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Hoaxes of 2014

From the incompetent criminals file: Back in 1974, 20-year-old Kenneth Lutz of Grand Terrace, California thought he had found an easy way to scam his parents. He kidnapped himself. He did this by attaching a note to his parents' front door demanding $5000 in $20 bills for his return, with instructions that the money be "put out when you go to work Wednesday," and signed the note, "the kidnaper". Then he went into hiding. However, he didn't hide very well. When the police arrived a few hours later they found him sitting at a desk in a camper van behind his parents' home. He promptly confessed that he had written the note, and that no one else was involved in the scheme, explaining, "I wanted the money and it sounded like something that could be done." A detective said that the circumstances of the case had immediately aroused his suspicions because, "You tell me one kidnapper that signs his name 'kidnaper' at the bottom of a note."

Posted: Thu Jan 01, 2015.   Comments (0)

Seagulls have learned that they can break open quahaugs (hard-shelled clams) by dropping them from great heights onto hard surfaces such as roads or rocks. This is a well-documented behavior. But in 1932, the Vineyard Gazette reported that seagulls at Martha's Vineyard had learned an even more remarkable trick. They were killing rats by deliberately dropping quahaugs on them, and then feasting on the dead rats.

Posted: Fri Dec 26, 2014.   Comments (0)

From Italy comes news that authorities have closed a circus that was trying to pass off painted dogs as panda bears. Two chow-chows had been dyed black and white, and the circus was charging money for kids to pose with them. When called out on the deception, the circus owner initially claimed that these were rare panda/dog hybrids. Now the police have charged the owner with animal abuse and defrauding customers. more…

Posted: Wed Dec 24, 2014.   Comments (0)

This photo shows what looks like a demon squatting on top of a hospital bed. But closer examination reveals no demon, but just an interesting example of pareidolia. Various objects in the room are positioned in such a way that, when combined, they look like a devilish creature. more…

Posted: Wed Dec 24, 2014.   Comments (0)


Here's an example from 1975 of bureaucracy at its finest. The Nassau County District Attorney planned to create a "bogus store" equipped with hidden surveillance equipment and manned by undercover cops, in order to catch people selling stolen goods on behalf of organized crime. But before it could happen, another part of the state bureaucracy, the Division of Criminal Justice, issued a press release announcing the plan. Defending the announcement, the agency's pr officer noted, "We can't say there are 49 public grants and one secret one." So that was the end of that undercover operation.

Posted: Sat Dec 20, 2014.   Comments (1)

New York Magazine has egg on its face after running a story claiming that a 17-year-old Stuyvesant High School student made $72 million on the stock market. Within a day, the New York Observer debunked the story, revealing that the actual amount the student made was $0. The kid hadn't even done any real trades, only simulated ones for the school's investment club. more…

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2014.   Comments (0)

The short answer is, almost definitely no, they don't.

Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014.   Comments (0)

Videos circulating online show cars that are apparently able to change their color with the push of a button. more…

Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2014.   Comments (0)

This week, hundreds of thousands of people shared a story from fake news site World News Daily claiming that loggers had accidentally cut down the world's oldest tree in the Amazon forest. As with everything published by World News Daily, the story was not true, but it definitely sounded true to a lot of people who expressed their outrage on social media. more…

Posted: Sat Dec 13, 2014.   Comments (1)

Does she really crave eating toilet paper, or is she full of it? more…

Posted: Fri Dec 12, 2014.   Comments (2)

Millions of poinsettias are sold every year at Christmastime. But are these plants highly poisonous? For decades, many believed so. "One poinsettia leaf can kill a child," was a warning repeated often over the years. more…

Posted: Wed Dec 10, 2014.   Comments (0)

Examples of flimflam mail order products confiscated by U.S. Postal Inspectors during the 1980s.

Posted: Mon Dec 08, 2014.   Comments (2)

From the history of misleading advertising: In 1941, the Doughnut Corporation of America came out with "Vitamin Donuts," hoping the product would earn a seal of approval from the Nutrition Division of the War Food Administration. No dice, said the War Food Administration, because it was only the flour that was enriched with vitamins, not the entire donut. They suggested the name "Enriched Flour Donuts" as an alternative, but the Doughnut Corporation didn't think this sounded appetizing, so they dropped the product entirely. Incidentally, the flour in modern donuts has far more vitamins in it than the flour in Vitamin Donuts did. more…

Posted: Sat Dec 06, 2014.   Comments (0)

A viral video shows what appears to be a horse flying in the sky over Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Some say it's the Buraq, the legendary flying horse that transported the prophet Muhammad. Others say it's the black horse prophesied in the Book of Revelation. Still others say it's a helium-filled balloon.

Posted: Fri Dec 05, 2014.   Comments (9)

Russian state TV, Rossiya-1, has been warning viewers of the moral decadence of the West by airing news footage that shows an American father indoctrinating his child into homosexuality by covering the kid's bedroom wall with gay pornography. However, the footage is obviously fake. It originally came from a sports paraphernalia company, Fathead, and showed a father surprising his son by decorating his wall with a massive photo of a monster truck. The footage was then altered by 4chan users to replace the monster truck with gay pornography. It seems clear that this is not a case of satire mistaken as news. It's a case of willful misrepresentation of satire for the sake of propaganda. [vox.com]

Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2014.   Comments (3)

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