LOS ANGELES - Don’t forget: April 1 is April Fools’ Day, and in honor of the holiday, we’re taking a look back at five of the most notorious hoaxes in history.
Balloon Boy: On Oct. 15, 2009, national media was transfixed on the ballon boy, a 6-year-old boy supposedly floating across Colorado trapped in a giant helium balloon. In truth, the balloon boy was at home all along and was part of a hoax dreamed up by his father, Richard Heene. The stunt ended up being part of a failed effort to pitch a science-based television show starring Heene and his sons.
Bill Gates buys the Roman Catholic Church: In 1994, a bogus press release spread around the internet claiming that Bill Gates had purchased the Roman Catholic church. Although chain-emails had existed on the internet before this, the Bill Gates hoax garnered attention in traditional media and is considered the first major hoax to originate on the internet.
The War of the Worlds: It wasn’t on purpose, but Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” caused people across the country to panic when they mistook it for an actual news broadcast, thinking aliens really were invading Earth.
Nixon runs again: In 1992, NPR outraged listeners with an April Fools’ Day news broadcast that claimed Richard Nixon was once again running for president. Many listeners wrote in to express their displeasure, until NPR clarified that the story was only a joke.
Taco Bell buys the Liberty Bell: In 1996, Taco Bell caused a stir with a full-page ad announcing it had bought the Liberty Bell and renamed it the “Taco Liberty Bell” -- possibly the first example of a company pulling a major April Fools’ Day stunt.