We love to laugh, and April 1st never disappoints – just look at what we’ve created over on Twitter this year. To celebrate this silliest of days, we’re taking a look back at some of history’s funniest April Fools’ Day hoaxes. From make-believe islands based on fonts to flying penguins and helium choirs, these pranksters really went the extra mile to raise a smile.

Roaring with laughter
Nobody is quite sure when the April Fools’ Day custom began, but one of the earliest examples of an April 1st prank was in 1698, when the Tower of London managed to convince visitors to attend their annual lion washing ceremony. This prank continued for many years and even involved an elaborate invitation in 1856, with crowds of people turning up to watch the big cats having a bath, only to find out they were lion.

April's Fool - Washing the Lions

Fun with fonts
We love a design-based joke, and frankly, after months of lockdown, we’d settle for a holiday anywhere – even the fictional archipelago of San Serriffe! In 1977, the Guardian newspaper dedicated seven pages of its supplement to this elaborate hoax, which featured lots of hidden jokes, including two islands called “Upper Caise” and “Lower Caise”. Advertisers even got involved, with spoof adverts for insurance brokers and soft drinks. While many readers fell for the joke, others joined in, writing to the paper with tales of their own holidays to the islands. Next stop, Comic Sands!

April fool - San Serriffe

An idea that took flight
Thanks to David Attenborough, the BBC has become a trusted source on everything to do with wildlife, which is why so many people fell for their flying penguin prank. On April 1st, 2008, the BBC aired a film that claimed penguins in Antarctica had “regained” their ability to fly. The documentary was supposed to be evidence of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in action. We think it’s flippin’ funny.

Time for a laugh
When it comes to April Fools’ Day jokes, this one is pretty monumental. The BBC’s overseas service created shockwaves when it announced that Big Ben’s historic clockface was due to be upgraded to a digital version in an effort to attract more tourists. They even suggested that it would be renamed ‘Digital Dave’. We wonder how long it took for people to clock that it was April 1st?

Big Ben - Digital Clock Hoax

Hitting the right notes
Our final April Fools’ Day prank was created by Kings College Choir, who claimed they had started using helium to achieve their incredibly high notes. In 2014, the choir released a video fronted by the Chaplain, whose deadpan humour really brought the joke to life. We can see why this one blew up!

We hope you’ve enjoyed these April Fools’ Day jokes as much as we did. If you’d like to explore more of history’s hoaxes, check out the brilliant April Fools Archive in the Museum of Hoaxes. Have you ever been caught out by an April Fools’ Day joke? Tell us about it in the comments!