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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Death
The Fake Death of Cheetah the Chimp — As far as death hoaxes goes, this is a strange one, both because it involves a chimp and also because it's a fake death report of someone who died long ago. The story began last week, around Christmas, when it was reported that Cheetah, the chimp who played Tarzan's sidekick in the 1930s Tarzan films, had died at the ripe old age of 80. He had apparently spent the last decades of his life at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Florida. The cause of death was kidney failure. I remember…
Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2012.   Comments (1)

RIP Geoffrey Crawley — Geoffrey Crawley, who played a role in debunking the Cottingley Fairy hoax, died recently on October 29. The New York Times ran an interesting article about his life. From the article: From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, Mr. Crawley was editor in chief of the magazine British Journal of Photography. His 10-part series exposing the Cottingley fairy photographs as fakes appeared there in 1982 and 1983. Mr. Crawley had been asked to determine the authenticity of the photos in the late…
Posted: Tue Nov 16, 2010.   Comments (7)

Martin Smid; he’s still not dead! — November 17 was the 20th anniversary of the Czech "velvet revolution." One of the events that triggered it was the spread of a rumor alleging that mathematics student Martin Smid had been beaten to death by police. Smid, however, was very much alive, and he still is. To this day, he has no idea how his name got attached to the rumor. From agonist.org: After a bloody crackdown on a non-violent student march in Prague on November 17, 1989, a woman falsely claimed that the riot police had…
Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2009.   Comments (5)

Treasure hunt prank, from beyond the grave — Patty Henken found a small envelope in a rocking chair she bought at auction. In the envelope was a key and a note giving her directions to where $250 in U.S. gold coins was supposedly buried in a lead chest. The note was signed "Chauncey Wolcott." There was also a request to contact the State Journal-Register newspaper of Springfield, if the treasure was found. The Associated Press tells the rest: With help of a donated backhoe, Patty Henken tore up a vacant lot in Springfield, Ill...
Posted: Mon Oct 05, 2009.   Comments (12)


Matt Damon reacts to false rumors of his death — From The Globe and Mail: "All my wife said was, well, that's weird," recounts Damon, shaking his head. "Then she reminded me that the same thing had happened to George [Clooney] a few years ago. What amazed me even more was that the calls we were getting were from [news groups] that were very reputable. I asked them did you even read the story on the Internet? It read like the lyrics to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The truth of the matter is all these mother [expletive] are lazy [and…
Posted: Mon Sep 14, 2009.   Comments (11)

Jackson Video a Hoax Experiment — A short video that appeared on youtube a week ago showed someone resembling Michael Jackson getting out of the back of a coroner's van. Evidence perhaps that Jackson faked his death? Nope. German television station RTL subsequently admitted they faked the video as an experiment "to show how easily users can be manipulated on the Internet with hoax videos." An RTL spokesman said: "Unfortunately, many people believed it was true, even though we tried to create the video in a way that…
Posted: Wed Sep 02, 2009.   Comments (6)

Michael Jackson’s Nose, the legend continues — A rumor is circulating alleging that a) Michael Jackson wore a prosthetic nose, and b) someone has stolen that nose from the Los Angeles morgue. The rumor about Jackson wearing a prosthetic nose dates back to at least 2002, when Jackson appeared in Santa Maria Superior Court wearing a large bandage on his nose. But this latest addition to the rumor means that Michael Jackson's nose joins that select group of human body parts that acquire a life in legend following the death of the…
Posted: Mon Jul 27, 2009.   Comments (7)

Margaret’s Stain — A stain, shaped like a human body, can be found on the concrete floor of the Athens Mental Health and Retardation Center in Athens Ohio. According to legend, this stain marks the location where the body of a patient, Margaret Schilling, lay undiscovered for several weeks back in 1979. A team of forensic scientists recently tested the stain to determine whether it's a genuine human decomposition stain, or if it was created artificially. They published the results of their investigation…
Posted: Mon Jul 27, 2009.   Comments (10)

40th Anniversary of Paul Is Dead Rumor (almost) — Magazines have begun to note the 40th anniversary of the Paul is Dead rumor (although they're two months early... the rumor began to circulate widely in September 1969). Contact Music managed to get a quotation from McCartney about the rumor. He claims to still be laughing it off. But interestingly, he also get the details wrong about how the rumor started: MCCartney's barefoot appearance in the photo [on the cover of Abbey Road] sparked wild rumours the rocker had died in a car…
Posted: Fri Jul 17, 2009.   Comments (10)

Michael Jackson seen all over — The guy may be dead, but he's showing up all over the place. Michaeljacksonsightings.com has a few blurry pictures of the back of someone who vaguely resembles Jackson. They offer this as proof that Jackson faked his death. A family in Stockton, California have noticed an image of Michael Jackson in a tree stump in their front yard. They swear the image only appeared on the day he died. (I'm not seeing anything at all.) Then there's the ghost of Michael Jackson, which you can see in…
Posted: Mon Jul 06, 2009.   Comments (10)

The Great Death Rumor Craze of 2009: An Analysis — The glut of celebrity death hoaxes during the past week has been a textbook case of how rumors spread. It's a great example of collective behavior in action. As such, the death rumors provide an opportunity for journalists to discuss some of the things scholars have learned about the spread of rumors during the past fifty years of research. Unfortunately, the insights of social psychologists don't seem to be getting much coverage. Instead, journalists are focusing on the rumors as an…
Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2009.   Comments (3)

In 1945 there was a fake death craze following Roosevelt’s death — The fake celebrity death toll following Michael Jackson's death continues to rise. The body count so far: Rick Astley (found dead in a Berlin hotel room), Natalie Portman (fell off a cliff), George Clooney (fell off a cliff), P. Diddy, Jeff Goldblum (fell off a cliff), Harrison Ford, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, Louie Anderson. The media is describing this death rumor craze as an internet phenomenon. Of course, the internet is the medium through which the rumors are…
Posted: Tue Jun 30, 2009.   Comments (5)

More Celebrity Death Hoaxes — It's been the week of the celebrity death hoax, triggered by the real-life deaths of a string of celebrities (Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and Billy Mays). The recent celebrity death hoaxes have included: Jeff Goldblum, Harrison Ford, Louie Anderson, Ellen DeGeneres, Britney Spears, and Miley Cyrus. In the case of Jeff Goldblum and Louie Anderson, the fake deaths were simply old rumors that were recycled. But in the case of Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, and Miley…
Posted: Mon Jun 29, 2009.   Comments (2)

Jeff Goldblum isn’t dead, nor is Harrison Ford — In the wake of the news of the death of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, a rumor that Jeff Goldblum had also died began to circulate. Reportedly he died when he fell off a cliff while filming a movie in New Zealand. Then a rumor surfaced that Harrison Ford had died on board a yacht cruising off the coast of St. Tropez. Both Ford and Goldblum are still alive. In fact, the Goldblum rumor was simply a rehash of a three-year-old rumor that originally involved Tom Hanks falling off a…
Posted: Fri Jun 26, 2009.   Comments (0)

Michael Jackson Dies… For Real — It appears that Michael Jackson has died, which is only worth mentioning here because in addition to being the "King of Pop," he was also the King of the fake death rumor. Even The Onion satirically predicted his death back in 2005. But this time, it seems to be for real. Now the "he faked his death" rumors can start.
Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2009.   Comments (10)

China’s Fountain of Youth — ABC News has a report on the village of Bama, "China's Fountain of youth." People there are said to live unusually long lives. Out of the population of 500, six people are over 100 years old. The locals attribute this longevity to pure water (which is "a striking blue because of low alkilinity"), simple home-grown food, and a special magnetic field. Bama has become a big tourist destination in China. Billboards promote its special powers. New hotels are being constructed there. And…
Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2009.   Comments (9)

Online Pseuicides — Howard Swains recently reported in Wired on the phenomenon of fake online deaths. He writes: Many online tales of death and suffering are works of complete fiction, "pseuicides" dressed up as real-life catastrophes. Some are contrived to titillate or garner attention, some result from something more serious, and some are the result of a uniquely modern psychiatric disorder known as Munchausen by internet. And: In two investigations between 2007 and 2009, I encountered countless…
Posted: Tue Jun 09, 2009.   Comments (7)

Tila Tequila Not Dead — You can breathe a sigh of relief. Tila Tequila is not dead, despite the "tweet" posted on her twitter account claiming that someone had broken into her house and killed her and her dog. Seems that someone had hacked into her account. I have no idea who Tila Tequila is. I'm guessing she's some kind of D-list celebrity. [binside]
Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2009.   Comments (3)

Fake death and fake funeral — Faye Shilling is accused of not only buying life insurance policies for people who didn't exist, but also of holding fake funerals for their (fake) deaths. She would fill the casket with "various materials" to make it the right weight, then bury it. And then, because she was afraid authorities would somehow later find an empty casket, she would file fake documents to indicate the body had been exhumed and then file more fake documents to show it had been cremated. [Daily Breeze]
Posted: Thu Apr 09, 2009.   Comments (1)

New Lincoln Death Photos — After President Lincoln died, there was a huge demand for photos of him lying in his casket. However, the army didn't allow any photos to be taken. As a result, a lot of fake Lincoln death photos appeared. I've posted about this before, and I have an example of a fake Lincoln death photo in the Hoax Photo Database. Mary Curtis just sent me an old newspaper clipping describing some Lincoln death photos owned by her grandmother. Unfortunately, no one knows where the photos are now.…
Posted: Wed Apr 08, 2009.   Comments (7)

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.