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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
The debate about the Vinland Map continues, and Scientific American summarizes the controversy. Everyone agrees that the parchment the map was written on is medieval, but what about the ink? That's the question.
Posted: Wed Mar 03, 2004 Comments (0)

This picture is going around via email. It's not really a hoax at all. Just a joke. But since it's about Southern California, I couldn't resist sharing it. Here's the text that accompanies the email: With all the news on TV lately about the subzero weather and snow that the east coast and upstate NY areas are experiencing, we shouldn't forget that Southern California has it's share of devastating weather also. I've attached a photo illustrating the excessive damage caused to a home from a west coast storm that passed through the Los Angeles area a couple of days ago. It really makes you cherish what you…
Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2004 Comments (18)

I've long suspected that those buttons on corners that you're supposed to push to get a walk signal are a bizarre hoax. Just a facade created by city governments to let us pedestrians feel like we possess some small measure of control. Now this article (NY Times, reg. req.) largely confirms my suspicion. The article only discusses New York City, but I think the situation is the same throughout most of the country.
Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2004 Comments (33)

"While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph." Paul Vallely has written a good article on the history of photographic fraud for the Independent.
Posted: Sun Feb 22, 2004 Comments (1)


A few weeks ago I noted the growing popularity of buying and selling imaginary relationships on eBay. Now the concept has migrated off of eBay and became the basis for a new company: ImaginaryGirlfriends.com. As the site explains: You can soon receive personalized love letters by mail, e-mail, photos, special gifts, even phone messages or online chat from your new Imaginary Girlfriend. We won't tell anyone that it's not real!. Okay, but what about the imaginary boyfriends?
Posted: Sun Feb 22, 2004 Comments (6)

It seems like whenever I turn on the SciFi channel, there's John Edward talking to the dead. I don't really care if he actually can talk to the dead or not (I assume he can't). I'm more concerned by the fact that his show is boring. But on the start of his Australian tour, a man has sued him, claiming that Edward's show violates the Trade Practices Act which stipulates that suppliers of goods can't make claims that they can't substantiate. In this case, Edward claims he can talk to the dead, but the guy suing him is pretty sure he can't. It'll be interesting to see how the case is…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004 Comments (91)

In 2002 the upscale British department store Harrods issued a press release on April 1 announcing plans to 'float' the company. At first it indicated that this would involve a "first-come, first-served share option". Later it revised this to indicate that it was not planning to float shares on the stock exchange. Instead, it was planning to create a floating version of the store on the river Thames. It was just an April Fool's Day joke, but the Wall Street Journal fell for it. In retaliation, four days later the WSJ ran a story asking whether Harrods was the British Enron and suggesting that "investors would be wise to question its every disclosure." Now Harrods is suing the WSJ in…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004 Comments (1)

This week I started a new job as contributing editor to Muse Magazine. It's a magazine for young teenagers (9-14 years old) about science, history, and the arts, but I don't think that description quite captures its quirky nature. It runs articles on everything from 'Weird tales of the subway' to 'Could you live forever' (which is in the current issue). Its mascot is a trickster named Kokopelli (from Native American mythology) who loves to play pranks, which might explain why they were willing to bring a 'hoax expert' like me on board. For strange bureaucratic reasons (the kind that seem to plague all companies), the magazine doesn't really have an…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004 Comments (5)

In the tradition of the Ghost In A Jar, but not as funny or clever, we recently had a Satanic Toaster offered for sale on eBay. The toaster first began to burn the toast. Then, when the seller tried to throw it away, it mysteriously reappeared back in his kitchen. Like I said, a pale imitation of the ghost in a jar. (Submitted by Bob Pagani)
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004 Comments (2)

This is just dumb. You receive an email with the following message: Greetings, You have just received the "IRISH VIRUS". As we don't have any programming experience, this Virus works on the honour system. Please delete all the files on your hard drive manually and forward this Virus to everyone on your mailing list. Thank you for your cooperation. I think I've seen other versions of it that attribute it to other ethnicities/social groups. There's more info about it over at symantec.com. (submitted by Bob Pagani).
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004 Comments (5)

In 1936 a candidate named Boston Curtis ran for the post of Republican precinct committeeman in the town of Milton, Washington. And he won. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to the people who voted for him, Boston Curtis was a mule. His name had been placed on the ballot by the Democratic mayor Ken Simmons who guessed, correctly, that no one actually knows anything about the candidates for the lower-ranking positions. They just vote along party lines. Simmons figured it would be funny to get the Republicans to vote in a mule (which is the symbol of the Democratic party). Carrying on this tradition of involving animals in the electoral process, we now have Brenda Gould, from Newmarket,…
Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 Comments (1)

The Guardian is hosting a contest to see who can come up with the best doctored photo pertaining to the American Presidential campaign. It's inspired by the recent doctored photo of John Kerry and Jane Fonda (see below).
Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 Comments (0)

Matthew Richardson, a 23-year-old student at St. Peters College in Britain, was asked to travel to Beijing to deliver a series of lectures about economic theory. He was flattered by the invitation, though puzzled since he knew nothing about economics. But undaunted, he packed an economics textbook in his bag and took off to Beijing. It was only after he got there that he figured out that the people in Beijing had probably intended to invite Prof. Matthew Richardson from New York University, who's an expert on financial markets. But the faux Richardson bravely soldiered on, reading from his textbook, and no one seemed to notice that he didn't have a clue what he was talking about. In fact,…
Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 Comments (0)

This is a pretty amazing picture, and it screams 'Photoshop!' After all, where in the world would planes really land that close to sunbathers on a beach? It looks like the plane is landing right on top of them. Well, the place is Princess Juliana Airport in St. Maarten. And the airplanes really do come in that close to the beach. A collection of shots of planes landing at Princess Juliana is circulating as a powerpoint file via email. Jozee V sent the file along to me (Thanks, Jozee!). At first I couldn't believe that the shots were real, but after a little research I was convinced. The thumbnail shot…
Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2004 Comments (97)

I don't know what it is about oversized domestic cats that's so endlessly fascinating, but I've got to admit that, as the owner of a rather corpulent kitty, I'm just as intrigued by this subject as everyone else seems to be. So anyway, first there was Snowball. Then along came Munchkin. And now the latest tubby tabby to do the email rounds is Scrappy, the Super-Sized Cat. This email comes with the subject line: Why you shouldn't feed your cat table scraps. I don't know if it's real or not, but at the risk of putting my reputation as a hoax expert on the line, it kind of…
Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2004 Comments (32)

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