San Serriffe

Michael Surtees's picture

A couple days late but still interesting...

San Serriffe
The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement describing the tenth anniversary of the small island of San Serriffe. The island's geography appeared to be named after printing terms. For instance, its two islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its leader was General Pica, and its capital was Bodoni. Articles described the eccentric culture of the island. One strange island custom was the Festival of the Well Made Play, during which islanders would perform the complete cycle of plays by playwright William Douglas-Home in English, Caslon, and Ki-flong (languages of the island). Strangely enough, the islanders did not appear to understand the plays themselves. It was merely certain ritual aspects of the plays that they appreciated, as evidenced by the fact that they would "applaud widely whenever an actor appears wearing a Harris tweed hacking jacket with a centre vent and cavalry twill trousers and a paisley cravat." Adding credibility to the supplement was the fact that many eminent people were quoted in it, referring to their experiences in San Serriffe. Authentic advertisements also accompanied the articles and played into the hoax. For instance, Texaco offered a contest for which the first prize was a two-week trip to Cocobanana Beach in San Serriffe. Kodak also ran an ad in which it said, "If you have a picture of San Serriffe, we'd like to see it." The Guardian reported that its phones rang all day as people called up requesting more information about the island. The success of this hoax was largely responsible for the flood of April Fool's Day jokes that appeared in other papers in succeeding years. At the Guardian itself the island of San Serriffe became a running gag in the years to follow. The island reappeared on April Fool's Day in 1978, 1980 and 1999. Moreover, each time it reappeared the island had changed location. It began in the Indian Ocean, moved to the South China Sea, and ended up in the North Atlantic.

http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/af_1977.html

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