The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Health/Medicine
Terror in Mammoth, Arizona — People in the small town of Mammoth, Arizona were puzzled when, earlier this week, they started to receive calls asking about the outbreak of a deadly, infectious disease — a disease that supposedly caused hemorrhagic bleeding and violent behavior. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary was happening in Mammoth, so why all the calls? It turns out the calls were inspired by a fictional story titled "WTF is going on in Pinal county, Arizona??" posted on the reddit community "No Sleep." The 'No Sleep' subreddit is a place where people share fictional horror stories and then post… Continue…
Posted: Fri Nov 14, 2014.   Comments (0)

The Hippocratic Tampon. Fact or fiction? — Tampax, maker of feminine hygiene products, has an article on its website in which it claims that, "The ancient Egyptians fashioned disposable tampons from softened papyrus. The Greek physician Hippocrates, writing in the fifth century B.C., described another type of tampon, which was made of lint wrapped around lightweight wood." Helen King, in an article posted at Wonders and Marvels, notes that this idea of a 'Hippocratic tampon' has been repeated uncritically by many other sites. But was it true? Did women in ancient Greece actually use tampons? No, she argues, they didn't. King… Continue…
Posted: Mon Nov 10, 2014.   Comments (0)

The Villejuif Leaflet — In 1976, a leaflet began to circulate throughout Europe warning of a number of alleged carcinogens. Highest on the list was citric acid. Millions of people saw and may have believed the leaflet. The false rumor persisted well into the 1980s. The leaflet came to be known as the Villejuif leaflet, because one version of it claimed the information came from Villejuif Hospital. [wikipedia]
Posted: Wed Sep 10, 2014.   Comments (0)

The Case of the Girl Whose Mother Fed Her Tapeworm Eggs — Recently the TV show Untold Stories of the E.R. (which airs on Discovery's 'Fit & Health' channel) presented a dramatized version of a case in which a girl came in with a swollen stomach and complaining of agonising stomach pains. Doctors were only able to figure out what was wrong with her after she went to the bathroom and excreted tapeworms. At which point, her mother admitted that she had given her daughter a pill containing tapeworm eggs in order to help her daughter lose weight before a beauty pageant. After the show aired, this story was widely re-reported, but some sites are… Continue…
Posted: Mon Sep 08, 2014.   Comments (1)


Ebola Rumors — Ebola rumors and conspiracy theories are spreading fast in Africa. One rumor is that the disease itself is a hoax invented by governments to boost their power. Another is that drinking salt water can cure the disease. Researchers note that the spread of rumors and conspiracy theories is to be expected in a situation such as a terrifying outbreak, because the rumors are actually "psychologically reassuring," allowing people to restore a feeling of control in the face of an unpredictable threat. [nytimes.com]
Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014.   Comments (0)

Quantified Toilets—collecting your toilet data — When attendees at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing (held in Toronto) went to the bathroom, they found a sign alerting them that "Behaviour at these toilets is being recorded for analysis. Access your live data at quantifiedtoilets.com." Visiting the Quantified Toilets website (which has the tagline 'Capturing toilet behavior for real-time data and health analysis'), they found a live feed that provided data about all the toilet "deposits" that had been made. The information included how much had been depoisted, whether drugs were detected in it, as well as other… Continue…
Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2014.   Comments (0)

Beezin — It's called "beezin". It involves applying Burt's Bees lip balm to your eyelids. Media reports (such as here and here) are hyping it as a worrying new trend among teens. Supposedly it enhances the experience of being drunk or high. But doctors warn that it could also cause eye inflammation. Could this possibly be real? It sounds as stupid as that fake news report that was circulating recently about teens smoking bed bugs to get high. The reason.com blog is skeptical about the entire thing, but notes that even if kids really are "beezin," the media panic seems unfounded. Do we… Continue…
Posted: Fri Apr 25, 2014.   Comments (1)

Martha Nasch—the woman who didn’t need to eat or drink — In September 1934, Louis Nasch, a department store painter living in St. Paul, Minnesota, alerted the press to the fact that his wife, Martha, hadn't had anything to eat or drink in the last seven years. She hadn't slept either. And yet she was perfectly healthy. Louis explained that he decided to go public with this information because "I do not want people to think I am starving my wife." Louis and Martha Nasch Upon being questioned by the press, Martha insisted it was true, though she conceded that she realized "the world will not believe me." To back up her claim, her husband,… Continue…
Posted: Fri Mar 07, 2014.   Comments (11)

A Mistaken Lunatic — Since today is the first day of Error Day, this story seems appropriate. Assuming that the story was accurately reported, it demonstrates that the difference between sanity and insanity is often just a matter of context. The clipping comes from The Sydney Morning Herald - Dec 26, 1884. But I first saw the story over at Brian Chapman's Legends & Rumors blog. A correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazette writes: — "An Oxfordshire woman met with an experience a few days back which should act as a warning to intending visitors to lunatic asylums. The person in question journeyed to… Continue…
Posted: Fri Feb 28, 2014.   Comments (0)

Stuck Together—can it really happen? — BBC News has delved into the mystery of "penis captivus," aka "cohesione in coitu," aka couples getting stuck together during sex. It tries to determine whether this can really happen, or whether such reports are just an urban myth. According to legend, the gods Mars and Venus once got stuck together, as depicted in this 16th century woodcut by the artist Raphael Regius Dr Aristomenis Exadaktylos of Switzerland, in a recent radio interview, declared it to be an urban myth. But other…
Posted: Mon Feb 03, 2014.   Comments (0)

Squirrel AIDS is a hoax — The Ocean County Health Department of New Jersey recently began receiving numerous phone calls and emails from people worried about the health risk posed by squirrels with AIDS. Many parents asked whether they should allow their children to play outside. In response, the health department has posted a statement assuring the public that there is no such thing as 'Squirrel AIDS' or 'SQUAIDS'. Nor have there been any confirmed cases of illness transmitted to a human from a squirrel. No…
Posted: Fri Jan 17, 2014.   Comments (0)

Marijuana overdoses in Colorado? — A story posted recently on the fake-news site DailyCurrant.com alleged that hospitals in Colorado were being overwhelmed by people suffering from marijuana poisoning. There were 37 people dead already! The article quoted a Dr. Jack Shepard of St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver as saying, "It's complete chaos here. I've put five college students in body bags since breakfast and more are arriving every minute." Enough people believed this story that St. Luke's Medical Center (which is…
Posted: Sat Jan 04, 2014.   Comments (2)

Acme Worm Bouncer — Great name. Lousy product. Acme Worm Bouncer was widely advertised in the 1920s and 30s, with guarantees that it would quickly free farm animals of "blood-sucking, profit-stealing parasites." But the stuff was actually mostly charcoal. Governmental authorities eventually filed suit against Acme Feeds, Inc., the company that made the stuff, charging them with "misleading representations regarding its efficacy." [via The Quack Doctor] Misbranding of Acme Worm Bouncer. U.S. v. 5 Bags of…
Posted: Fri Dec 20, 2013.   Comments (0)

The Good Health Bug — A case of satirical prophecy? On April 1, 1931, the Los Angeles Times ran an article on its front page declaring that health can "be caught." It explained that a German scientist, Dr. Eugene Lirpa, had discovered that good health was caused by a bacteria, "Bacillus sanitatis." People who lacked this bacteria grew ill. Therefore, it would be possible to make people healthy by infecting them with the "germ of health." The article was an April Fool's Day hoax. In fact, I think it's the…
Posted: Thu Sep 05, 2013.   Comments (0)

128-year-old man tries to get health insurance — Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper reports that Mzee Julius Wanyondu is having trouble getting coverage under the National Hospital Insurance Fund. The reason is that he's 128 years old, having been born in 1884. However, the NHIF's computers will only accept birthdates later than 1890. Remarkably, the article doesn't address the obvious question: Does this guy have any proof that he's really 128? He has some kind of ID card that displays 1884 as his birthdate. But what evidence did he…
Posted: Mon Aug 27, 2012.   Comments (6)

Can a bar of soap between your sheets ease muscle cramps? — Virginia news station WSLS 10 recently ran a 'myth buster' segment on whether putting a bar of soap between your sheets can ease nighttime leg and foot cramps. To my surprise, they concluded that, yes, a bar of soap does seem to help some people, even though there is "no scientific evidence" for why this would work. Just to clarify, the claim is that merely having a bar of soap near your muscles at night can stop them from cramping. The brand of soap doesn't seem to matter much,…
Posted: Tue Aug 21, 2012.   Comments (9)

The Fix-a-Flat Faker — When a doctor starts injecting bathroom caulk into your buttocks, I think that's a good sign he/she isn't entirely on the up-and-up. Fake Fix-a-Flat nurse arrested, charged with manslaughter in Fla. client’s death bradenton.com BROWARD — Oneal Morris, the transgender woman charged in two counties with injecting people seeking fuller figures with a toxic concoction which included Fix-a-Flat, on Thursday was charged with manslaughter in the death of a Broward County client. Morris,…
Posted: Fri Jul 27, 2012.   Comments (1)

Esoteric Breast Massage — Serge Benhayon is the creator of "Esoteric Breast Massage" (EBM). He describes this as a healing technique that offers many benefits, such as possibly preventing cancer. Serge Benhayon Despite what you may be thinking, EBM is not just an excuse for him to massage lots of women's breasts. Far from it. In fact, he never does the massaging. He emphasizes that only women can perform EBM on other women. This made it a little awkward for him to teach the technique, back when he was the only…
Posted: Mon Jul 23, 2012.   Comments (3)

Samuel Shepherd: the 125-year-old Man — Samuel "Old Uncle Sam" Shepherd had a hard but interesting life. He was a slave who managed to buy his freedom, and lived on until 1909. But it's his birthdate that generates more interest than the date of his death. His grave marker in Oak Hill Cemetery (Lawrence, Kansas) lists his birthdate as 1784. This would make him 125 years old when he died. If true, he would potentially be the oldest person ever to have lived. According to wikipedia, Jeanne Calment of France holds the record…
Posted: Mon Jul 09, 2012.   Comments (3)

Exam-weary students in China receive amino-acid infusions — A strange series of photos has recently been circulating online showing an entire classroom full of high school students in China hooked up to IV drips. Apparently the students aren't sick. Instead, they're exhausted from cramming for the upcoming National College Entrance Exam (Gao Kao). So they're all being given supplemental amino acids via IV drip. And this is something the Chinese government is willing to pay for. Links: ministryoftofu.com, globaltimes.cn, businessinsider.com.
Posted: Wed May 09, 2012.   Comments (3)

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