind

The threat of aliens came to the town of Jafr in Jordan in 2010 as the front page of Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad jokingly reported a UFO had landed near the desert town, with 10ft aliens sighted. Reports of communications being affected and neighbourhoods lit up by the lights from flying saucers terrified the residents, with parents too scared to send their children to school while the local mayor considered a full evacuation. One reason why this may have gone badly wrong is that April Fool jokes are not that well known in Jordan.

In the US, the prank was likened to the 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds, which some mistook as being real.

Why so blue?

Lastly, one group of friends might have the funniest fail on record after they accidentally turned their pal bright blue right before she had to defend her university thesis. Unfortunately, nobody realised their mistake until it was too late and the scholar had to sit through her all-important interview with a blue face. One of the guilty party, Christian, shared the story with the Mirror[4].

Based in Peru, the academic explained the prank worked so well because his friend and flatmate used blue-tinted sun cream. So when her friends discovered a blue dye during a trip to the Amazon, they could not resist and mixed the pigment into her skincare. But their friend went away for a week and they soon forgot about their mischievous act.

Fast forward to her return, it was only when they heard a scream in the shower and she emerged with a blue face that they realised their error. Luckily, the story has a happy ending, even though the student's interview ended up being one for the history books. "In the end, she had to do the whole interview with her face completely blue hahahaha.

She was ultra p**** off with us (we admitted to our sins) but ultimately made it up for her by taking her out on an expensive meal and promising to put the blue suncream on the week after, which we did," Christian wrote.

He added: "At the end, having a blue face made everyone laugh at the grilling, and she did really well because that removed the tension a little bit." As the prank occurred before the age of smartphones, Christian didn't have any photos to share, but it sounds like he's got a memory that will last a lifetime.


  1. ^ Google (www.mirror.co.uk)
  2. ^ BBC (www.mirror.co.uk)
  3. ^ UFO (www.mirror.co.uk)
  4. ^ Mirror (www.mirror.co.uk)