The Museum of Hoaxes
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Hoax Museum Blog Posts From
September 2008
Benjamin West and the Venetian Secret — The Yale Center for British Art is hosting an exhibition about an obscure 18th-century art hoax (one that I had never heard of before). The exhibition is titled "Benjamin West and the Venetian Secret" -- which makes it sound a bit like a new Harry Potter novel. From Art Knowledge News: In 1796 Benjamin West, the American-born President of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, fell victim to a remarkable fraud. A shadowy figure, Thomas Provis, and his artist daughter, Ann Jemima Provis,…
Posted: Fri Sep 19, 2008.   Comments (1)

Mystery Coffin — A woman walking her dog in the Welsh countryside recently found an empty coffin sitting in the middle of a field. The coffin had a note in it: "Jump in, you're next." No one knows who put the coffin there, but the likely suspects are local students since it's freshman week and there have been other pranks in the region, such as "a tree full of knickers and a young driver sticky taped into his car." Link: North Wales Chronicle
Posted: Fri Sep 19, 2008.   Comments (4)

Chi-Rho Amulet is a Fake — Researchers have determined that the Chi-Rho Amulet, found in Shepton Mallet in 1990, is a fake. When it was first discovered in a Roman grave eighteen years ago, it was thought to be the earliest Christian artifact ever found in Britain. Local residents were so excited by the discovery that they named an entertainment center and a street after it. But tests indicate that the silver in the amulet is of nineteenth-century origin. Suspicion is focusing on protesters who were opposed to…
Posted: Fri Sep 19, 2008.   Comments (1)

Frenchman Collides Sacredly with Nessie — Frenchman Don Jean Habrey, whose stage name is Hors Humain (beyond human), has announced his intention to embark on a "sacred collision with Nessie." Specifically, he plans to dive into Loch Ness and "breathe with the monster to send ultimate breathing to the world of childhood.” Later, he'll make a Christmas Eve visit to the Loch and "conjure the mythical creature from the loch, with chants, drumming, burning flares and bonfires round the shore." “Nessie will breathe golden pearls…
Posted: Fri Sep 19, 2008.   Comments (2)


Once a con artist, always a con artist — Tony Golossian is accused of repeatedly luring a woman to motels, where he then blindfolded and sexually assaulted her. He told her it was all part of a ritual to remove a "black magic" curse on her family. If she didn't agree to participate, her 15-year-old sister would supposedly develop breast cancer and her "fallopian tubes would no longer function." Adding insult to injury, the woman paid him almost $100,000 for these "prayer sessions." I hate to blame the victim, but is there…
Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2008.   Comments (4)

A fake horse dressed in PVC — Problem: the Cleveland Bay, the breed of horse used to pull the Queen's Royal carriage, was dying out. Solution: a fake horse dressed in PVC clothing which is being used to seduce the few stallions that remain. The fake horse is named "Doris." "The scientists who designed and built Doris quickly discovered her partner - much like certain humans - performed better if she wore PVC." That's another factoid to add to my ever-growing fund of useless trivia.
Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2008.   Comments (3)

Cat Hoaxes — Axonoid.com promises that they'll eventually have a list of 11 cat hoaxes. In part 1 they have five: Elvis the Robo-Cat Bonsai Kittens The one-eyed kitten (which was real!) Painted Cats Snowball the Monster Cat The article is worth a look if only to rewatch the video of Elvis the Robo-Cat.
Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2008.   Comments (3)

Pietro Psaier: Real or Hoax? — Pietro Psaier was an artist whose works fetch thousands of dollars. He was said to be a friend of Andy Warhol, which helps his saleability. But the question now perplexing the art world is whether Psaier ever actually existed. This, from the Telegraph, is the little that's known about his life: Information provided by an agent for the artist's estate states that Psaier was born in Italy in 1936 and died in the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. He left Italy as a young man and went to…
Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2008.   Comments (1)

Poe’s Law and TrueChristians.com — Poe's Law, coined by Nathan Poe on the Christian Forums site, states: in general, it is hard to tell fake fundamentalism from the real thing, since they both sound equally ridiculous. The law also works in reverse: real fundamentalism can also be indistinguishable from parody fundamentalism. Cranky Media Guy recently submitted an example: truechristian.com. It contains passages such as: So God put Adam to sleep and ripped out one of his ribs and behold, we find out that women…
Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2008.   Comments (5)

Bogus Crowd Estimates — It looks like the McCain campaign is playing the old political game of inventing inflated crowd estimates. They told reporters that 23,000 people attended a Sept. 10 rally. They attributed that estimate to a fire marshal. However, "Fairfax City Fire Marshal Andrew Wilson said his office did not supply that number to the campaign and could not confirm it." What's more, "Washington Post reporter Marc Fisher estimated the crowd to be 8,000, not the 23,000 cited by the campaign." But the…
Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2008.   Comments (10)

Should websites be given trustworthiness ratings? — Sir Tim Berners-Lee is worried that there's too much disinformation floating around the web. He feels that there needs to be a way to rate sites according to how trustworthy they are. From the BBC: "On the web the thinking of cults can spread very rapidly and suddenly a cult which was 12 people who had some deep personal issues suddenly find a formula which is very believable," he said. "A sort of conspiracy theory of sorts and which you can imagine spreading to thousands of people and…
Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2008.   Comments (7)

Is Bra-Burning a Myth? — Bra-burning came to symbolize the feminist movement, but according to this article at pressofAtlanticCity.com, the original 1968 bra-burning protest, that first associated bra-burning with feminism, never actually happened. Members of New York Radical Women, upset by the Miss America Pageant's focus on women's physique and seeing an opportunity to publicize their cause, traveled to Atlantic City by bus. They wanted to burn things, as was in vogue then (people mad about other topics -…
Posted: Fri Sep 12, 2008.   Comments (12)

A Prank Renaissance — The Wall Street Journal's Ellen Gamerman has written an article about the resurgent popularity of pranks. But the pranks aren't aimed at making fun of anything. Instead, their only goal seems to be to introduce an element of the surreal into everyday life. Examples include: "Freezing" events: people pose like statues in public places. going pantless in subways staging impromptu musicals in malls pretending to be zombies and roaming city streets crowds of people dancing to music no one…
Posted: Fri Sep 12, 2008.   Comments (10)

Anti-Theft Lunch Bag — Designed to deter sandwich thieves. Green splotches are printed on both sides: "After your sandwich is placed inside, no one will want to touch it." The bag was designed by Sherwood Forlee, who describes himself as "a designer with no design or art education." He also writes that he "calls himself a designer because it sounds hip and no one likes hanging around a nerd at a party." One of his other inventions is a "Vaginal Simulator," which isn't a sex toy. "Rather, it is one of the…
Posted: Fri Sep 12, 2008.   Comments (6)

Ken Campbell and the Royal Dickens Company — Ken Campbell recently died at the age of 66. The Telegraph's obituary describes him as "an actor, writer and director of wilful eccentricity" who worked in experimental theater. However, he was perhaps best known for a hoax he pulled off in 1980, when he sent around letters announcing that the Royal Shakespeare Company was renaming itself the Royal Dickens Company. I couldn't find a good description of this hoax online (and, unfortunately, I've never gotten around to writing one up...…
Posted: Thu Sep 11, 2008.   Comments (6)

It’s Right-Sizing, not Down-Sizing — Media Agency Carat recently decided to lay off some of its employees. PowerPoint and Word documents somehow leaked out detailing how management planned to inform employees and clients of the decision. They offer an example of corporate b.s. at its finest. Details include: • The agency wasn't going to be down-sizing. Instead, the documents repeatedly described the moves as a "right-sizing" of the agency. • Clients were to be informed of the "staffing change" with this script: "Mary…
Posted: Thu Sep 11, 2008.   Comments (11)

Will one be wanting fries with that? — This is obviously fake. For a start, the smoothness of the arms don't match the age of the face. And then there's the more obvious clue. Still, I thought it was amusing. I think it first appeared a month ago on the b3ta message boards.
Posted: Thu Sep 11, 2008.   Comments (14)

Darwin Smudge Draws Evolutionists — I couldn't resist linking to this piece from The Onion: A steady stream of devoted evolutionists continued to gather in this small Tennessee town today to witness what many believe is an image of Charles Darwin—author of The Origin Of Species and founder of the modern evolutionary movement—made manifest on a concrete wall in downtown Dayton... Despite the enthusiasm the so-called "Darwin Smudge" has generated among the evolutionary faithful, disagreement remains as to its origin. Some…
Posted: Wed Sep 10, 2008.   Comments (6)

Do hoaxes tell us anything about the character of their victims? — On the New York Times opinion page Stanley Fish recently offered some thoughts about the Wine Spectator hoax, comparing it to the Sokal hoax of the 1990s. After musing about the two hoaxes, he draws this lesson about hoaxes in general: a hoax that is sufficiently and painstakingly elaborated can deceive anyone if the conditions are favorable. This means that the success of a hoax reflects on the skill of the hoaxer and says nothing about the substantive views of those who were fooled…
Posted: Wed Sep 10, 2008.   Comments (8)

Real Shark Surfing — A few months ago I posted a phony video showing a guy on a surfboard being towed by a shark. It now looks like that video was a case of satirical prophecy, because a guy in Australia is reporting that something similar happened to him in real life. From news.com.au: A SURFER says a large shark towed him out to sea like a "powerful jet ski' after it became entangled in the leg rope of his surfboard. John Morgan said the thrashing animal dragged him more than 50m after it became ensnared…
Posted: Wed Sep 10, 2008.   Comments (2)

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