Sweden’s Best April Fools’ Day Hoaxes
Think Swedes have a reputation as an overly serious, buttoned-up bunch? You’d quickly learn otherwise if you visited the country on April Fools’ Day.
Here, telling fibs and playing jokes on friends and loved ones is small potatoes. Fooling an entire population with harmless pranks is much more fun. And the nation’s media is often in on the ploy.
Country Walkers trip leader Tina Karnéus explains: “In Sweden, of course we joke with each other in schools, at work, in our families and with loved ones and friends. But the daily papers and media also fool us. The next day, they confess to their ruse by saying or printing the traditional ‘gotcha!’ phrase of the prankster, ‘jag kan lura dig vart jag vill’ – I can fool you any way I want to!”
Just how epic are these harmless deceptions? Here are just a few that Tina shared with us:
The Great Hosiery Hoax
National pranks are not new to Sweden. Back in 1962, when television only broadcasted in black and white, SVT (the only station on the air) introduced viewers to their “technical expert” Kjell Stensson.
With much scientific rigor, he reported that you could easily convert your black-and-white television picture into color, he said. Simply place a fine-meshed material over your screen. The mesh will bend the light spectrum so that you can see true colors. Stennson told his eager audience that nylon stockings were the perfect tool to help you transform your television viewing.
Thousands of Swedes (especially fathers, according to people who remember the hoax) searched their homes for nylon stockings, stretching them out and fastened them to their televisions.
A Timely Trick
Swedes might tell you that the best national April Fool’s joke was pulled in 1980. That was the year that the government intended to introduce Daylight Savings Time (sommartid in Swedish). The planned date for everyone to turn their clocks ahead was April 6. But one newspaper decided otherwise.
The daily newspaper DN ran a story that the sommartid would begin April 1 instead. Officials had decided, they reported, to introduce it on the sly, making all clocks and watches wrong. Lives were thrown into chaos as everyone suddenly believed they were late for their meetings and appointments.
Shake it up!
In the Spring of 2004, the region’s cellular network was being upgraded to 3G technology. Some jesters at the Sweden’s largest newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, saw an opportunity in the timing to pull one over on the technologically gullible. “If you shake your phone hard enough,” they wrote, “you can access the new high-tech third generation frequency.”
Problem was, no one said just how vigorously one had to shake their phone in order for the new frequency to magically turn up. Suffice to say that many Swedes gave their arms a good workout that day!
Setting Free the Animals
Just last year, a newspaper reported a power outage at Skansen, the open-air museum and zoo in Stockholm. As a result, more than 130 animals had escaped their enclosures and were roaming the streets of the capital. Monkeys, zebras, bears and dozens of other creatures were cavorting, galloping and loping about the cosmopolitan city.
It’s unclear how many Swedes double checked the bolts on their doors, drew their shades or postponed their visits downtown for another day. But it’s easy to imagine that those who did venture out kept their ears open for the call of the wild.