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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
Earlier this month, images of a new product, instant champagne tablets, went viral in France. They were supposedly the creation of the champagne label Veuve Clicquot. You drop a few tablets in a glass of water and a minute later you'd have a glass of champagne. The product had been given the name "Shh...ampagne". Yes, this was a hoax. And it was a hoax done without the permission of Veuve Clicquot, whose name was attached to the fictitious product. The phony ad campaign was the work of a Russian ad agency called
Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 Comments (1)

August 29, 1923: Grover Bergdoll's Gold
The claim that a road worker had discovered Grover Bergdoll's buried pot of gold prompted a two-day investigation by federal agents. But on this day in 1923, the story was revealed to be a practical joke among the workers that spun out of control. The pot of gold in question was believed to have been buried by the wealthy draft dodger Bergdoll in 1917. He escaped prison in 1920 by convincing his guards of its existence and then slipping free of them when they accompanied him to find it. Treasure hunters continued to look for it. But in 1939, after finally surrendering to authorities, Bergdoll admitted there was no buried pot of gold. [Pennsylvania Historical Society]
Posted: Fri Aug 29, 2014 Comments (0)

April Fool becomes reality. ThinkGeek first introduced "Das Can-in-Stein" on April 1st, as an April Fool's Day joke. The idea was to insert your beer can into the device so that you could pretend you were drinking from a pewter beer stein. ThinkGeek has now decided to sell this product for real. You can purchase one for $10.
Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2014 Comments (0)

In 2012, a ZZ Top fan made a hoax video that purported to show the trio performing the 1955 folk-country classic "Sixteen Tons" with guitarist Jeff Beck. In a case of life imitating hoax, Jeff Beck and ZZ Top recently performed together in L.A., and they decided to play "Sixteen Tons" — because of the fan's hoax video. Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top said, "It’s a mega meta kinda thang. [LA Times]
Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2014 Comments (1)


The Sailing Stones of Death Valley are the real-life counterpart of Dan De Quille's 1867 hoax about the "traveling stones" of Pahranagat Valley. The sailing stones mysteriously move across dried mud, leaving tracks behind them. For a long time, no one knew exactly what made the sailing stones move. But now researchers have figured it out. [Discover]
Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2014 Comments (1)

The Spitalfields Life blog has a brief account (with lots of pictures) of the so-called Shadwell Shams. These were supposedly medieval trinkets, specifically pilgrim's badges (tens of thousands of them), that a pair of forgers, William Smith & Charles Eaton (aka Billy & Charley), claimed to have found in the mud along the Thames. The pair did a good business for over 10 years, from 1856 to 1867, managing to completely fool most archaeologists. The article notes that, "today their Shadwell Shams are commonly worth more than the genuine antiquities they forged."
Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2014 Comments (0)

August 28, 1972: Clifford Irving Goes to Prison
On this day in 1972, Clifford Irving began serving a 2½-year sentence for conspiracy and fraud on account of selling publisher McGraw-Hill a fake autobiography of billionaire Howard Hughes, for which he was paid $750,000. By the time he went to prison, he had returned $500,000 of that money. He was released early after serving 16 months. More…
Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2014 Comments (0)

After Amy Bruni (of SyFy's Ghost Hunters) posted on Facebook about how excited she was that McDonald's had decided to offer a Ouija Board as the new Halloween Happy Meal toy, so many people believed her that Snopes debunked the rumor the next day.
Posted: Wed Aug 27, 2014 Comments (0)

The American Press Institute interviews the founders of Nipsys News, which is one of those sites that allows anyone to create fake news stories. Most recently Nipsys was responsible for a viral hoax alleging that the the legal drinking age in the U.S. would soon change to 25. The founders of Nipsys gloss over the ethics of what they're doing with some hand-waving about "freedom of expression." But at the end of the interview they offer some advice about how to identify fake news. And it's actually good advice: "We just advise readers to check if the information from the article can be found in other sources as well. Don’t trust just one source."
Posted: Wed Aug 27, 2014 Comments (1)

Author Keith Sniadach set up a camera in the woods behind his summer cabin in western Pennsylvania, programming the camera to take photos when it detected heat or motion. And recently he found something unusual in the photos it took — a creature that appears to be a "gnome, troll or brownie of some sort." When I first saw the headline for this story on Cryptozoology News I thought it was meant to be a joke. But no. I think Sniadach genuinely wants people to believe that he photographed a gnome. As in, not a garden gnome statue that you might buy from a garden supply store, but a living, breathing gnome. He's provided…
Posted: Wed Aug 27, 2014 Comments (7)

Kevin and Becky Clark, who were hoping to adopt a child, were contacted by a woman claiming to be pregnant and hoping to find a couple to adopt it. For over a month the Clarks were in daily contact with the woman, planning the adoption, until she told them the baby was stillborn. But it turned out there was no baby. She had never been pregnant. What makes this unusual is that the hoaxer doesn't seem to have been looking for any money. Instead, she just craved attention. And it wasn't the first time she had done this. [Columbus Dispatch]
Posted: Wed Aug 27, 2014 Comments (0)

August 27, 2003: Mars as big as the Moon
The news that on this day in 2003 the Earth and Mars would be closer than they had been in 60,000 years (only 56 million km apart) inspired a viral email claiming that on the night of the 27th Mars would "look as large as the full moon" in the sky, and that "No one alive today will ever see this again." Since 2003, this viral email has resurfaced every year as August 27 approaches, despite attempts by NASA (and many others) to debunk it. [NASA]
Posted: Wed Aug 27, 2014 Comments (0)

The latest fake news story gone viral on social media is the claim that George Zimmerman (who shot Trayvon Martin back in 2012) was recently arrested in Ferguson after following two black teenagers out of a Dunkin Donuts and then aiming a handgun at them when they confronted him. The story originated with fake news site National Report. It's completely bogus. [hoax-slayer]
Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014 Comments (0)

Ebola rumors and conspiracy theories are spreading fast in Africa. One rumor is that the disease itself is a hoax invented by governments to boost their power. Another is that drinking salt water can cure the disease. Researchers note that the spread of rumors and conspiracy theories is to be expected in a situation such as a terrifying outbreak, because the rumors are actually "psychologically reassuring," allowing people to restore a feeling of control in the face of an unpredictable threat. [nytimes.com]
Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014 Comments (0)

Mental Floss has a list of 7 explanations for the Loch Ness Monster. That is, 7 things that people might be seeing and misinterpreting as Nessie. The list is: lake sturgeons, surfacing trees, indigenous eels, mountainous reflections, bird wakes, bubbles produced by seismic activity, and swimming elephants. Over the years, there have been quite a few more explanations than this offered to account for Nessie sightings. And some of the explanations are definitely strange. One of these days I'll get around to producing a full list of them.
Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014 Comments (1)

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.