Hoax Museum Blog Posts: October 2014

Links (Oct 31, 2014)

  • Is all publicity good publicity? The Chinese dating app Youjia created a fake ad claiming that a young woman was funding her travels throughout China by having sex with men who would pay her way for her. But the ad raised the ire of Chinese authorities who have now banned the sale of the app throughout the country. [telegraph.co.uk]
  • 40 years ago. The 1974 War of the Worlds Panic broadcast in which Martians invaded Rhode Island — a lesser-known sequel to the 1932 broadcast. [Providence Journal]
  • Satirical art provokes outrage. Artist Darren Cullen set up a fake "Pocket Money Loans" shop for kids (and accompanying website) to mock parasitic payday lenders. Many people didn't realize it was satire. [London24]
  • Ghost stories for Halloween. Richard Sugg writes about 19th century campus ghosts, and campus ghost hoaxes. [Times Higher Education]
  • MOH gets a shout out. Jack Shafer notes that the problem of fake news "clickbait" stories long predates the internet, and he cites a number of examples of 19th century fake news stories archived here at the Hoax Museum. [reuters]
  • Fake news. Emergent.info lists an article about a Macedonian man who cut off his penis and put it in the trash as "unverified and problematic." [emergent.info]
  • Celebrity death hoaxes. Judd Nelson isn't dead, nor is Walking Dead actor Norman Reedus. [ibtimes, classicalite]
  • Music urban legend. Is 27 the age at which rock stars are most likely to die an untimely death? That's the popular theory, but author Dianna Kenny found that it's just a myth. "The average male musician dies in his late 50s, compared with 75 for men outside the industry." [Wall Street Journal]
  • A case of a man crying wolf? Andrew Davies lies on the ground faking illness so often that he's now been given an anti-social behavior order banning him from wasting the time of emergency crews any more. [telegraph.co.uk]
  • Real photo, fake caption. The viral Airplane Rainbow Photo was supposedly taken by a woman as her plane flew through a rainbow. But the rainbow effect is caused by the light being polarised by the window. Not from flying through a rainbow. [usvsth3m.com]
  • Halloween urban legend. The 'man arrested for having sex with a pumpkin' urban legend. [About.com urban legends]
  • Poe's Law in action. The satirical claim that Michele Bachmann questioned why dinosaur bones are dirty if they've been buried for millions of years has been widely accepted as an actual quotation from her. [Snopes]
  • Cryptozoologists feuding. The American Bigfoot research community is well-known for its bitter feuds and rivalries. Apparently Australian Yowie researchers are no different. [Courier Mail]
  • Nessie Hunting. New documents show that back in the 1930s, the London Natural History Museum appealed to bounty hunters to shoot and kill Nessie, for the sake of science. A letter from a museum official stated, "Should you ever come within range of the ‘Monster’ I hope you will not be deterred 
by humanitarian considerations from shooting him on the 
spot and sending the carcase to us in cold storage, carriage forward. Short of this, a flipper, a jaw or a tooth would be very welcome." [Scotsman.com]
  • Prolific ghosts. Ben Radford's article about spirits who dictate books includes the interesting factoid that, 175 years after her death, Betsy Ross revealed to psychic Susan Lander that she was a lesbian. [Discovery News]
Posted: Fri Oct 31, 2014.   Comments (0)

Links (Oct 28, 2014)

  • Art fraud. The story of Walter and Margaret Keane is the subject of an upcoming movie by Tim Burton. Walter became an art sensation in the 1960s because of his paintings of sad, big-eyed children. But it was actually his wife Margaret who painted them. [The Guardian]
  • Photoshop before photoshop. Back in the 1940s, if photo editors wanted to make a quick change to a photo, they could use the Adams Retouching Machine. [Daily Mail]
  • Imaginary friend for sale. Georgia Horrocks's psychiatrist recommended that she say goodbye to Bernard, her imaginary friend. So she offered Bernard for sale on eBay. Bernard "will be sent via imagination to the winning bidder.” [news.com.au]
  • Too good to be true? The Consumerist is skeptical about that picture going around of a hungover guy who got a Domino's Pizza delivery person to bring the pizza to him in his bedroom, so he wouldn't have to get up to answer the front door. Although there's no way to prove that it isn't true. [Consumerist]
  • Hoax becomes reality. Earlier this week an image of a "Sexy Ebola Nurse" Halloween costume started doing the rounds, but it proved to be a hoax. The costume was actually a "Sexy Breaking Bad" costume. But now one company really is offering a "sexy Ebola containment suit" for sale as a Halloween costume. [Buzzfeed]
  • Another fake news story goes viral. NASA never said that the earth would be plunged into "six days of darkness" in December due to a solar storm. The story was an invention of fake news site Huzlers.com. [GMA News]
Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014.   Comments (0)

The Cooper Family Falling Body Photo

The story goes that sometime in the 1950s the Cooper family of Texas bought an old house and moved into it. On their first night there, the father took a photo of Mom and Grandma posing with the two kids at the dining room table. Everyone was happy and smiling. They were living the American dream. But when the photo was subsequently developed, they saw, to their horror, that what looked like a body falling or hanging from the ceiling had materialized behind them. It hadn't been there when the father took the photo. So where had it come from? Was it an apparition of a deceased former…

Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2014.   Comments (27)

Links (Oct 24, 2014)

  • Is anyone really named Penis? BabyCenter.com, the self-proclaimed "#1 parenting and pregnancy digital resource," claims there were seven baby boys in the United States named Penis in 2012. But when Ryan Jacobs set out to find them, he couldn't locate a single one of them. [Pacific Standard]
  • Do you want to buy a haunted house? Gwynne Watkins interviews a realtor who works at Past Life Homes, a firm that specializes in selling homes with "stigmatized pasts," which is a euphemistic way of saying that they're haunted. [vulture.com]
  • 10 of the greatest hoaxes? That's what the Herald Sun claims their list represents. But it's yet another list that reads more like '10 hoaxes that came up on a google search'. [Herald Sun]
  • Nazi Party Museum Hoax. A letter received by homes and businesses in Utrecht, informing them that a museum detailing the history of the Dutch Nazi movement will soon open, has been called "extremely odd," since no such museum is planned. [DutchNews.nl]
  • Swiss-Army-knife Trout. A picture of a trout swimming in Switzerland's Lake Blausee with a Swiss Army knife stuck in its head is real, says the lake manager, who also adds the fish was later captured and put out of its misery. [NY Daily News]
  • The true origin of Count Dracula. There's no evidence that Bram Stoker modeled Count Dracula on Vlad the Impaler, despite current widespread belief to the contrary. According to Stoker's notes, he chose the name because "DRACULA in Wallachian language means DEVIL." [io9.com]
  • Misinformation about a misinformation study. Indiana University's "Truthy Project" (funded by the NSF) is designed to study how information and misinformation spreads through social media. But it's now become the subject of a conservative rumor claiming that it's actually a government project "to monitor the activities of those who oppose its policies." [motherboard]
Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014.   Comments (0)

Jesus in Maple Tree

On the sixth anniversary of his father's death, Rhode Island resident Brian Quirk noticed that a silver maple tree in his yard had a mark that looked like Jesus on the cross. He noticed it while doing yard work. His mother, a devout Catholic, found "comfort knowing the image is there." His neighbor also said the image was a "compelling one." [NY Daily News]

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2014.   Comments (0)

Snooty the Manatee Death Hoax

As of today (Oct 23, 2014), Snooty the Manatee is still alive. This has been confirmed by the South Florida Museum where Snooty lives in the Parker Manatee Aquarium. Snooty was born on July 21, 1948 and has lived his entire life in captivity. In 1979 he was declared the Official Mascot of Manatee County, Florida. See his wikipedia page for more details about his life, as well as the South Florida Museum's timeline of Snooty's History. He's currently 66 years old, which makes him a very old manatee! He's quite likely the oldest manatee in the world. On October 22, 2014 a message…

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2014.   Comments (0)

Links for Oct 22, 2014

  • Sam Neill tweets that he's still alive, despite some rumors to the contrary. [twitter]
  • RFID Chips In Ebola Vaccine? A hoax article from a fake news site circulates this claim. [neonnettle]
  • Poet Kevin Young lectured yesterday at Princeton on “How to Write a Hoax Poem.” Lecture blurb posed the question, "Is there such a thing as fake poetry? If so, how does one write it?" [princeton.edu]
  • The Top Five Casino Myths (such as oxygen being pumped into the casino, and slot machines near the door paying out more) [westsidestory]
  • More scary clowns. An orange-haired clown has been roaming the streets of Portsmouth, creeping people out. [telegraph]
Posted: Wed Oct 22, 2014.   Comments (0)

Is it organic, or is it McDonalds? — Two guys (Sacha and Cedrique) from a Dutch show called LifeHunters visited a food convention in Houten where they offered the "food experts" in attendance samples of what they said was a "new organic alternative to fast food." In reality, they served bite-sized pieces of McDonalds food. The result: the attendees were not only impressed by what they tasted, but also a number of them said that it tasted much better than McDonalds fast food. One commented that, "you can just tell this is…
Posted: Tue Oct 21, 2014.   Comments (0)

Links for Oct 20, 2014: Banksy arrest, etc.

  • Banksy has not been arrested, nor has his identity been revealed [independent.co.uk]
  • "Rapper Claims He Signed To Def Jam Records, Posts Hilariously Fake Contract on Instagram" [complex.com]
  • Australia’s greatest hoaxes: the pranks the tricked a nation [Herald Sun]
  • Another food contamination hoax? Man claims to find mouse in his McDonalds coffee. [kboi2.com]
  • 20-year-old Spanish conman Francisco Nicolás Gomez Iglesias "without any official position in public life managed to hobnob with leading politicians and business figures, even attempting to negotiate in legal matters on behalf of Spain’s former King Juan Carlos." [thelocal.es]
  • The Irish Water authority has been criticized for installing a water meter at an abandoned "fake" house. [Irish Examiner]
  • "5 Vintage Urban Legends And Myths That Still Creep Us Out" [Huff Post]
  • Kindergarten student left in tears after a birthmark on her neck was photoshopped out of her school pictures without permission. [Barrier Daily Truth]
  • Everyone in what looks like a group photo on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s campaign website is photoshopped [Buzzfeed]
Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2014.   Comments (0)

Quick Links: Chemtrails, Outer Baldonia, etc.

  • This guy fooled millions of chemtrail conspiracy theorists, now they want his head. [deadstate.org]
  • "GIVE ME FISH, NOT FEDERALISM" Outer Baldonia and Performances of Micronationality. (PDF article). [Shima Journal]
  • From the political fakery file. The Asian Republican Coalition Is Mostly White and Mostly Endorses White Candidates. (Which makes it a lot like the African-American Republican Leadership Council, exposed in 2003 as being mostly a bunch of white guys.) [motherjones.com]
  • Crop-circle researcher Megan Heazlewood concedes there have been many hoax crop circles, but insists that "there have also been ones that are very much real, and have been scientifically proven." [dailytelegraph.com.au]
  • Pseudo-ostension in Bakersfield, CA. A teen dressed as a clown was recently arrested there for chasing children. The teen told police he was merely "continuing a hoax he saw online." [kfgo.com]
  • From 2013: the persistent rumor that Canada's new plastic money was impregnated with the scent of maple syrup. [cbc.ca]
  • Iowa City pot business posters and website are a hoax [press-citizen.com]. The fake website is iowamarijuanacompany.com.
  • Two people in Africa died after believing a false rumor that drinking or bathing in salt water could prevent Ebola. [business2community.com]
  • A two-and-a-half year old story about a man with a chainsaw threatening pub goers is recycled by one of those fake news sites as "Man walks in to haunted house with chainsaw, murders 7 people." Recycled story promptly goes viral. [Intl. Bus. Times]
Posted: Wed Oct 15, 2014.   Comments (0)


A photo of what appears to be a gigantic crab lurking in the waters of Whitstable harbour in Kent recently went viral, after first appearing on the Weird Whitstable website. Quinton Winter, who runs Weird Whitstable, asks, "Does this satellite photo of the harbour reveal a giant crab or unusual sand formation?" Unfortunately, the answer is neither. The correct response is that it's photo fakery. The original satellite image of the harbour, minus the crab, can be found on Bing Maps. So evidently someone (I'm assuming Winter) added the crab in. For the record, there are some…

Posted: Wed Oct 15, 2014.   Comments (0)

The Chicago River Hippo

The mystery of the Chicago River hippo has been solved. The hippo first came to the public's attention on September 15, when a video of it swimming in the Chicago River was posted to YouTube by "Chris O" (who had never posted anything to YouTube before). Two weeks later, this was followed by a second hippo video, now uploaded by "Matt ZB80." Again, it was Matt's first and only video. Pretty much everyone was skeptical of the idea that there really was a hippo loose in the Chicago River. The police noted that there were no reports of a wild animal in the river. And a…

Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2014.   Comments (0)

Quck Links: Grey Lady Ghost, etc.

  • Is this a picture of the Grey Lady Ghost of Dudley Castle? [Birmingham Mail]
  • Sondra Arquiett had agreed to help with a drug investigation as part of a sentencing deal, but didn't realize this help would include the DEA's use of her pictures to create a fake Facebook page. Now she's suing them. [BBC News]
  • Reports of an armed clown chasing students at Golden Valley High School are a hoax, says the principal. [Bakersfield Californian]
  • David LaVera's particular con is that he claims he was an actor in the Twilight movies. [KCCI]
  • Two teenage girls from Utah now admit that their story about being kidnapped back in September was a hoax. [Fox13now.com]
  • A fake blog about a blond child bride has become the most visited blog in Norway. [Smithsonian]
  • New York City is sending fake Ebola patients to emergency rooms to test hospital readiness. [CBS New York]
  • The contention of a $2 billion lawsuit filed recently in Chicago is that Aunt Jemima was a real person, and that Quaker Oats owes her descendants money. [takepart.com]
  • Montana authorities say they're not going to prosecute Toby Bridges (who's known as an "anti-wolf extremist") with running down two wolves, because they can't find any evidence that he did, despite his claims on Facebook to have done so. [Montana Standard]
  • The Twitter Death Machine. [USA Today]
Posted: Thu Oct 09, 2014.   Comments (0)

Making It Pleasant For The Horse, 1884

A recent article by Barry Smith in the Elko Daily Free Press delves into the tall tales and hoaxes that were the hallmark of Nevada journalism in the late 19th century. Mark Twain is the best known of these Nevada journalist hoaxers. But another master of the art form was Sam Davis, creator of the apocryphal Wabuska Mangler, as well as inventor of a horse-raising horse cart. Smith explains: You may have passed through Wabuska on your way from Weeks to Weed Heights without realizing this tiny hamlet once had a feisty newspaper called the Mangler. Well, it didn’t. The Wabuska…

Posted: Wed Oct 08, 2014.   Comments (1)

Microsoft skips Windows 9

On September 30, Microsoft announced the upcoming release of the latest version of its operating system, Windows 10. The strange thing is that there was no Windows 9. They went straight from version 8 to 10. It's been noted that this makes real an April Fool's Day hoax published by InfoWorld in 2013, which claimed that "Microsoft skips 'too good' Windows 9, jumps to Windows 10." Microsoft hasn't explained why they really did decide to skip version 9.

Posted: Wed Oct 08, 2014.   Comments (1)

Russians worship Jesus tree

After gardeners trimmed the old branches off a tree in the village of Burmakino in central Russia's Kirov Oblast last month, people noticed a pattern in the wood grain of one of the cut branches that looked like the face of Jesus. And other cut branches displayed what looked like the faces of his disciples. Now large crowds of people have begun gathering in front of the tree to pray and give thanks. [Daily Mail]

Posted: Wed Oct 08, 2014.   Comments (0)

Quick Links: Ebola Zombie Victim, etc.

  • A viral picture apparently showing a Liberian Ebola victim who had 'risen from the dead' is actually a screenshot from the film World War Z. [mirror.co.uk]
  • Amy Argetsinger argues that it's time to bury the idea that Andy Kaufman faked his own death [washington post]
  • Craig Silverman offers an in-depth analysis of that pumpkin spice condom hoax from a few weeks back [digg.com]
  • The Great Exhibition Toilet Myths (such as that "the public toilet was invented by the plumber George Jennings, for the Great Exhibition of 1851") [Yale Books Blog]
  • News article from 1909 claimed that a pen made from the headboard of EA Poe's coffin kept writing the word "Lenore" backwards [Haunted Ohio]
Posted: Wed Oct 08, 2014.   Comments (0)

Added to the archive: The Plainfield Teachers

I added an article about the Plainfield Teachers hoax from 1941 to the archive. This is considered a classic sports hoax, in which a stockbroker, Morris Newburger, discovered that he was able to get football scores for a fake college team reported in major papers, including the New York Times, simply by calling the sports desks of the papers and reporting the score. The papers only realized what was going on when someone who knew Newburger phoned in a tip, ratting him out.

Posted: Tue Oct 07, 2014.   

The Cheerleader Poops

On September 30, 2014, a photo of "terrified cheerleaders" was uploaded to reddit, where it was presented as material for a "photoshop battle," in which the challenge is to creatively alter the original image. A redditor named "totalitarian_jesus" submitted an entry titled "where will you be when diarrhea strikes?" in which he made the cheerleader appear to be losing control of her bowels in mid-air, provoking expressions of horror from her teammates below. This quickly became the most highly voted entry, and it immediately inspired a prediction that the altered image would…

Posted: Tue Oct 07, 2014.   Comments (8)

Self-Castrating Beavers

As part of his ongoing "Fantastically Wrong" series at Wired.com, Matt Simon investigates the ancient legend that beavers will chew off their own testicles when pursued and throw them back at their pursuer, in this way making their escape. The legend was mentioned in Aesop's Fables and popped up in various works of natural history, until it was debunked in the 17th century by Sir Thomas Browne who pointed out that the testes of beavers don't hang outside their body. They're internal. So it would be difficult to chew them off, even if the beaver wanted to.

Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014.   Comments (1)

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