The Museum of Hoaxes
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Hoax Museum Blog Posts From
November 2008
The Mona Lisa Suicide — Occasionally I've run across references to a French artist who supposedly committed suicide because he was driven mad by the mystery of the Mona Lisa's smile. There aren't many details to the story. The Telegraph, in an article from 2003, summarizes the entire tale: On June 23, 1852, a young French artist, Luc Maspero, threw himself from the fourth floor window of his Paris hotel. In a final letter, he wrote: "For years I have grappled desperately with [Mona Lisa's] smile. I prefer to…
Posted: Thu Nov 27, 2008.   Comments (4)

The Pranks of Horace de Vere Cole — The Daily Mail offers a short biography of Horace de Vere Cole (1881-1936), a man who made pranks his life work. His most famous prank was the Dreadnought Hoax of 1910. Here are a few of his others: He "once stood in the street handing out free theatre tickets to a series of extremely bald passers-by with the result that, when viewed from the dress circle, the assembly of shiny bald heads in the carefully chosen seats clearly spelt out an expletive - complete with a dot over the 'i'."…
Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2008.   Comments (8)

National Kick a Ginger Day — Apparently this started with a character on South Park who described redheads as "evil" and "soulless". This gave a fourteen-year-old boy the idea of starting a Facebook group dedicated to the idea of promoting November 20 as "National Kick a Ginger Day". The group soon had over 5000 members, and unfortunately some people decided to take the idea literally. Redheaded students at schools throughout Canada reported being kicked and punched by other students on Nov. 20. One student, Aaron…
Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2008.   Comments (65)

Forbes not being sold to the Russians — The business magazine Forbes "absolutely denies" a rumor that it's being bought by a Russian private equity firm, Onexim. The irony here is that it was Forbes, back in 1991, which published a hoax claiming that the Russian government, desperate for foreign currency, was selling the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin to the highest bidder. Times and fortunes have changed. It appears now the shoe is on the other foot.
Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2008.   Comments (0)


Immigrants devise creative methods of hiding — Two cases of illegal immigrants finding unusual methods of sneaking into countries have recently been in the news: Case #1: U.S. border police found 13 illegal immigrants inside a fake Budweiser beer van. Case #2: British authorities found four illegal immigrants hiding inside a 32-foot-tall fake Christmas tree in the back of a truck. The tree was made of aluminum and nylon, and had been ordered for a town center display.
Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2008.   Comments (1)

Fake Cocaine — On June 4 Steven Decker of Muscatine, Iowa sold a white powder to an undercover agent. He said it was cocaine, but it wasn't. It was fake cocaine. In the eyes of the law, this doesn't let him off the hook. He's being charged with "delivery of a simulated controlled substance" and is looking at up to ten years in prison and $50,000 in fines. I'm sure Decker is not exactly a boy-scout, but being charged for selling fake cocaine is a curious concept. Added irony: he was selling a…
Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2008.   Comments (10)

The Turkey-Tryptophan Myth, and why do big meals make you drowsy? — Thanksgiving is approaching, which means the "turkey makes you tired because it has high levels of tryptophan" urban legend shall once again be heard at tables throughout America. Baylor College of Medicine dietitian Rebecca Reeves debunks this legend in an interview with the Houston Chronicle: Q: So the tryptophan in turkey doesn't make you sleepy, right? A: I am not sure how (that) gained wide acceptance. The urban legend is that the tryptophan in turkey is what makes you sleepy on…
Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2008.   Comments (12)

False Feces Demonstration — November 19 was World Toilet Day. In honor of the occasion, activists in Switzerland held a "false-feces demonstration" outside the Bern train station. This involved placing hundreds of fake rubber droppings on the pavement. The point of this fecal fakery was to raise awareness about sanitation problems around the world. The Sun has pictures of the plastic poo.
Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2008.   Comments (5)

Berlusconi’s Cuckoo Prank — I swear this is a real news story. It's not from The Onion: Silvio Berlusconi, the flamboyant Italian Prime Minister, played a practical joke on the German Chancellor today by jumping out at her from behind a lamppost when they met for an Italo-German summit in Trieste. Slipping away from the welcoming committee, the Italian leader hid behind the lamppost and emerged with a cry of "Cucu!" when Angela Merkel stepped out of her official car to enter the regional council headquarters…
Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2008.   Comments (7)

Man names son “Carter Barack Obama Sealy” — A Broomfield, Colorado man got his name in the local newspaper for claiming he had named his new son Carter Barack Obama Sealy. He also said that his two other children were named Brooke Trout Sealy and Cooper John Elway Sealy. Supposedly he had a deal with his wife. She got to choose the kids' first names, and he got to choose their middle names. The children's grandmother spilled the beans on the father, notifying the paper that the names were not real. The guy's wife explained that…
Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2008.   Comments (5)

Don’t buy diamonds in a Wal-Mart parking lot — Here's one for the "If you're this stupid, you deserve to be conned" file: The victim encounters two people in a Wal-Mart parking lot who are engaging in a transaction involving a diamond. The buyer (a man) offers the seller (a woman) $20,000 for the diamond. A normal person would think, "This is an odd location to be having this kind of transaction." Instead, the victim asks if she can buy a diamond also, and gets $1900 from the bank to pay for it. Surprise! She later discovers the…
Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2008.   Comments (2)

Rejects spot fake smiles — A study published in the October issue of Psychological Science has found that people who feel rejected are significantly better at spotting fake smiles than are other people. (Link: US News & World Report.) Those who feel rejected can accurately detect fake smiles 80% of the time, versus only 50% for other groups. According to the author of the study, "It's not clear why rejection may boost the ability to figure out when someone else is faking an emotion. It may have something to do…
Posted: Wed Nov 19, 2008.   Comments (8)

Rumormongering Traders — Britain's Financial Services Authority has found a new group to blame for the financial crisis: naive traders spreading rumors. It cites one example of a trader who "spread a piece of 'hot news' to 10 to 12 of his friends over a messaging system without making clear that it was a rumour. One of his contacts then did not hesitate to spread the message on to 150 of his contacts." To counter the problem, the FSA is urging companies to adopt policies "on how to deal with rumours and…
Posted: Wed Nov 19, 2008.   Comments (2)

Longitude Hoax? — The story of the 18th-century contest (sponsored by the British government) to find a solution to the problem of how to determine longitude at sea has received much attention, mostly due to Dava Sobel's best-selling book about it. But Pat Rogers argues in the Times Literary Supplement that Sobel (and just about every other historian who has written about the subject) has fallen for a hoax. Specifically, all of these historians have described one Jeremy Thacker as an inventor who, early…
Posted: Tue Nov 18, 2008.   Comments (7)

Magic Power System — We've seen quite a few dubious devices that claim to enhance the performance and mileage of automobiles. The BioPerformance pills come to mind. However, the Magic Power System (aka MPS Power Shift Bar) is something special because it's a product that's not even vaguely plausible. It's on sale on eBay UK for the low buy-it-now price of £34.99 (about $52). All you do is plug it into the lighter socket of your car, and here's the improvements you will see: enhance fuel efficiency - saves…
Posted: Tue Nov 18, 2008.   Comments (10)

The case of the inserted belly button — I've heard of photo editors airbrushing out navels on swimsuit models (see the case of the vanishing belly button from 1964), but I hadn't heard of navels being inserted into photos. But that appears to be the case with Victoria's Secret model Karolina Kurkova. Fashion watchers have recently noticed that Kurkova doesn't appear to have a full belly button. Instead she only has a "smooth dimple". Wikipedia speculates that the lack of a belly button is due to an abdominal operation in…
Posted: Tue Nov 18, 2008.   Comments (13)

The FlairHair Visor — A quick and easy solution to hair loss: Kotula's FlairHair visor. This cool little item will keep you covered and its built-in visor will protect your eyes from the sun, all while giving you a distinctive, 1970s, Bjorn Borg-at-Wimbledon look. Also available in a white-hair version!
Posted: Mon Nov 17, 2008.   Comments (9)

The Hypoallergenic Dog Myth — When the Obamas recently announced they were searching for a dog to have in the White House, they noted that one of the criteria was that it would need to be hypoallergenic, since Malia is allergic to dogs. The media quickly raised the possibility of a White House poodle, since poodles are supposedly a hypoallergenic breed. Skeptics have quickly pointed out that the idea of a hypoallergenic dog breed is a myth. Individuals dogs may produce less of the protein that causes the allergic…
Posted: Mon Nov 17, 2008.   Comments (9)

Nintendo Wii Truth Experiment — University of Memphis psychologist Rick Dale used a Nintendo Wii in an experiment to show that the human brain is wired to believe before it doubts. I don't think this is a new finding. It makes sense that the brain has to assume all incoming info is true, in case a quick reaction is needed. For instance, it wouldn't be wise to stand around debating with yourself whether the tiger leaping out of the jungle is real or fake. Doubt, therefore, takes second place in the brain's hierarchy of…
Posted: Mon Nov 17, 2008.   Comments (3)

Giant Lobster — Darren asks, is this real? I can't name the species (any ideas, Big Gary?), but it doesn't look implausible to me. So I'm going to say, Yes, it's probably real. But I won't upgrade that to definitely real until someone can identify the species. Source: acreditesequiser.net Update: It's a model of an ancient sea scorpion (a eurypterid from the Ordovician era) made by Crawley Creatures for the BBC show Sea Monsters. The man posing with the model is the founder of Crawley Creatures,…
Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2008.   Comments (9)

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