The Museum of Hoaxes
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Hoax Museum Blog Posts From
February 2004
Lies, Damned Lies, and Photography — "While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph." Paul Vallely has written a good article on the history of photographic fraud for the Independent.
Posted: Sun Feb 22, 2004.   Comments (1)

Imaginary Girlfriends — A few weeks ago I noted the growing popularity of buying and selling imaginary relationships on eBay. Now the concept has migrated off of eBay and became the basis for a new company: ImaginaryGirlfriends.com. As the site explains: You can soon receive personalized love letters by mail, e-mail, photos, special gifts, even phone messages or online chat from your new Imaginary Girlfriend. We won't tell anyone that it's not real!. Okay, but what about the imaginary boyfriends?
Posted: Sun Feb 22, 2004.   Comments (6)

Is John Edward a fake? — It seems like whenever I turn on the SciFi channel, there's John Edward talking to the dead. I don't really care if he actually can talk to the dead or not (I assume he can't). I'm more concerned by the fact that his show is boring. But on the start of his Australian tour, a man has sued him, claiming that Edward's show violates the Trade Practices Act which stipulates that suppliers of goods can't make claims that they can't substantiate. In this case, Edward claims he can talk to the…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (91)

Harrods vs. the Wall Street Journal — In 2002 the upscale British department store Harrods issued a press release on April 1 announcing plans to 'float' the company. At first it indicated that this would involve a "first-come, first-served share option". Later it revised this to indicate that it was not planning to float shares on the stock exchange. Instead, it was planning to create a floating version of the store on the river Thames. It was just an April Fool's Day joke, but the Wall Street Journal fell for it. In…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (1)


Muse Magazine — This week I started a new job as contributing editor to Muse Magazine. It's a magazine for young teenagers (9-14 years old) about science, history, and the arts, but I don't think that description quite captures its quirky nature. It runs articles on everything from 'Weird tales of the subway' to 'Could you live forever' (which is in the current issue). Its mascot is a trickster named Kokopelli (from Native American mythology) who loves to play pranks, which might explain why they were…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (5)

Satanic Toaster — In the tradition of the Ghost In A Jar, but not as funny or clever, we recently had a Satanic Toaster offered for sale on eBay. The toaster first began to burn the toast. Then, when the seller tried to throw it away, it mysteriously reappeared back in his kitchen. Like I said, a pale imitation of the ghost in a jar. (Submitted by Bob Pagani)
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (2)

The Irish Virus hoax — This is just dumb. You receive an email with the following message: Greetings, You have just received the "IRISH VIRUS". As we don't have any programming experience, this Virus works on the honour system. Please delete all the files on your hard drive manually and forward this Virus to everyone on your mailing list. Thank you for your cooperation. I think I've seen other versions of it that attribute it to other ethnicities/social groups. There's more info about it over at symantec.com.…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (5)

The Milton Mule and Henry Bull — In 1936 a candidate named Boston Curtis ran for the post of Republican precinct committeeman in the town of Milton, Washington. And he won. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to the people who voted for him, Boston Curtis was a mule. His name had been placed on the ballot by the Democratic mayor Ken Simmons who guessed, correctly, that no one actually knows anything about the candidates for the lower-ranking positions. They just vote along party lines. Simmons figured it would be funny to…
Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2004.   Comments (1)

Sham-paign Contest — The Guardian is hosting a contest to see who can come up with the best doctored photo pertaining to the American Presidential campaign. It's inspired by the recent doctored photo of John Kerry and Jane Fonda (see below).
Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2004.   Comments (0)

How to be an economics expert (even if you know nothing about economics) — Matthew Richardson, a 23-year-old student at St. Peters College in Britain, was asked to travel to Beijing to deliver a series of lectures about economic theory. He was flattered by the invitation, though puzzled since he knew nothing about economics. But undaunted, he packed an economics textbook in his bag and took off to Beijing. It was only after he got there that he figured out that the people in Beijing had probably intended to invite Prof. Matthew Richardson from New York…
Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2004.   Comments (0)

Princess Juliana Airport — This is a pretty amazing picture, and it screams 'Photoshop!' After all, where in the world would planes really land that close to sunbathers on a beach? It looks like the plane is landing right on top of them. Well, the place is Princess Juliana Airport in St. Maarten. And the airplanes really do come in that close to the beach. A collection of shots of planes landing at Princess Juliana is circulating as a powerpoint file via email. Jozee V sent the file along to me (Thanks, Jozee!).…
Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2004.   Comments (97)

Why you should not feed your cat table scraps — I don't know what it is about oversized domestic cats that's so endlessly fascinating, but I've got to admit that, as the owner of a rather corpulent kitty, I'm just as intrigued by this subject as everyone else seems to be. So anyway, first there was Snowball. Then along came Munchkin. And now the latest tubby tabby to do the email rounds is Scrappy, the Super-Sized Cat. This email comes with the subject line: Why you shouldn't feed your cat table scraps. I don't know if it's real or…
Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2004.   Comments (32)

Sun Tunnels for Sale — In yet another eBay hoax, Utah's Sun Tunnels were offered for sale a few days ago. In case you haven't heard of them, the Sun Tunnels are a series of large concrete tubes sitting out in the Utah desert. They were designed by the artist Nancy Holt back in the '70s. Unfortunately, the person offering them for sale didn't own them. But that's okay, because no one bid on them anyway, which is a little sad considering that they're pretty cool and were offered for a bargain-basement price.…
Posted: Tue Feb 17, 2004.   Comments (0)

867-5309 — The bidding on eBay for the phone number 867-5309 (from the Tommy Tutone song) appears to have reached over $200,000. I suspect a few hoax bids are being placed.
Posted: Tue Feb 17, 2004.   Comments (0)

Hanoi John, Part II — Now that photo of Kerry with Jane Fonda that I talked about in the previous post may have been fake, but this new photo that has just surfaced is undoubtedly real. (via Eschaton)
Posted: Tue Feb 17, 2004.   Comments (3)

Hanoi John — A doctored photo of John Kerry speaking with Jane Fonda (aka 'Hanoi Jane') at a 1971 anti-war rally has been making the rounds lately and getting a lot of attention. It was almost immediately debunked as a phony. As this Newsday article describes, the original photo was taken by Ken Light. The doctored version of it began popping up in conservative chat rooms a few weeks ago. As the political campaign heats up, I expect that many more photoshopped pictures of political candidates will…
Posted: Tue Feb 17, 2004.   Comments (1)

Brains for Zombies — It looks like Amazon.com is branching out into a lucrative new market: brains for zombies. They're offering celebrity brains and tasty brains in addition to the more generic brains. In reality, the site is a spin-off of goats.com, the 'tasty yet morally ambiguous' webcomic. (Thanks to Charles Martin for the link).
Posted: Sun Feb 15, 2004.   Comments (2)

Something tragic will go to happen… — I received a mysterious message informing me that "something tragic will go to happen... after the midnight of day 31 of March of 2004." Naturally I couldn't resist checking out the url that accompanied this message, and it took me to this website. It's a geocities page, so that automatically makes it credible. A brief investigation of the site then turned up this page: the past life analyser. It informed me that in my past life I was a writer, dramatist and organizer of rituals living…
Posted: Sun Feb 15, 2004.   Comments (4)

Telephone Liars vs. Email Liars — A study reported on in the New Scientist has found that people lie more when they're talking on the telephone than they do when writing emails. The reason is that people are conscious of the fact that emails are saved and could come back to haunt them later, whereas telephone conversations don't tend to be recorded. Of course, this doesn't mean that more of the telephone calls we receive contain lies than the emails we receive. Just the opposite. Every day I'm flooded with emails that…
Posted: Sat Feb 14, 2004.   Comments (0)

Glencullen University — Alan Williams, a professor at Southwestern Adventist University, received a Ph.D. from Glencullen University. For some reason, he didn't think it odd that Glencullen had no campus, no faculty, and required him to do nothing to earn the degree. In reality, Glencullen didn't even exist. Despite its Irish name and Irish-themed website, it's just a diploma mill based in Romania. Williams claims that he's shocked, shocked to learn this. For some reason, I don't know why, it's hard to…
Posted: Sat Feb 14, 2004.   Comments (5)

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