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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
Reddit Pics managed to debunk this selfie with a shark photo (titled "At the time, I had no idea I wasn't swimming alone") pretty quickly. Redditor "BigAndDelicious" figured out that the shark in the background was actually cut-and-pasted from an image photographed by Gerard Soury in South Australia.
Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 Comments (0)

The headline of today's Daily Express warned that the EU may ban kettles. Which sounds like something that would strike right at the heart of British culture. The reality, however, (as pointed out by fullfact.org) is a bit less sensational. An EU commission is investigating the energy consumption of kettles and may, in the future, suggest regulations that would make kettles more energy efficient and improve their impact on the environment. "Euromyths" (i.e. misleading stories about regulations supposedly dreamed up by overzealous EU bureaucrats) are very popular with the British tabloid press. Some fake Euromyths circulated in the past include that the EU was reclassifying kilts…
Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 Comments (1)

This moth was spotted by Yvonne Esquilin of Texas. She said that at first she was just amazed by the size of the moth. It didn't dawn on her until after she took the picture that she could see an image of Jesus in the pattern on its wings. However, others have pointed out to her that the pattern also looks a bit like a devil, which she thinks is "kind of creepy." [kxan]
Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 Comments (0)

Artificial banana flavor doesn't taste much like actual bananas. It's sweeter and more pungent. And there's a legend about why this is so. The story goes that the difference in flavors came about because the artificial flavor was developed from an old variety of bananas called the Gros Michel. However, the Gros Michel succumbed to a fungus and ceased to be commercially produced. It was replaced by the Cavendish, which had a slightly different flavor. And so the artificial flavoring tasted like the original bananas, but not the ones we eat now. Is there any truth to this legend? Chris Baraniuk did some research for the BBC, but he couldn't find any scientific source…
Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 Comments (0)


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)

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