The Museum of Hoaxes
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Hoaxes Throughout History
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Hoaxes of the 1950s

The Brassiere Brigade (1950)
In September 1950, police in Miami, Florida accidentally discovered a crime ring that had been stealing thousands of dollars from the local phone company for years. The thieves were young women employed in the counting room of the Southern Bell Telephone Company. They were smuggling money out of the building by hiding coin rolls in their bras. The combination of attractive young women, lingerie, and money proved irresistible to the media, and the exploits of the "brassiere brigade" made headlines across the nation. more details…
The Kidnapping of Nicole Riche (1950)
At 3 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, April 1, 1950 the 22-year-old French actress Nicole Riche walked into a Paris police station dressed in a flimsy white negligee. She had been missing for over two days. When the police questioned her about where she had been, she spilled forth a bizarre tale about being kidnapped by "Puritans" who kept her in a room without food while they lectured her about the immorality of her life. Finally, she said, her captors abandoned her in the Fontainebleau Forest, where she was found and helped to safety by kindly gypsies. The police believed none of her tale, and rightly so. Her "kidnapping" turned out to have... more details…
Hugh Stewart’s Sextuplet Hoax (1951)
In August 1951, 59-year-old science reporter Hugh Stewart approached his editors at the Chicago Herald-American with a hot tip. He had learned that a Chicago mother was about to give birth to sextuplets. It would be the first time a confirmed birth of sextuplets had occurred in America. Stewart offered no verifiable sources for the news. He insisted that "if I break my informants' confidence it will ruin me." Nor could he disclose the mother's name because "critical medical and psychological problems necessitate such protection." Nevertheless, the Herald-American decided to run his story on its front page. It appeared on August 21 under the... more details…
Ghost Artists (1952)
On February 5, 1952, a small ad ran on the theatrical page of the Washington Post offering the services of a company of "ghost artists": "Too busy to paint? Call on the Ghost Artists? We paint it, you sign it." The idea of ghost artists caught the interest of the media, and a report about the company went out over the wire services and appeared in newspapers nationwide. The ghost artists were said to be earning lucrative fees from executives who wanted to impress their friends. Satisfied clients included military men, government officials, doctors, businessmen, and a Wall Street broker who commissioned an entire exhibition in order to break... more details…
Rudolph Fentz, Accidental Time Traveler (1953)
The story of Rudolph Fentz was long considered an unsolved mystery, and a case of possible time travel. In June 1950, Fentz was said to have suddenly appeared in the New York City's Times Square, as if from out of the blue, wearing old-fashioned clothes and sporting mutton-chop sideburns. Glancing around, a look of astonishment and then of panic flashed across his face. He sprinted forwards, and was then struck down and killed by a car. more details…
The Great Monkey Hoax (1953)
Three young men reported running over a space alien on a rural Georgia highway. What made this case unusual is that the body of the alien was lying on the highway to prove their tale. The incident quickly made national headlines. But when scientists from Emory University examined the 'alien,' they determined it was actually a Capuchin monkey with its tail cut off and fur removed with depilatory cream. The boys confessed they had created it as a prank. more details…

Douglas R. Stringfellow (1954)
In 1952 the political newcomer Douglas R. Stringfellow was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from Utah. Much of the appeal of his candidacy lay in his decorated past as a hero during World War Two, a past which he made frequent references to during his revival-style campaign speeches. According to him, he had served as an agent of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during the war. This was the agency that later turned into the CIA. He claimed that at one point he had participated in a top-secret mission to rescue a German atomic physicist, Otto Hahn, from behind enemy lines and transport him to England. He also claimed that he had been captured by the Germans and held in Belsen prison, where he had been brutally tortured, causing him to become a paraplegic. more details…
I, Libertine (1955)
In the 1950s, bestseller lists were partially based on the number of requests for a title at bookstores. So nighttime deejay Jean Shepherd hatched a plan to throw a wrench in this system by having his listeners descend on bookstores en masse and ask for a non-existent book titled I, Libertine. Requests for this title, relayed by puzzled bookstore owners, eventually made their way to publisher Ian Ballantine who (once he figured out what was going on), decided it would be interesting to publish I, Libertine as an actual book. Author Theodore Sturgeon was commissioned to write it, and the book was released to stores (for real) on Sep 20, 1956. more details…
The Third Eye of T. Lobsang Rampa (1956)
The Third EyeThe Third Eye, by Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, was first published in 1956. It purported to be his autobiographical account of growing up in Tibet and studying Tibetan Buddhism. Rampa claimed he had been born into a wealthy Tibetan family and had studied in Lhasa to become a lama. He had then undergone an operation to open up the "third eye" in the middle of his forehead. This operation had bestowed upon him amazing psychic powers. more details…
The Olympic Underwear Relay (1956)
Route of the 1956 Olympic torch relay, from Cairns to Melbourne. In 1956 runners bore the Olympic flame across Australia, on a path from Cairns to Melbourne, where the summer games were to be held. But before the flame even got as far as Sydney, it had to endure a series of setbacks. Torrential rains soaked it. Burning heat almost overwhelmed the runners. The flame even went out a few times. Then in Sydney itself it encountered a situation unique in Olympic history. Cross-country champion Harry Dillon was scheduled to bear the flame into Sydney, where he would present it to the mayor, Pat Hills. After making a short speech, Hills would pass... more details…
The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest (1957)
On April 1, 1957 the British news show Panorama broadcast a three-minute segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed both to an unusually mild winter and to the "virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil." The audience heard Richard Dimbleby, the show's highly respected anchor, discussing the details of the spaghetti crop as they watched video footage of a Swiss family pulling pasta off spaghetti trees and placing it into baskets. The segment concluded with the assurance that, "For those who love this dish, there's nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti." The Swiss Spaghetti... more details…
Emile Coudé (1957)
The French doctor Emile Coudé (1800-1870) was the inventor of the curved "Coudé catheter" used by urologists to relieve urinary obstruction. Except that he wasn't. The man and his biography were invented as a joke by Welsh medical students in the 1950s. However, some physicians didn't realize it was a joke and referred to the man in medical textbooks. A few sources still mistakenly claim that the coudé catheter was named after a French physician. In reality, the coudé catheter was invented by Louis Mercier (1811-1882). In French, coudé (the adjective) means bent; coude (the noun) means elbow. more details…
The Little Blue Man Hoax (1958)
In early 1958, Michigan motorists began to report sightings of a glowing "little blue man," like a spaceman from a science-fiction movie, who would appear out of nowhere on rural roads, and then just as suddenly disappear. Eventually three young men confessed that the blue man was their work. They had created a costume consisting of long underwear, gloves, combat boots, a sheet, and a football helmet with blinking lights. One of them, wearing this costume, would hide in a ditch and leap out when a motorist approached, run along the road, and then make a quick getaway by jumping into the trunk of the car driven by his two accomplices. more details…
The Birth of Bigfoot (1958)
While working on a rural road construction project near Bluff Creek, California, tractor-operator Jerry Crew found a series of massive footprints in the mud. Due to the size of the prints, the media began referring to the creature that created them as "Bigfoot." The name stuck and soon became the most widely used term for North America's legendary ape-man. However, it was suspected that Crew's prank-loving boss, Ray Wallace, created the prints by strapping carved wooden feet to his boots and stomping around in the mud. Wallace's family confirmed this after his death in 2002. more details…
The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (1959)
G. Clifford Prout was a man with a mission, and that mission was to put clothes on all the millions of naked animals throughout the world. To realize his dream, Prout founded an organization, the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (abbreviated as SINA). It was left unexplained why the society was 'for indecency' not 'against indecency'. more details…
Cacareco the Rhinoceros (1959)
Brazilian students printed up 200,000 ballots, urging people to elect Cacareco, a 5-year old female rhinoceros at the local zoo, to an empty seat on the city council in Sao Paulo. Not only did Cacareco win, but she did so by a landslide, garnering 100,000 votes (15% of the total). This was one of the highest totals for a local candidate in Brazil's history to that date. The voters hadn't been deceived. They were quite aware they were voting for a rhino. One of them commented, "Better to elect a rhino than an ass." Cacareco's election is one of the most famous protest votes in history. more details…
The Sandpaper Test (1959)
In 1959, the Colgate-Palmolive company began airing three TV ads in America for its Palmolive Rapid-Shave shaving cream. All three commercials included a "sandpaper test" designed to demonstrate that Rapid-Shave's "moisturizing" action was so powerful it would not only soften up even the heaviest beard in seconds, but also make sandpaper shaveable. But what viewers were led to believe was a piece of sandpaper being shaved was actually plexiglass covered with sand. more details…
Hoax Archive Categories
Hoaxes Throughout History
Middle AgesEarly Modern1700s1800-1840s1850-1890s
1900s1910s1920s1930s1940s1950s1960s1970s1980s1990s21st Century2014

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