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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
Fishy Research
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 23, 2014
Many media outlets (such as NPR) recently ran a feel-good story about how a sixth-grader made an important scientific discovery. The discovery was that lionfish can survive in nearly fresh water, such as that found in estuaries. This is important to know since lionfish are highly invasive. The young scientist made this discovery as part of a science-fair project on lionfish. But it now looks like there's a seamier side to this story. It turns out that this information had been discovered before, as far back as 2010, by a marine biology grad student, Zach Jud. And Jud had worked with the sixth-grader's father, who's also a marine biologist. …
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 23
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 23, 2014
July 23, 1943: The Death of Ern Malley
The unknown Australian poet Ern Malley was said to have died of Graves' disease on this day, prompting his sister to send the poems she found among his possessions to Max Harris, editor of the Angry Penguins poetry journal, who then decided to dedicate a special issue to Malley's strange poems. But upon publication, Harris discovered Malley wasn't real. He was the satirical creation of two Australian poets hostile to modern poetry. Ern Malley remains Australia's most famous literary hoax. [wikipedia]
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The ‘We only use 10% of our brains’ myth
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jul 22, 2014
In an article in The Atlantic, Sam McDougle traces the origin of the often repeated belief that "you only use 10 percent of your brain." He writes: "According to Sam Wang, a neuroscientist at Princeton and the author of Welcome to Your Brain, the catalyst may have been the self-help industry. In the early 1900s, William James, one of the most influential thinkers in modern psychology, famously said that humans have unused mental potential. This completely reasonable assertion was later revived, in mangled form, by the writer Lowell Thomas in his foreword to the 1936 self-help bible How To Win Friends And Influence People. “Professor William James of Harvard used to say that…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 22
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jul 22, 2014
July 22, 1931: Mr. A.A. declared man with shortest name
On this day, Mr. A.A. (first name Aaron) was declared to be the man with the shortest name in the United States, following the death of H.P. Re. But within a month he was revealed to be a fraud after he was charged with forgery and a judge issued a warrant for his real name, Earl Gerske. Mr. A.A. was merely an alias, Gerske explained, adopted on account of a deal with a laundry company so that "they could advertise that the phone number of their laundry was the first one listed in the directory."
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 21
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jul 21, 2014
July 21, 1959: Jacqueline Gay Hart Disappears
Hart, a 21-year-old heiress, disappeared from Newark airport and was the subject of a nationwide search for two days until she turned up in Chicago's Grant Park, claiming she had been abducted by two men who drove her, bound and gagged, to Chicago. But within a day she admitted her story was false, explaining that she had "sort of exploded" because of tension over her approaching wedding and had fled, wandering around New York and Chicago for two days before deciding to return.
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Fried Chicken Oreos
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jul 20, 2014
Fried Chicken Oreos are not a real thing. The photo of a bag of them that went viral this week was a fake. However, I don't think that the idea of Fried Chicken Oreos is inherently implausible. After all, chicken and waffles are definitely real (and very tasty). So why not have fried chicken oreos? Also, Oreos already come in many different, unusual flavors, such as cookie dough, candy corn, green tea ice cream, limeaid, orange ice cream, etc. So fried chicken flavor isn't that much of a stretch. However, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel checked with Weber Shandwick, who handle PR for Oreo cookies, and…
Categories: Food, viral images Comments (0)
This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 20
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jul 20, 2014
July 20, 1971: The National Review Hoax
The conservative National Review magazine released a set of documents that it claimed were secret government papers dealing with the war in Vietnam. A day later it admitted the papers were a hoax, designed as a response to the Pentagon Papers published by the New York Times the previous month. William F. Buckley, editor of the National Review, claimed his magazine's hoax demonstrated that "forged documents would be widely accepted as genuine provided their content was inherently plausible." [Lewiston Daily Sun]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 19
Posted by The Curator on Sat Jul 19, 2014
July 19, 2002: The Case of a Phony 9/11 Survivor
On this day, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported the inspirational story of Daniel McCarthy, who had just been wed in Lake Tahoe. McCarthy, the paper said, was a Brooklyn police officer who had survived after being buried for 79 hours in the rubble of the World Trade Center. However, the national attention brought by the article quickly exposed McCarthy's elaborate tale of heroics as a complete fraud. McCarthy was neither a cop nor a 9/11 survivor. In reality, he had a long criminal record, and, on top of everything else, was already married. So his new marriage made him a bigamist. [Editor & Publisher]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 18
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jul 18, 2014
July 18, 1938: Wrong Way Corrigan
On this day, Douglas Corrigan landed at Baldonnel Aerodrome in Ireland after a solo, 28-hour flight across the Atlantic. The FAA had denied him permission for the flight because of the poor condition of his plane, but Corrigan claimed that he had intended to fly to California from Long Island but accidentally went the wrong way because of a broken compass. The explanation earned him the nickname "Wrong Way" Corrigan. His error was viewed by almost everyone as intentional, though he never admitted to this. [wikipedia]
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Milkybar Pareidolia
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 17, 2014
While watching the World Cup, a British lawyer (Robin Jacobs) was eating a Milkybar and noticed that the design imprinted on the bar includes a phallic shape that he believes is inappropriate for children. A spokesperson for Nestle, the maker of the bar, responded: "Nestle is surprised and sorry to hear that Mr Jacobs thought the picture on the Milkybar resembles male genitalia, it is in fact an image of a horse’s head, the Milkybar Kid’s horse." This Milkybar phallus pareidolia is getting LOTS of press coverage, although it's not clear to me why since people have been talking about the 'rude' image on the Milkybar for years. Here's a…
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Full Contact Skydiving
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 17, 2014
Full Contact Skydiving is defined (according to the website that promotes it) as "a mixed martial art combat sport occurring in the free-fall portion of a standard skydiving jump." But no, it isn't real. The entire thing is a spoof designed to promote the Amp energy drink. As revealed in a "behind the scenes" video recently posted.
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Shark in Lake Ontario
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 17, 2014
A video released last week showing a group of fishermen having an encounter with a shark in Lake Ontario has proven to be a hoax. The video was created by a company called Bell Media using a prosthetic model shark, as the company has admitted in a recent press release. It was "the first step of a multi-stage marketing campaign" to promote the Discovery Channel's Shark Week. Nissan is also involved in the hoax, since they're the ones sponsoring Shark Week. Apparently Nissan will have an ongoing campaign running throughout Shark Week titled "In Search of Canada's Rogue Shark," in which a team will be…
Categories: Advertising, Animals Comments (0)
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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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.