The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
The Piltdown Man skull is being taken out of storage this month and put on display at Britain's Natural History Museum, as part of the Pfizer Annual Science Forum. They're putting it on display in order to mark the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the fraud (I guess it's better to celebrate when they discovered the fraud, rather than when the fraud was first perpetrated). The Washington Post has a good, informative article about the history of Piltdown Man.
Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2003 Comments (0)

Here's an interesting situation. A robber walks into a store, waves a gun around, and tells the cashier to give him all the money in the register. The cashier takes one look at the gun, thinks it's plastic, and assumes the guy is joking. So she tells him to get lost. Frustrated, the would-be robber runs out of the store. But authorities now believe the robbery attempt was real, which makes the woman quite lucky. But there's still the possibility that the gun actually was a fake. After all, if the guy really did have a loaded gun, why didn't he fire a warning shot to let the cashier know he was serious?
Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2003 Comments (5)

Here's another image from the San Diego fires that seems to be too amazing to be real, but is actually totally genuine. It's circulating around with the caption 'lucky bastard' (enlarge it to see why this makes perfect sense). It was sent to me by Kentaro Mori of Liquito. I think that the photo was taken in the Scripps Ranch neighborhood of San Diego, though I could be wrong about that. According to the navy website which the picture comes from, the photo was taken from a Sea King helicopter by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Michael J. Pusnik, Jr.
Posted: Mon Nov 03, 2003 Comments (1)

I'm making a mental note to myself: the next time I'm at a party in China, I won't strap fake genitals to myself, dance obscenely, and throw scraps of papers pulled from my underwear at the audience. Three Japanese students attending school in China made the mistake of doing this and have sparked massive anti-Japanese demonstrations throughout the country.
Posted: Sun Nov 02, 2003 Comments (0)


An environmental activism group named Sea Shepherd photographed and videotaped Japanese fishermen slaughtering sixty dolphins in a cove near Taiji, Japan. They posted the pictures of the slaughter on their website, thereby causing widespread outcry. But one of the pictures is also provoking debate of a different kind. It shows the water of the cove turned an almost neon red color because of the blood of the dolphins. People looking at this are wondering, can that possibly be real? Can the water really be that red? Or did Sea Shepherd, perhaps, tweak the colors in the picture via photoshop? I don't have the answer. In an accompanying videotape the water…
Posted: Sun Nov 02, 2003 Comments (1)

Okay, this is gross, but what else would you expect from a web hoax? It's some guy's collection of fecal tongs. Personally, I've never heard of such a thing as a fecal tong before. They look like just regular tongs to me. In fact, I would say that this site is actually just a collection of pictures of tongs, (so it's quite safe for work, unless your boss would object to the word 'fecal') which this guy has managed to spin a wild story around.
Posted: Fri Oct 31, 2003 Comments (1)

The Toronto Star has an article about the 1938 War of the Worlds panic (the anniversary of which is today)... and they quote me in it! The article argues that the mass panic was much smaller than is popularly thought. I'm inclined to agree with this. My reasons are: being familiar with the way in which stories about hoaxes are told, I know that the impact hoaxes make is often exaggerated in order to tell a better story. So it sounds a lot more dramatic to say that one million people panicked in 1938, but the truth is that it was probably only a few thousand.
Posted: Thu Oct 30, 2003 Comments (0)

A student from Dunwoody Highschool in Dunwoody, Georgia sent me a note through the form on my comments page asking for help with a science fair project about gullibility. Unfortunately this student didn't include their return email address, so I don't know how to contact them. So hey, if you're the student who contacted me and you're reading this, send me another email, but remember to include a return address.
Posted: Thu Oct 30, 2003 Comments (1)

Here's a very cool picture of one of the San Diego fires. For a second I actually thought it was fake because it seemed weird that traffic was heading right into the fire. Plus the time stamp looked odd (it's stamped October 28, even though the picture was posted on the 27th, and the woman who posted it says it was taken on the 26th... maybe their camera has the wrong date). I thought maybe someone had pasted the bottom scene of the traffic together with the top scene of the smoke. But on second thought, I'm sure it's real. I can't see any sign of photoshopping. It was just…
Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2003 Comments (1)

I received this image from 'Detective Kid' who wants to know if it's real or fake. I've been checking it out and can't see anything obviously fake about it. The picture has a watermark on it, that I can't read. It's something like 'erzool.com.' If anyone knows anything about the picture, let me know. UPDATE: A solution to this photo comes from Jeffrey Schuh: "This photo is a national geographic photograph. The photo has been republished in 'The Photographs' coffee table book. (The one with the Afghan woman on the cover.) The plane photo is on page 50-51 and is captioned: Sanarate, Guatemale 1976. 'On a…
Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2003 Comments (3)

Here's a couple of vampire-themed websites sent in by visitors. First we have the Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency. According to the blurb on the site, "From 1868 to 1975, the Federal Vampire & Zombie Agency (FVZA) was responsible for controlling the nation's vampire and zombie populations while overseeing scientific research into the undead. This site is a tribute to the men and women who served in the FVZA, especially the over 4000 Agents who lost their lives fighting to keep our country safe." And next we have The Temple of the Vampire. If you want to live forever, then all you have to do is join the temple. The catch is that in order to join you…
Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2003 Comments (2641)

Just found out that I'm going to be on NPR's Talk of the Nation tomorrow. They're doing something about the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast (the 'panic broadcast') and are having me on as the hoax expert to comment. Good timing, since the paperback version of my book is also coming out this week. Hopefully it'll provide some publicity.
Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2003 Comments (0)

Just got back from New Mexico where I had been invited to speak at a conference about "Hoaxes, Myths, and Manias." I gave a talk about Internet Hoaxes. Getting back was a nightmare. Almost all the flights into Southern California had been cancelled, but I was lucky enough to get rebooked onto a small propeller plane that was flying into the tiny Carlsbad airport. Flew right over the fires, which was an eerie sight... a thin line of flame stretching from horizon to horizon. Here and there you could see houses burning. I live in the east county of San Diego which is quite close to one of the fires, but my house isn't in any danger. The problem…
Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2003 Comments (0)

Check out the wonders of the Romanian Mint Rubbing Association. (Thanks to t.m.Enzo for the link).
Posted: Tue Oct 21, 2003 Comments (1)

Here's an interesting item sent to me by Geoduck, just in time for Halloween. Apparently a rumor has been going around suggesting that the image of witches flying on broomsticks, with the brush behind them, is wrong. Back in the old days witches always flew holding the brush in front of them. It was only in modern times, as we came to understand aerodynamics, that we flipped the broom around. This rumor can be traced back to Kevin Carlyon, a self-proclaimed Witch King. But this website, Pagan Prattle, has studied the issue by looking at images of witches dating back as far as the 15th century, and has determined that Carlyon doesn't know what he's talking about. The proper…
Posted: Tue Oct 21, 2003 Comments (2)

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