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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
September 4, 1967: The Great British UFO Invasion
The discovery of six saucer-shaped objects giving off "bleep-bleep" signals caused panic in southern England. There was real fear of a UFO invasion, although the Ministry of Defense also suspected the mysterious saucers might be some kind of Soviet weapon. But at the end of the day, two trainee aircraft engineers confessed the saucers were their creation. They explained, "We believe that flying saucers could land one day, so we landed our own to give the authorities some practice." [Daily Mail]
Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 Comments (0)

September 3, 1934: Paul Klenovsky Exposed
For five years, British conductor Sir Henry Wood had attributed an orchestration of Bach's Organ Toccata and Fugue in D minor to an otherwise unknown young Russian man named Paul Klenovsky. The orchestration was highly praised. But finally, on this day, Wood admitted he himself was Klenovsky. He perpetrated the ruse, he said, to demonstrate the lavish praise bestowed by critics on anyone with a high-sounding foreign name. "Klen" was the Russian word for a maple tree (i.e. a type of wood).
Posted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 Comments (1)

Richard Macrae of Aberdeen claims that he's earned more than €250 in discounts by showing stores his "Ginger Discount Card." He just shows it to cashiers and ask if they offer a ginger discount. [newstalk.ie]
Posted: Tue Sep 02, 2014 Comments (1)

No, the police department of Williston, Florida is not being replaced by a privatized force "trained, managed, and wholly operated by Walmart." Confusion about this arose because fake-news site National Report posted a story claiming it was. The Williston PD eventually posted an announcement on its Facebook page, denying there was any truth to the report. The Williston PD's Communications Director, Sgt. James Bond, told a local news station that he had no idea why National Report chose Williston for their story. And yes, the Sergeant's name really is James Bond.
Posted: Tue Sep 02, 2014 Comments (0)


September 2, 2002: Simonya Popova
Sports Illustrated ran an article about Simonya Popova, a 17-year-old rising tennis star from Uzbekistan. The magazine said that the Women's Tennis Association was eagerly anticipating her rise to stardom because she was "strikingly attractive" and could bring some ratings-boosting sex appeal into the league. However, Simonya Popova didn't exist. She was the fictional creation of writer Jon Wertheim. The WTA denounced the article, saying it was shocked by the suggestion that the physical attractiveness of female players had anything to do with the popularity of women's tennis. [BBC Sport]
Posted: Tue Sep 02, 2014 Comments (1)

September 1, 1972: Frank Searle's Nessie Photo
On this day in 1972, the Daily Mail ran a photo of the Loch Ness Monster taken by Frank Searle, thereby giving him instant fame as a monster hunter. But ultimately he became known as the most prolific producer of Nessie hoaxes. He initially took photos of floating logs, which he claimed to be Nessie, but progressed to cutting-and-pasting drawings of dinosaurs into Loch Ness scenes, at which point even the most die-hard Nessie believers stopped taking him seriously. Searle was the inspiration for the monster-hunter character in the 1995 film Loch Ness starring Ted Danson. [Cryptomundo]
Posted: Mon Sep 01, 2014 Comments (0)

Cracked recently ran a list of the Top 10 Greatest Hoaxes. And for Cracked, it's a decent list. Which is to say that my expectations were pretty low, but they actually managed to choose some hoaxes which legitimately qualify as classics. Until you get to #4 on the list, which sticks out like a sore thumb. It's the "NASA Moon Landing Hoax." What is that doing on the list? It would be relevant on a Top 10 Conspiracy Theories list, but not a Great Hoaxes list.
Posted: Sun Aug 31, 2014 Comments (4)

August 31, 1987: The Great Potato Play
During a game between the double-A Williamsport Bills and the Reading Phillies, on this day in 1987, everyone thought they saw catcher Dave Bresnahan throw the ball wild past third base. So how was it that when the man on third came running toward home, Bresnahan still had the ball and tagged him out? It was because Bresnahan had actually thrown a peeled potato into left field, and not a ball. The stunt cost Bresnahan his job with the Bills, but it also earned him an immortal place in baseball history, becoming forever known as the Great Potato Play. A year after the event, fans paid one dollar and one potato as admission to celebrate Dave Bresnahan Day. More…
Posted: Sun Aug 31, 2014 Comments (0)

I learned from this article on heritage.com that the "Electric Sugar" hoax of 1889 was featured on Friday night on the Travel Channel's Monumental Mysteries show. (To be honest, I've never watched that show.) The sugar hoax is pretty obscure, but interesting. Nice to see it get some attention. I posted an article about it here on the site back in 2011.
Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 Comments (0)

August 30, 2000: Prison Escape Prank
On this day in 2000, residents of Millbrae, CA were terrified when two handcuffed men in orange jail jumpsuits went around the neighborhood, pounding on doors, asking for help in removing their shackles. The police soon arrived and arrested "Big Joe" Lopez and Graham Herbert who, it turned out, were merely posing as prisoners as part of an on-air prank for San Francisco station KYLD-FM. Lopez was sentenced to 45 days in county jail. Herbert (who was a 19-year-old intern) got a year's probation. [sfgate.com]
Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 Comments (0)

Eric Shipton's Yeti footprint photos, taken on his 1951 Everest expedition, are going up for sale. These photos played a big role in Bigfoot history since it was these photos that inspired a Yeti craze in the media during the 1950s, which then fed directly into the Bigfoot craze that started when giant-size footprints were found in California in 1958. Unlike the footprints found in California, which were a hoax, the prints Shipton found probably were genuine, but misinterpreted. The most likely explanation is that they were bear prints that grew larger as they melted in the sun. Not Yeti prints.
Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 Comments (0)

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)

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