The Spaghetti Tree Hoax: Inside the 1957 BBC’s April Fools Joke That Caused A Nationwide Uproar

In 1957, the BBC shocked the nation with a prank that redefined the April Fool's prank. Picture this: A picturesque family in the Swiss countryside delicately plucking strands of spaghetti from a tree.

Absurd, right? Nevertheless, this crazy scene aired as an authentic report on BBC's Panorama. Here's the twist: Spaghetti was a culinary mystery to many Britons at the time.

So, when they saw this "spaghetti crop," a light bulb went off—they could grow their own pasta!

Soon after, the BBC was flooded with queries from curious viewers wanting to cultivate their own Spaghetti Trees.

But as soon as the laughter subsided, an uproar broke out. Newspaper headlines became louder, debates raged, and the nation found itself divided over a simple truth – spaghetti doesn't grow on trees.

It was a masterstroke of manipulation that exposed both the power of the media and the undoubted gullibility of the public.

The 1957 Spaghetti-Tree Prank isn't just a joke — it's a piece of history that reminds us of the power of a well-played April Fools' gag.

The person primarily responsible for this hoax was Charles de Jager, an Austrian-born panorama cameraman who loved to play practical jokes.

As a child, a teacher at his school used to describe his students as being so stupid that if they were told that spaghetti grew on trees, they would believe it.

De Jager always dreamed of playing an April Fool's joke and in 1957, luck smiled on him. April Fool's Day coincides with Panorama's Monday broadcast, presenting the perfect opportunity.

He made a compelling case, assuring that he could handle the shoot financially while also handling another assignment in Switzerland. Panorama's editor, Michael Peacock, agreed, approving a small budget of £100 for the project.

The scene unfolded in a hotel in Castiglione, situated on the quiet shore of Lake Lugano. De Jager's plan involved purchasing 20 pounds of raw homemade spaghetti.

They skillfully wrapped the braids around the branches of the laurel trees that surround the lake, creating a picturesque illusion of "spaghetti trees."

Raw spaghetti was not easy to handle; To keep it from drying out before filming, he carefully stored it between damp clothes.

Adding to the spectacle, De Jager recruited local women dressed in Swiss national costume. their role? To playfully "harvest" the spaghetti, fill wicker baskets and strategically lay the strands under the sun as if they were being "dried".

The hoax was given authenticity by the involvement of the announcer, Richard Dimbleby.

Dimbleby, a respected veteran broadcaster and the BBC's inaugural war correspondent, was not known for humour.

Yet, in all seriousness, they contributed to the mischief.

In his usual style, Dimbleby confidently reported the upcoming abundant spaghetti harvest in Switzerland, thanks to the almost complete eradication of the Spaghetti tree's main predator, the "spaghetti weevil".

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