Cracked recently ran a list of the Top 10 Greatest Hoaxes. And for Cracked, it's a decent list. Which is to say that my expectations were pretty low, but they actually managed to choose some hoaxes which legitimately qualify as classics. Until you get to #4 on the list, which sticks out like a sore thumb. It's the "NASA Moon Landing Hoax." What is that doing on the list? It would be relevant on a Top 10 Conspiracy Theories list, but not a Great Hoaxes list.
I learned from this article on heritage.com that the "Electric Sugar" hoax of 1889 was featured on Friday night on the Travel Channel's Monumental Mysteries show. (To be honest, I've never watched that show.) The sugar hoax is pretty obscure, but interesting. Nice to see it get some attention. I posted an article about it here on the site back in 2011.
Eric Shipton's Yeti footprint photos, taken on his 1951 Everest expedition, are going up for sale. These photos played a big role in Bigfoot history since it was these photos that inspired a Yeti craze in the media during the 1950s, which then fed directly into the Bigfoot craze that started when giant-size footprints were found in California in 1958. Unlike the footprints found in California, which were a hoax, the prints Shipton found probably were genuine, but misinterpreted. The most likely explanation is that they were bear prints that grew larger as they melted in the sun. Not…
Earlier this month, images of a new product, instant champagne tablets, went viral in France. They were supposedly the creation of the champagne label Veuve Clicquot. You drop a few tablets in a glass of water and a minute later you'd have a glass of champagne. The product had been given the name "Shh...ampagne". Yes, this was a hoax. And it was a hoax done without the permission of Veuve Clicquot, whose name was attached to the fictitious product. The phony ad campaign was the work of a Russian ad agency called Firma. I think it was one of those fake campaigns ad agencies sometimes…
April Fool becomes reality. ThinkGeek first introduced "Das Can-in-Stein" on April 1st, as an April Fool's Day joke. The idea was to insert your beer can into the device so that you could pretend you were drinking from a pewter beer stein. ThinkGeek has now decided to sell this product for real. You can purchase one for $10.
In 2012, a ZZ Top fan made a hoax video that purported to show the trio performing the 1955 folk-country classic "Sixteen Tons" with guitarist Jeff Beck. In a case of life imitating hoax, Jeff Beck and ZZ Top recently performed together in L.A., and they decided to play "Sixteen Tons" — because of the fan's hoax video. Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top said, "It’s a mega meta kinda thang. [LA Times]
The Sailing Stones of Death Valley are the real-life counterpart of Dan De Quille's 1867 hoax about the "traveling stones" of Pahranagat Valley. The sailing stones mysteriously move across dried mud, leaving tracks behind them. For a long time, no one knew exactly what made the sailing stones move. But now researchers have figured it out. [Discover]
The Spitalfields Life blog has a brief account (with lots of pictures) of the so-called Shadwell Shams. These were supposedly medieval trinkets, specifically pilgrim's badges (tens of thousands of them), that a pair of forgers, William Smith & Charles Eaton (aka Billy & Charley), claimed to have found in the mud along the Thames. The pair did a good business for over 10 years, from 1856 to 1867, managing to completely fool most archaeologists. The article notes that, "today their Shadwell Shams are commonly worth more than the genuine antiquities they forged."
After Amy Bruni (of SyFy's Ghost Hunters) posted on Facebook about how excited she was that McDonald's had decided to offer a Ouija Board as the new Halloween Happy Meal toy, so many people believed her that Snopes debunked the rumor the next day.
The American Press Institute interviews the founders of Nipsys News, which is one of those sites that allows anyone to create fake news stories. Most recently Nipsys was responsible for a viral hoax alleging that the the legal drinking age in the U.S. would soon change to 25. The founders of Nipsys gloss over the ethics of what they're doing with some hand-waving about "freedom of expression." But at the end of the interview they offer some advice about how to identify fake news. And it's actually good advice: "We just advise readers to check if the information from the article can be…
Kevin and Becky Clark, who were hoping to adopt a child, were contacted by a woman claiming to be pregnant and hoping to find a couple to adopt it. For over a month the Clarks were in daily contact with the woman, planning the adoption, until she told them the baby was stillborn. But it turned out there was no baby. She had never been pregnant. What makes this unusual is that the hoaxer doesn't seem to have been looking for any money. Instead, she just craved attention. And it wasn't the first time she had done this. [Columbus Dispatch]
The latest fake news story gone viral on social media is the claim that George Zimmerman (who shot Trayvon Martin back in 2012) was recently arrested in Ferguson after following two black teenagers out of a Dunkin Donuts and then aiming a handgun at them when they confronted him. The story originated with fake news site National Report. It's completely bogus. [hoax-slayer]
Ebola rumors and conspiracy theories are spreading fast in Africa. One rumor is that the disease itself is a hoax invented by governments to boost their power. Another is that drinking salt water can cure the disease. Researchers note that the spread of rumors and conspiracy theories is to be expected in a situation such as a terrifying outbreak, because the rumors are actually "psychologically reassuring," allowing people to restore a feeling of control in the face of an unpredictable threat. [nytimes.com]
Mental Floss has a list of 7 explanations for the Loch Ness Monster. That is, 7 things that people might be seeing and misinterpreting as Nessie. The list is: lake sturgeons, surfacing trees, indigenous eels, mountainous reflections, bird wakes, bubbles produced by seismic activity, and swimming elephants. Over the years, there have been quite a few more explanations than this offered to account for Nessie sightings. And some of the explanations are definitely strange. One of these days I'll get around to producing a full list of them.