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In 1957 The BBC Pranked Millions Of Britons By Reporting On A Tree That Grew?

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Answer: Spaghetti

There are pranks, like “Hah hah! Got your nose!” and then there are pranks, like convincing thousands that spaghetti grows on trees: a feat the BBC pulled off back in the 1950s.

On April 1, 1957 the BBC news show Panorama broadcast a three minute segment that was filmed and narrated exactly like their typical news segments. This particular segment, however, detailed the fantastic spaghetti crop in Switzerland featuring abundant footage of women harvesting spaghetti off the trees and gathering it in large baskets. The narrator calmly explained to the audience at home that the bountiful crop could be attributed to a very mild winter and a virtual disappearance of the dreaded spaghetti weevil.

Perhaps it was a combination of the professional footage, the soothing voice of the very well respected news anchor Richard Dimbleby, or the deep desire of Britons to own their own magical spaghetti tree, but hundreds of people called into the BBC requesting additional information about the trees and if they could be grown in England.

The brilliantly executed prank was the brainchild of Panorama cameraman Charles de Jaeger. Jaeger recalled a school teacher he had as a boy in Vienna who was fond of remarking “Boys, you’re so stupid, you’d believe me if I told you that spaghetti grows on trees.”; he’d attempted to pitch the idea to different producers over the years, but finally found accommodating ears when, upon realizing Panorama was about to fall on April Fools’ Day, he pitched the idea to his bosses who (because he was going to Switzerland on assignment anyway) granted him a budget of an additional one hundred pounds to film the segment.

The prank proved wildly successful and even many of the higher-ups at the BBC (who weren’t in on the joke) were temporarily duped into questioning if what they thought about spaghetti was actually true. The segment is regarded, rightfully so, as one of the greatest televised pranks of all time.

Image courtesy of the BBC.