The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
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)

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)

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