On April Fools Day 1957, the BBC aired a fictitious story about the Swiss spaghetti harvest which depicted laborers reaping spaghetti noodles from spaghetti trees. Scores of people contacted the station to find out how they could obtain their own “spaghetti bush.” Today we look back at this classic hoax.
The BBC Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
During the early days of television in 1957, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) televised a mock segment in reference to a Spaghetti Harvest in Switzerland. Alleged to be the brainchild of an Austrian camera man, the three minute bit was broadcast on April 1st of that year, and displayed the harvesting of spaghetti noodles from trees by a group of Swiss cultivators.
“Many people are often puzzled by the fact that spaghetti is produced at such uniform lengths,” the narrator matter-of-factly explained, “but this is the result of many years of patient endeavor by plant breeders who have succeeded in producing the perfect spaghetti.”
The farce appeared as part of an esteemed current affairs show called Panorama, and the narrator was a dignified anchor by the name of Richard Dimbleby. The BBC estimates that the transmission was witnessed by 8 million viewers, and large numbers of spectators were taken in by the prank.
Response and Backlash
Spaghetti was described in the documentary a rare and novel luxury in Britain at the time, and much of the population was unaware of how spaghetti was actually made. According to the BBC, hundreds of viewers subsequently contacted the company inquiring where they might procure their own spaghetti bush. Along with a few BBC personnel who were not privy to the hoax, some eyewitnesses disapproved of the way in which a sincere presentation was used to beguile the public.
When asked about the criticism in a 2004 BBC article, retired Panorama producer David Wheeler replied, “I think it was a good idea for people to be aware they couldn’t believe everything they saw on the television and that they ought to adopt a slightly critical attitude to it.”
Watch the original BBC broadcast of the Spaghetti Harvest:
The BBC Spaghetti Harvest is thought to be one of the first hoaxes during the infancy of television.
Updated August 1, 2015
Originally published May 2014