International News

Famous British hoaxes

Close up of uncooked spaghetti noodles on cutting board

Described by CNN as “the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled”, the spaghetti tree hoax was an infamous hoax report broadcast by the BBC on April Fool’s Day 1957. The report showed a family in Switzerland seemingly gathering a “spaghetti harvest”. Hundreds of enthralle

A baby rabbit held in a person's hands
There were clearly some rather gullible doctors around in the 18th century. In 1727, a Surrey woman called Mary Toft managed to convince doctors that she had given birth to rabbits. (“Every creature in town, both men and women, have been to see and feel her!” wrote one excited contemporary). Toft later confessed to the hoax, and was jailed for fraud. Picture: Design Pics Inc/Rex Features CREDIT: Design Pics Inc/Rex Features 
The perpetrators of the 'Dreadnought Hoax'. Virginia Woolf is on the far left
Virginia Woolf is better known for her novels, but in 1910 she took part in a notorious hoax. She and five friends disguised thenselves as Abyssianian royals, and managed to persuade the Royal Navy to show them its flagship HMS Dreadnought (Woolf is pictured on the far left). The prank ended up a national news story. The Navy was so embarassed that it tried to send an officer to cane the ringleader as punishment. Picture: Mary Evans Picture Library / Alamy CREDIT: Mary Evans Picture Library / Alamy 
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the US in 1988
The British band Crass was behind the “Thatchergate” hoax just after the Falklands War 1982, when they spliced together from previous speeches what appeared to be a shocking telephone conversation between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. The recording, in which Thatcher appeared to suggest HMS Sheffield was deliberately sacrificed to drive the war, was finally rumbled as a hoax by The Observer. Picture: Peter Heimsath/Rex Features CREDIT: Peter Heimsath/Rex Features 
The two houses in Leinster Gardens which are just facades
If you’re ever wandering down Leinster Gardens in Bayswater Road in London, take a careful look at Numbers 23 and 24. These houses are in fact just facades, built to disguise an exposed part of the Metropolitan underground railway that runs behind them. In the 1930s, a man famously sold hundreds of guests tickets to a black tie charity ball there – only for them to turn up and discover the houses were fakes. Picture: Murray Sanders / Daily Mail /Rex FeaturesCREDIT: Murray Sanders / Daily Mail /Rex Features 
The white cliffs of Dover
In 1927, a plucky young woman called Dorothy Cochrane Logan jumped into the water at Cape Gris Nez in France, aiming to swim the English Channel. Thirteen hours later she arrived at Folkestone, setting a new world record. Unfortunately, it turned out the swim had been a hoax: for most of her journey, she’d been on a boat. Picture: Christopher Pledger CREDIT: Christopher Pledger 
Fairy corpse alleged to have been found in Dan Baines' Derbyshire garden.
In 2007, a prop maker called Dan Baines posted pictures online of what he claimed was the corpse of a dead fairy, later managing to sell the tiny creature for nearly £300 on eBay. Although he has admitted it was an April Fool’s joke, some still believe the item to have been genuine. Picture: Dan Baines/Rex Features CREDIT: Dan Baines/Rex Features 
Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels
One of the greatest miltary hoaxes was Operation Mincemeat, which saw the British convince Germany that the Allies planned to attack Greece instead of Sicily. It was achieved by attaching false “top secret” documents to the corpse of a British soldier (in reality, a dead tramp) and leaving it for the Germans to find. The plan was partly inspired by a memo written by Ian Fleming (pictured), an intelligence officer who went on to write the James Bond novels. Picture: Everett Collection / Rex Features CREDIT: Everett Collection / Rex Features 
William Ireland, a famous forger of Shakespeare documents
You can imagine the excitement in the 1790s when a young man called William Henry Ireland claimed to have found a cache of documents written by Shakespeare – including letters to Anne Hathaway (complete with a lock of hair) and “original” manuscripts of Hamlet and King Lear. Unfortunately, he took the hoax too far by claiming to have found a complete new Shakespeare play, Vortigern and Rowena. Experts became suspicious, and his forgeries were rumbled. Picture: Mary Evans Picture Library / Alamy CREDIT: Mary Evans Picture Library / Alamy 
Statue of the Loch Ness Monster at Loch Ness, Scotland
There have been countless hoaxes to do with the Loch Ness monster. The most famous occurred in 1972, when a team of zoologists from Flamingo Park Zoo in Yorkshire found a large, strange-looking body floating in the lake. It was eventually revealed to be the body of an elephant seal, which a member of the zoo’s staff had shaved and disfigured. Picture: Image Broker/Rex Features CREDIT: Image Broker/Rex Features 
Model of skull of Piltdown man, as reconstructed by Dr Smith Woodward. Dark areas are from the original fossil
One of the biggest scientific hoaxes of all time happened in the early 1900s, when fragments of ancient human skull were discovered by an amateur fossil collector called Charles Dawson in Piltsdown, Surrey. The find was acclaimed as “the missing link” between apes and humans – until it turned out that the skull was only 500 years old, and the jaw was that of an ape with filed-down teeth. Whether it was Dawson who orchestrated the hoax, or someone else, has never been established. Picture: World History Archive / Alamy CREDIT: World History Archive / Alamy 
George Psalmanazar
Although he looked entirely European, French-born George Psalmanazar somehow managed to convince 18th-century London that he was the first person from Formosa (now Taiwan) to ever visit Europe. His best claim? That he had pale skin because upper-class Formosans lived underground. Picture: INTERFOTO / Alamy CREDIT: INTERFOTO / Alamy 
Evelyn Waugh
In 1929, a group of Bright Young Things including Evelyn Waugh (pictured) staged an elaborate hoax at the expense of the art establishment: an exhibition of paintings by a uneducated artist of German extraction called Bruno Hat, who had supposedly mastered modernist art “without ever having been to Paris”. Journalists and the public fell for the trick, not realising that the man with a heavy German accent claiming to be Hat was actually no other than a diguised Tom Mitford, brother of the more famous Mitford sisters. Picture: Associated Newspapers /Rex Features CREDIT: Associated Newspapers /Rex Features 
Theodore Hook, perpetrator of the Berners Street Hoax
The Berners Street Hoax took place in 1809, when a well-known prankster named Thomas Hooke took a bet that he could transform any house in London into the most talked-about address within a week. He arranged for dozens of tradesmen, as well as illustrious figures such as the Lord Mayor of London and the Governor of the Bank of England, to visit the house of the imaginary “Mrs Tottenham”. The sheer volume of arrivals – including six pianos – brought the area to a complete standstill. Picture: Classic Image / Alamy
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Most Popular

My vision is driven by the conviction that Governments primarily have responsibilities to perform and must be held to account on improved conditions that meet basic standards of living; employment generation and livelihoods sustainability; whilst balancing socio-cultural peculiarities of the various constituencies in the new world order.



Abiodun BORISADE is the last child of the 4 children of Late Justice Michael Ayorinde BORISADE and wife, Chief Mrs Oyeyemi BORISADE.
Abiodun holds a Bachelor of science degree in chemistry (1997 EKSU); A Masters degree in Environmental Management (Middlesex University, UK. 2002); A Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Lecturing (University of Bolton UK, 2006); A Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism (International Institute of Journalism, University of Maiduguri 2019).

Abiodun lectured in chemistry and general sciences at various renowned UK institutions including Hopwood Hall College, Middleton Greater Manchester; City & Islington College, London.

Abiodun BORISADE is Founder and Chief Executive Office of Elise Integrated Consult Nigeria Limited. A popular media brand www.abiodunborisade.com is also under his direct control.

Abiodun served as Technical Assistant to Ekiti government 2011, and is currently serving as special assistant on new media to ekiti state governor.

He is member to numerous reputable professional bodies within and outside Nigeria.

Copyright © 2021 Abiodun Borisade.

To Top
error: Content is protected !!