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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Literature/Language
Poe Toaster Revealed — RainOubliette has beaten me to the punch and already posted about this in the forum, but I've been getting so many emails about it that it obviously belongs here on the front page as well. For decades a mysterious figure has visited the grave of Edgar Allan Poe in Westminster Churchyard, Baltimore on the anniversary of Poe's birthday and placed three roses and a bottle of cognac on the writer's grave. The figure has become known as the "Poe Toaster." Now a man, Sam Porpora, has…
Posted: Thu Aug 16, 2007.   Comments (6)

To Embiggen — Scientific American reports that a nonsense word from The Simpsons has made its way into a scientific paper. Stanford University physicist Shamit Kachru managed to slip the word "embiggen" into a journal article titled "Gauge/gravity duality and meta-stable dynamical supersymmetry breaking." The word embiggen first appeared in a 1996 episode of The Simpsons. It was used by Jebediah Springfield in these lines of dialogue: Jebediah: [on film] A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.
Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2007.   Comments (20)

Wayne Redhart’s Amazon Reviews — Many of you may remember Amazon reviewer Henry Raddick. Sadly, Raddick hasn't reviewed any books since 2003. But a new Raddick has emerged: Wayne Redhart. At least, Redhart seems to be doing what he can to fill the void left by Raddick. And I was quite pleased to discover Redhart has reviewed Hippo Eats Dwarf. Here's his review: Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide to Hoaxes and Other B.S. by Alex Boese Edition: Paperback Price: £6.26 A fine guide, 29 Jul 2007 Covering such diverse…
Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2007.   Comments (1)

Jane Austen Rejected — Could Jane Austen, one of the most celebrated and popular writers in the English language, get published today? To find out, David Lassman, director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, typed up some opening chapters of her books, added a cover letter with plot synopses, and sent them off to publishers. He changed the titles of the works, renamed the characters, and called himself "Alison Laydee," but otherwise he didn't change Austen's prose. Here's the rather predictable result of…
Posted: Fri Jul 20, 2007.   Comments (11)


“The Secret” — Yes, it's another questionable literary enterprise. You've probably heard of "The Secret," a self-help book/cultural phenomenon. As with any such thing, it's Oprah-approved. "The Secret" claims to reveal a Secret of the Universe, which is (SPOILER ALERT!) that you can have whatever you want, if you just think about it REALLY HARD. OK, that's a wee bit flip, but that really is the gist of the "secret." Well, you also have to be a good person and you can't wish for bad stuff, but…
Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2007.   Comments (32)

JT LeRoy, phantom author (Updated!) — This is a weird one. A book allegedly written by a young man, JT LeRoy, made a sensation recently. JT was a truck stop hooker, got involved with drugs, was possibly transgendered and generally had a pretty screwed-up life. The book was billed as non-fiction, supposedly the true story of JT's life. Naturally, it sold very well. Oprah loved it, the movie director Gus VanSant and other Hollywood types were interested in it. Then the JT LeRoy saga started coming apart. Funny story,…
Posted: Mon Jun 25, 2007.   Comments (11)

Winner and Loser Lane — The Sydney Morning Herald reports on the Lane family from New York City in which the father named one of his sons Winner and the other Loser. (Actually, the article is a few years old, but it was new to me.) At first the article struck me as sounding too weird to be true. Why would a father name his son Loser? But apparently it's true. At least, it's been reported elsewhere by credible sources, such as in this Slate.com article by the Freakonomics authors. The story is that the…
Posted: Thu Jun 14, 2007.   Comments (12)

Quick Links: Jesus on Google Maps, etc. — Jesus on Google Maps Brian Martin claims that he saw the shape of Jesus in the clouds above Mount Sinai. (Thanks, Madmouse.) Cat Gives Birth to 'Puppy' Following on from the Japanese poodle scam hoax, this made me laugh. A cat in Zhengzhou, China has supposedly given birth to a litter of four, one of which looks like a poodle. There are no pictures to accompany the article, however. (Thanks, Robert.) Sexism in Tetris It seems a lot of people didn't realise the April 1st post on this…
Posted: Wed May 02, 2007.   Comments (6)

Did Mary Shelley Write Frankenstein? — A book coming out next month, The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein, by independent scholar John Lauritsen, argues that Mary Shelley did not write Frankenstein. Instead, Lauritsen argues, the credit should go to her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Why? For one, Lauritsen suggests Mary was too young and inexperienced as a writer to have penned a classic like Frankenstein. (She was nineteen at the time.) Lauritsen also suggests that the language of Frankenstein sounds like something Percy would…
Posted: Tue Apr 17, 2007.   Comments (16)

Quick Links: Save Boston, etc. — Save Boston A little game based on the Boston bomb scare. Children’s TV Presenter Accused of Obscenity in Sign Language Mr Tumble, a presenter on the children's BBC programme Something Special has been greeting the viewers with controversial signing. The BBC claim that the misunderstanding was due to their use of Makaton sign language, as opposed to British sign language. (Thanks, Madmouse.) Man Banned From Pub for Farting Since Scotland's smoking ban came into force, an Edinburgh…
Posted: Tue Mar 27, 2007.   Comments (3)

Prank the Monkey — SUMMARY: An interesting and informative read, and one that's sure to raise a few laughs. The Museum of Hoaxes awards it four out of five banana peels. Sir John Hargrave, as he’s now legally known, is host of the zug.com website. He has authored Prank the Monkey, a humourous book chronicling the various pranks, tricks and hoaxes he has perpetrated on deserving parties over the course of his prankster career. John says: ”It’s not that I have a problem with authority; it’s that I have a…
Posted: Fri Jan 05, 2007.   Comments (6)

Quick Links: Pig-Tossing, etc. — Pig-Tossing A number of incidents involving animal throwing have been reported in West Point, Miss., leading one to the conclusion that the sport is the new fad for those to whom cow-tipping is just too passé. Mayor of Lebanon Sends Chain Letter The Mayor of Lebanon was not available to comment after he discovered that the Make-A-Wish chain letter that he sent to 33 other businessmen was a hoax. Woman Sues Over Fake Avocado Dip A Los Angeles woman has filed a lawsuit against Kraft,…
Posted: Wed Dec 20, 2006.   Comments (14)

Tall-Tale Creature Haiku — A few months ago one of the site-related projects I was working on was revising the Tall-Tale Creature Gallery. Before I got totally sidetracked by having to focus on my next book, I managed to add quite a few new creatures to it. I also added a feature allowing people to post haiku about the creatures, thus returning to the theme of hoax haiku first seen here two years ago. I didn't expect to get many haiku contributions. After all, I hadn't told anyone that I had updated the…
Posted: Sun Nov 05, 2006.   Comments (16)

An Incomplete History of the Art of the Funerary Violin — The literary world has been talking about a work of fiction that managed a brief masquerade as nonfiction. The book is An Incomplete History of the Art of the Funerary Violin, by Rohan Kriwaczek. As the title suggests, it tells the history of that popular genre of music, funerary violin music. The Guardian reports: By the early 19th century, the book says, virtually every town had its own funerary violinist, but the tradition was almost wiped out in the Great Funerary Purges of the…
Posted: Mon Oct 09, 2006.   Comments (15)

Writer Behind J.T. LeRoy Comes Clean — Laura Albert, the writer behind J.T. LeRoy, has finally confessed to the hoax. She says that her psychiatrist encouraged her to write when she was in therapy. In terms of her attitude to perpetrating a hoax, the article says: When asked if she felt any shame about misleading people, she replied: "I bleed, but it's a different kind of shame... If knowing that I'm 15 years older than (LeRoy) devalues the work, then I'm sorry they feel that way." Although it was fairly clear that the…
Posted: Thu Sep 28, 2006.   Comments (3)

The Betjeman Letter — British papers have been reporting details of a literary hoax. The characters involved aren't that well known (at least to me), but the punchline is kind of amusing. Two years ago A.N. Wilson, biographer of poet laureate Sir John Betjeman, found a love letter written by the poet. Or, at least, he thought he had. Turns out the letter must have been deliberately planted to embarrass him because a journalist found a coded message inside of it. The Guardian reports: The telltale sign that…
Posted: Thu Aug 31, 2006.   Comments (6)

Alex Boese Quotes — Much to my surprise, I came across this page of "Alex Boese Quotes" on thinkexist.com. I was kind of flattered to find it, even though I'm sure the page was created by a computer trawling newspaper articles, and despite the fact that the three quotes (which I do recognize, and which I did say) are completely unmemorable. I think I've said some better things in my life. For instance, the first sentence of Hippo Eats Dwarf is better: "We live in a hippo-eats-dwarf world." And what about…
Posted: Wed Aug 16, 2006.   Comments (15)

Did Einstein Consider Geography More Difficult Than Physics? — Status: Hoax The following quotation is widely attributed to Albert Einstein: "As a young man, my fondest dream was to become a geographer. However, while working in the Customs Office, I thought deeply about the matter and concluded that it was far too difficult a subject. With some reluctance, I then turned to physics as an alternative." Did he ever say it? No. Nor did he ever work in the Customs Office. (He worked in the Patent Office.) In an article in the Toronto Star, Sharon…
Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2006.   Comments (7)

Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo — Status: Linguistic puzzle Check out these parsing challenges over at linguistlist.org. It took me a good 15 or 20 minutes to figure out why they make sense. (Though I'm sure some people will figure them out immediately.) The first one is this sentence: Dogs dogs dog dog dogs. It's a legitimate english sentence. To figure out how this is so, it helps to compare it to the sentence: Cats dogs chase catch mice. (They both share the same structure.) The linguist list folks then point out…
Posted: Sat Jul 22, 2006.   Comments (33)

Woman Claims To Be Descendant of Jesus Christ (And Gets Huge Book Deal) — Status: Clever marketing scheme Kathleen McGowan claims to be a descendant of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. That belief would make her no different than all the other people in this world suffering from delusions of grandeur, except that she's managed to leverage her extraordinary claim of ancestry into a major book deal. Simon & Schuster will soon be publishing her novel, The Expected One, with a print-run of 250,000 copies. The book is a loose fictionalization of her claim. She…
Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2006.   Comments (26)

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