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Today's Featured Topic:
Hoaxes of Joseph Mulhattan
Bad California Weather — 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…
Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2004.   Comments (18)

Push Button for Walk Signal — 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)

Lies, Damned Lies, and Photography — "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)

Imaginary Girlfriends — 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)


Is John Edward a fake? — 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…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (91)

Harrods vs. the Wall Street Journal — 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…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (1)

Muse Magazine — 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…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (5)

Satanic Toaster — 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)

The Irish Virus hoax — 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.…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (5)

The Milton Mule and Henry Bull — 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…
Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2004.   Comments (1)

Sham-paign Contest — 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)

How to be an economics expert (even if you know nothing about economics) — 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…
Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2004.   Comments (0)

Princess Juliana Airport — 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!).…
Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2004.   Comments (97)

Why you should not feed your cat table scraps — 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…
Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2004.   Comments (32)

Sun Tunnels for Sale — In yet another eBay hoax, Utah's Sun Tunnels were offered for sale a few days ago. In case you haven't heard of them, the Sun Tunnels are a series of large concrete tubes sitting out in the Utah desert. They were designed by the artist Nancy Holt back in the '70s. Unfortunately, the person offering them for sale didn't own them. But that's okay, because no one bid on them anyway, which is a little sad considering that they're pretty cool and were offered for a bargain-basement price.…
Posted: Tue Feb 17, 2004.   Comments (0)

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