The Hoax Museum Blog
How much of the legend of the 17th-Century tulipmania is true?
Posted by The Curator on Mon May 14, 2007
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 profits. At the height of the mania, a single bulb cost as much as a mansion. But eventually reality set in. In 1637…
The Underground Railroad Quilt Code
Posted by The Curator on Sat May 12, 2007
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 containing different quilt patterns. Slaves would use the sampler…
Tall-Tale Postcard Gallery
Posted by The Curator on Thu Dec 21, 2006
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 use any image from the site without first obtaining written permission from them. If an image is public domain (as many of these tall-tale postcards are, since they were published before 1923), then can the Historical Society actually set…
Cardiff Giant: The Musical
Posted by The Curator on Fri Nov 17, 2006
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 Cardiff Giant as a New York hoax, but it's true that the stone for the giant…
Mission Accomplished Vanishes
Posted by The Curator on Tue Nov 07, 2006
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 the White House's website, you'll notice something strange. The Mission Accomplished banner has vanished from it. Apparently the White House has now embraced the historical policy of the Soviet government,…
Quick Links: Bull on Roof, etc.
Posted by Boo on Tue Oct 24, 2006
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…
Happy Birthday, Cardiff Giant
Posted by The Curator on Mon Oct 16, 2006
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 info about "Old Hoaxy" in the…
Quick Links: The Welsh Robin Hood, etc.
Posted by The Curator on Mon Sep 25, 2006
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 out the names of fictional people as grand prize winners, then pocket the money or divert it to pet charitable projects. Either way, it meant nobody had a real…
Quick Links: Fake Steve Irwin Death Videos, etc.
Posted by Boo on Thu Sep 21, 2006
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, sand, and recycled newspapers/magazines, which can be used as a building material."…
Quick Links: Magic Goats, etc.
Posted by The Curator on Wed Sep 20, 2006
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 she began to bleed from the forehead and a sliver of glass came out. However, the wound healed soon after that, leaving no…
Quick Links: Sheep Rescued from Tree, etc.
Posted by Boo on Fri Sep 15, 2006
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... (Thanks, Big Al.)
Weird Scottish Myths
Posted by Boo on Thu Aug 10, 2006
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 sailing around the world sharing religion and genes when back home everything seems so,…
Ancient Book of Psalms Found In Irish Bog
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 26, 2006
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,…
Strange Coincidence: Titanic Disaster Foretold
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 13, 2006
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 read about before, involved an American writer named Morgan Robertson who in 1898 wrote a novella titled Futility. It told the story of a massive ocean liner named the…
Photograph of Mozart’s Widow
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 12, 2006
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: