Editor’s note: The following article is the third part of a multi-part series on internet hoaxes, online scams, and media literacy.

The first of April brings out the lighter side in many people every year. The parade of pranks that annually occurs on April Fool’s Day continues to befuddle people every year.

Despite our modern innovations, and evolved sensibilities people just seem to love pulling the wool over each other’s eyes.

The media is not exempt from this as social media platforms, media companies and even legitimate news sources have contributed April Fool’s Day hoaxes that many people believed. One of the early examples of this is the  British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

On April 1st, 1957, the BBC news program Panorama shocked it’s viewers when they ran a hoax claiming that people in Switzerland could grow spaghetti from trees.

While in retrospect the idea sounds completely preposterous, at the time Panorama was held in high regard as a source of information, and had a great deal of credibility with viewers.

After the broadcast, the BBC offices received numerous calls from viewers demanding to know exactly how the Swiss managed to grow the coveted noodles from the trees.

While media hoaxes have a light-hearted intention many can have harmful side effects. On April 1st, 1980, a television station in Boston caused panic among residents when they perpetrated the “Great Blue Hill Eruption” prank.

At the time WNAC-TV Executive Producer Homer Cilley produced a segment to run on their primetime news program claiming that the Great Blue Hill in Milton, Massachusetts was erupting. The segment even went as far as to air stock footage of Mt. St. Helens’ eruption, and President Jimmy Carter to further convince viewers that the hoax was true.

At the end of the program, the anchor informed people of the prank, but many people had already believed that a fiery doom soon awaited them.

Many people fled their homes in response to the hoax, and Cilley was fined by the Federal Communications Commission. He was subsequently fired from the station.

Some of the most prevalent media hoaxes are ones that claim someone notable has died. These are usually done to gain large amounts of attention very quickly.

A notable example of the time in 1998 when radio hosts on the Opie and Anthony radio program. The duo continuously claimed that the Mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, had died in a car accident that day.

They repeated their claims throughout the show and the hoax spread like wildfire throughout the city.
Menino was on a plane that day and was not immediately available to disprove the hoax, leading many people to believe the hoax even more.

Journalists and officials with the mayor’s office managed to get the word out that Menino was alive, and the two DJs were fired shortly after the controversy.

These are just a few of the many examples of the bizarre hoaxes that people have fallen victim to on April 1st. It is safe to remember on April 1st citizens should take an extra look at any shocking news they may see.