Spaghetti trees, volcanoes and flying penguins: Five classic April Fools' pranks

The daftest of yearly traditions will see co-workers, loved ones, friends and even complete strangers sucked in by implausibly silly stories - and there have been some classics down the years.

The start of April is upon us - and with it comes the traditional collection of 'April Fool' pranks and japes.

The daftest of yearly traditions will see co-workers, loved ones, friends and even complete strangers sucked in by implausibly silly stories.

April Fools has origins as far back as the 16th century. Many believe that the moving of the Gregorian calendar from April 1 to January 1 in 1562 is where the tradition began.

These days it seems no-one is safe from the perils of April Fools Day - and there have been some absolute corkers in recent years.

From flying penguins to spaghetti trees and left-handed burgers, here are five classic April Fools pranks.

Spaghetti Trees

One of the biggest and best hoaxes ever pulled by the BBC, film footage on Panorama in 1957 appeared to show Swiss farmers dealing with an 'exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop'.

They were shown pulling spaghetti strands from plants, before laying them out on the floor to dry.

The 1957 April Fool prank by the BBC remains one of the best ever (BBC)

Hundreds called the BBC asking where they could get a spaghetti bush to grow their own crop.

The prank even fooled BBC staff, including the Corporation's then-director Ian Jacobs, who later confessed to looking up 'spaghetti' in his encyclopedia.

Mount Edgecumbe 'erupts'

The volcano of Mount Edgecumbe had been dormant for 9,000 years when residents in Sitka, Alaska, saw plumes of black smoke rising from its crater in 1974.

Fearing an apocalyptic volcanic eruption, people fled their homes in terror and the authorities were sent in to investigate.

The plume of smoke from Mount Edgecumbe in 1974 gave locals an almighty fright (Wikipedia)

When a helicopter flew towards the volcano and looked in, officials saw that the smoke was infact caused by hundreds of burning tyres.

Furthermore, the words 'April Fool' had been spraypainted in 50ft letters around the rim of the volcano.
The prank was the work of Oliver Bickar, who had been planning the stunt for four years.

Burger King's 'left-handed whopper'

A 'whopper' in more ways than one, Burger King's 1998 advert for their latest fast food snack roped in the punters hook, line and sinker.

The burger giant took out a full-page advert in USA Today proudly announcing 'the left-handed Whopper' - their trademark burger, but with all the condiments rotated 180 degrees to suit the 1.4m lefties who visited their restaurants every day.

Burger King's 1998 stunt had thousands of fast food fans fooled

The stunt still fooled thousands of snack fans in this country and in the US, who went out of their way to get their hands on one.

A Burger King spokesperson later revealed the prank with some admirable PR-speak, proclaiming: "Everyone knows that it takes two hands to hold a Whopper!"

Flying Penguins

A more recent April Fools triumph for the BBC, in 2008 TV crews in the Antarctic claimed to have captured shots of Adelie penguins taking flight.

In an apparent clip for its natural history show Miracles of Evolution, video footage did indeed show the usually flightless birds soaring up through the skies.

The BBC used clever CGI to fool viewers in 2008 (BBC)

The impressively convincing computer-generated film fooled thousands and quickly became one of the most viewed videos on the internet.

Presenter Terry Jones said the penguins took to the air and flew thousands of miles to South American rainforests, where they would 'spend the winter basking  in the tropical sun'.

A secondary video later poured cold water on the amazing footage by explaining that it was a CGI hoax.

China's one child policy is 'relaxed'

When press laws were relaxed in China in the early 1990s by Chairman Deng Xiaoping, China's Youth Daily did not waste time in pulling a fast one on the Chinese public.

On April 1 1993, their editor, Yang Lang, ran several false news stories proclaiming that the government had relaxed China's one-child-per-family policy limit.

The story claimed that Ph.D. holders were allowed more than one child, as this would reduce China's need to invite as many foreign experts into the country.

Following the one child policy prank in 1993, the Chinese government condemned April Fools as a 'dangerous Western …

The hoax was treated as fact by several media outlets, including Hong Kong's Evening News and by AFP, an international news agency.

The Chinese government weren't as amused however, condemning April Fool's Day as a 'dangerous Western tradition'.

Beijing's main newspaper, the Guangming Daily, declared said: "Put plainly, April Fool's Day is Liar's Day."