Hoaxes Throughout History
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Hoaxes of the 1970s

A primitive, stone-age tribe found living in a rain forest in the Philippines was later alleged to be an elaborate fake. More…
This remains one of the most brazen literary hoaxes of all time. Clifford Irving forged the "autobiography" of the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, while Hughes was still alive. His hope was that the famously reclusive billionaire would be unwilling to emerge from his seclusion to expose the fraud. For a long time it seemed like Irving was going to get away with it, but ultimately his plan failed, because Hughes did emerge to blow the whistle on the scheme. More…
In June 1971 Robert Patterson, a 66-year-old newsman, filed a series of five reports for the San Francisco Examiner detailing his odyssey through mainland China. His journey was inspired by the popular interest in Chinese culture following President Nixon's official visit to that country. The series ran on the Examiner's front page. Patterson discussed details such as his difficulty obtaining an entry visa, witnessing Chinese citizens doing calisthenics in the street every morning, and receiving acupuncture at a Chinese hospital for chronic hip pain. However, his reports caused Paul Avery, a reporter at the rival San Francisco Chronicle, to... More…
On the day before April Fool's Day, 1972, a team of British zoologists from the Flamingo Park Zoo found a mysterious carcass floating in Loch Ness. Initial reports claimed it weighed a ton and a half and was 15 ½ feet long. More…
Police in Boise, Idaho were initially stumped by the case of an apparent ghost in the house of Peggy Zimmerman. The ghost made knocking sounds on the floor and could rap out correct answers to questions such as how many officers were in the room and how many guns were they carrying. The mystery was finally solved by a TV newsman who realized that the source of the rapping was Mrs. Zimmerman's 12-year-old daughter, Shelley, who was always present when the ghost was rapping. Shelley had the ability to surreptitiously crack her ankle by flexing it, thereby making a loud knocking sound. More…
At the 12th Annual Mid-Mississippi Art Competition, held in October 1974, there were gasps of surprise when artist Alexis Boyar walked up to the stage to receive the blue ribbon and $50 cash prize he had won for his entry in the weaving category. The shock wasn't caused by the art. Rather, it was caused by the artist himself since he was a 6-year-old Afghan hound dog. His owners explained that the weaving had originally been an old mitten Alexis found during a walk in the park which he chewed into a "rather interesting shape." They elaborated, "We thought it was interesting enough to enter in competition, but we were surprised when it won a prize." More…
In 1975 Chuck Ross was selling cable TV door-to-door, and dreaming of becoming a writer. However, he felt the odds were stacked against him since the publishing industry seemed incapable of recognizing talent. To prove his theory, he typed up twenty-one pages of a highly acclaimed book and sent it unsolicited to four publishers (Random House, Houghton Mifflin, Doubleday, and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich), claiming it was his own work. The work he chose for this experiment was Steps, by Jerzy Kosinski. It had won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1969 and by 1975 had sold over 400,000 copies. All four publishers rejected the work, including Random House, who was its original publisher. More…
Caltech is known for producing world-class scientists and engineers. But a few of its students have also demonstrated a flair for the law, as a highly controversial 1975 prank that turned on the legalistic reading of a sweepstakes entry form proved. The sweepstakes was held by McDonald's. It ran from March 3rd to March 23rd, 1975, at 187 participating McDonald's restaurants in Southern California. The prizes included a year of groceries, a Datsun Z, McDonald's gift certificates, and cash. But one part of the contest rules caught the attention of three Caltech students. The rules said, "Enter as often as you wish." What if, the Caltech students wondered, a person entered the sweepstakes one million times? More…
Who should you vote for in the next election? What about Nobody? After all, Nobody is clearly the best candidate. Nobody cares. Nobody keeps his election promises. Nobody listens to your concerns. Nobody tells the truth. Nobody will lower your taxes. Nobody will defend your rights. Nobody has all the answers. Nobody should have that much power. Nobody makes apple pie better than Mom. And Nobody will love you when you're down and out. More…
On April 1, 1977, the British newspaper The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement devoted to San Serriffe, a small republic said to consist of several semi-colon-shaped islands located in the Indian Ocean. A series of articles affectionately described the geography and culture of this obscure nation. Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its capital was Bodoni, and its leader was General Pica. The Guardian's phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot. Only a few noticed that everything about the island was named after printer's terminology. The success of this... More…
On June 20, 1977, a documentary titled Alternative 3 aired in England, on ITV. It revealed to viewers the existence of a secret plan by the governments of the world to create a Noah's Ark colony of humans on Mars in anticipation of a looming environmental catastrophe that would soon make the Earth uninhabitable. The earnestness of the show's delivery convinced many that it was real. However, it was intended as a mock documentary, originally intended to be aired on April Fool's Day. More…
In 1970, scientists researching the link between diet and heart disease visited the small town of Vilcabamba, located high in the Ecuadorian Andes. The scientists included Dr. Alexander Leaf of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Harold Elrick of the University of California at San Diego, and a group from the University of Quito. The scientists found that the residents of Vilcabamba, who were principally of European descent, had very low cholesterol levels and very few of them ever suffered from heart disease. But more remarkable was the longevity of the Vilcabambans. Many of the town residents claimed to be over 100 years old. A few of them stated... More…