The Museum of Hoaxes
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Paranormal Hoaxes
The Sneaker Pimps Crop Circle
In July 1997 a crop circle resembling the logo of a popular band, the Sneaker Pimps, appeared in Warwickshire, England. This band was playing in the nearby Phoenix music festival. No one ever took credit for the formation. Cerealogists Andy Thomas and Mike Leigh have suggested that "the thought patterns of those at the festival had somehow coalesced to create it in ways which experiments had shown possible." An alternative (more plausible) explanation is that it was created either by a fan, or by a public-relations agent trying to publicize the band. More…
The BMW Crop Circle, 1993
A crop circle appeared in a field of rye located outside of Johannesburg, South Africa during the first week of February 1993. The media speculated excitedly about whether it was the work of a UFO. Popular curiosity grew until February 14, when a small detail was pointed out that had previously escaped almost everyone's notice: the circle formed a BMW logo. The circle turned out to be the work of the Hunt Lascaris ad agency, working on behalf of BMW. TV commercials soon followed, showing aerial views of the circle accompanied by the tag-line, "Perhaps there is intelligent life out there after all." More…
Operation Blackbird, 1990
A group of researchers camped out on a hillside in Wiltshire with an array of high-tech equipment, hoping to record the formation of a crop circle (presumably by a UFO). On the second night, their equipment recorded flashing orange lights in an adjacent field. The next morning, the researchers were excited to see that two large circles had formed. But their hopes were dashed when they found a horoscope chart and wooden crucifix in the middle of one of the circles — evidently the calling card of a hoaxer. The flashing lights on their equipment, the researchers admitted, had probably been the heat signature of humans running around. More…
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…
The Disappearance of David Lang
David Lang was said to be a farmer who lived near Gallatin, Tennessee. On September 23, 1880 he supposedly vanished into thin air while walking through a field near his home. His wife, children, and two men who were passing by in a buggy all witnessed his disappearance. At least, this is what a popular tale that has circulated since the 1950s claims. More…
Rudolph Fentz, Accidental Time Traveler
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…

King Tut’s Curse, 1923
In November 1922 Howard Carter located the entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamun. By February he and his team had unsealed the door of the Burial Chamber. But a mere two months later, on April 5, 1923, the sponsor of his expedition, Lord Carnarvon, died in his Cairo hotel room, having succumbed to a bacterial infection caused by a mosquito bite. The media immediately speculated that Carnarvon had fallen victim to King Tut's Curse. This curse supposedly promised death to all who violated his tomb. More…
The Cottingley Fairies, 1920
In 1920 a series of photos of fairies captured the attention of the world. The photos had been taken by two young girls, the cousins Frances Griffith and Elsie Wright, while playing in the garden of Elsie's Cottingley village home. Photographic experts examined the pictures and declared them genuine. Spiritualists promoted them as proof of the existence of supernatural creatures, and despite criticism by skeptics, the pictures became among the most widely recognized photos in the world. It was only decades later, in the late 1970s, that the photos were definitively debunked. More…
The Angel of Mons
On August 22 and 23, 1914 the British Expeditionary Force near Mons was struggling to retreat from the German Army. They were almost surrounded and badly outnumbered. But just when all hope seemed to have been lost, a shimmering angelic apparation appeared in the fog and smoke that hung over the battle field. The British troops staggered towards the figure and discovered that it had shown them an escape route. This remarkable story quickly spread throughout Britain and was widely taken as evidence of divine support for their troops. But in time skeptics began to insist that the entire story was a hoax. The writer Arthur Machen claimed that a...
The Materialization of John Newbegin
On December 19, 1874 the New York Sun published a long letter on its front page which it said had been sent from a businessman who lived in the small community of Pocock Island, located seventeen miles off the coast of Maine. In his letter this businessman related an unusual tale about a spirit that had materialized during a seance, but which had then refused to unmaterialize and had resumed his former life as a fisherman. More…
The Witch Trial at Mount Holly
On October 22, 1730 an article appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette describing a witch trial that had recently been held in Mount Holly near Burlington, New Jersey. According to the article, over 300 people had gathered to witness the trial of two people, a man and a woman, who had been accused of witchcraft. The charges included "making their neighbours sheep dance in an uncommon manner, and with causing hogs to speak, and sing Psalms, &c. to the great terror and amazement of the King's good and peaceable subjects in this province." More…
The Ghostly Drummer of Tedworth, 1661
John Mompesson of Wiltshire claimed to hear strange noises in his home such as a drum beating, scratching, and panting noises. Objects, he said, moved of their own accord. Many people came to witness the spirit activity for themselves. But skeptics suggested Mompesson himself may have been behind the haunting, either to profit from those who came to see the spirit, or to decrease the value of the house (which was rented). More…
Prophecies of Nostradamus, 1555
Michel de Notredame, better known as Nostradamus, rose to prominence as an astrologer supported by the patronage of Queen Catherine de Médici. He wrote prophecies in an ancient form of French worded so ambiguously that it could be interpreted to mean almost anything a reader desired. This artful ambiguity has allowed his followers to credit him with predicting many events. Although his supposed predictions are only ever noticed after the events have occurred. More…
The Shroud of Turin, 1355
This famous cloth bearing the image of a naked man first came to the attention of the public in 1355. Its supporters claim that it was the funeral shroud of Christ. But skeptics dismiss it as a medieval forgery, arguing that: 1) there was a flourishing trade in such false relics; 2) a medieval forger could definitely have created it, despite claims to the contrary; and 3) the man's body is oddly proportioned (his head is too large), which suggests the image is a painting. More…
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