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Hoax Museum Blog Posts From
July 2014
July 31, 1952: Suicide Rescue Hoax
Medal of Honor winner Maynard H. Smith was praised for his heroism when he dramatically rescued 21-year-old Ernestine Whomble on this day as she tried to commit suicide by jumping off the sixth-floor ledge of the YWCA building in Wash. DC. But praise turned to condemnation when Whomble later confessed the rescue had been staged as a way to gain publicity for Smith who hoped to run for the governorship of Virginia. Smith denied the charge but couldn't satisfactorily explain why he had been in the YWCA at that moment. He was convicted of causing a false police report to be filed and fined $50.

Posted: Thu Jul 31, 2014.   Comments (0)

July 30, 1999: The Blair Witch Project Opens
The Blair Witch Project opened on this day in 1999 and quickly became one of the most successful independent films of all time. It owed much of its success to a marketing scheme centering around the blairwitch.com website, where web surfers could view detailed historical information about the legend of the Blair Witch. It was all so convincing that many people were fooled into believing that the Blair Witch was a real historical figure, which she wasn't. The entire tale was fictitious. More…

Posted: Wed Jul 30, 2014.   Comments (0)

July 29, 1955: The MacNab Photograph
Bank manager Peter MacNab took this photo on a "hazy, warm" July afternoon in 1955. However, he didn't share it with the world until October 1958 on account of "diffidence and fear of ridicule." It quickly came to be considered a classic Loch Ness Monster photo. However, MacNab distributed two slightly different versions of what he claimed was the original negative, leading many (even Nessie believers) to suspect a hoax, because if MacNab did doctor the original image (either painting in the monster, or painting out a boat) he may created multiple "original" negatives during this process.

Posted: Tue Jul 29, 2014.   Comments (0)

July 28, 1932: The Latin-Chanting Ghost of Joliet
As word spread of a ghost that chanted songs in Latin at midnight in the graveyard of the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet, crowds of hundreds of people (pictured) started gathering to hear the phantom crooner. Each night the voice was said to emanate from a different grave. But on this day in 1932, prison officials finally located the source of the singing. It was an inmate, William Chrysler, who had night-watch duty at the prison's quarry pumphouse behind the cemetery. His voice carried into the graveyard and seemed to "haunt" it. He was actually singing in Lithuanian, not Latin.

Posted: Mon Jul 28, 2014.   Comments (2)


July 27, 1907: The Wedding of the Ancients
On this day, a widely reported wedding to unite John B. Bundren, Sr. (101-yrs-old) and Rose McGuire (100-yrs-old) was exposed as a fake. The couple were said to have been engaged 85 years ago, but could not wed at that time due to the objection of her parents. The romantic tale was a fiction created by 44-year-old John B. Bundren, an army clerk, who had worn a wig and beard to look like a senior version of himself in the wedding announcement photo. The bride-to-be was an actress. He did it, he said, in order to gather facts about longevity for a book he planned to write on the subject.

Posted: Sun Jul 27, 2014.   Comments (0)

July 26, 2011: Internet Explorer Users Are Dumb
On this day, AptiQuant Psychometric Consulting Co. released a study revealing that Internet Explorer users scored lower on IQ tests than users of other web browsers and were therefore "dumb". This result was duly reported as fact by numerous news outlets. However, not only was the study fake, but also AptiQuant wasn't a real company. The graphics on its site had been copied from the site of a legitimate French firm. The hoax was the work of Tarandeep Gill, a Canadian web developer, who later said he had hoped to "create awareness about the incompatibilities of IE6." [wikipedia]

Posted: Sat Jul 26, 2014.   Comments (0)

July 25, 1990: Operation Blackbird Hoaxed
On this day, the high-tech Operation Blackbird, whose mission was to record the creation of a crop circle by a UFO, appeared to meet with success. The monitoring equipment recorded flashing orange lights in a field, and the next morning two large circles had formed. But the hopes of the researchers were dashed when they found a horoscope chart and wooden crucifix in the middle of the circles — evidently the calling card of a hoaxer. The flashing lights on their equipment, the researchers admitted, had probably been the heat signature of humans running around. More…

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2014.   Comments (0)

July 24, 1907: The Old Librarian's Almanack
On this day, Edmund Leaster Pearson first mentioned the existence of the Old Librarian's Almanack in his column in the Boston Evening Transcript. It was, he said, a small almanac from 1773 that contained the "opinion and counsel" of a rather curmudgeonly librarian whose ideas were strikingly non-modern. For instance, the Old Librarian felt it was the duty of all librarians to "cast out and destroy" any book that was "merely frivolous." Pearson later arranged for the reprinting of this 18thC curiosity. Very few people realized that he himself had written it as a joke. [Internet Archive]

Posted: Thu Jul 24, 2014.   Comments (0)

Fossil Poop Controversy — I.M. Chait auctioneer will soon be taking bids on what it describes as the "longest example of coprolite [i.e. fossil poop] ever to be offered at auction." At 40 inches, it's definitely quite long. A number of sites described this as dinosaur poop, which it can't be, since it's 40 million years too young to have come from the rear end of a dinosaur. But gawker's antiviral notes that it may not be a coprolite either. The object comes from Washington's Wilkes formation, and according to Whitman College Professor of Geology Patrick K. Spencer, there's nothing that would "suggest an… Continue…
Posted: Wed Jul 23, 2014.   Comments (0)

Fishy Research — Many media outlets (such as NPR) recently ran a feel-good story about how a sixth-grader made an important scientific discovery. The discovery was that lionfish can survive in nearly fresh water, such as that found in estuaries. This is important to know since lionfish are highly invasive. The young scientist made this discovery as part of a science-fair project on lionfish. But it now looks like there's a seamier side to this story. It turns out that this information had been discovered before, as far back as 2010, by a marine biology grad student, Zach Jud. And Jud had worked with… Continue…
Posted: Wed Jul 23, 2014.   Comments (0)

July 23, 1943: The Death of Ern Malley
The unknown Australian poet Ern Malley was said to have died of Graves' disease on this day, prompting his sister to send the poems she found among his possessions to Max Harris, editor of the Angry Penguins poetry journal, who then decided to dedicate a special issue to Malley's strange poems. But upon publication, Harris discovered Malley wasn't real. He was the satirical creation of two Australian poets hostile to modern poetry. Ern Malley remains Australia's most famous literary hoax. [wikipedia]

Posted: Wed Jul 23, 2014.   Comments (0)

The ‘We only use 10% of our brains’ myth — In an article in The Atlantic, Sam McDougle traces the origin of the often repeated belief that "you only use 10 percent of your brain." He writes: "According to Sam Wang, a neuroscientist at Princeton and the author of Welcome to Your Brain, the catalyst may have been the self-help industry. In the early 1900s, William James, one of the most influential thinkers in modern psychology, famously said that humans have unused mental potential. This completely reasonable assertion was later revived, in mangled form, by the writer Lowell Thomas in his foreword to the 1936 self-help bible… Continue…
Posted: Tue Jul 22, 2014.   Comments (0)

July 22, 1931: Mr. A.A. declared man with shortest name
On this day, Mr. A.A. (first name Aaron) was declared to be the man with the shortest name in the United States, following the death of H.P. Re. But within a month he was revealed to be a fraud after he was charged with forgery and a judge issued a warrant for his real name, Earl Gerske. Mr. A.A. was merely an alias, Gerske explained, adopted on account of a deal with a laundry company so that "they could advertise that the phone number of their laundry was the first one listed in the directory."

Posted: Tue Jul 22, 2014.   Comments (0)

July 21, 1959: Jacqueline Gay Hart Disappears
Hart, a 21-year-old heiress, disappeared from Newark airport and was the subject of a nationwide search for two days until she turned up in Chicago's Grant Park, claiming she had been abducted by two men who drove her, bound and gagged, to Chicago. But within a day she admitted her story was false, explaining that she had "sort of exploded" because of tension over her approaching wedding and had fled, wandering around New York and Chicago for two days before deciding to return.

Posted: Mon Jul 21, 2014.   Comments (1)

Fried Chicken Oreos — Fried Chicken Oreos are not a real thing. The photo of a bag of them that went viral this week was a fake. However, I don't think that the idea of Fried Chicken Oreos is inherently implausible. After all, chicken and waffles are definitely real (and very tasty). So why not have fried chicken oreos? Also, Oreos already come in many different, unusual flavors, such as cookie dough, candy corn, green tea ice cream, limeaid, orange ice cream, etc. So fried chicken flavor isn't that much of a stretch. However, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel checked with Weber Shandwick, who handle PR… Continue…
Posted: Sun Jul 20, 2014.   Comments (0)

July 20, 1971: The National Review Hoax
The conservative National Review magazine released a set of documents that it claimed were secret government papers dealing with the war in Vietnam. A day later it admitted the papers were a hoax, designed as a response to the Pentagon Papers published by the New York Times the previous month. William F. Buckley, editor of the National Review, claimed his magazine's hoax demonstrated that "forged documents would be widely accepted as genuine provided their content was inherently plausible." [Lewiston Daily Sun]

Posted: Sun Jul 20, 2014.   Comments (0)

July 19, 2002: The Case of a Phony 9/11 Survivor
On this day, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported the inspirational story of Daniel McCarthy, who had just been wed in Lake Tahoe. McCarthy, the paper said, was a Brooklyn police officer who had survived after being buried for 79 hours in the rubble of the World Trade Center. However, the national attention brought by the article quickly exposed McCarthy's elaborate tale of heroics as a complete fraud. McCarthy was neither a cop nor a 9/11 survivor. In reality, he had a long criminal record, and, on top of everything else, was already married. So his new marriage made him a bigamist. [Editor & Publisher]

Posted: Sat Jul 19, 2014.   Comments (0)

July 18, 1938: Wrong Way Corrigan
On this day, Douglas Corrigan landed at Baldonnel Aerodrome in Ireland after a solo, 28-hour flight across the Atlantic. The FAA had denied him permission for the flight because of the poor condition of his plane, but Corrigan claimed that he had intended to fly to California from Long Island but accidentally went the wrong way because of a broken compass. The explanation earned him the nickname "Wrong Way" Corrigan. His error was viewed by almost everyone as intentional, though he never admitted to this. [wikipedia]

Posted: Fri Jul 18, 2014.   Comments (0)

Milkybar Pareidolia — While watching the World Cup, a British lawyer (Robin Jacobs) was eating a Milkybar and noticed that the design imprinted on the bar includes a phallic shape that he believes is inappropriate for children. A spokesperson for Nestle, the maker of the bar, responded: "Nestle is surprised and sorry to hear that Mr Jacobs thought the picture on the Milkybar resembles male genitalia, it is in fact an image of a horse’s head, the Milkybar Kid’s horse." This Milkybar phallus pareidolia is getting LOTS of press coverage, although it's not clear to me why since people have been talking… Continue…
Posted: Thu Jul 17, 2014.   Comments (1)

Full Contact Skydiving — Full Contact Skydiving is defined (according to the website that promotes it) as "a mixed martial art combat sport occurring in the free-fall portion of a standard skydiving jump." But no, it isn't real. The entire thing is a spoof designed to promote the Amp energy drink. As revealed in a "behind the scenes" video recently posted. Continue…
Posted: Thu Jul 17, 2014.   Comments (0)

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.