Hoax Museum Blog Posts: November 2009

Where was Sarkozy on November 9, 1989? — He claims he was at the Berlin Wall, helping to knock it down. He even posted a picture of himself there on his Facebook page. But skeptics are saying he couldn't have been there at that time. It may be a case of political "false memory syndrome," like Reagan swearing he was present at the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, even though he never was sent to Europe during the war. From the Daily Mail: In 1989, Sarkozy was 34 and a top official in France's conservative RPR party.
Posted: Tue Nov 10, 2009.   Comments (5)

What really lurks in Loch Ness — Apparently, it's golf balls. From cnn.com: It seems the simple plastic golf ball is increasingly becoming a major litter problem. The scale of the dilemma was underlined recently in Scotland, where scientists -- who scoured the watery depths in a submarine hoping to discover evidence of the prehistoric Loch Ness monster -- were surprised to find hundreds of thousands of golf balls lining the bed of the loch. It is thought tourists and locals have used the loch as an alternative driving…
Posted: Tue Nov 10, 2009.   Comments (8)

MSNBC lists ten “heinous” internet hoaxes — MSNBC has posted a list of the "10 most heinous hoaxes on the Net." Though in the intro they admit they added in "a handful of amusing ones." Here's the list (minus their descriptions): Twitter/Facebook AMBER alert Bonsai Kitten Epilepsy Forum Raid Bigfoot's body Changing the value of pi Save Toby MySpace suicide 419 Nigerian money scams Work-at-home scams Facebook hoax on TechCrunch I don't think "Bigfoot's body" counts as a true internet hoax. Sure, people discussed it on the…
Posted: Mon Nov 09, 2009.   Comments (1)

Does the internet promote extremism and crazy rumors? — Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker discusses whether the internet promotes the spread of bizarre rumors by encouraging "group polarization": People’s tendency to become more extreme after speaking with like-minded others has become known as “group polarization”... “Views that would ordinarily dissolve, simply because of an absence of social support, can be found in large numbers on the Internet, even if they are understood to be exotic, indefensible, or bizarre in most communities,”…
Posted: Sun Nov 08, 2009.   Comments (8)


Dr. Geeta Shroff: legitimate practitioner or quack? — Indian doctor Geeta Shroff is claiming to have helped many patients, thought incurable, by injecting them with embryonic stem cells. However, she hasn't submitted any of her work to scientific review, leading to suspicions that something fishy is going on. From timesonline.co.uk: Dr Shroff has refused to publish her research and to submit it to peer review — a practise regarded widely as a cornerstone of good science. Instead, she has patented her technique, a route more familiar in…
Posted: Sat Nov 07, 2009.   Comments (0)

Cabbage Stump Night — Cabbage Stump Night (or merely Cabbage Night) appears to be an American variant of northern England's Mischief Night, celebrated on the night before Halloween. Once again, it's something I had never heard of before. From newburyportnews.com: Cabbage Stump Nights are not well chronicled. New Jersey apparently had its "cabbage night'' when cabbages were hurled at houses, but ours bettered that because cabbages do not fit small hands for throwing... Cabbages have a distinctive and proper…
Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2009.   Comments (4)

Snake in drain was a hoax — A man who caught a 14-foot (4.2-meter) python in a Florida drain pipe was charged with perpetrating a hoax after wildlife officers discovered he owned the snake and put it in the pipe in order to stage the capture. Justin Matthews, a professional animal trapper, later admitted that he had "staged the event to call attention to a growing problem of irresponsible pet ownership," the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said on Thursday. Link: Yahoo! News
Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2009.   Comments (0)

Lee Harvey Oswald’s ‘Backyard Photo’: Not A Fake! — Photo-fakery expert Hany Farid has confirmed, after a two-month analysis, that the famous photo of Lee Harvey Oswald posing in his backyard with a rifle was not a fake. From unionleader.com: Farid said over the years, he's received dozens and dozens of requests to analyze the photo. What helped him decide to take on the project was a recent study he worked on looking at how the human brain processes images. He used a computer program Facegen, to build a virtual 3D model of Oswald's…
Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2009.   Comments (3)

Fake Wilson Campaign Ad — This sounds like it might be a case of "black propaganda": Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) on Thursday condemned a fake campaign ad circulating under his name that implies President Barack Obama is a communist... The 30-second ad begins with a clip of President Barack Obama's speech to students on the first day of school this year. Red-colored text scrolls across the screen that says "Community Activist," a message that morphs into "Communist Activity." The image then changes from Obama to…
Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2009.   Comments (1)

Rescue Dummy, Get Robbed — What you get for trying to be a hero nowadays: A man was attacked and robbed after he jumped into a lake believing a boy was drowning, only to find it was a dummy. The dog walker was approached by a "distressed" couple in Foxes Forest, Portsmouth, who said their son had been attacked by a swan in nearby water. When the 48-year-old jumped into the lake and discovered the dummy he saw the man going through his coat pockets. Link: BBC
Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2009.   Comments (0)

A fork in the road, literally — A few days ago a fork appeared in the middle of a Pasadena road. It's located, appropriately, at a fork in the road, where Pasadena and St. John avenues divide. From the Pasadena Star News: It turns out the fork is an elaborate - and expensive - birthday prank in honor of the 75th birthday of Bob Stane, founder of the Ice House comedy club, who now owns the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena... The wooden fork, is "expertly carved and painted," to look like metal, Stane said. "It's…
Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2009.   Comments (6)

The Case of the Carbolic Smoke Ball — Clive Coleman tells the story for BBC Radio 4 of the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company. It was an 1892 case of fraudulent advertising. The case against them is "seen by some as the birth of modern consumer protection": The carbolic smoke ball was a peculiar device marketed as a cure for various ailments including influenza. It consisted of a rubber ball, filled with powdered carbolic acid. You squeezed the ball sending a puff of acidic smoke right up a tube inserted into your nose. The idea…
Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2009.   Comments (3)

io9.com accuses The Fourth Kind of being an unsuccessful hoax — The new movie The Fourth Kind tries to blur reality in the same way that movies such as Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project have successfully done. But according to io9.com, The Fourth Kind doesn't manage to pull it off convincingly: Alien abduction flick The Fourth Kind bills itself as containing "actual footage" from case histories. But this footage is so poorly faked that it insults the audience's intelligence... The movie stumbled out of the gate by hanging most of its…
Posted: Thu Nov 05, 2009.   Comments (4)

Save On All Jackets! — Random banner ad. (via Reddit)
Posted: Thu Nov 05, 2009.   Comments (2)

Psycho-Acoustic Beatles Simulations — BlueBeat music is being sued for illegally selling Beatles songs. Their defense: the songs are not Beatles songs, but rather "psycho-acoustic simulations." BlueBeat's lawyers claim that the Website is "entirely lawful and does not constitute piracy" and that the plaintiffs are not likely to succeed. Also, the plaintiffs are well aware that the defendants "developed a series of entirely new and original sounds that it allows the general public to purchase" and that "copyright protection…
Posted: Thu Nov 05, 2009.   Comments (0)

Viagra Corporate Headquarters

The title of this image, which has been circulating widely online since at least 2009, is a joke. The building shown is not really the corporate headquarters of Viagra. Of course, Viagra isn't a company. It's a drug manufactured by Pfizer, Inc. But the joke wouldn't work if the photo was titled "Pfizer's Corporate Headquarters." However, this isn't even Pfizer's headquarters. The building is actually the corporate offices of Swagelok Northwest, located in Portland, Oregon at 815 SE Sherman St. The company manufactures valves and fittings for gas and fluid systems. The topiary…

Posted: Thu Nov 05, 2009.   Comments (7)

Divining Rods for Bombs — Despite major bombings that have rattled the nation, and fears of rising violence as American troops withdraw, Iraq’s security forces have been relying on a device to detect bombs and weapons that the United States military and technical experts say is useless. The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works “on the same principle as a Ouija board” — the power of suggestion — said a retired United…
Posted: Wed Nov 04, 2009.   Comments (4)

Mr. Man on the Street Strikes Again — I wrote about Greg Packer, aka the phony Man on the Street, in Hippo Eats Dwarf: In 2003, media critics noticed that the same man kept popping up time after time in “man on the street” interviews. Greg Packer, a highway maintenance worker from upstate New York, was quoted by The New York Times, the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the London Times, and other publications. He also appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. But he was always…
Posted: Wed Nov 04, 2009.   Comments (1)

Reverse Counterfeiting: The Case of the Gold Penny — Most counterfeiting takes something that is nearly worthless and turns it into something perceived to have value. Mr. Daws did just the opposite. He took value — approximately $100 worth of gold — and turned it into something perceived as nearly worthless, one cent. “It’s there, but if people don’t realize it, it’s the same as not being there,” he said. Of the 11 copper-plated gold pennies he made as part of his series, only this one was sent into the wider world... Late this summer,…
Posted: Wed Nov 04, 2009.   Comments (3)

Mischief Night — I'd never heard of Mischief Night before, but then it seems to be local to northern England. From the BBC: Depending on where you live, it lands sometime around Halloween and Bonfire Night. And opinions vary on whether it is a chance for harmless fun or an excuse for anti-social behaviour. Like many native traditions, its exact origins are unknown, but Mischief Night is thought to date from the 1700s when a custom of Lawless Hours or Days prevailed in Britain... Since the 1950s,…
Posted: Tue Nov 03, 2009.   Comments (12)

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