The Museum of Hoaxes
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Hoaxes Throughout History
Middle AgesEarly Modern1700s1800-1840s1850-1890s
1900s1910s1920s1930s1940s1950s1960s1970s1980s1990s21st Century2014
Political Hoaxes
The Roorback Hoax (1844)

The Ithaca Chronicle published an extract from a book in which "Baron Roorback" described meeting a gang of slaves belonging to James Polk, the Democratic candidate for President of the United States. Polk's slaves, Roorback said, had all been branded with his initials. The idea that Polk would brand his slaves shocked voters, but the claim was a hoax. As was, it turned out, "Baron Roorback" himself. more details…
The Southern Conspiracy to Confederate with Mexico (1850)
A letter appeared in newspapers detailing a plot hatched by Southern conspirators to leave the Union and confederate with Mexico. The capital of the proposed new nation was to be Mexico City. But historians have found no record of such a plot in diplomatic records from the period. Southern radicals were definitely dreaming of such schemes, but in 1850 such plots were still only dreams, existing only on paper. more details…
The Miscegenation Hoax (1863)
A pamphlet titled Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races went on sale arguing for the benefits of white and black people having children with each other. By modern standards, the suggestion sounds enlightened, but the pamphlet was actually a hoax designed to insert the inflammatory issue of race into the 1864 presidential election. The hoax fizzled, but the pamphlet did introduce the word 'miscegenation' into the English language. more details…
Lafayette Mulligan (1924)
In 1924 a man calling himself Lafayette Mulligan, claiming to be the social secretary of the Mayor of Boston, presented the Prince of Wales with the key to the City of Boston and invited him to visit the city, while the Prince was vacationing in Massachusetts. However, the Boston Mayor had no idea who Lafayette Mulligan was. In fact, Lafayette Mulligan was the invention of pranksters trying to embarrass the Irish Mayor, whose anti-British sentiment was well known. 'Lafayette Mulligan' subsequently became a running gag, and for some years lent its name to the prank of sending spurious invitations to non-existent events. more details…
Hugo N. Frye (1930)
In 1930 Republican leaders throughout the United States received letters inviting them to a May 26 party at Cornell University in honor of the sesquicentennial birthday anniversary of Hugo Norris Frye, aka Hugo N. Frye. The letter explained that Hugo N. Frye had been one of the first organizers of the Republican party in New York State. None of the politicians could make it to the event, but almost all of them replied, expressing sincere admiration for Frye and their regret at not being able to attend. Unfortunately for the Republican leaders who responded, Hugo N. Frye did not exist. He was the satirical creation of two student editors at... more details…
Baby Adolf (1933)
In 1933 a picture supposedly showing Adolf Hitler as a baby began circulating throughout England and America. The child in the picture looked positively menacing. Its fat mouth was twisted into a sneer, and it scowled at the camera from dark, squinted eyes. A greasy mop of hair fell over its forehead. more details…

The Veterans of Future Wars (1936)
Future veterans march to demand their bonuses In 1935 veterans of World War One lobbied Congress to pay them their war bonuses ten years early in order to ease the economic hardship they were experiencing during the Great Depression. Congress readily acquiesced and passed the Harrison Bonus Bill in January 1936. This pre-payment was a source of inspiration for Lewis Gorin, a senior at Princeton University. It seemed logical to him that if present-day veterans could get their war bonuses early, why shouldn't future veterans also receive their money up-front — before they had fought in a war. After all, given the global political... more details…
The Milton Mule (1938)
On September 13, 1938 Boston Curtis won the post of Republican precinct committeeman for Milton, Washington, by virtue of fifty-one votes cast for him in the state primary election. Boston Curtis ran no election campaign, nor did he offer a platform. However, he also ran uncontested, so his election should not have been a surprise. But when the residents of Milton realized who Boston Curtis was, they were surprised, because Boston was a long-eared docile brown mule. more details…
Hitler’s Silly Dance (1940)
On June 21, 1940, Hitler accepted the surrender of the French government at a ceremony in Compiegne, France. He melodramatically insisted on receiving France's surrender in the same railroad car in which Germany had signed the 1918 armistice that had ended World War One. After Hitler accepted France's surrender, he stepped backwards slightly, as if in shock. But this isn't what audiences in the Allied countries saw who watched the movie-reel of the ceremony. Instead they saw Hitler dance a bizarre little jig after signing the documents, as if he were childishly celebrating his victory by jumping up and down. The scene was played over and... 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…
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…
Yetta Bronstein for President (1964)
Yetta Bronstein, a 48-year-old Bronx housewife, ran for President in 1964 and again in 1968 as the candidate for the Best Party. Her slogans were "Vote for Yetta and watch things get better" and "Put a mother in the White House." Her proposals included national bingo, self-fluoridation, placing a suggestion box on the White House fence, and printing a nude picture of Jane Fonda on postage stamps "to ease the post office deficit and also give a little pleasure for six cents to those who can't afford Playboy magazine." She promised she would staff her cabinet with "people who have failed in life and learned to live with it." more details…
Report From Iron Mountain (1967)
In 1967 the war in Vietnam was escalating and race riots were breaking out in many major U.S. cities. Popular distrust of the federal government was growing. It was in this context that on October 16 a book appeared titled Report From Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace. It was published by Dial Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. Leonard C. Lewin, a New York freelance writer, wrote the introduction to the book. He explained that the report had been compiled by 15 experts known as the Special Study Group (SSG) who had been brought together by the U.S. government. more details…
Nobody For President (1976)
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 details…
Russia Sells Lenin’s Body (Nov 1991)
Following the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's financial situation was dire. So when the American magazine Forbes FYI reported that the Russian government had decided to sell the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin in an effort to raise foreign currency, the news seemed believable. Bidding for Lenin, it was said, would start at $15 million. Both ABC News and USA Today repeated the story without questioning it, and so were embarrassed when the editor of Forbes FYI revealed that it had been intended as a joke. Russian Interior Minister Viktor Barrannikov denounced the story as "an impudent lie." more details…
The Lovenstein Institute IQ Report (July 2001)
A report circulated via email detailing the findings of a four-month study by the Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, Pennsylvania in which it had calculated the IQ of all the US Presidents of the past 50 years. Franklin Roosevelt ranked at the top with an IQ of 147. But then President George W. Bush came in at the bottom with an IQ of only 91. These findings were repeated as fact by media outlets around the world, including The Guardian. However, the "Lovenstein Institute" wasn't a real organization. Nor had a study of presidential IQ ever been conducted. The report had originated as a joke on a humor website called linkydinky.com. more details…
Bush Voters have lower IQ (Apr 2004)
A chart that circulated online during the first months of 2004 purported to show that American states whose populations possess higher average incomes and higher average IQs voted for Gore in the 2000 Presidential elections. Their poorer, lower-IQ counterparts voted for Bush. The implication was that smart people vote Democratic, and stupid people vote Republican. Major newspapers and magazines, including the St. Petersburg Times and the Economist, printed the chart before it was exposed as a hoax. more details…
Flemish Secession Hoax (Dec 2006)
In 2006, on a Belgian TV station news broadcast, it was announced that Flanders, the Dutch-speaking half of the country, had seceded from the country. Thirty minutes into the news bulletin,only after the station''s phonelines were swamped, it was revealed to be a "War of the Worlds"-style hoax. 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.