Monday 1 April 2013

The Spaghetti Hoax

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Back in the 1950's, although the medium of television was relatively new, seven million British families already owned a TV set.  Many were in the habit of watching a BBC show called "Panorama".

On April 1, 1957, about 8 million viewers tuned in to watch the current events show.  The broadcaster described a family from Switzerland that was harvesting a booster spaghetti crop.  It had been a mild winter in the Alps and the spaghetti weevil had been kept at bay, making the pasta crop better than ever.  The cameraman focussed on a woman carefully plucking spaghetti from the tree and then laying it in the sun to 

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Later, the BBC received hundreds of calls about the program.  Some viewers were so interested they wanted to purchase their own spaghetti bushes.  But when the BBC announced that the program was just an April Fools joke, some viewers were upset, pointing out that "Panorama" was supposed to be a serious show.  Other viewers just laughed it off.

How did such a prank come to fruition?  Apparently BBC cameraman Charles de Jaeger, who was schooled in Austria, had a teacher who used to make fun of his weaker students, saying that "they were so dumb, they would believe it if he told them that spaghetti grew on trees".

We wonder why many Brits were tricked by the hoax, but apparently fresh spaghetti was not widely eaten in Britain, but rather tinned spaghetti.  Many British housewives did not cook their own pasta.  Furthermore, television was in its infancy and many viewers tended to believe anything they saw on TV.

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