Monday, August 24, 2009

The Great Spaghetti Hoax

Why not an April Fool's post in August?

I'm going to do a series of posts on hoaxes, and a good place to start is the great "spaghetti harvest" hoax from 1957.

Charles de Jaeger, a cameraman for the BBC news show Panorama, had a reputation as a practical joker. He had wanted to turn a joke one of his teachers had often made about his students being dumb enough to believe spaghetti grew on trees into a visual story. He and Panorama writer John Wheeler convinced Michael Peacock, Panaroma's editor, to approve the idea. The story was filmed in Switzerland where de Jaeger would be on assignment anyway, so costs were minimal.

There were problems preparing the spaghetti so that it would hang from the trees. The solution turned out to be keeping the uncooked spaghetti damp until it was time to hang it. The film showed the spaghetti being harvested and set out to dry.

The story appeared at the end of the April 1, 1957 broadcast. It was narrated, in a tone in keeping with the rest of the newscast, by Richard Dimbleby, the highly respected and trusted anchor for Panorama.

Many viewers got the joke, but some didn't. Others were angry that that An April Fools prank had been part of a serious newscast. The BBC issued a statement later that evening acknowledging the hoax. One probable reason that many fell for it was that at the time,spaghetti wasn't yet a popular food in Britain. Even Sir Ian Jacob, the director-general of the BBC had been fooled.

Here's the film.

An article on the spaghetti hoax, from the great Museum of Hoaxes website:

The BBC News "On This Day" article about the hoax. This also contains the film of the story.

The Museum of Hoaxes spaghetti hoax story:

A list of BBC hoaxes:

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