I’ve read a fair amount by and about Ronald Knox (including the many passages about him in Joseph Pearce’s splendid Literary Converts), but I never knew he was a prankster. From Listverse’s recent “10 Outrageous Broadcasts That Caused Mayhem“:
In an incident that preceded Orson Welles’s broadcast by 12 years, Catholic priest and BBC commentator Father Ronald Knox shocked Britain by saying that mobs of angry unemployed workers had revolted in London. Knox vividly described the destruction of Big Ben and key government buildings, along with the lynching of a minister. Although he subtly hinted that the broadcast was a hoax, his audience—still mindful of the recent Russian Revolution—were taken in.
Concerned listeners swamped the BBC with calls. It didn’t help that a heavy snowfall hampered the delivery of newspapers, adding to their anxiety.
After the hoax was cleared up, Knox received heavy criticism but was not punished. He continued making hoax broadcasts, with BBC later honoring him when they made his prank the standard for all future April Fools’ Day broadcasts.