1950
1950

Orange-Bearing Pine Trees

Motorists driving along the scenic Rim of the World highway near Lake Arrowhead in Southern California encountered something remarkable. All the pine and cedar trees lining the road had grown oranges overnight. The transformation turned out to be the work of the residents of the nearby town of Skyforest, led by the cartoonist Frank Adams. They had crept out during the night and strung 50,000 oranges in the trees along a one-mile section of the highway. The fruit was left over from the recent National Orange Show in San Bernardino.

The Wiesbaden Martian

The Wiesbadener Tagblatt announced that a flying saucer had crashed nearby and ran a photo of a small, one-legged extraterrestrial that had supposedly been found near the wreckage by American soldiers. The article elicited so many inquiries that the paper had to publish a disclaimer several days later. But the career of the hoax was far from over. An unknown informant sent a clipping of the photo to the FBI, and the agency duly filed it away, mistakenly labeling it a Martian in the USA. Three decades later, the agency passed the photo along to UFO researcher Barry Greenwood, and through him it made its way into the influential 1980 book The Roswell Incident, whose authors presented it to readers as genuine evidence of contact with UFOs. The photo, on account of being in this book, is credited with playing a large role in popularizing the idea of extraterrestrials as little grey men. The Wiesbadener Tagblatt photographer who created the image subsequently revealed that the alien was actually his five-year-old son posing with soldiers from the local U.S. base.

The Night Watch Dissolves

VARA, the Dutch national radio network, broadcast an interview with an emotional employee of the Rijksmuseum who confessed that, while he had been attempting to clean and restore The Night Watch by Rembrandt, he had accidentally used the wrong fluid. As a result, the famous painting was dissolving. Paint, he said, was dripping from the canvas even as he spoke. By midnight the masterpiece would be entirely gone, merely a puddle on the floor. The confession mobilized hundreds of art-lovers who showed up at the Rijksmuseum to view the beloved painting one last time. As they queued in front of the museum, VARA radio announcers walked up and down the line interviewing them. Some waited patiently in line for hours before realizing they had been fooled.

The Norwegian Wine Surplus

Aftenposten, Norway's largest newspaper, announced on its front page that the government-owned Wine Monopoly had received a large shipment of wine in barrels, but it had run out of bottles. To get rid of the extra wine, the stores were running a one-day bargain sale, offering wine at 75% off and tax-free. The catch was that buyers had to bring their own containers to put the wine in. "Buckets, pitchers, and the like" were recommended. When the Vinmonopolets opened at 10 a.m., Norwegian wine lovers rushed to line up, forming long queues that stretched around the block. According to legend, numerous empty buckets were later seen lying in the streets, left there by people who had realized, while standing in line, that the sale was a hoax.