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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Identity/Imposters
Sheep Thinks She’s A Dog — Status: Case of mistaken identity It's not quite as dramatic as the cases of humans raised with wolves, but it's interesting nevertheless. Rolo the Sheep was raised with collies, and now seems to believe that she's a dog. The BBC reports: Rolo - named after her favourite sweets - competes with sheepdogs to jump through hoops, walks on a lead and herds ducks at her Gwynedd home. Owner Emlyn Roberts says Rolo likes nothing more than watching football on TV after calling up for her food...
Posted: Wed Jun 07, 2006.   Comments (10)

Vatican Warns on Fake Papal Organist — Status: Imposter This is over a week old, but it struck me as odd enough to be worth posting anyway: The archpriest of St. Peter's basilica has warned European concert organizers against a musician who is falsely advertising himself as the "official organist" to Pope Benedict XVI... An Italian musician, Massimiliano Mussi, has issued publicity brochures in which he claims to a papal appointment. The cardinal warned promoters that the Vatican has only one official organist, American…
Posted: Fri Jun 02, 2006.   Comments (6)

Will The Real Guy Kewney Please Stand Up? — Status: Case of mistaken identity Guy Kewney, editor of newswireless.net, was scheduled to be interviewed by the BBC about the Apple Computer vs. Apple record label case. But as he stood in the lobby of the BBC building waiting to be met by the studio manager, he saw, to his surprise, someone else introduced and then interviewed under his name. Guy Kewney, according to his own description, is "fair-haired, blue-eyed, prominent-nosed, and with the sort of pale skin that makes my …
Posted: Sat May 13, 2006.   Comments (5)

The Earl of Buckingham — Status: Imposter The scam of pretending to be British peerage is still going strong. A few months ago we heard about that guy in Minnesota who was picking up teenage girls by claiming to be the Fifth Duke of Cleveland (aka the Earl of Scooby). Now comes word of a far more elaborate scam. The man in question called himself Christopher Buckingham, the Earl of Buckingham. He had been living under that identity for almost twenty years. Police realized last year that he was living under a…
Posted: Tue May 09, 2006.   Comments (8)


Inauthentic Paper Detector — Status: anti-counterfeit technology Last year I posted about a group of MIT students who created an Automatic Scientific Paper Generator, capable of creating "random Computer Science research papers, including graphs, figures, and citations." One of the papers created by this program was accepted for presentation at the World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics. To stop something like this happening again, researchers at the Indiana University School of Informaics…
Posted: Fri Apr 28, 2006.   Comments (15)

Mystery Man Found On Raft — Status: Undetermined Last Friday a man was found floating on a makeshift raft in the Skagerrak strait between Sweden and Norway. He claimed that he had been set adrift four days ago by another ship. He also said that his name was George Williams, and that he had been born in Cape Town. Within a day he had added details to his story and now said that his parents were Russian-Jewish parents, but that he had been given up for adoption at an early age. Authorities doubt that he could have…
Posted: Mon Apr 24, 2006.   Comments (2)

Victoria’s Secret Basketball Prank — Status: prank Here's a prank that definitely rates as one of the more inventive (and cruel) student pranks of recent years. The set-up occurred a week before a NCAA game pitting UC Berkeley against the University of Southern California. USC's starting guard, Gabe Pruitt (pictured), met a UCLA coed named Victoria online. They traded messages via AOL Instant Messenger. She sent him her picture. He sent her his. They arranged to meet after the game on March 4. The sinker occurred during…
Posted: Fri Mar 17, 2006.   Comments (10)

Knoop Confesses JT Leroy Was a Hoax — Status: Final nail in coffin of JT Leroy Just in case there was anyone who still doubted that JT Leroy was a hoax, the deception has finally been admitted to by an insider, Geoffrey Knoop. Knoop was the partner of Laura Albert, the woman who (it can now definitely be said) wrote all of JT Leroy's books. The face of JT Leroy, whenever Leroy made any public appearances, was Savannah Knoop, Geoffrey's half-sister. Geoffrey Knoop has said: "The jig is up... I do want to apologize to people…
Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006.   Comments (2)

Nasdijj, Native-American Memoirist — Status: Phony Here we go again. Another memoirist has been unmasked as a phony. This time it's Nasdijj, celebrated Native-American author of autobiographical works such as The Blood Runs Like A River Through My Dreams and The Boy and the Dog Are Sleeping. Turns out he ain't Native American, unless by Native American one means white anglo-saxon protestant. His real identity seems to be that of Tim Barrus, who grew up in a middle-class community in Lansing, Michigan. As Barrus, he was a…
Posted: Thu Jan 26, 2006.   Comments (5)

Man Pretends To Be Nazi To Get Fired — Status: Bizarre Excuse Last year Jacques Pluss was fired from his position as a history professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University after the school became aware that he was an active member of the American Nazi Party. Now Pluss is saying that yes, he was a Nazi, but he was only pretending to believe all that stuff. It was all part of an effort to go undercover to collect information for a book. So far undercover that no one was aware of his true feelings, except for his mother, who's…
Posted: Mon Jan 16, 2006.   Comments (8)

Fake Duke Scam — Status: Imposter I kinda thought the posing-as-British-royalty scam had gone out of style with the end of the British Empire. But it seems con artists are still getting mileage out of it, as seen by this story in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press: A group of Stillwater student journalists discovered [Joshua Adam] Gardner had been using a false identity when visiting the school in recent weeks. He'd been posing as "Caspian James Crichton-Stuart IV, the Fifth Duke of Cleveland" while staying…
Posted: Sun Jan 15, 2006.   Comments (3)

Remembering The Plumber From Plympton — Status: Marking an anniversary in hoax history The million little biographical lies of James Frey have been getting all the attention in the press this week, but as the Devon Western Morning News reminds us, this month marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of a memoir whose lies were far greater: The Third Eye by T. Lobsang Rampa (aka the Plumber from Plympton). Rampa claimed to have grown up in Tibet (born into a wealthy Tibetan family), to have studied in Lhasa to become a…
Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2006.   Comments (5)

J.T. LeRoy: An Update — Status: Evidence is mounting that he's a hoax Last October I posted about the writer JT LeRoy, and the suspicion that he was an elaborate hoax: that his books had actually been written by a woman named Laura Albert, and that the person who appeared in public as LeRoy was an actor. Today the New York Times has revealed more evidence that seems to confirm this theory. The person who has been appearing in public as LeRoy seems to be Savannah Knoop, the half sister of Geoffrey Knoop (who's…
Posted: Mon Jan 09, 2006.   Comments (5)

House For Sale - Princess Caraboo’s Grave Attached — Status: A piece of hoax history for sale The Bristol Evening Post reports that the house adjacent to what is believed to be Princess Caraboo's grave in Bristol is up for sale. The asking price is a fairly reasonable £299,950 (about $530,000). (I reported back in 2003 that the gravesite was in danger of being paved over to make a parking lot, but I guess that threat was averted.) I can't find the Bristol Evening Post article online, but here's the property listing. (From the date of the…
Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2006.   Comments (7)

Skaggs Strikes Again — Status: TV show gets hoaxed (but claims it hoaxed first) Hoax master Joey Skaggs has issued a press release describing the latest deception he's been involved in. I can't find the release posted online, so I uploaded the pdf file he emailed to me. I've also excerpted the main part of the release below: Skaggs was contacted by producer Ben Sinden of ITV Factual, about a 90-minute special called "Danny Wallace's Hoax Files," to air in prime time Monday, December 19, 2005, on SkyOne…
Posted: Sat Dec 17, 2005.   Comments (9)

The Husband Mannequin — Suzy Walker's husband is away from home, serving on the USS West Virginia. But you'd hardly know he was gone, because Suzy carries around a life-size mannequin of him: Walker bought her stand-in man for $200 and she takes him everywhere. He's been to the movie theater, Victoria's Secret, and the gas station to buy lottery tickets. The couple attracts lots of attention. The only thing that could make this creepier would be if it turned out she didn't have a real husband. Didn't…
Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005.   Comments (22)

John Just Wants To Go Home For Christmas — Status: Hoax Here's a sob story that was reported by the Brazosport Facts: A boy named John, 10, separated from his mother since the hurricane, was living with other foster children in an emergency shelter, and he had one Christmas wish: to go home. "But there's no way I'll get gifts for Christmas. I don't even believe in Santa anymore," he was quoted as saying. Quite touching, except John doesn't exist. He was invented by a caseworker with state Child Protective Services in Brazoria…
Posted: Sat Dec 10, 2005.   Comments (7)

Alibi Network — Status: Real In June 2004 the New York Times published an article about alibi networks, which are informal networks of people who will provide excuses for each other: Cellphone-based alibi clubs, which have sprung up in the United States, Europe and Asia, allow people to send out mass text messages to thousands of potential collaborators asking for help. When a willing helper responds, the sender and the helper devise a lie, and the helper then calls the victim with the excuse -- not…
Posted: Tue Nov 22, 2005.   Comments (4)

Fake Family Software — Status: Hoax-facilitating software Genealogists are in an uproar about new software that allows people to create fake (but real looking) online family trees. The program is called Fake Family. (Because of the controversy, the website of the software maker is now given over to an Open Letter to Genealogists.) Genealogists argue that the fake information created by this program could easily find its way into real family history databases. They also charge that the only purpose of the…
Posted: Sun Nov 13, 2005.   Comments (56)

Dr. Richard Chopp (unfortunate name for a urologist) — Status: Real I would think twice (and then maybe another three or four times) before going to a urologist named Dr. Dick Chopp. I would also suspect the name had to be a joke. But it doesn't seem to be a joke. It's his real name. He works at the Urology Team, based in Austin, Texas: Dr. Richard (Dick) Chopp is well known in the Austin community for performing Vasectomies. He also enjoys treating patients with metabolic evolution of kidney stone disease, male endocrine urology…
Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2005.   Comments (19)

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