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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
Guides at Yellowstone are having to spend more time debunking rumors because of a large increase in the number of scare stories about the park circulating online. The rumors mostly focus on the Yellowstone supervolcano and the fear that it's about to erupt. One rumor claims the park is being evacuated because of an imminent eruption. Another says the release of high levels of helium from the park's thermal features is a sign the volcano is about to blow. (The helium release is normal). Melting asphalt on the roads is also normal. And bison are not fleeing the park. It's common for them to migrate to lower elevations in search of food. [yellowstonegate.com]
Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014 Comments (0)

August 26, 1966: Trained the Wrong Side
The press described it as "one of the war's most confused episodes" when Sgt. Bernd M. Huber confessed that while stationed in Vietnam he had mistakenly given an entire battalion of enemy soldiers specialized training in weapons and demolition, for two months. A day before their graduation, the enemy soldiers disappeared, leaving behind a note, "Thank you for the training. We're Ho Chi Minh's boys." But several days later, on this day in 1966, Huber confessed that the incident never happened. It was a war story he had heard from another soldier. In other words, it was an urban legend.
Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014 Comments (0)

August 25, 1835: The Great Moon Hoax
The New York Sun announced that the British astronomer Sir John Herschel had discovered life on the moon by means of a new telescope "of vast dimensions and an entirely new principle." Later updates revealed the existence of creatures such as lunar bison, fire-wielding biped beavers, and winged "man-bats." The report caused an enormous sensation. To this day it's remembered as one of the most significant media hoaxes of all time. In fact, it's sometimes credited with being the hoax that launched modern journalism because it helped to establish sensationalism as the model for commercial success. More…
Posted: Mon Aug 25, 2014 Comments (0)

August 23, 1895: The Winsted Wild Man
On this day in 1895, several New York City newspapers reported that passengers on a stagecoach near Winsted, Connecticut had seen a naked "wild man" jumping out from behind some bushes. More wild man sightings followed, until soon the residents of Winsted were gripped by panic. A posse of over 100 armed men set out to hunt down the creature, but had no success. Eventually the truth emerged. The original report had been the invention of a young local reporter, Lou Stone. After that, group psychology had done the rest. More…
Posted: Sat Aug 23, 2014 Comments (0)


Welcome to hoaxes.org, the museum's new domain name.

As far as I can tell, the museum appears to have survived its move in one piece. It seems that the old URLs are being successfully redirected to the new domain. However, I haven't yet tested if things such as RSS or member logins all work correctly.

I have to say, the transition, just to get to this point, wasn't easy. I spent the last two days banging my head against my desk, trying to master the byzantine complexities of apache, .htaccess pages, and so-called 'regular expressions' (i.e. apache server code gobbledygook), in order to get the redirect to work correctly.

The biggest problem was that I'm an absolute beginner at apache server code. But also, the blogging software I use and the way it was initially installed (in a subfolder) created some challenging special circumstances that I needed to figure out how to code around.

Unfortunately, the coding challenge isn't entirely over yet. Right now, the old server is sending all requests for museumofhoaxes URLs over to the new hoaxes.org server. But soon I need to have the museumofhoaxes domain name point directly at the new server, and this will require slightly different code in order have the redirect work. If this doesn't make any sense to you, don't worry. It wouldn't have made any sense to me either a few days ago.

I'm thinking of trying to find a programming student at UCSD who I can pay a few bucks to help me with this next step of the coding. Because I'm not sure I can figure it out on my own. Or rather, I don't really want to spend the time figuring it out, when someone who knows what they're doing could code it in seconds.

But if anyone out there knows apache and would be willing to give some free advice, let me know. I'd be forever grateful!

Posted: Fri Aug 22, 2014 Comments (2)

We're moving to a new server, because our old webhost is shutting down.

And I decided to use this opportunity to also change the URL of the site, from museumofhoaxes.com to hoaxes.org. Why? Just because it's shorter and easier to spell. (Over the years I've seen 'museum' misspelled in just about every bizarre way imaginable.)

Of course, all the old museumofhoaxes URLs will continue to work (fingers crossed). People will just be redirected automatically to the corresponding URL on hoaxes.org.

I was going to change the URL to hoaxes.com, which is available for purchase, but the guy who currently owns it wanted a ridiculously large amount of money for it, which put an end to that plan. Hoaxes.org, by contrast, was quite affordable. Plus, I figure that the museum is legitimately an organization, not a business. So it makes sense for it to have a .org suffix.

The migration process from the old to the new server has already begun — which means that anything posted here from now on has MISSED THE MIGRATION! It'll be deleted when I delete these old server files and hit the "automatic redirect" switch. So don't post any comments or forum posts until the site is live at the new URL, which should be in two or three days (because it takes some time for URLs to get processed through name servers, etc.). Or post them, but realize that they'll soon disappear.

See you all at the new server and new URL.

-Alex
Posted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 Comments (2)

August 19, 1961: $20,000 Award a Hoax
For years, Inez Miller of Pasadena, CA had worked behind a desk as a receptionist. But her receipt of the French Academy of Arts Victor Hugo Award, valued at $20,000, revealed she had a secret life as a celebrated painter and had been using all the money from the sale of her work to aid orphans and young artists, while supporting herself only on her income as a receptionist. She received the prize in honor of her philanthropic work, and news of her award made national headlines. But two days later, on this day in 1961, Miller admitted it was all a lie. There was no Victor Hugo Award, nor was she a painter. She was just a receptionist. [Spokesman-Review]
Posted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 Comments (0)

This weekend I returned from a two-week roadtrip with my wife through Northern California and Oregon. One of the places I made sure we stopped was Willow Creek, located in the forests of Humboldt County. I figured I had to make the effort to go there since, despite the town's tiny size (the sign you see as you enter the town lists its population as 1743), it bears the distinction of being the Bigfoot capital of the world. The history of Willow Creek is intertwined with the history of Bigfoot. It was near Willow Creek in October 1958 that road-crew worker Jerry Crew made a plaster cast of a giant footprint, which he…
Posted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 Comments (0)

Facebook is debuting a "satire" tag to identify articles that are intended as parody. Although the tag currently only appears in lists of "Related Articles". So articles from The Onion will now get flagged as satire, as well as articles from some other fake news sites (though Facebook isn't revealing exactly which sites it tags and which it doesn't). Seems like a good idea. Actually, they should have done this a long time ago. Because although one might argue that people should be able to recognize satire on their own, in practice a lot of them don't. [ajc.com]
Posted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 Comments (2)

August 18, 1999: Criswell Predicts the End of the World
In his book Criswell Predicts From Now to the Year 2000 (published 1968), the American psychic Criswell predicted that the end of the world would occur on August 18, 1999. The end would come by means of a "black rainbow" that would remove the oxygen from the earth's atmosphere "through some mysterious force beyond our comprehension." The only survivors would be the handful of colonists living in space stations. Criswell was known for his "wildly inaccurate predictions" (as wikipedia puts it).
Posted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 Comments (2)

August 17, 1921: S.O.S. Pigeon Note Hoax
A carrier pigeon dropped at the feet of a policeman in Columbus Circle, NYC. Attached to it was a distress note, dated Aug 13, from the naturalist Edmund Heller, saying he was lost in Yellowstone Park and needed help. "Notify Dan Singer, Belleclaire Hotel," the note said. News of this pigeon that had traveled 2000 miles in four days made front-page headlines. But skeptics questioned how a pigeon could have flown so far, so fast, and the story soon was exposed as a hoax. Heller wasn't lost, nor had he sent any note. The stunt was explained by Singer as a "hotel publicity scheme."
Posted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 Comments (0)

August 16, 1926: Lord Kitchener's Coffin Opened
British war hero Lord Kitchener was killed at sea in 1916, his body never recovered. But in 1926, press agent Frank Power (pictured) claimed he had found Kitchener's body in Norway and was transporting it back to England. British authorities seized the coffin upon arrival, but when they opened it on this day in 1926, they found it was empty. It turned out Power (whose real name was Arthur Vectis Freeman) had staged the stunt to publicize a forthcoming movie about Kitchener.
Posted: Sat Aug 16, 2014 Comments (0)

August 15, 2008: Bigfoot in a Freezer Hoax
Rick Dyer and Matthew Whitton held a press conference in Palo Alto where they answered questions about their claim that they had found the body of a Bigfoot while hiking in the Georgia woods. They said the creature was 7 feet 7 inches tall, weighed more than 500 pounds, and that they were storing the body in a freezer. Despite widespread skepticism, they indignantly stood by their story. However, when the body in the freezer was finally examined, it turned out to be a halloween costume with roadkill remains dumped on top of it. [Bigfoot Encounters]
Posted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 Comments (0)

August 14, 1927: The Disumbrationist Hoax Revealed Novelist Paul Jordan Smith, upset that his wife's art was panned by critics as being too "old school," devised an elaborate spoof of modern art. He submitted crude works of his own creation to exhibitions, claiming they were the work of a Russian artist Pavel Jerdanowitch (a name he had invented), the founder of the Disumbrationist School of Art (another invention of his). As anticipated, the works were praised by critics. Smith revealed the hoax in the LA Times on this day in 1927, arguing that it showed that the art currently in fashion was "poppycock" promoted by critics who knew very little about art. More…
Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2014 Comments (0)

August 13, 1940: The Nazi Parachute Landing Hoax
On this day, numerous German parachutes landed throughout the north of England, but no parachutists could be found. Even after soldiers, special police and Home Guards had conducted a widespread search, no parachutists were located. Eventually the British authorities concluded that the empty parachutes were a Nazi "invasion hoax" designed to create panic.
Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2014 Comments (0)

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