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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Literature/Language
The Diamond Club—an erotic literary experiment — Justin Young and Brian Bushwood, of the NSFWshow podcast, were intrigued by the success of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. They were particularly impressed with how many books were selling well for no other reason, apparently, than that they looked Fifty Shades of Grey. So they decided to conduct an experiment — to find out whether an ebook could succeed simply by resembling Fifty Shades of Grey. They came up with a title for their novel,
Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2012.   Comments (1)

The Origin of the Word Quiz — 'Quiz' is a relatively new word. It first came into use in the late 1700s, making it a little over 250 years old, and there's a curious story about how it came into being. The tale goes that it emerged from a wager made in 1791 by Richard Daly, manager of the Theatre Royal in Dublin. Daly bet his friends that within 48 hours he could make a nonsense word be spoken throughout Dublin — specifically, a word having no meaning nor derived from any known language. His friends took him up on…
Posted: Tue Jul 10, 2012.   Comments (0)

Did Edgar Allan Poe say, “The best things in life make you sweaty”? — Brief Answer: No! Longer Answer: If you do a search for the phrase, "The best things in life make you sweaty," you'll find quite a few sites (facebook and tumblr pages especially) attributing this quotation to Edgar Allan Poe. There's even a short article at the Richmond County Daily Journal which uses this supposed Poe quotation as its lead. Of course, Poe never said this. Nor was it the kind of thing he would have said. I doubt Poe was a big fan of sweating. His greatest passions…
Posted: Tue Jun 12, 2012.   Comments (5)

Naked Came the Stranger: the x-rated movie — As I noted in my previous post, Mike McGrady, creator of the 1969 "Naked Came the Stranger" literary hoax, died recently. A little-known footnote to this hoax is that it inspired an x-rated movie in 1975. Here's the trailer for that movie. (It's pretty much safe for work.)
Posted: Thu May 17, 2012.   Comments (0)


RIP Mike McGrady — Mike McGrady was the mastermind behind the Naked Came the Stranger hoax of 1969. His aim was to show that any book with enough sex scenes, even if lacking in any other merit, could sell well. And the book he created to prove this point did sell well. Although its sales had a lot to do with the fact that McGrady's sister-in-law, the attractive Penelope Ashe, posed as its author. Which shows that the good looks of an author can definitely sell books. And, of course, the book sold even…
Posted: Thu May 17, 2012.   Comments (0)

Hungary’s president steps down after plagiarism scandal — Did he not intend to plagiarise, or did he not intend to get caught? Hungary's president steps down after plagiarism scandal telegraph.co.uk Last week Semmelweis University revoked Mr Schmitt's doctorate after a special committee concluded he had copied "word for word" large chunks of his 1992 thesis on Olympic history. In parliament the 69-year-old president reiterated claims he made on Friday that had not intended to plagiarise and that examiners should have raised any problems with…
Posted: Tue Apr 03, 2012.   Comments (1)

Looking for Dutch speakers to help translate April Fool’s Day poem from 1561 — In my article about the origin of April Fool's Day, which I wrote a few years ago, I noted that the first explicit reference to April 1st being a day for pranks can be found in a poem written in late-medieval Dutch (around 1561) by Eduard De Dene. The title of the poem is "Refereyn vp verzendekens dach / Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach." Marco Langbroek kindly translated this for me as: "Refrain on errand-day / which is the first of April." But it recently occurred to me that…
Posted: Thu Mar 15, 2012.   Comments (12)

The Markham Plagiarism Case — QR Markham, author of the spy thriller Assassin of Secrets, has been accused of plagiarism, as people identify multiple passages in his book that originally appeared elsewhere (such as in books by Ian Fleming and Robert Ludlum). The publisher (Little, Brown) has recalled all copies of his book. And it turns out that a Huffington Post article written by Markham also used the words of someone else. So Huffington Post removed all articles by him. In other words, things aren't going well…
Posted: Mon Nov 14, 2011.   Comments (4)

Sons of Clovis — There's a new hoax-related book out that sounds interesting: The Sons of Clovis: Ern Malley, Adore Floupette and a Secret History of Australian Poetry by David Brooks. From the Sydney Morning Herald review: At the heart of the book is the famous Australian hoax, the Ern Malley affair, in which two young, still-forming poets, McAuley and Stewart, fabricated the raw, working-class identity Ern Malley, only to have him die tragically young, leaving behind his book of experimental poems,…
Posted: Mon Oct 24, 2011.   Comments (4)

Dobrica Cosic Doesn’t Win the Nobel Prize — Serbian media reported Thursday that one of their own countrymen, writer Dobrica Cosic, had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. However, he hadn't. Soon after, the Swedish Academy announced the real winner: Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer. The Serbian media reported Cosic as the winner because they had all received an email, seeming to come from the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, announcing Cosic as the winner. The email linked to a website, nobelprizeliterature.org, that seemed…
Posted: Thu Oct 06, 2011.   Comments (0)

Bunga Bunga — The news from Italy is that Silvio Berlusconi has been engaging in some wild "Bunga Bunga" parties. Or so says a 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer who attended one of these parties. No one is really sure what a Bunga Bunga party entails, except that Berlusconi apparently learned the practice from Muammar Kaddafi, and it has something to do with sex. On Slate.com, Brian Palmer explores the mystery of just what Bunga Bunga might be. The leading theory is that it derives from an old joke…
Posted: Wed Nov 17, 2010.   Comments (15)

Welsh road signs — The BBC reports that Welsh-language road signs mysteriously appeared on the Longthorpe Parkway in Cambridgeshire. They suspect it was the work of a practical joker. Presumably a Welsh practical joker.
Posted: Fri May 29, 2009.   Comments (2)

The Apple — A few months ago it was revealed that Herman Rosenblat had invented his story about how he met his wife while he was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp, and she was a young girl from the nearby village who would give him apples through the fence. The revelation caused his book deal to be canceled. But Gawker reports that York House Press is now turning his tale into a book anyway... they're just clearly labeling it as fiction. And they paid someone else to write it. I…
Posted: Mon May 18, 2009.   Comments (8)

Smell of Books — Hoax Website: The smell of books aroma spray. "Now you can finally enjoy reading e-books without giving up the smell you love so much. With Smell of Books™ you can have the best of both worlds, the convenience of an e-book and the smell of your favorite paper book. Smell of Books™ is compatible with a wide range of e-reading devices and e-book formats and is 100% DRM-compatible. Whether you read your e-books on a Kindle or an iPhone using Stanza, Smell of Books™ will bring back that…
Posted: Tue Apr 07, 2009.   Comments (6)

Another fake Holocaust memoir — The Curse of Oprah Winfrey has struck again. The Curse is that anyone who appears on her show to tell about their painful yet inspiring personal history, later is revealed to be completely full of BS. People who make multiple appearances on her show are even more likely to be struck by the curse. The latest flap is that Herman Rosenblat and his wife, who claimed to have met when he was a child in the Buchenwald concentration camp and she was a town girl who would throw food over the…
Posted: Tue Dec 30, 2008.   Comments (37)

Better translator needed — Respected academic journal wants to decorate its cover with elegant classical Chinese poetry. Journal editors -- who can't read Chinese -- don't realize they're actually placing an ad for a brothel on the cover. Embarrassment and retraction of cover follows. The journal was the MaxPlanckForschung journal. The text apparently advertised "burlesque acts by pretty-as-jade housewives with hot bodies for the daytime visitor"... emphasizing their "enchanting and coquettish performance". The…
Posted: Wed Dec 10, 2008.   Comments (9)

Man names son “Carter Barack Obama Sealy” — A Broomfield, Colorado man got his name in the local newspaper for claiming he had named his new son Carter Barack Obama Sealy. He also said that his two other children were named Brooke Trout Sealy and Cooper John Elway Sealy. Supposedly he had a deal with his wife. She got to choose the kids' first names, and he got to choose their middle names. The children's grandmother spilled the beans on the father, notifying the paper that the names were not real. The guy's wife explained that…
Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2008.   Comments (5)

Longitude Hoax? — The story of the 18th-century contest (sponsored by the British government) to find a solution to the problem of how to determine longitude at sea has received much attention, mostly due to Dava Sobel's best-selling book about it. But Pat Rogers argues in the Times Literary Supplement that Sobel (and just about every other historian who has written about the subject) has fallen for a hoax. Specifically, all of these historians have described one Jeremy Thacker as an inventor who, early…
Posted: Tue Nov 18, 2008.   Comments (7)

Writers are skeptical of $250,000 prize — An article in SFGate.com describes how the owners of FieldReport.com devised what they thought was a sure-fire way to generate interest in their literary site. They decided to offer a "$250,000 prize for whichever short nonfiction piece received the highest ranking from the site's users by Jan. 1, 2009. A series of $1,000 qualifying prizes would be awarded in the months leading up to the quarter-million-dollar payout." Problem is, no one believed them. "We got this dead-face,…
Posted: Thu Sep 25, 2008.   Comments (1)

Ken Campbell and the Royal Dickens Company — Ken Campbell recently died at the age of 66. The Telegraph's obituary describes him as "an actor, writer and director of wilful eccentricity" who worked in experimental theater. However, he was perhaps best known for a hoax he pulled off in 1980, when he sent around letters announcing that the Royal Shakespeare Company was renaming itself the Royal Dickens Company. I couldn't find a good description of this hoax online (and, unfortunately, I've never gotten around to writing one up...…
Posted: Thu Sep 11, 2008.   Comments (6)

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