The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Identity/Imposters
The Afghan Prince, 1954 — In 1954, Syed Hassan Osman Mustapha was a young man from Pakistan studying in London. One day he was invited to attend a "knighthood" ceremony at a Rover Scout Group meeting, and while he was there he mentioned that he happened to be part of the royal family of Afghanistan. In fact, he was a prince. He later said that he had intended the remark as a joke, but everyone took him at his word, and he enjoyed the attention so much that he decided to continue the ruse. Soon word of his princely status had spread around the affluent London district of Osterley where he was living, and he… Continue…
Posted: Thu Apr 17, 2014.   Comments (0)

History of Formosa on display — St. John's College in Cambridge is inviting the public to view a famous artifact from the history of hoaxes — a first-edition of The History of Formosa written by George Psalmanazar. [link: Belfast Telegraph] Back in the early 18th century, Psalmanazar posed as a native of Taiwan and had many of Britain's educated elites believing the ruse, even as he invented bizarre stories about the customs of Taiwan. If there was a real Museum of Hoaxes, this would be a great artifact to have on display. But it also shows the difficulty of ever having such a museum, because it turns out these… Continue…
Posted: Sat Mar 15, 2014.   Comments (2)

The Buckhead Neighborhood Coalition Against Justin Bieber — After Justin Bieber reportedly looked at a few houses in the Buckhead community of Atlanta, Georgia, a group calling itself the Buckhead Neighborhood Coalition formed to protest him moving to the area. And since the media loves to cover anything related to Justin Bieber, the protest group was soon making headlines, reported on by the BBC, CNN, Daily Mail, Time, Atlanta Journal Constitution, etc. Harold White, leader of the group, told CNN: "We're concerned he'll bring the wrong type…
Posted: Tue Feb 25, 2014.   Comments (0)

Wanted: Imposter to study at Harvard — Four days ago an ad appeared on Craigslist (Pittsburgh) seeking someone to take their place at Harvard in return for $40,000/year. The ad has since been removed, but screenshots of it are still floating around the web: You must have either a 4.0 GPA in high school, or a 3.5 or higher GPA from a university to get hired for this. Your age does not matter, but you must be a male since I have a male name. I am looking for someone to attend Harvard University pretending to be me for four…
Posted: Fri Dec 20, 2013.   Comments (0)


Dave Wilson—Not Black — Dave Wilson insists he didn't get elected to the Houston Community College System Board of Trustees by "pretending to be black," though many people are now accusing him of doing exactly that. He says he merely ran a smart campaign and used "targeted marketing" to appeal to voters in the majority black neighborhood where he was running. Yes, he avoided putting a photo of his own white face in his campaign literature, but included lots of stock photos of smiling black people. But…
Posted: Wed Nov 13, 2013.   Comments (0)

Andy Kaufman’s Daughter — The surprise guest at this year's Andy Kaufman Awards, which took place in NYC over the long weekend, was Andy Kaufman's 24-year-old daughter. The surprise is that Kaufman died 29 years ago. And Andy didn't store his sperm, or anything like that, in order to facilitate post-mortem conception. Andy's brother Michael explained that Andy faked his death because "Andy wanted to go into hiding and live a normal life, that he'd met and fallen in love with a woman and had a daughter, and that…
Posted: Tue Nov 12, 2013.   Comments (2)

Who is Veronika Larsson? — Writing in Sweden's Metro newspaper, Jack Werner describes his effort to track down the identity of someone using a set of online aliases — TheIneffableSwede and Veronika Larsson. It started with him simply wanting to interview this person, because back in July they had left a provocative comment on a Guardian article. But as his search progressed, Werner realized that this person, over the course of the past six years, had created an elaborate fake online persona, with photos showing…
Posted: Mon Oct 21, 2013.   Comments (3)

Bucky Badger Imposter — The University of Wisconsin-Madison has issued a press release warning the public that an imposter Bucky Badger is at large. (Bucky Badger being the university's mascot.) This imposter has been showing up at political rallies, waving protest signs. UW-Madison says that the imposter can be spotted by its "puffy features, odd coloring and sloppy sweater." But the "imposter" is fighting back, noting that Bucky costumes can be bought at the campus book store. So who has the right to say…
Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2013.   Comments (0)

Miss Uzbekistan — The Miss World Competition (set to begin Sep 28 in Indonesia) seemed quite pleased to have its first-ever representative from Uzbekistan. But perhaps not anymore, because the young woman, 18-year-old Rakhima Ganieva, is attracting more attention than any of the other contestants, and not for the right reasons. The problem is that no one can figure out how she earned the title Miss Uzbekistan. No one in Uzbekistan remembers a selection process. In fact, in her home country they're…
Posted: Sun Sep 15, 2013.   Comments (0)

Ralph Napierski, Fake Bishop — On Monday, a man calling himself "Basilius," wearing a cassock, black fedora and purple sash, tried to gain access to the pre-conclave meeting of cardinals at the Vatican. He made it through one level of security before being stopped by the Swiss Guard. Spiegel Online has a profile of the guy, whose real name is Ralph Napierski. Apparently Napierski has a history of posing as a Catholic bishop, though Spiegel isn't quite sure what to make of him, debating whether he's "a joker, a church…
Posted: Thu Mar 07, 2013.   Comments (0)

104-year-old woman forced to lie about age on Facebook — On the internet nobody knows if you're a dog. And on Facebook, nobody knows if you're really a 104-year-old woman... because Facebook won't accept 104 as a valid age! Woman, 104, forced to lie about age on Facebook dailyherald.com Marguerite Joseph can be forgiven for lying about her age on Facebook. The 104-year-old Michigan woman's granddaughter says Joseph is unable to list her real age on the social media site. Gail Marlow says when she tries inputting her grandmother's birth year…
Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2013.   Comments (3)

The Fake Beggar of Gothenburg — Over in Gothenburg, Sweden, locals were puzzled by a homeless person begging for money at the train station, who, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a doll. Police thought it might be some kind of fraud (i.e. a homeless people using a mannequin to beg for him). But it turned out to be the work of a 13-year-old kid, Adam, who created it as "something fun" for a school art project. Brings to mind Alan Abel's Omar the Beggar hoax. The english-language article didn't have a picture…
Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013.   Comments (0)

Romance author Jessica Blair is really elderly grandfather Bill Spence — I actually find it more surprising that he's still cranking out books at the age of 89 than that he's using a female pen name. Good for him! It's inspiring! Bills and boon! 'Female' romance author Jessica Blair unmasked as 89-year-old grandfather Daily Mail The grandfather from Ampleforth, North Yorkshire, was told his books would need to be printed under a feminine moniker if he wanted them to sell - and so his pseudonym Jessica Blair was born. Bill, 89, has so far written 22 romance…
Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2013.   Comments (1)

Fake Ed Asner tries to help Pittsburgh cinema — Yet another example of a celebrity imposter masquerading online. In this case, the imposter evidently thought their deception was for a worthy cause. Nevertheless, it's still a deception. Fake Ed Asner Endorses Struggling Dormont Theater CBS Pittsburgh The Facebook post from the fake Ed Asner page reads "Help the Hollywood Theater! One of Pittsburgh's last historic neighborhood cinemas. I have found memories of visiting this venue as a much younger man while visiting relatives. I'll…
Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013.   Comments (0)

USC Glamour Queen Hoax, 1944 — In April 1944, the University of Southern California held its annual Campus Queens beauty contest. Each dormitory and sorority was allowed to put forward one candidate. Several "non-org" (or non-affiliated candidates) were allowed to enter the contest as well. This made for a total of 20 contestants vying for the title. Six winners would be selected by an all-university vote. Their prize was that their full-length portrait would appear in the university yearbook. (Not much of a prize,…
Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2013.   Comments (1)

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)

Was Abby Farle a Chick-fil-A sock puppet? — Wikipedia defines a sock puppet as "an online identity used for purposes of deception." And it looks like the fast food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A just got caught red-handed using one. The sock puppet in question was one "Abby Farle" — whose Facebook profile picture showed her to be a teenage girl. But there were some odd things about Abby. For a start, her Facebook account was only created a day ago, and during her brief time on Facebook her sole activity appeared to be defending…
Posted: Wed Jul 25, 2012.   Comments (4)

The Crown Prince Regent of Thulia, 1954 — In February 1954, Gerald Wayne Barnes, a 26-year-old dishwasher, was arrested and charged with forging his employer's name on checks. Barnes offered an unusual defense. He didn't deny the crime, but he insisted that the Santa Monica superior court had no jurisdiction over him because he was the Crown Prince Regent of Thulia — a vast kingdom stretching from Kansas to the Oregon Coast (but not including land south of San Francisco). Barnes claimed that this kingdom had been given to his…
Posted: Thu Jun 28, 2012.   Comments (1)

Forest Boy Confirmed as a Hoax — Quite a few have suspected "Forest Boy" might be a hoax, ever since he showed up at a youth emergency center in Berlin last year (Sep 5, 2011). He said he had been living in the woods with his father for the past five years. That story, authorities have now determined, is false. He's actually a 20-year-old man from the Netherlands who went missing a few days before showing up in Berlin. His real name is Robin van Helsum. He was IDed by former classmates after his picture was recently…
Posted: Fri Jun 15, 2012.   Comments (1)

The Script Kiddies Strike Again — There's a long history of hoaxers finding ways to slip fake stories into newspapers. Back in 1864 Joseph Howard tried to manipulate the New York stock market by sending fake Associated Press telegrams to newspaper offices. The telegrams claimed Lincoln had decided to conscript an extra 400,000 men into the Union army. Several papers printed the fake news. The stock market panicked, because the news suggested the Civil War was going to drag on for a lot longer, and Howard (who had…
Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011.   Comments (1)

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