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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: History
How much of the legend of the 17th-Century tulipmania is true? — The tulip craze that hit Holland in the seventeenth century is arguably the most famous financial bubble in all of history. According to the popular account of what happened, prices for tulips began to go through the roof in 1636 as word spread that wealthy people were willing to pay huge sums of money for tulips. Soon the general population joined in the speculative fervor, many people using their life savings in order to buy bulbs, believing they could resell them at windfall…
Posted: Mon May 14, 2007.   Comments (13)

The Underground Railroad Quilt Code — Did escaping slaves fleeing from the South in the pre-Civil War era use secret codes woven into quilts to communicate with each other and guide them on their journey? That is the premise of the quilt-code theory, first popularized in a 1998 book written by Jacqueline Tobin and Raymond Dobard, Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad. A National Geographic article from 2004 elaborates on the theory: A plantation seamstress would sew a sampler quilt…
Posted: Sat May 12, 2007.   Comments (15)

Tall-Tale Postcard Gallery — The Wisconsin Historical Society has just posted a large collection of tall-tale postcards online, along with some accompanying history. Definitely worth checking out. Highlights include galleries devoted to two early masters of the tall-tale genre, William H. Martin and Alfred Stanley Johnson. It's also possible to buy reproductions of these prints through their website. The only thing I find regrettable is that their site is full of all kinds of warnings threatening people not to…
Posted: Thu Dec 21, 2006.   Comments (13)

Cardiff Giant: The Musical — The Des Moines Register reports that a new musical about the Cardiff Giant hoax has debuted in Iowa:It's an unlikely recipe for a musical: an odd 19th-century hoax set to the music of Iowa composer Karl King. But a group of creative minds in Fort Dodge, led by Deann Haden-Luke, managed to pull it together with a financial boost from the Iowa Arts Council. "Cardiff," presented by Comedia Musica Players, premieres tonight in Fort Dodge and plays through Sunday. I usually think of the…
Posted: Fri Nov 17, 2006.   Comments (6)


Mission Accomplished Vanishes — Remember George Bush's Mission Accomplished speech from May 2003 on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln? The one in which he announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq. I wrote about it in Hippo Eats Dwarf as an example of Political Theater, or a "Potemkin Photo Op": a stage-managed event, created solely for media consumption, that offers a misleading picture of reality. Now it has also become an example of historical revisionism. If you check out the video of the event on…
Posted: Tue Nov 07, 2006.   Comments (19)

Quick Links: Bull on Roof, etc. — Bull on Roof Chumuckla Elementary School found a lifesize fibreglass bull on the roof on Monday. The bull belongs to a local ranch owner, and is worth more than $1000. £1/4M Compass is £50 Fake A compass, said to have been used by Lawrence of Arabia in his adventures and sold for £254,000 at Christie's auction house along with a watch and cigarette case, could be worth no more than £50. Kaczynski stands in for Kaczynski Polish President Lech Kaczynski has stepped in to replace his…
Posted: Tue Oct 24, 2006.   Comments (10)

Happy Birthday, Cardiff Giant — He's 137 years old today (October 16). The Washington Post reports: On Oct. 16, 1869, workers in Cardiff, New York, dug up what they thought was a 10-foot-tall petrified man. The Cardiff Giant was big, all right -- a big hoax. A year earlier, George Hull paid $2,600 to have the giant made, then buried on a farm. Even after Hull admitted the hoax, people wanted to see it. They still do: The Cardiff Giant has been displayed in Cooperstown, New York, since 1948. Of course, I have much more…
Posted: Mon Oct 16, 2006.   Comments (6)

Quick Links: The Welsh Robin Hood, etc. — Was Robin Hood Welsh? American historian claims Robin Hood was Welsh, not English. Also that his real name was Bran. "He claims Robin would not have been able to hide out in Sherwood Forest because it would have been too small and well chartered." The Nottingham City Council says: "We laugh at this suggestion." Pastor Indicted For Faking Raffles We've learned not to trust internet lotteries. It looks like church lotteries are going the same way: "Rev. Robert J. Ascolese... would call…
Posted: Mon Sep 25, 2006.   Comments (6)

Quick Links: Fake Steve Irwin Death Videos, etc. — Fake Steve Irwin Death Videos Unsurprisingly, several videos have popped up on YouTube portraying Steve Irwin's death. They're pretty unconvincing. (Thanks, Nai Art.) IT Skills in Return For Gropes The mirror of a now deleted post from Craigslist, the title really says it all. I particularly liked: "I have a lot of tech knowledge in my life and regrettably no boobs." (Via BoingBoing, thanks Cranky Media Guy.) Building Using Recycled Paper "Papercrete [is] a mixture of Portland cement,…
Posted: Thu Sep 21, 2006.   Comments (8)

Quick Links: Magic Goats, etc. — Murdered goat turns into man Here's an original alibi: What I killed was a goat, Officer. Then that goat magically transformed into my brother. I'd like to see this excuse appear in an episode of CSI. Man, 29, passes for toddler Mark Coshever flew from Britain to Amsterdam using his two-year-old daughter's passport. Airline staff never noticed. He must have a babyface. Fifth grader generates glass pieces from her head "The phenomenon started when Sarita fainted one day after which…
Posted: Wed Sep 20, 2006.   Comments (15)

Quick Links: Sheep Rescued from Tree, etc. — Sheep Rescued from Tree Firemen were called to rescue a sheep, later nicknamed 'Tarzan', from seven metres off the ground. (Thanks, Gerrit.) Oldest New World Writing Discovered A stone slab discovered in Mexico in the 1990s shows the oldest example of New World writing, new evidence suggests. (Thanks, Dave.) Pierce Your Ride As far as I can tell, a non-hoax website selling vehicle piercings. They look pretty cool, and I have to say that, if I drove, I wouldn't mind them on my car...
Posted: Fri Sep 15, 2006.   Comments (10)

Weird Scottish Myths — The Scotsman has published an article on a number of slightly bizarre (well, very bizarre) myths about Scotland, ranging from Jesus holidaying in the Hebrides to Jerusalem actually being Edinburgh. Mostly avoiding the Da Vinci Code furore, the newspaper has given each theory their own marks out of ten on the probability scale. 0/10 - This whole theory seems as thin as extra-thin, thin crust pizza, that has been cooked very thin. It is hard to believe that the ancient Scots were busy…
Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006.   Comments (6)

Ancient Book of Psalms Found In Irish Bog — Status: Seems to be real A guy was out digging in an irish bog recently when, purely by chance, he found a book buried in the mud. Turns out that it could be a book of psalms over 1000 years old. Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland, points out that this discovery was highly fortuitous: "There's two sets of odds that make this discovery really way out. First of all, it's unlikely that something this fragile could survive buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be…
Posted: Wed Jul 26, 2006.   Comments (13)

Strange Coincidence: Titanic Disaster Foretold — Status: True (kind of, though I wouldn't use the word 'foretold') 2spare.com offers a list of the Top 15 Strangest Coincidences. It's an interesting list (Thanks for the link, Kathy!), and as far as I can tell all the coincidences they list are basically true. Or, at least, they've all been widely reported, and I haven't been able to find any false statements in them yet. (I didn't analyze all of them that closely.) But one coincidence I found particularly interesting, that I hadn't…
Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2006.   Comments (27)

Photograph of Mozart’s Widow — Status: Probably a hoax Last week the London Times printed a photo that, so it claimed, was the only known photograph of Mozart's widow (Constanze), taken in 1840 at the home of Swiss composer Max Keller when she was 78 years old. (She's supposedly the woman on the far left.) However, the photo has generated controversy online, where a number of scholars have labeled it a hoax. The Sounds & Fury blog cites Agnes Selby, author of a biography of Constanze Mozart, who writes that: this…
Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2006.   Comments (5)

Was Franklin’s Electric Kite Experiment a Hoax? — Status: Scholarly debate Last weekend Philadelphia celebrated the anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's electric kite experiment (in which he flew a kite during a thunderstorm and proved that lightning was a form of electricity). They did so despite the fact that many believe the experiment was a hoax... that it never happened. The Philadelphia Inquirer provides a summary of this debate. The main proponent of the electric-kite-hoax theory is Tom Tucker, author of Bolt of Fate: Benjamin…
Posted: Wed Jun 21, 2006.   Comments (26)

Victorian Rock Music — Status: True Most people think rock music got its start as an identifiable genre in the 1950s with artists such as Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley. Not so. As Paul Collins points out in the current issue of The Believer, there was a thriving tradition of rock music during the nineteenth century. In fact, rock music was invented in 1785 by a retired sailor named Peter Crosthwaite in the Lake District village of Keswick. Of course, the nineteenth-century version of rock music…
Posted: Mon Jun 05, 2006.   Comments (8)

Florida Accountant Descended From Genghis Khan — Status: Apparently True Tom Robinson, a mild-mannered professor of Accounting living in Florida, has been identified as a descendant of the fierce Mongol warlord, Genghis Khan. When informed of his ancestor, Robinson expressed admiration for the Mongol leader, but has not yet indicated any plans to begin a campaign of raping and pillaging. Although it sounds odd, the science behind the claim seems valid enough. It stems from a 2003 genetic study that identified Genghis Khan as the…
Posted: Wed May 31, 2006.   Comments (16)

Cardiff Giant Video — I'm getting a little carried away with the newfound ability to upload videos to YouTube, but bear with me. I've only got a few of them to share. Here's a video I took last year (July 2005) at the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, New York, current home of the Cardiff Giant. The guy in historical dress was an actor/storyteller giving a dramatic account of the Cardiff Giant hoax to the school children you can see gathered around. At one point during the video I pan left and you can see a…
Posted: Wed May 24, 2006.   Comments (0)

In Memory of Father Noise — Status: Believed to be a hoax Here's an interesting news report from Ireland: It has emerged that a joke bronze plaque found on Dublin's O'Connell Bridge has been there for three years. The plaque claims to mark the spot where a Father Pat Noise drowned when his carriage plunged into the Liffey, in suspicious circumstances, in 1919. But Dublin City Council says the priest is a fictitious figure, and wants the mystery sculptor to come forward. The plaque is arousing great public…
Posted: Tue May 09, 2006.   Comments (11)

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