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The Hoax Photo Archive — Photo Fakery Throughout History
Category: Paranormal
Giant Human Skeleton. (Circulating online since early 2004) Despite what this photo appears to show, archaeologists did not unearth a giant human skeleton in Saudi Arabia. More…
Thoughtography. (Gained notoriety in 1967) Ted Serios was a Chicago-area bellhop who claimed he could transfer his thoughts directly onto film. He would create a "thoughtograph" by holding a small tube against a camera lens, and then beaming a thought-image through the tube into the camera. The photo shown here was his thought of an unidentified street scene. Skeptics argued that he probably concealed a photographic transparency inside the tube he held against the camera. More…
Venusian Scoutcraft. (December 13, 1952) What George Adamski claimed was a photo of a UFO looks suspiciously like a lampshade with ping pong balls glued to it. More…
The Brown Lady of Raynham. (September 19, 1936) This photo is said to show the "Brown Lady" who haunts Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. The image was taken by two photographers on assignment for Country Life magazine who said they saw an ethereal form descending the staircase and quickly snapped a picture. It is almost certainly nothing more than a double exposure, though whether done purposefully or by accident is not known. More…
The Surgeon’s Photo. (April 1934) This is the most famous Loch Ness Monster photo. It was long believed to have been taken on April 19, 1934 by a British surgeon who said he noticed something moving in the water while he was driving along the Loch. The photo actually shows a fake serpent's head attached to a toy submarine, and it wasn't taken by the surgeon. His role was merely to serve as a credible front-man for the hoax. More…
Ada Emma Deane’s Armistice Day Series. (November 1924) Spiritualists claimed this image showed the spirits of dead war heroes. A newspaper identified the faces as living football players. More…
The Cottingley Fairies. (1917-1920) Two young girls used paper cutouts to create a series of images of "fairies" while playing in the garden of a 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 Sympsychograph. (September 1896) David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University, published an article in Popular Science Monthly announcing the discovery of a new form of photography, "Sympsychography," that allowed mental images to be made visible on a photographic plate. This photo, he said, was an example. It was a psychic projection of "a cat in its real essence." He intended his article as a joke, but was surprised when many took it seriously. More…
Mumler’s Spirit Photos. (1861-1879) Image created by William Mumler, 1872. "Bronson Murray in a Trance with the Spirit of Ella Bonner." Mumler created the genre of the spirit photo: ghostly images supposedly caught on film. More…

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