MY INBOX: March 2002

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DATE COMMENT
March 22, 2002 Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

Great website! A good literary hoax is outlined at http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~stephan/Tarzan/tarzlive.html

There was also the "mental photography" hoax, which I remember reading about in True magazine in the 1960s or early '70s.

You might also wish to take on hoaxes about hoaxes, such as the claim that the U.S. faked the moon landing in a TV studio.

--Phil

March 20, 2002 Cockroach Lifespan

Hi-
I believe your question about cockroaches in the gullibilty quiz is wrong. Cockroaches can only live 9 days without their heads,not one month. http://ham.spa.umn.edu/kris/science.html The woman who published this has a PhD, so I'm inclined to believe her.

Thanks-
Aimee

Well, she doesn't say cockroaches can 'only' live nine days. Maybe it depends on how much the cockroach has eaten before they lose their head.
March 19, 2002 Brown Dog Institute

is this a real site? I think it is. www.browndoginstitute.com

Pretty gross. I hope it isn't.
March 18, 2002 Carlos Castaneda

Time: 8:54 PM EST Subject: The Museum of Hoaxes Comment: I was trying to find Carlos Castaneda on you site. He was certainly more widely read than Tuesday Lobsang Rampa. You might want to add this charleton to your list. Here is a web site I did find re. Castaneda's "ethnological" books. http://www.korrnet.org/reality/rc/1998_summer/carlos_castaneda.htm

March 16, 2002 Old Faithful

In Yellowstone park a park a Park Ranger narrates the history of the park and Old Faithful to a group of listeners seated on benchs awaiting the almost hourly eruption of OLD FAITHFUL geyser. One year when we were there, well behind the park ranger giving his speel a group of young college kids sneaked into the background with a huge dummy valve of the type used at large hydro stations. Waiting for the crucial moment when Old Faithful would erupt, the kids pretended to turn the huge wheel atop the dummy valve, creating the image of opening a valve permitting the eruption of the geyser. While not a hoax as such on the audience, it sure got a big laff.

March 14, 2002 Cathouse for Dogs

A hoax not mentioned...

About four years ago I heard of a hoax which was part of a campagin against the media by some guy in America. I think this took place in NY... This group he headed, set up a fake 'Doggie Brothel' and invited the media to an 'open day' to show it off. It got a lot of media coverage but turned out to be a protest against how quickly the media will 'beat up' a story...

It would be a good one to look up/research

That's Joey Skaggs's 'Cathouse for Dogs' hoax from 1976.
March 14, 2002 Subliminal Advertising

(Subliminal advertising) seemed to gain plausibility in the late 1950's after James Vicary reported significant increases in Coke and popcorn sales after flashing directives to "Drink Coke" and "Eat Popcorn" during a movie. Although Vicary never actually published these findings, his reports created a frenzy of consumer concern and government legislation aimed at stopping these forms of seemingly insidious mind control. There was, however, one significant and often unknown problem with Vicary's study -- it was all a hoax. Years later, Vicary himself admitted this scam was simply an attempt to save his dying advertising agency.
see http://www.csic.cornell.edu/201/subliminal/
(I found this web-site in the yahoo picks)

March 14, 2002 Two Hoaxes

Alex,

Love your web site. Hoaxes have always fascinated me, the more bizarre and improbable the better. I was particularly delighted to find Maelzel's Chess Automaton there, since I had been attempting to describe this hoax to a co-worker just a week or two ago.

However, two of my favorites don't seem to be listed on your site. One is the "Poems of Ossian" from the 18th century, which fooled some of the most renowned authors of the time (including Goethe). Here's a link to a site with more information: http://www.lib.udel.edu/ud/spec/exhibits/forgery/ossian.htm The other is the notorious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", a 19th century forgery purporting to be a blueprint for Jewish world domination which formed the basis of some of the most horrendous acts of anti-semitism of the 20th century. Here's a link: http://skepdic.com/protocols.html
Keep up the good work.

Dave

Both those hoaxes will be in the book version of the site, coming out later this year.
March 13, 2002 Jackalopes

It has come to my attention through Backpacker magazine that the Jackalope may not be the hoax we once thought it was. Jackrabbits in the West have been found bearing a virus that causes bony growths to come out of their heads, proving the source of the original jackalope. The legend, of course, is attributable to the rarity of this disease.

The article can be read here: Quest for the Rare Hare
March 12, 2002 Magnus Illotus: Cambridge Hoax

On June 9th 1974 I took part in a hoax ceremony in Cambridge, England.

It was a totally imaginary ancient ceremony, which fooled many of the tourists in this university city - I have since had people who witnessed it, describe it to me as a real event. This was from the leaflets handed out at the time:

MAGNUS ILLOTUS
The first High Professor, Master Ralph de Pittinger, bathed in the River Granta in 1426 to set an example of personal hygiene to his students. Ten years later, his successor, Master Swain Fitz-Dyer, drowned in his 73rd year whilst re-enacting the same ceremony. It was subsequently decreed by the Bull "Magnus Illotus" of the Anti-Pope Anicletus III that every 73rd Trinity Sunday thereafter, a solemn commemoration of the event be made.

The ceremony featured a procession of academics down King's Parade in Cambridge (the police stopping the traffic), then through Trinity College to the river. Here there were as a Latin ceremonial, the don enacting the high professor was slapped across the face with a fish (the handout pointed out that this part of the ceremony was added later for reasons that are not now remembered), then the professor was dipped in the river while a choir sang Superflumina Babyloniis. The professor was finally wrapped in a sheet and rowed off up the river.

As a member of the Selwyn College chapel choir, I sang at the ceremony, and still remember it vividly.

Best regards,
Brian

March 12, 2002 Polar Gravity

Glenn, who disagrees with your answer to gullibility question number 20, knows a little physics, but not enough. The work required to move a proof mass from the center of the earth to sea level is the integral of the product of force times the distance along the path. It takes no work to move the mass along sea level (an equipotential surface known as the geoid) from the equator to a pole, so it takes the same amount of work to move the mass from the center of the earth to sea level at the equator as it does to move it to sea level at the poles. Since the distance from the center of the earth to sea level at the poles is less than the distance from the center to sea level at the equator, the mean force along the center-to-pole path must be more than the mean force along the center-to-equator path, because the work must be the same. Equipotential surfaces are not uniformly spaced, so gravity varies with horizontal position; otherwise we'd have a scenario for a perpetual motion machine.

See March 8, 2002 below for more on this subject.
March 12, 2002 Golden Gate Tunnel

Your list of hoax Websites is not complete without:
www.goldengatetunnel.com

(Found your site as a Yahoo pick of the week)

March 12, 2002 Buying Manhattan

Question 3, gullibility test:"purchased the Island Manhattes from the Indians for the value of 60 guilders." "For the value of" does not mean payment was coins, as the question specifies. Payment must have been in trade goods. The native Americans had no use for coins. Statement is false.

Let me guess. You're a lawyer? But actually, you're absolutely right. The Dutch would not have paid with coins. They probably paid with goods such as axes and knives, which the Indians would have found enormously valuable because they represented an early form of technology transfer. I'll have to adjust that question.
March 11, 2002 Coincidence Design

You do not list Coincidence Design, which is one of the greatest hoaxes I've ever seen.

www.coincidencedesign.com

March 11, 2002 Brain Energy

I always understood that energy is "neither created nor destroyed." Is this true? And if true, what happens to the brain's energy when the body fails to live?

Good question. I wish I knew the answer. It is true that energy is neither created nor destroyed, according to the physicists. I suppose that a lot of the brain's energy must be retained within the molecular bonds that make up the physical matter of the brain.
March 11, 2002 Devil in the Smoke

How about the photos of the burning World Trade Center where the devil is seen in the smoke? Originally seen at the Art Bell web site.



The image (shown above), taken by photographer Mark Phillips (http://www.stellarimages.com/) was apparently not retouched, but the appearance of a face would logically seem to be coincidental.
March 10, 2002 The Real Peter Pan

Hello and congrats on an exellent site Check out http://www.pixyland.org/peterpan/
Can you tell me if this blokes for real if so its a bit sick innit We found it a while ago and stuck it on our website for a laugh as a link amoungst some other exellent sites....
Our website is http://come.to/theludlowghostwalk
Leon

He looks like the real Peter Pan to me, but I'm not so sure about that Tinkerbell.
March 10, 2002 The Spanish Jersey Devil

this image I made with photoshop and a couple of holiday snapshots from spain. I wondered what a jersey devil picture would look like. You may do with it as you please. Great site, btw.
Floris
jersey devil
U might want to call it Floris's Devil..
this is the tale..

in the summer of 84 me and my art's class colleaugues undertook a trip to Barcelona,Spain. This picture was taken along the way, hot as hell. Rumour has it a female Ogre stalks the ponds for children to drown.

The American Jersey Devil, which inhabits the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, has a horse's head and bat wings. Its Spanish counterpart shown here appears to have lost those features, but still looks quite devilish.
March 8, 2002 Funky Shoes

Hello Alex,

I received your URL from someone who sends me lots of jokes so I'd guess your site is getting lots of attention. I've enjoyed checking it out. I recently completed a website design class. One of our assignments was to do a simple ficticious online store. I came up with this: http://www.stephenswork.com/funkyshoes/index.html I thought you might find it amusing and possibly an appropriate link for your site.
Let me know what you think.

Stephen

Funky Shoes. I like it! But I wonder, do these shoes smell funky as well as look funky? Or is that the whole point?
March 8, 2002 Nero Fiddles

A thought from Tom S___ in Rome.

Many believe that Nero fiddled while Rome burned in 64 AD. Some even believe that Nero set the fire intentionally so he could realize his "Golden House". Still others contest that Nero wasn't even in Rome when the fire occurred. This we do know.

1. Rome burned like a scout camp on many occassions and the fire of 64 AD destroyed two-thirds of the city.

2. Nero made the most of the situation, building his "Domus Aurea"; a huge palace and complex, complete with a man-made lake that was later filled in to build the Coloseum.

3. Nero also found a perfect sect of scapegoats, a small group of non-tax paying religious radicals call Christians.

4. In addtion to making human torches out of these non-conforming enemies of the state, he crucified their leader Peter on the grounds of Nero's Circus, a site later to become St.Peter's Basilica. (Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he believed he was not worthy to be martyred in the same manner as his mentor, Jesus.

5. Nero's philosophy of "let them eat pasta" finally caught up with him and he committed suicide rather than face the returning legions of Vespatian, his successor.

What I find interesting is the phenomenon of imposter Neros that proliferated after his death. From what I understand there were quite a few of these fake Neros who popped up and gained rather large followings. A history teacher mentioned this phenomenon to me years ago, but I've never had the time to research it more fully.
March 8, 2002 Polar Gravity
Re: January 21, 2002


Hiya Alex-

After so much enjoyable reading material, I had to help out any way I could. So, from a physics graduate, rest assured you are correct about the "weight at the poles" thing, as disputed by the letter writer in your mail gallery.

The writer is correct that, if you bore a hole into a mass and descend it, you will feel less gravity. This is one of the interesting mathematical peculiarities of physics-- if the earth has radius R and you descend into a mineshaft of depth D, you feel the same gravity you would feel standing on an earth of radius (R-D). All the dirt at a greater radius than you cancels out. The calculus just works out that way- the pull of the ground above your head just equals that of the ground that is in China, at a radius greater than R-D. (Naturally, I'm assuming an earth of uniform density, as we physicists do).

However, the earth does indeed bow at the equator, as a result of it's rotation. (You're correct about water not rushing up to the poles) And no matter what the shape of a mass, you'll always feel more gravity at a closer distance- the hole business only works because there is mass above you to pull you upwards.

cheers,
andy

It's good to hear from a physicist about this. The whole question was threatening to take on shades of Symmes' Hole.
March 8, 2002 Flying Reindeer

I recently read a book called "Flight of the Reindeer" by Robert Sullivan and there are pictures of flying reindeer in it. I'm wondering if you could tell me if they were real, or just a hoax?

Yes, there is a Santa Claus. Therefore, yes, there are such things as flying reindeer.
March 7, 2002 The Real War of the Worlds

Dear Dr. Boese,

Wasn't it clever of us to bribe Orson Welles to broadcast that we had landed in New Jersey? It distracted everybody's attention, so that we could pull off our landing unnoticed in Massachussetts.

David the Martian

Your secret is safe with me.
March 7, 2002 Life Discovered on Jupiter

Here's a media hoax I didn't see in your site:

From NASA:
"What were those reports that NASA had found life on Jupiter?
A hoax devised by America Online for April Fool's Day, 1996. For details, call: Ms. Kathy Johnson in AOL's PR deparment (703/453-1899) or Ms. Margaret Ryan in the marketing department (703/918-1625). AOL's toll free number is 800-827-6364; press 1, 2 or 6 to speak to an AOL representative. You can also send e-mail to postmaster@aol.com."

AOL's 1996 hoax is in the April Fool's Day Gallery.
March 6, 2002 Not Useless Trash

Dear sir,
Although the Yahoo! Daily Wire usually provides useless trash, it was one of the rare times in which they actually provided something useful that I found this site. I have already bookmarked it and taken the "Gullibility Test" and found your explanations to be very helpful -- though the results were a bit humbling. I hope you can keep the site up, I'll enjoy reading all the hoaxes over the centuries.

Ranvel

The website should be here for a long time, and if you like it then make sure you buy the more complete (and polished) book version which will be coming out this Fall from Dutton Press.
March 6, 2002 Lincoln Park Trixie Society

Alex:

You should check out www.lptrixie.com
It's very detailed and complete, but so off the wall it has to be a hoax.

Rick

I hope it's a satire!
March 4, 2002 Gabriel Garcia Marquez Death Hoax

hi my friends reading about gabriel garcia marquez i find the poem you have as his last one, well im sad to tell you the you are wrong. the poem is from a mexica comedian who works whit a popet, name el mofles sombody publish this on internet and everybody belives on it at the end of 2000 the real autor apear on national tv whit pruf of what im telling you so if you what to keep this please reaserch more about the subjet the newscas in mexico is name el noticiero the main anchoor the one who entreview the autor joaqin lopez doriga televisa network fell free to ask anything

Well, what you describe is pretty much what I wrote.
March 4, 2002 Lobsang Rampa

lobsang rampa wrote about aura ,i can see aura that is true.your site is antrue about him.

Interesting.
March 3, 2002 British Petroleum

A persistent rumor at my workplace is that Auto and Truck Makers tell people not to use BP gasoline or it will damage the vehicle. I buy BP gas, it is on every corner here in Cleveland, and have no problems, but many of my co-workers swear this is true and will not buy it. Where did this come from, please let me know, as I find them to be credible people spreading what seems to me to be a highly improbable and damaging rumor while swearing it is true.
Thank You in Advance....Paul

I haven't heard this rumor before. I wouldn't give it any credence.
March 3, 2002 Breast Cancer Hoax?

Hi there,

Just wondering if the email which starts

"A New Form of Breast Cancer Please forward to all of the women in your lives . . . Mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, friends, etc. In November, a rare kind of breast cancer was found. The sister of my friend developed a rash on her breast, similar to that of young mothers who are nursing. Because her mammogram had been clear, the doctor treated her with antibiotics for infections"

is a hoax?

Actually, it isn't. The cancer they're referring to is called Paget's Disease of the Breast. You can read more about it here: http://www.cancerbacup.org.uk/info/paget.htm. But the disease is VERY rare, and generally it's not a good idea to take health advice from unsolicited e-mails.
March 2, 2002 Stay Puff Marshmallow Man

Hey, great site! Just to let you know, though, the big white guy in the sailor suit on http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/photos/wtcphoto.html isn't the Pillsbury Dough Boy (which looks like this: http://www.doughboy.com/Images/Doughboy/meetUpperLeft.gif), but the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man.

-jennifer

I guess the fact that I made that mistake shows how long it's been since I last saw Ghostbusters!
March 2, 2002 Naked Mole Rat

One more thing... I'm not sure if you know this or not, but it's not mentioned on the page. The animal in the picture on http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/photos/mockwalrus.html is a naked mole-rat, which does actually exist and is a fascinating animal... being the only known mammal to engage in social behavior like ants and bees, with a queen and all. More info about them is here: http://natzoo.si.edu/Animals/nmrats/datasht2.htm

-jennifer

This one I knew about, but thanks for the links. I label the animal as a naked mole rat on my April Fool's Day gallery entry for 1984.