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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 17
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 17, 2014
July 17, 1842: The Feejee Mermaid
Inspired by the arrival in the city of a "Dr. J. Griffin" who claimed to have the body of a mermaid in his possession, New York City papers all ran mermaid pictures (supplied to them by PT Barnum), showing the creatures as seductive ocean maidens. But when Dr. Griffin got around to exhibiting his mermaid a week later to sell-out crowds, it proved to be, in the words of Barnum who had engineered the entire scheme, "an ugly, dried-up, black-looking, and diminutive specimen." Nor, of course, was it a real mermaid. More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 16
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 16, 2014
July 16, 1866: The Calaveras Skull
At the July 16, 1866 meeting of the California Academy of Science, Josiah Whitney announced the recent discovery of a skull that he believed to be evidence that humans had been in North America for millions of years. It had been found my miners 130 feet below the surface and beneath a stratum of lava. The authenticity of the skull was immediately questioned, though Whitney did not waver in his belief. However, subsequent analysis has shown that the skull was no more than 1000 years old. It was probably planted by miners playing a practical joke. More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 15
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jul 15, 2014
July 15, 2002: New Elements Faked
A team of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published a short statement in the journal Physical Review Letters retracting its earlier announcement that it had successfully created two new elements, ununoctium and livermorium (Nos. 118 and 116). Officials at the lab later concluded that physicist Victor Ninov had fabricated data to make it appear as if these elements had been created, whereas, in fact, there had never been any evidence for the elements. Ninov strongly denied the accusation, but was nevertheless fired from the lab. [Atomic Lies (pdf)]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 14
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jul 14, 2014
July 14, 1992: Portofess
Father Anthony Joseph showed up at the Democratic National Convention in New York City with his portable confessional booth ("Portofess"), mounted on the back of a large tricycle. He explained that he aimed to provide "Religion on the move for people on the go," and also that, "The Church must go where the sinners are." Portofess made national news. But Father Joseph was really veteran hoaxer Joey Skaggs in disguise. Many of the journalists who interviewed "Father Joseph" had interviewed Skaggs before, but didn't recognize him. [joeyskaggs.com]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 13
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jul 13, 2014
July 13, 1855: The Silver Lake Sea Serpent
Two boys and five men fishing on Silver Lake in New York reported seeing a "horrid and repulsive looking monster" swimming in the water. Other sightings soon followed, triggering an influx of visitors to the region hoping to see the creature. Several years later, a local hotel owner, Artemus Walker, was credited with having created the monster as a way to drum up business. He supposedly made it out of a 60-foot canvas inflated by bellows. However, skeptics note that his elaborate creation seems as implausible as the lake serpent itself. [csicop.org]
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Missing: Pregnant Tarantula Named Penelope
Posted by The Curator on Sat Jul 12, 2014
On Thursday, someone posted flyers around Brooklyn alerting everyone that their pregnant red rump tarantula named Penelope had gone missing. "I know she looks crazy scary," the flyer said, "but she's mostly harmless." (Tarantulas definitely do look scary, but their bite really isn't that dangerous. It's comparable to a bee sting.) Anyway, Penelop's owner asked that if anyone found her, to put her in a "tupperware bowl" with holes and phone him. Naturally, these signs attracted quite a bit of attention. Someone even started a Twitter account in Penelope's honor. But last night, the New York Times revealed that…
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Hair Curl Pareidolia
Posted by The Curator on Sat Jul 12, 2014
Kristin Kissee recently posted on Facebook a photo of her hair as it looked growing back from chemo and radiation back in November 2011. Apparently she just realized, as she was looking through old photos, that some of her hair curls in this photo appeared to spell "God". Although it looks to me like it could also spell "Good" or "Goo". [huffpost.com]. Hair-curl pareidolia is something you don't see that often. By far the most famous example of it is in that famous poster of Farrah Fawcett, where her hair curls kinda/sorta spell "SEX".
Categories: Pareidolia Comments (1)
Spielberg Slaughters A Triceratops
Posted by The Curator on Sat Jul 12, 2014
Last Sunday, Facebook user Jay Branscomb posted a picture of director Steven Spielberg posing with a triceratops, with the comment, "Disgraceful photo of recreational hunter happily posing next to a Triceratops he just slaughtered. Please share so the world can name and shame this despicable man." Of course, triceratops have been extinct for millions of years. Spielberg was posing next to a movie prop from Jurassic Park, not an actual animal. Branscomb intended his post as a joke, alluding to the ongoing brouhaha about Kendall Jones, the 19-year-old cheerleader who likes hunting big game and posing with her kills. Branscomb's post quickly went viral, and it seems that the vast…
This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 12
Posted by The Curator on Sat Jul 12, 2014
July 12, 1945: Van Meegeren Confesses
Han van Meegeren, on trial in the Netherlands for selling to the Nazis a painting by Johannes Vermeer (considered a national treasure), defended himself by confessing that the painting wasn't actually by Vermeer. He had painted it himself. In fact, he had been churning out fake Vermeers for years, amassing a small fortune in the process. He was convicted of forgery, but died of a heart attack before serving any time. More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 11
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jul 11, 2014
July 11, 1947: Twin Falls UFO Hoax
The FBI, Army Intelligence, and police all responded to a report of the discovery of a "flying saucer" in the yard of Mrs. T.H. Thompson of Twin Falls, Idaho. The saucer was discovered by her neighbor who heard a "thudding noise" at about 2:30 am, ran outside, and found a large metallic disk on the lawn. The authorities spent a day trying to figure out what the object was, as townsfolk worried whether they were being invaded by extraterrestrials, before four teenage boys admitted they had made it as a prank. It had taken them several days to make the saucer which was replete with "a plexiglass dome, radio tubes, burned wires, and glistening sides of silver and gold."
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The Rat Wrap
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 10, 2014
Photos of a rat found in a wrap ordered from Chop't (a New York sandwich and salad restaurant) have recently caused quite a stir on Twitter. Naturally, people are wondering if this is some kind of hoax, since claiming to find gross things in your food is a time-honored way of trying to shake down restaurants. (Remember the lady who found the severed finger in her chili at Wendy's!) Gothamist has been in touch with people at the law firm where the "rat wrap" was delivered to, who insist that there's no hoax on their end. And Chop't is saying that it doesn't believe this is the work…
Categories: Food Comments (0)
29 (lip-synced) celebrity impressions in one song
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 10, 2014
A video of musician Rob Cantor doing 29 Celebrity impressions in one song got over 7 millions views on youtube since July 1. But now Cantor has admitted that he was lip-syncing the impressions as a way to get people to listen to the song. The process of creating the impressions that he lip-synced to turns out to have been quite elaborate, and he's released a new video showing how it all worked. And that video is also going viral. So this guy really knows how to use social media to his advantage! Thewrap.com has some more details.
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 10
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 10, 2014
July 10, 1969: Donald Crowhurst's boat found
Crowhurst was a competitor in a round-the-world, non-stop, solo sailing race. But as he lagged further behind the other competitors, he devised a scheme to fake his way into the lead by remaining in the Atlantic while the other boats circumnavigated the globe, so that upon their return it would appear as if he was in the lead. But apparently realizing that he was doomed to be found out, and possibly having succumbed to insanity, he jumped overboard instead, leaving his boat empty. [wikipedia]
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Holy Eggplants
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 09, 2014
Line cook Jemarcus Brady, who works at Gino's restaurant in Baton Rouge, LA., was recently slicing through an eggplant, when he realized that the seeds spelled the word 'GOD'. Brady said that seeing that word in the eggplant was like God himself "showing me, hey, I'm real." However, this isn't the first time the name of God has appeared in an eggplant. The phenomenon has a long history. Back in 2007, Felicia Teske of Pennsylvania also found the word "GOD" in an eggplant. Before that, in 2003, a woman in Mendhasalis, India sliced into an eggplant and found that…
Categories: Pareidolia Comments (0)
The Disappearing Redhead Gene
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 09, 2014
Marie Claire notes on its blog that the idea that the gene for red hair could soon become "totally extinct" is just a hoax. [The disappearing redhead gene is a variant of the old disappearing blonde gene urban legend.] Nevertheless, Marie Claire does warn that global warming could cause "a dramatic increase in people born with auburn hair." It's getting this from The Daily Record, which in turn is getting it from a Dr. Alistair Moffat who works at a genetic testing company. Moffat's reasoning is that "red hair in Scotland, Ireland and the north of England is adaptation to the climate. We do not get enough sun and have to…
Categories: Urban Legends Comments (4)
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