On April 1, 1989, people tuning in to watch the show "Almost Live" on KING TV were greeted with a disturbing news update. Instead of the show's usual comedy sketches about the Northwest, a straight-faced newsreader informed viewers that the Space Needle in Seattle had collapsed.
Tucked into the corner of that report was a banner, stating it was April Fools' Day — a signal to viewers that the news report was fake. However, the broadcast's fake images of a crumpled Space Needle looked so convincing, many people believed it had really happened.
“If you lived here in Seattle and you lived on Queen Anne or Capitol Hill, or whatever, you’d look out the window and go, huh, it’s still standing,” said Steve Wilson, who directed the show that evening.
Everyone who didn’t have a view of the Space Needle freaked out. So many people called 911 that the system shut down. Reports came in later that some people with real emergencies died because they could not get through. These claims were eventually proven to be false. But until that happened, the show’s host, John Keister, thought his career was over.
“When I thought that I might have been responsible for the deaths of two or three people, I thought that I am in trouble on a level that I couldn’t conceive of being in this much trouble,” Keister said.
In this story, hear how a well played prank went sideways. But, with most things that go wrong, after a little time passes, the once very dire situation no longer looks so terrible.