Hoax Museum Blog: Identity/Imposters

Posted: Thu Apr 17, 2014.   Comments ()

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 of element into a quiet, residential area. It is our position that a person with his means could certainly find a neighborhood more suited to his eclectic lifestyle."

On its Facebook page, the group further explained:
As a community here in Buckhead, we have worked hard to achieve our goals and get to where we are. Justin Bieber's relocation to Atlanta can be nothing but bad for our children, as well as the community. Some can't even let their children play in the driveway without fear; he has raced vehicles under the influence, before. What's to say he won't do it again? As a home owner down the street from this residence, one can assume many people will be contacting real estate agents soon enough.


When asked if the protest was excessive, given that Bieber hadn't actually bought a house in Buckhead, White replied: "This is sort of a warning to say 'We don't need you here we don't want yellow Lamborghinis driving around our roads at 90 miles an hour'."

The coalition staged a rally Monday in front of an on-the-market mansion.

But after the rally, an Atlanta morning show called The Regular Guys, broadcast on Atlanta station Rock 100.5, admitted that the protest was actually an elaborate joke engineered by them. The "protesters" were interns at their show. And 'Harold White' was actually one of the Regular Guys hosts, Tim Andrews.

An accidental victim of the phony protest was former Atlanta mayor Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition, which is a genuine neighborhood group, totally unaffiliated with the faux Buckhead Neighborhood Coalition. He had been receiving hundreds of phone calls from the media, inquiring about the Justin Bieber protest, about which he was entirely clueless. [link: accessAtlanta.com]
Posted: Tue Feb 25, 2014.   Comments ()

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 years, starting August 2014. I will pay for your tuition, books, housing, transportation, and living expenses and pay $40,000 a year with a $10,000 bonus after graduation. All you have to do is attend all classes, pass all tests, and finish all assigned work, while pretending you are me.

You do not need to worry about being accepted, I have already taken care of that.

If interested please email me a little info about yourself, and we can meet in person to discuss further.

When we meet you will be asked to sign a non disclosure agreement, so you can not reveal who I am or any further information, whether you're selected or not.

I'm assuming the ad was a joke, but it's an interesting concept. Like a more elaborate version of paying someone to take the SAT for you.

The problem I see is what happens four years later? How do you make the switch back? And what if the imposter doesn't want to switch back? They'll have four years of documentation suggesting that they're the real person (yearbook photos, etc.). The craigslist poster could end up having paid someone to steal his identity forever.
Posted: Fri Dec 20, 2013.   Comments (1)


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 there's nothing illegal in that.

And yes, he did prominently claim to be endorsed by Ron Wilson. People might have assumed that was the well-known black Houston politician called Ron Wilson. But if they did so, that was their own fault, because it was made clear somewhere (in the fine print at the bottom of the campaign flyer) that the Ron Wilson in question was Dave's (white) cousin in Iowa. [That brings to mind the "Subways Are For Sleeping" hoax from 1962 in which the newspaper ad for the Broadway play trumpeted the rave reviews it received from people who happened to have the same name as famous theater critics.]

Anyway, Dave Wilson is in office now, and will be for the next six years. And there's not much anyone can do to change that. [khou.com]
Posted: Wed Nov 13, 2013.   Comments ()

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 he didn't want Michael or anyone to say anything while their own father was still alive. Andy's and Michael's father died this summer. " [via The Comics Comic]
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 herself as an attractive young blond woman, and claiming to be a graduate of UC Berkeley and the London School of Economics, and fluent in five languages.

None of her story checked out upon investigation, and the photos were actually those of an unwitting Orange County woman. But Werner never was able to identify who the real person behind the persona is.

The story has shades of the Kaycee Nicole Swenson case from 2001, except that the motives of the Kaycee Nicole Swenson hoaxer were fairly clear. She wanted to get sympathy and attention by pretending to be a cancer victim. But the motives of whoever created TheIneffableSwede/Veronika Larsson remain much more murky.

Who is Veronika?
metro.se

For six years, the young Swede Veronika Larsson used social media to get into political discussions, books, respected newspapers and casual chitchat. But there was always something off about her. Today, Metro tells the strange story about Veronika.

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 which is the real Bucky and which is the fake one?
Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2013.   Comments ()

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 calling her an imposter. It looks like she simply showed up in Indonesia and declared herself to be Miss Uzbekistan.

Miss World officials are, so far, remaining silent about the rapidly growing controversy. Although I think it's strange that the Miss World Corporation wouldn't have realized immediately that they don't have a franchise in Uzbekistan. Unless they do have a franchise there, and it neglected to hold a competition, handing the title directly to Ganieva. [Radio Free Europe]


Rakhima Ganieva, aka Miss Uzbekistan

The whole thing reminds me of a hoax from the early 1950s, in which a PR agent invented titles such as 'Miss Perfect Profile' and 'Miss Water Conservation' in order to get publicity for the models he represented.

Update: There are reports from back in July of a "Rahima Ganieva" winning a Miss Uzbekistan competition organized by the Interalliance UZ in Tashkent. So perhaps this whole controversy about her being an imposter might be caused by miscommunication or confusion. At least, it doesn't seem to be the case that she just showed up in Indonesia calling herself Miss Uzbekistan for no reason at all.
Posted: Sun Sep 15, 2013.   Comments ()

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 critic or simply an eccentric with strong leanings toward esotericism."

Napierski's history includes: Claiming to be the leader of the "Catholic Order Corpus Dei" (a non-existent order, but perhaps a play on the real "Opus Dei"); conducting a fake auction on eBay that "drove the price of a small digital photo to €10 million" (he said he did it to highlight a security loophole); and attending Berlin's "Venus" erotic trade fair, dressed as a priest, in order, so he said, to promote the use of sex toys by Catholics.

In the thumbnail below, Napierski is the guy on the left. You can also check out Napierski's website.

Famous Fake Bishop: Germany's Mysterious Vatican Gatecrasher
spiegel.de

In Rome, Napierski looked almost convincing in his smart black trilby, violet sash, and crucifix on a chain. Maybe the sneakers gave him away. He strode up to various eminences, shaking hands and smiling into cameras, telling people his name was "Basilius" and he was a member of the "Italian Orthodox Church" -- which doesn't actually exist.

Posted: Thu Mar 07, 2013.   Comments ()

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 as 1908, Facebook changes it to 1928. So for the past two years, the Grosse Pointe Shores centenarian has remained 99 — online, anyway.

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 of Adam and his "fake beggar," but I found one at a swedish-language site.


Gothenburg teen behind 'homeless beggar' hoax
thelocal.se

Adam told GT that he made the life-size doll out of cardboard and second-hand clothing. He then placed the doll at the city's train station, before carrying it over to a park near the central thoroughfare Avenyn. The mysterious "fake beggar" went on to garner national media attention after national news agency TT wrote about the doll, quoting a police spokesman who theorized it could be a case of fraud. The doll, which even had a beer can in its hand, even attracted the attention of several passersby.
"I was standing a short distance away and filming how people reacted, that's part of the project," he told GT, explaining that the entire installation is part of a school art assignment. In the end, a passer-by had placed seven kronor ($1.10) next to the mock-up, a sum that Adam eventually chose to gave to a real life person asking for money on the street.

Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013.   Comments ()

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 novels under the female pen name since his first was published in 1993, with his latest, Silence of the Snow, due out this week.

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 double every donation!" Theater manager Chad Hunter was excited but skeptical when he saw the post. He tried sending a thank you message to Asner via the social media website but never heard back. That's when he got suspicious. A representative for "Charles Sherman Public Relations" who represents Asner says the page is fake and that the actor has never had a Facebook page.


Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013.   Comments ()

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, but I suppose it's something they could show their grandkids later in life.)

However, that year an imposter appeared among the candidates. Can you spot who it was?


The odd-woman-out, or odd-man-out as it were, was Sylvia Jones. She was actually a he — Cal Nixon, a male USC student who had dressed up as a woman as a prank in order to enter the contest.


What made this slightly more than just your average campus prank was the involvement of Max Factor, the famous makeup artist for the Hollywood stars. Factor had agreed to do Nixon's make-up, decking him out in a "gossamer-gold wig" and half-inch eyelashes. He also supplied a professional glamour photographer to take the picture used for the contest.

Unfortunately, Jones/Nixon never got a chance to see if he/she could win the title of Campus Queen, because a co-conspirator told the administration about the prank before the final vote could take place, and the Dean of the University, Francis Bacon, promptly declared that a male Queen wouldn't be allowed. So all the votes for Sylvia Jones were thrown out.

The prank, once it was revealed, made national news, thanks to a wire story that appeared in hundreds of papers.


Today what Cal Nixon did may not seem like a particularly noteworthy or shocking prank, but it was different times. Though, of course, we're still dealing with gender issues in beauty contests, such as that flap last year about whether Jenna Talackova, who was born a man but became a woman, could compete in the Miss Universe Canada pageant [Daily Mail]. Talackova looks a lot more like a woman than Jones did!


Jenna Talackova

For what it's worth, the final winners of the USC Campus Queens contest were Mary Blake, Jean Glover, Muriel Gotthold, Colleen Phipps, Lynn Walker, and Virginia Zerman.


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, 32, of Hollywood, has been charged in the death of Shatarka Nuby, 31, of Tamarac...
According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Nuby had paid Morris, known as The Duchess, hundreds of dollars to inject her at her home with the concoction which promised to enhance her buttock, hips, thighs and breasts. Morris would sometimes be dressed in scrubs, giving the impression she was a medical worker — a doctor or a nurse, but detectives say she was a fake...
Following Nuby’s death, Morris was charged in Broward with three counts of practicing medicine without a license. Prosecutors say she injected many patients with a dangerous mixture of products including mineral oil, rubber cement, Fix-a-Flat and caulk. Many of the items were purchased at The Home Depot.

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 Chick-fil-A, vigorously supporting the company's claim that it stopped including toys from the Jim Henson Company in its kids meals because it concluded the toys were dangerous (not that the Henson Company pulled its toys in reaction to anti-gay comments by Chick-fil-A's COO, as has been widely assumed).

Then someone pointed out that Abby's profile picture actually came from the stockphoto company Shutterstock. Soon after that, her account disappeared.

Chick-fil-A insists it wasn't responsible for the Abby Farle account, and that might be true. Abby could easily have been the creation of someone in the company, or associated with it, acting alone.

Links: gizmodo, buzzfeed


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 great, great grandfather by King Ferdinand of Spain. His father, currently living in Canada, was the reigning emperor, but chose not to claim the title.




Barnes points out his family's 'lost empire' on a globe (source: USC Archive)

As royalty, Barnes believed that he could not be tried by the court. He demanded that subpoenas be issued instead to President Eisenhower, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and California Gov. Goodwin J. Knight.

Unfortunately his arguments didn't sway the court, which held him in jail during the trial because, despite his large land holdings, he couldn't make bail.

Three psychiatrists were brought in to evaluate Barnes. They concluded that he actually believed himself to be the Crown Prince Regent of Thulia. But they nevertheless declared him to be legally sane and fit to stand trial.


The Inter Lake, Mar 3, 1954

Presumably Barnes was found guilty. However, I haven't been able to find any record of what became of him later in life.

Newspaper accounts of his 1954 trial mention that he had earlier served a term in Washington State prison on a bank robbery conviction, and a search of news archives reveals that this previous crime was also somewhat unusual and made headlines. As a 16-year-old boy in Tacoma, Washington, he had held up a bank with a toy pistol. Barnes had grabbed a five-year-old child outside the bank, marched in holding the toy pistol to the boy's head, and handed the teller a note that read, "hand over the money or I'll shoot both you and the kid — he doesn't belong to me." The teller had given him $5,050. Barnes then released the boy and fled, but he was later picked up at his parents' house by police.


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 published in the Telegraaf. Links: LaMa's thread in the forum, msnbc, dutchnews.nl


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 invested heavily in gold) made a nice profit.

During the 1870s and 1880s, Joseph Mulhattan (a very odd character) made a kind of career out of tricking newspapers into printing fake stories. One of his more notorious hoaxes was when he fooled papers into reporting that a giant meteor had fallen in Texas. And on April Fool's Day 1915, a worker in the printing press of the Boston Globe surreptitiously made a minor alteration to the front page of the paper, lowering its price from Two Cents per Copy to One cent.

Technology changes, but the hoaxes remain much the same. And so yesterday a group of pranksters calling themselves The Script Kiddies (or TH3 5CR1PT K1DD3S) managed to hack into the Twitter feed of NBC News and posted a series of fake newsflashes. The first of these announced: "Breaking News! Ground Zero has just been attacked. Flight 5736 has crashed into the site, suspected hijacking. more as the story develops."

Obviously NBC News didn't much appreciate this. Their Twitter account was soon taken offline and the fake messages deleted.

The Script Kiddies perpetrated a similar stunt back in July when they hacked into the Twitter account of Fox News and posted tweets claiming President Obama was dead.

According to an interview they conducted with Think magazine, The Script Kiddies see themselves as anti-corporate activists, and they intend their pranks to embarrass and annoy the corporations they target.
Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011.   Comments (1)

Page 1 of 8 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›