The Hoax Museum Blog

Pareidolia Roundup: December 2008 — It's been a while since I've done a pareidolia roundup, so a few of these are a couple months old. Virgin Mary in Salsa Stain "Elvia Alvarez was recently using her blender to make salsa in her kitchen. Some of the salsa splattered onto the wall, creating what Alvarez says is the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since this happened. Alvaraz says it's a sign that people need to be nicer to each other." Funny. I thought it was a sign she needs to be more careful when making salsa. Jesus…
Posted: Wed Dec 03, 2008.   Comments (12)

The Roofs of Cambridge — Pranksters at Cambridge University recently succeeded in placing a Santa hat on top of two seemingly inaccessible roof spires. Ten firemen and three fire engines spent an hour getting them down. From the Daily Mail: The culprit currently remains a mystery, but it is thought to be a student playing a practical joke. It is also not known how anyone managed to scale the buildings, particularly the spire of Humility, which is thought to be impossible to climb. One suggestion is that the…
Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2008.   Comments (8)

The strongest man in the world — Here's an entertaining example of complete bs. An Arabic TV station interviews a man who claims to be the "Incredible Hulk" of Egypt. He says that he has the strength of 30,000 men! He never sleeps! He has sex 15 times a day with his four wives! And he's so strong that the government doesn't allow him to work, for fear that he might accidentally hurt someone. But the only evidence of his strength that he offers is his ability to tear a coin in half. This, of course, is a well-known…
Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2008.   Comments (7)

Time magazine lists its favorite “geek” pranks — Time magazine offers a roundup of what it describes as "the biggest pranks in geek history" -- limited to pranks perpetrated by MIT and Caltech students. The usual suspects are there: the great rose bowl hoax, Caltech relettering the Hollywood sign, etc. Except, uh, some of the items in the list clearly aren't pranks. For instance, creating a program that allows DVDs to play on any operating system may be a useful hack, but it's not what I would consider a prank. And I don't think MIT…
Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2008.   Comments (0)


The Mona Lisa Suicide

A young French artist, Luc Maspero, supposedly threw himself from the fourth floor window of his Paris hotel in 1852. He left behind a note saying that he had struggled to solve the mystery of the Mona Lisa's smile, but having failed, he preferred to die. We find versions of this story circulating since the 1960s, but there's no evidence that any such artist ever lived (or committed suicide). more…

Posted: Thu Nov 27, 2008.   Comments (4)

The Pranks of Horace de Vere Cole — The Daily Mail offers a short biography of Horace de Vere Cole (1881-1936), a man who made pranks his life work. His most famous prank was the Dreadnought Hoax of 1910. Here are a few of his others: He "once stood in the street handing out free theatre tickets to a series of extremely bald passers-by with the result that, when viewed from the dress circle, the assembly of shiny bald heads in the carefully chosen seats clearly spelt out an expletive - complete with a dot over the 'i'."…
Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2008.   Comments (8)

National Kick a Ginger Day — Apparently this started with a character on South Park who described redheads as "evil" and "soulless". This gave a fourteen-year-old boy the idea of starting a Facebook group dedicated to the idea of promoting November 20 as "National Kick a Ginger Day". The group soon had over 5000 members, and unfortunately some people decided to take the idea literally. Redheaded students at schools throughout Canada reported being kicked and punched by other students on Nov. 20. One student, Aaron…
Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2008.   Comments (65)

Forbes not being sold to the Russians — The business magazine Forbes "absolutely denies" a rumor that it's being bought by a Russian private equity firm, Onexim. The irony here is that it was Forbes, back in 1991, which published a hoax claiming that the Russian government, desperate for foreign currency, was selling the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin to the highest bidder. Times and fortunes have changed. It appears now the shoe is on the other foot.
Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2008.   Comments (0)

Immigrants devise creative methods of hiding — Two cases of illegal immigrants finding unusual methods of sneaking into countries have recently been in the news: Case #1: U.S. border police found 13 illegal immigrants inside a fake Budweiser beer van. Case #2: British authorities found four illegal immigrants hiding inside a 32-foot-tall fake Christmas tree in the back of a truck. The tree was made of aluminum and nylon, and had been ordered for a town center display.
Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2008.   Comments (1)

Fake Cocaine — On June 4 Steven Decker of Muscatine, Iowa sold a white powder to an undercover agent. He said it was cocaine, but it wasn't. It was fake cocaine. In the eyes of the law, this doesn't let him off the hook. He's being charged with "delivery of a simulated controlled substance" and is looking at up to ten years in prison and $50,000 in fines. I'm sure Decker is not exactly a boy-scout, but being charged for selling fake cocaine is a curious concept. Added irony: he was selling a…
Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2008.   Comments (10)

The Turkey-Tryptophan Myth, and why do big meals make you drowsy? — Thanksgiving is approaching, which means the "turkey makes you tired because it has high levels of tryptophan" urban legend shall once again be heard at tables throughout America. Baylor College of Medicine dietitian Rebecca Reeves debunks this legend in an interview with the Houston Chronicle: Q: So the tryptophan in turkey doesn't make you sleepy, right? A: I am not sure how (that) gained wide acceptance. The urban legend is that the tryptophan in turkey is what makes you sleepy on…
Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2008.   Comments (12)

False Feces Demonstration — November 19 was World Toilet Day. In honor of the occasion, activists in Switzerland held a "false-feces demonstration" outside the Bern train station. This involved placing hundreds of fake rubber droppings on the pavement. The point of this fecal fakery was to raise awareness about sanitation problems around the world. The Sun has pictures of the plastic poo.
Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2008.   Comments (5)

Berlusconi’s Cuckoo Prank — I swear this is a real news story. It's not from The Onion: Silvio Berlusconi, the flamboyant Italian Prime Minister, played a practical joke on the German Chancellor today by jumping out at her from behind a lamppost when they met for an Italo-German summit in Trieste. Slipping away from the welcoming committee, the Italian leader hid behind the lamppost and emerged with a cry of "Cucu!" when Angela Merkel stepped out of her official car to enter the regional council headquarters…
Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2008.   Comments (7)

Man names son “Carter Barack Obama Sealy” — A Broomfield, Colorado man got his name in the local newspaper for claiming he had named his new son Carter Barack Obama Sealy. He also said that his two other children were named Brooke Trout Sealy and Cooper John Elway Sealy. Supposedly he had a deal with his wife. She got to choose the kids' first names, and he got to choose their middle names. The children's grandmother spilled the beans on the father, notifying the paper that the names were not real. The guy's wife explained that…
Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2008.   Comments (5)

Don’t buy diamonds in a Wal-Mart parking lot — Here's one for the "If you're this stupid, you deserve to be conned" file: The victim encounters two people in a Wal-Mart parking lot who are engaging in a transaction involving a diamond. The buyer (a man) offers the seller (a woman) $20,000 for the diamond. A normal person would think, "This is an odd location to be having this kind of transaction." Instead, the victim asks if she can buy a diamond also, and gets $1900 from the bank to pay for it. Surprise! She later discovers the…
Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2008.   Comments (2)

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