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Hoax Museum Blog Posts From
June 2009
Tattoo Horror Story — Something seems wrong with this girls' story. Eighteen-year-old Kimberley Vlaminck says she asked the tattoo artist for three small star tattoos on her face, but he evidently misunderstood her, and then she fell asleep while he was tattooing her. When she woke up, there were 56 stars on her face. The tattoo artist says she definitely asked for 56 stars, and that it's simply a case of tattoo regret. The Daily Mail, among others, has the story. I imagine it would be hard to sleep while…
Posted: Wed Jun 17, 2009.   Comments (29)

China’s Fountain of Youth — ABC News has a report on the village of Bama, "China's Fountain of youth." People there are said to live unusually long lives. Out of the population of 500, six people are over 100 years old. The locals attribute this longevity to pure water (which is "a striking blue because of low alkilinity"), simple home-grown food, and a special magnetic field. Bama has become a big tourist destination in China. Billboards promote its special powers. New hotels are being constructed there. And…
Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2009.   Comments (9)

The Barrel Monster — Proof that the art of the student prank hasn't quite died. N.C. State University student Joseph Carnevale has been arrested and is facing misdemeanor charges for damage to property after creating a "barrel monster" that menacingly pointed its finger at motorists on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. The creation of the monster is documented at nopromiseofsafety.com. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Its that itch, that need to make real an idea that has rolled around in one’s head for…
Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2009.   Comments (8)

Sprinkler System Activated — A telephone caller, posing as a representative of a fire alarm company, convinced employees of a Comfort Suites Hotel to activate the sprinkler system, which resulted in thousands of dollars worth of damage. (tricities.com) This type of prank is definitely a recurring theme (see the rectal exam prank call, strip-search prank call, and satellite medical exam call), but I'm not sure what to call it. Maybe the "manipulative phone call prank," though that's not very catchy.
Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2009.   Comments (5)


Little April Rose — Recently a woman who identified herself only as "April's Mom" started blogging about how her unborn child had been diagnosed as terminally ill. And yet she had decided to go through with the pregnancy anyway. Her blog quickly became popular with the anti-abortion crowd. On Sunday "Little April Rose" was born, but died soon after. But skeptics noticed something strange about the picture of Little April that April's Mom posted on her site. Little April looked exactly like a reborn doll…
Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2009.   Comments (8)

Diversity, Toronto Style — Another case of cut-and-paste diversity. The city of Toronto wanted to feature a racially diverse assortment of people on the cover of its summer Fun Guide. Unable to find a photo that met that criteria, it created one via photoshop. The original is on the left, the altered cover on the right. (That's a really bad photoshop job.) The alteration was noticed by a graphics editor at the National Post. The most famous case of cut-and-paste diversity was the cover of the 2001-2002…
Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2009.   Comments (8)

Richard Strandlof, phony veteran — Another case of a phony veteran. Rick Duncan claimed he survived the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon, that he survived a roadside bomb in Iraq, and that he had a metal plate in his head. None of it was true. Not even his name, which was really Richard Strandlof. He also says that he's not a pathological liar. But then, what else would a pathological liar say? link: CNN
Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2009.   Comments (2)

Journal Accepts CRAP — Cornell grad student Philip Davis describes on Scholarly Kitchen an experiment he designed to test the peer-review process at Bentham Science, a publisher of "open-access" journals. (Open-access journals charge authors for publication, but make the articles available for free.) He used software to create an article full of computer-generated nonsense, such as, "we discuss existing research into red-black trees, vacuum tubes, and courseware [10]. On a similar note, recent work by…
Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009.   Comments (5)

Frivolous (fake) lawsuits — The Lebanon Daily News confesses to coming down with a bad case of the Gullibility Virus. In a recent article they whipped themselves into a state of righteous indignation about a series of frivolous lawsuits. They had read about the lawsuits in an email. (Best part: they titled the article "Sad but true"). A reader later wrote to them: Austin woman awarded $80,000 for tripping over her own son in store? Fabricated. Los Angeles man trying to steal hubcap gets $74,000 when target…
Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009.   Comments (14)

The South American Reetsa Expedition — If you're well-versed in hoax lore, you might have heard the story of the South American Reetsa Expedition. It's a hoax attributed to the New York City prankster Brian G. Hughes, who was active as a hoaxer from around 1895 to 1910. (He died in 1924.) He pulled off quite a few hoaxes. Around 1895 he submitted a cat to the New York cat show, claiming it was a rare breed known as the Dublin Brindle. After it won a prize, he revealed it was just an alley cat. A few years later he tried a…
Posted: Wed Jun 10, 2009.   Comments (6)

Pareidolia Roundup (June 2009) — Virgin Mary Air Conditioner Antonia Ruiz of Texas noticed a stain on her air conditioner that looked to her like the Virgin Mary. Therefore, she built a shrine around the air conditioner. Cheeto Jesus A bag of Cheetos bought by Dan Bell at a North Texas gas station yielded this "praying Jesus". The couple have nicknamed it "Cheesus." (Note: there was a similar Cheesus in the news last year.) Tortilla Jesus Lloyd Osborne's wife had thrown away the packet of tortillas, but he…
Posted: Tue Jun 09, 2009.   Comments (13)

Online Pseuicides — Howard Swains recently reported in Wired on the phenomenon of fake online deaths. He writes: Many online tales of death and suffering are works of complete fiction, "pseuicides" dressed up as real-life catastrophes. Some are contrived to titillate or garner attention, some result from something more serious, and some are the result of a uniquely modern psychiatric disorder known as Munchausen by internet. And: In two investigations between 2007 and 2009, I encountered countless…
Posted: Tue Jun 09, 2009.   Comments (7)

Fooled by Crunchberries — This case sounded so stupid to me that at first I thought it had to be a joke, but here's the actual ruling, Sugawara v. PepsiCo, Inc., so apparently it's true. Janine Sugawara filed suit against PepsiCo, maker of Cap'n Crunch's CrunchBerries, alleging she had been deceived by their marketing into believing that crunchberries were real fruit, only to learn, to her dismay, that the product contained "no berries of any kind." The judge threw the case out, noting, "The survival of the…
Posted: Sat Jun 06, 2009.   Comments (10)

Are senior pranks a disappearing tradition? — The Dallas Morning News worries that in many Texas schools the senior prank is a fast disappearing tradition. The reasons for its departure: high-tech security and stricter discipline standards. One senior is quoted as saying, "Maybe we'd do something if there weren't cameras everywhere and punishments weren't so crazy." Well, it's not disappearing everywhere. This year students at Fort Walton Beach High School slipped the "F word" into the yearbook by spelling it out in red letters…
Posted: Fri Jun 05, 2009.   Comments (7)

The Next Mr. Rogers? — 18-year-old Michael Kinsell has a dream of being the next Mr. Rogers. Last year he started telling people at his school that he was filming a show called Michael's Enchanted Neighborhood, and that it was going to be aired on PBS. The show was modeled closely on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. From pointweekly.com: Each show will begin much as Mr. Rogers' did, with Kinsell singing a song, "It's a Lovely Day Today to Play," as he puts on a sweater and sneakers. Then a "neighbor," such as an…
Posted: Fri Jun 05, 2009.   Comments (3)

Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Bum Attack” Hoax — The highlight of Sunday night's MTV Movie Awards came when Sacha Baron Cohen, dressed up as Austrian fashion reporter Bruno, floated across the room on wires, but then somehow fell and landed face down in Eminem's lap (his butt in Eminem's face). Subsequently Eminem stormed out of the show. The award show's head comedy writer, Scott Aukerman, is now admitting it was not a spontaneous mishap. The entire scene was choreographed and rehearsed. In fact, Paris Hilton had reportedly been
Posted: Tue Jun 02, 2009.   Comments (8)

Oprah, the Queen of Quackery — In the forum Captain Al linked to a recent Newsweek article that's well worth reading. It details how Oprah Winfrey has routinely promoted dubious medical/pseudoscientific nonsense on her show. It appears that the only standard of evidence important to her is whether a claim is emotionally appealing. If a claim passes that test, then it must be true! Some of the nonsense promoted on her show includes: Suzanne Somers' vitamin/hormone cure for aging. Jenny McCarthy's crusade to pin the…
Posted: Mon Jun 01, 2009.   Comments (29)

Was Mancow really waterboarded? — Gawker devoted a series of posts last week to shockjock Erich Muller, aka Mancow. First they praised him for having undergone waterboarding so he could decide for himself whether or not it was torture. But then they obtained a series of emails from Mancow's publicist suggesting the entire thing was a hoax, that Mancow faked being waterboarded. Mancow insists the waterboarding wasn't faked, despite what his publicist's email may suggest. Apparently there's no video of the event, which…
Posted: Mon Jun 01, 2009.   Comments (8)

Britains Got Talent… and Ghosts — People who spend far too much time staring closely at the TV have identified an extremely small, blurry dark shape that appears to move rapidly across the stage during a semi-final performance on Britains Got Talent. (Embedding is disabled on this video, so you've got to go to YouTube itself.) It took me a while to even be able to see the "ghost." It starts at 0:51, at the right side of the stage. By 0:53 it's gone, darting off the left side of the stage. (Warning: it's really, really…
Posted: Mon Jun 01, 2009.   Comments (8)

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