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Hoax Museum Blog Posts From
January 2006
The Tempest Prognosticator (aka Leech Barometer)
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jan 09, 2006
Status: Real device (whether it worked is undetermined) Students of the history of meteorology may be aware of the Tempest Prognosticator of Dr. George Merryweather, but it was news to me. The Tempest Prognosticator was a device invented in the mid-nineteenth century that allowed the forecast of storms, via leeches. Apparently there's been some debate about whether this contraption actually existed, but author Paul Collins, on his blog, confirms that it did. In fact, it was displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Here's how it worked: The "Tempest Prognosticator" consisted of twelve pint bottles of white glass, round…
Categories: Animals, Technology Comments (3)
Healing Power of Prayer Study
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jan 09, 2006
Status: Pseudoscience Last night ABC News had a segment about a study being funded by the National Institutes of Health to determine if prayer can help cancer patients heal faster. Or more specifically, whether a stranger's prayers can help a patient heal faster. (The people running the study have invented the bs term 'distant healing' to make what they're studying sound more legitimate.) My jaw was on the floor as I was watching this. I couldn't believe the government had been suckered into paying for it. I suppose the NIH will next be funding studies of voodoo dolls. But unfortunately, ABC didn't spend a lot of time debunking the study. In fact, if you didn't know better,…
Categories: Religion, Science Comments (30)
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jan 09, 2006
Status: New word The American Dialect Society has announced its words of the year for 2005 (links to a pdf file). A number of them are relevant to the study of hoaxes. For instance, the word of the year is Truthiness: truthiness: the quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. I suppose the opposite of truthiness would be hoaxiness. A few of the other words of the year include: flee-ancée: runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks. Whizzinator: a trademarked urinating device using a realistic prosthetic penis and synthetic urine in order to…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (8)
The Flower Fairy
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jan 08, 2006
Status: Prank A Flower Fairy is on the loose on Anderson Island: Last spring flower bouquets and potted plants began appearing without explanation at the homes of numerous residents of this small island southwest of Tacoma. After a summer hiatus, the practice has resumed, island Fire Chief Jim Bixler said... Residents who received the deliveries said they heard a knock and answered the door to find a floral gift with a handwritten note saying, "Hope these make you smile." Each note is signed, "Love, the Flower Fairy." My theory: it's a local florist trying to drum up business by encouraging spontaneous flower giving. Still, it's a nice idea.
Categories: Pranks Comments (9)
McDonald’s Nessie Ad
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jan 08, 2006
Status: Advertisement Here's an ad for McDonalds featuring the Loch Ness Monster (or one of her cousins). I think the language they're speaking is Polish. (via Ceticismo Aberto)
Counterfeit Money Clogs Toilet
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jan 08, 2006
Status: Stupid Criminals A Colorado couple, realizing the police were onto their counterfeiting operation, tried to get rid of the incriminating evidence by flushing it all down the toilet. The results were predictable: There's dirty money associated with crime, then there's dirty money. Investigators encountered the latter on Thursday, when they discovered a rental duplex that had flooded with sewage when the tenants flushed at least $10,000 in suspected counterfeit money down a toilet, crippling the duplex's plumbing system... By the time police arrived at the duplex Thursday, standing water and sewage covered its floors and the toilets weren't functional. Detectives said Marquez and Valdez had been relieving themselves in plastic shopping bags for…
Categories: Con Artists Comments (3)
$25 an Hour, Anyone Hired
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jan 08, 2006
Status: Probably a Ponzi Scheme Cranky Media Guy (aka Bob Pagani) noticed this story in the HawkEye about a job offer that sounds an awful lot like a Ponzi Scheme. Terrie Brown, who owns a limousine business in Burlington, Iowa, is offering to hire absolutely anyone at the rate of $25 an hour. Here's the part of her offer that sounds like a scam: The hiring process includes filling out an application and then paying a $10 processing fee, according to Brown. Everyone who fills out an application and pays the $10 fee receives a time card and is hired on the spot, she said. In fact, she added, anyone…
Categories: Con Artists Comments (2)
House For Sale - Princess Caraboo’s Grave Attached
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jan 06, 2006
Status: A piece of hoax history for sale The Bristol Evening Post reports that the house adjacent to what is believed to be Princess Caraboo's grave in Bristol is up for sale. The asking price is a fairly reasonable £299,950 (about $530,000). (I reported back in 2003 that the gravesite was in danger of being paved over to make a parking lot, but I guess that threat was averted.) I can't find the Bristol Evening Post article online, but here's the property listing. (From the date of the listing, it looks like it's been on the market for a while.)…
The State of Maddocha
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jan 06, 2006
Status: Fiction Olivia Bruce emailed me to ask: Where is this place...or does it just not exist? I'd be hard-pressed to say where exactly Maddocha is. (Its official website simply says that Maddocha was "a wide-open space that was discovered and then occupied by John Madly and his family.") So I'm going to go with option B. It just doesn't exist. A quick google search reveals that Maddocha seems to be the creation of Deartra D. Boone.
Categories: Places Comments (12)
Dukes of Fallujah
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jan 06, 2006
Status: Photoshopped This is pretty obviously photoshopped. The colors are too bright, for one thing. Also, I don't think the Army lets soldiers custom paint their jeeps. (via Telebush)
Categories: Military, Photos/Videos Comments (14)
Fire Fart
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jan 04, 2006
Status: Fake This video of a guy lighting a candle by setting his fart on fire is obviously fake. (Given that the video is one big fart joke, it's probably not safe for work, though it's otherwise work safe.) However, it seems that a number of people actually think it's real. To verify that it's fake, all you need to do is visit the url displayed on the film:, which is the website of amateur filmmaker David Packer (aka Sheep). He has a lot of films starring himself that employ various special effects, such as fake fire farts.
Categories: Gross, Photos/Videos Comments (7)
Condom in a Hazelnut
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jan 04, 2006
Status: Seems to be a prank Brian Geist was sitting at home on New Year's Eve enjoying some hazelnuts. But there was a strange surprise in one of them: a condom. As his wife reported to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (may require registration): "My husband cracked open a hazelnut and a condom popped out. He couldn't believe it. He just sort of sat there and stared at it and he said, 'You wouldn't believe what I found in this nut," Geist said Tuesday. She assumed he might have been talking about a bug. But it turned out to be a…
Categories: Food, Pranks Comments (17)
Feminist Icons Admit to Prank
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jan 04, 2006
Status: Confession of a prank Back in 1970 a picture was taken showing four young women waving placards with messages such as "Ban the Man" and "Down with Men and Marriage." The picture became a symbol of feminism. But thirty-five years later, the women have confessed that their anti-man protest was just a prank. Margot Ducat explains: "One day my colleagues - Jo Vincent, Sue James and Shirley Francis - found a wedding dress stuffed in one of the cupboards. Quite why someone left it there we never did find out. Anyway, Shirley tried it on and it was a perfect fit, so we just decided to do something to liven up Surbiton…
Categories: History, Photos/Videos Comments (28)
The Case of the Missing Violin
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jan 03, 2006
Status: False theft report A San Francisco woman has admitted to sending police on a wild goose chase to find a $175,000 violin that she claimed had been stolen from her car. She really does own such a violin, but it doesn't appear to have been missing. It's not clear why she said it was. Here are some details from the AP article: The sad tale of a San Francisco music student who had a $175,000 18th century violin swiped from her towed car was a fabrication, authorities confirmed Friday... Rhee-Nakajima told police Wednesday that the violin -- along with her wallet and iPod -- were gone when she picked up her vehicle…
Categories: Law/Police/Crime Comments (9)
‘Who Wants To Die’ Talking Elmo
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jan 03, 2006
Status: Either a prank or a manufacturing defect When Angela Bolls bought an interactive Elmo book for her young daughter, Miranda, she had no idea what she would be exposing her daughter to: Family members said 16-month-old Miranda Boll's new book, "Potty Time With Elmo," was supposed to teach an interactive lesson using voice commands. However, when the book's buttons are pressed, it reportedly says something it is not supposed to -- "who wants to die?" ... Bolls said she checked another copy of the same book and found that it says something completely different; "Who wants to try to go…
Categories: Death, Pranks Comments (52)
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