The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
I talked about the Godsend Institute (the website of a cloning lab that's really a promo for an upcoming movie of the same name) a few days ago. I said that I really didn't think the site was that convincing. But maybe others have been fooled by it because someone started an online petition to ban the Godsend Institute. Of course, I'm not above suspecting that the petition was started by the movie studio itself as a way to generate faux controversy. This was a favorite ploy of P.T. Barnum. Back in 1835 he was exhibiting Joice Heth, an elderly black woman whom he claimed was the 161-year-old former nurse of George Washington. When attendance at the…
Posted: Sun Apr 18, 2004 Comments (1)

Wired News has an article about a guy, Julian Dibbell, who almost succeeded in making a living from trading in imaginary goods, namely virtual items from the game Ultima Online. Of course, it doesn't seem that extraordinary to me that someone could earn a good living from trading imaginary things. After all, isn't there a trillion dollar industry devoted to just this... i.e. the financial derivatives market? I mean, options and other financial instruments may have real value to people, but they're no more real, in a material sense, than the items from Ultima Online are.
Posted: Sun Apr 18, 2004 Comments (1)

The Register has posted a great Nigerian Bank Scam email that it received. I get these emails all the time, and typically they come from people claiming to be either relatives of (or bankers of) deposed third world leaders who have huge amounts of money trapped in a bank account somewhere. They need your help to move the money out of the country. But this email that the Register received claims to come from a relative of a Nigerian astronaut trapped in space. He has a huge amount of back-pay accrued, and just needs your help to access the cash in order to get home. Very inventive. I wonder if the author of the letter actually expected to snare…
Posted: Sun Apr 18, 2004 Comments (0)

Fake Faces is a UK look-alike agency that represents a huge number of celebrity impersonators. It's kind of fun to browse through its catalog. As John Robinson of Sore Eyes notes, some of the look-alikes are really, really bad. But some are surprisingly good. For instance, would you be able to tell if that's really Joanna Lumley (of Ab Fab fame) in the thumbnail? It's not. (via Sore Eyes and I Love Everything)
Posted: Sat Apr 17, 2004 Comments (2)


I guess this site really isn't a hoax since it delivers exactly what it promises: furniture porn. Still, when you think of porn this isn't what most people have in mind. Very safe for work, unless images of pieces of furniture posed provocatively offend you. (Thanks, Goo)
Posted: Sat Apr 17, 2004 Comments (2)

Sam Nujoma, President of Namibia, eagerly waited for the arrival of Michael Jackson, whom he believed was launching a 12-day tour of Africa in his country. Unfortunately, he waited and waited, and Jackson never showed up. In fact, Jackson never had any plans to visit Africa. Nujoma was the victim of misinformation. Jackson isn't even allowed to travel abroad until the case against him is settled.
Posted: Sat Apr 17, 2004 Comments (0)

Despite the claims of this faux news story, Michael Jackson isn't dead.
Posted: Fri Apr 16, 2004 Comments (1)

Celebrity body parts seem to be the thing to sell on eBay. A few weeks ago George Best's liver was up for sale. Now we have Paris Hilton's pubic hair. According to the description on the auction, "This bundle of Pubic Hair was taken from Paris Hilton's bathroom sink at one of her hotels when she visited Australia late last year, Surprise!!!!!!!!!!!!! She isn't a natural blonde!!!!!!!!!!!!" The auction was yanked by eBay soon after it was put up, confirming that it was almost definitely a hoax. But a screenshot of it can be seen over at Fleshbot (safe for work). I just watched American Wedding which has a scene involving pubic hair in a hotel bathroom, and…
Posted: Fri Apr 16, 2004 Comments (8)

The phone number 135 8585 8585 recently went up for sale on the Chinese internet auction site EachNet.com, and fetched the staggering price of $1.1 million. The appeal of the number is apparently that when spoken in Chinese it sounds similar to the phrase "let me be rich be rich be rich be rich." Well, whoever shelled out that much for the number is going to be a little bit poorer now (though it looks like the phrase worked for the previous owner). But you have to suspect that it was a hoax bid.
Posted: Fri Apr 16, 2004 Comments (1)

Kohei Minato, a Japanese inventor, has built an incredible new kind of magnet-powered electric motor. As this article on Japan.com explains, "Minato's motors consume just 20 percent or less of the power of conventional motors with the same torque and horse power. They run cool to the touch and produce almost no acoustic or electrical noise. They are significantly safer and cheaper (in terms of power consumed), and they are sounder environmentally." Sounds really great. Until you read down a bit more and get to this line, "it is feasible to attach a generator to the motor and produce more electric power than was put into the device." In other…
Posted: Fri Apr 16, 2004 Comments (2)

About a month ago a photo began to circulate around the internet showing an American soldier posing with two Iraqi boys. One of the boys was holding up a sign that read, 'Lcpl Boudreaux killed my Dad, then he knocked up my sister!' Needless to say, the photo caused a lot of outrage. The Council on American-Islamic Relations complained to the Pentagon about it. And it received coverage in publications such as Islam Online. According to the Marine Corps Times, "Investigating officers have spoken with Boudreaux and are working to determine whether the claims on the sign are true and what, if any, charges to bring against him." In the meantime, a second,…
Posted: Thu Apr 15, 2004 Comments (1)

I remember seeing the issue of Star Magazine with Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher on the cover, both wearing white, as I was standing in the checkout line at the supermarket. It had big headlines about their rumored engagement. Turns out they weren't actually wearing white. Demi Moore was wearing a brown dress and Ashton Kutcher was wearing a pink suit. But the editors of Star digitally changed the color of their clothes to make the image fit in with the whole wedding theme. In the thumbnail you can see Demi wearing the faux white dress on the left (on the Star cover), and wearing the same dress in its true…
Posted: Thu Apr 15, 2004 Comments (0)

Here's a story that's appropriate for April 15. Orange County tax preparer indicted for filing over 16,000 fake federal returns.
Posted: Thu Apr 15, 2004 Comments (1)

A few people have written to me about the Godsend Institute, which is supposedly a Massachusetts fertility clinic that offers human cloning as an option for its patients. Its website is quite slick and well produced, but the Godsend Institute is, of course, not real. The site is part of the advertising campaign for the upcoming movie Godsend starring Robert De Niro. Wired published an article about this yesterday. Ever since the Blair Witch Project succeeded in creating such a buzz five years ago with its companion website, movie studios have sought to repeat this trick by creating sites that try to convince websurfers that their fictional characters…
Posted: Thu Apr 15, 2004 Comments (2)

A recent study has shown how surprisingly easy it is to convince people that they remember things that never happened to them. 27.3% of the college students who participated in the study were able to be persuaded to 'remember' a fictitious event that supposedly happened during their childhood. But when a picture was produced to help jog their memory, that figure rose to 65.2%. So the next time you want to remind someone of that money they owe you, bring along a picture.
Posted: Wed Apr 14, 2004 Comments (1)

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