On April 1, 1989, KING 5 reported that the unthinkable had happened.
The Space Needle, the news station reported — perhaps the city’s most iconic structure — had collapsed.
The collapse was sudden. An urgent KING 5 broadcast reported that little was known about how it happened. It showed apparent carnage in the immediate aftermath, with mangled metal scattered around the Seattle Center and the Needle’s recognizable saucer-shaped observation deck now on the ground, sticking straight into the sky. The rest of downtown loomed in the background.
A bystander who reportedly witnessed the tragic event said she heard a sound like thunder and then watched as the Needle wobbled precariously before tumbling down.
“It was like somebody just kicked the bottom out from under it,” she said. “You wouldn’t believe it.”
And in fact, you shouldn’t have. The whole stunt was an elaborate prank pulled off by the creative forces behind “Almost Live!” the sketch-comedy show produced and broadcast by the station from 1984-1999. The “bystander” who happened to witness the event was “Almost Live!” actress Tracey Conway, but many startled and alarmed viewers apparently didn’t notice.
“So many people called 911 that it shut the 911 lines down,” the sketch-comedy show’s host John Keister told KING 5.
The segment alarmed so many viewers that Keister later had to appear on air to apologize, according to KING 5.
Fast forward to 2018, and the pranks have gotten less dramatic but no less amusing. Sound Transit posted an Instagram photo Sunday morning of their “new triple-decker prototype bus”:
In the comments, some people called the bluff but others weren’t so sure. “The Tri-Express is a nice touch,” one person commented.
Scott Thompson, a Sound Transit spokesperson, confirmed the photo was a joke and said drivers shouldn’t expect to see the buses on the roads anytime soon. “If we had a triple-decker bus, that’s news to me,” he said.