Hoax Museum Blog Posts: August 2014

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: August 7

August 7, 1926: The Midwife Toad Fraud Exposed
Biologist Paul Kammerer had observed that when he forced "midwife toads" to mate in water (they usually mate on land) their offspring, several generations later, had developed black traction pads on their forelimbs, which made water-mating easier for them. He offered this as proof of Lamarckian inheritance. But on this day in 1926, Dr. G.K. Noble reported in the journal Nature his discovery that the black traction pads were merely injected ink. The revelation destroyed Kammerer's reputation. He committed suicide less than two months later. More…
Posted: Thu Aug 07, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: August 6

August 6, 1969: Naked Came the Stranger Revealed
The novel Naked Came the Stranger, credited to Penelope Ashe, had sold a respectable 20,000 copies. But it sold many more copies after 25 reporters from Newsday revealed, on this day in 1969, that they were all the true authors, having written it as a team in a deliberate attempt to produce a terrible novel. The satirical purpose of the hoax was to demonstrate that sex, rather than literary standards, sells books. Although, of course, the book's generous marketing budget, which included ads that ran in the New York Times for several weeks before its publication, didn't hurt either. More…
Posted: Wed Aug 06, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: August 5

August 5, 1934: The Oldest Ear of Corn Debunked
After displaying an object for 20 years that it had believed to be the "oldest ear of corn" in the world (supposedly fossilized corn several thousand years old), the Smithsonian Institution admitted on this day that the object, upon closer examination, had been revealed to be a clay rattle shaped like corn. The museum had acquired the corn from a "collector of curios" in Peru. The rattle itself was interesting, as an ancient artifact, but it had no biological significance. More…
Posted: Tue Aug 05, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: August 4

August 4, 1972: Female Wanted to Become Pregnant
An ad placed in a Philadelphia paper sought a "female to become pregnant" in return for a "$10,000 fee plus expenses." A reporter who called the number reached Leonard Goldfarb, who claimed he was representing a childless couple. But when news of the ad got picked up by the national press, prompting hundreds of women to apply, Goldfarb admitted there was no child-seeking couple. He was actually an "economic mathematician," and he had placed the ad in order to gather data about "what price pregnancy" as well as to "pinpoint a serious sociological problem."
Posted: Mon Aug 04, 2014.   Comments (0)


This Day in the History of Hoaxes: August 3

August 3, 1965: Rex Heflin Photographs a UFO
On this day in 1965, highway maintenance worker Rex Heflin stopped his truck as he was driving outside Santa Ana, CA and took a series of photos that he claimed showed a UFO hovering in the sky. The photos gained widespread publicity, and have come to be considered classic UFO photos. However, they were soon labeled a "hoax" by the Air Force's Project Blue Book, and the Air Force was almost certainly correct. Heflin apparently created them by dangling a toy train wheel on monofilament fishing line out of his truck window. [The UFO Iconoclast]
Posted: Sun Aug 03, 2014.   Comments (1)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: August 2

August 2, 1967: Please Don't Douse Your Phone!
The British Post Office, in charge of the nation's phone system, issued an alert about a recent spate of phone calls in which a man, posing as a telephone engineer, informed people that in order to cure a fault on their line they had to drop their phone in a bucket of water. Several people had fallen for this ruse before it came to the attention of the Post Office. The alert also noted that, earlier in the year, a prankster had enjoyed "considerable success" by calling people and saying in an authoritative voice, "Get a large pair of scissors and cut the wire between your telephone and handset receiver. There is some danger."
Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: August 1

August 1, 1956: I, Libertine Revealed
In the 1950s, bestseller lists were partially based on the number of requests for a title at stores. Nighttime deejay Jean Shepherd hatched a plan to throw a wrench in this system by having his listeners descend on bookstores en masse and ask for a non-existent book titled I, Libertine. Requests for the title eventually made their way to publisher Ian Ballantine who (once he figured out what was going on), decided to publish I, Libertine as an actual book. A month before the book's release, the Wall Street Journal revealed the hoax, and the resulting publicity helped boost its sales. More…
Posted: Fri Aug 01, 2014.   Comments (2)

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