ONCE A year on April 1 everyone takes part in a little lighthearted fun, pulling pranks and playing practical jokes and hoaxes on each other.
And in recent years, big companies and organisations – including newspapers, fashion giants and even Google – have joined in the fun by fooling customers and readers with wacky products and news stories.
This year wasn’t any different. Last week, several news outlets in the States and even in the UK – including the Mail Online – reported on a story that a ‘crazy’ couple from Jacksonville in Florida had been arrested for selling ‘golden tickets to heaven’ to hundreds of people.
According to reports, husband and wife Tito and Amanda Watts, were arrested by the Jacksonville Police for selling ‘golden tickets to heaven’ to people for $99.99 (Appprox £70).
They told the customers the tickets were made from solid gold and each ticket reserved the buyer a spot in heaven. They told the buyers that all they have to do is to simply present the ticket at the pearly gates and the doors would be open for them to walk in.
Police were said to have confiscated over $10,000 (Appprox £7,000) in cash, five crack pipes and a baby alligator.
A police spokesman allegedly said: “People can sell tickets to heaven. But the Watts’ misrepresented their product. The tickets were just wood spray painted gold with ‘Ticket To Heaven – Admit One’ written in marker.
“You can’t sell something as gold when it’s not. That’s where the Watts crossed the line into doing something illegal.”
In a statement to the police, Tito Watts reportedly said: “I don’t care what the police say. The tickets are solid gold… it ain’t cut up two by fours I spray painted gold.
“And it was Jesus who give them to me behind the KFC and said to sell them so I could get me some money to go to outer space. I met an alien named Stevie who said if I got the cash together he’d take me and my wife on his flying saucer to his planet that’s made entirely of crack cocaine.”
The statement went on: “You can smoke all the crack cocaine there you want… totally free. So, try to send an innocent man to jail and see what happens.
“You should arrest Jesus because he’s the one that gave me the golden tickets and said to sell them. I’m willing to wear a wire and set Jesus up.”
As funny as it may sound, it turns out the story was completely made up in honour of April Fools.
As an update to their original report on the Watts’ golden ticket business, the Jacksonville Sun Times, wrote: “This story turned out to be an April Fool’s joke, and unfortunately we fell for it. The story, which several other websites also reported as fact, originated on March 31 with the website Stuppid.com, and the photos of the fictional ‘Tito and Amanda Watts’ came from this 2011 collection of bizarre mug shots. We apologise for publishing false information and regret this error.”