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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Literature/Language
Remembering The Plumber From Plympton
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jan 13, 2006
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 lama, and then to have undergone a mysterious operation to open up the "third eye" in the middle of his forehead.…
James Frey, Fiction Writer?
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jan 10, 2006
Status: Undetermined (but the Smoking Gun presents a convincing argument) It seems to be quite the week for literary hoaxes. First there were the new revelations in the JT LeRoy case, and now The Smoking Gun is now accusing author James Frey of inventing many of the details in his autobiographical novel, A Million Little Pieces. The book tells the story of Frey's past as a drug-addict and criminal. But the Smoking Gun alleges that, "The 36-year-old author, these documents and interviews show, wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw 'wanted in three states.'" They concede that the guy was a drug addict and spent…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (14)
J.T. LeRoy: An Update
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jan 09, 2006
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 the guy that supposedly helped rescue the teenage LeRoy). The Times found an image of Savannah Knoop online, and people who have met LeRoy confirm that…
Truthiness
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jan 09, 2006
Status: New word The American Dialect Society has announced its words of the year for 2005 (links to a pdf file). A number of them are relevant to the study of hoaxes. For instance, the word of the year is Truthiness: truthiness: the quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. I suppose the opposite of truthiness would be hoaxiness. A few of the other words of the year include: flee-ancée: runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks. Whizzinator: a trademarked urinating device using a realistic prosthetic penis and synthetic urine in order to…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (8)
Publishers Reject Booker Prize Winners
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jan 02, 2006
Status: Publishers hoaxed Convinced that the publishing industry can no longer recognize quality literature when they see it, the Sunday Times devised an experiment to test their theory. They submitted opening chapters of books by V.S. Naipaul and Stanley Middleton to twenty publishers and agents. The results: None appears to have recognised them as Booker prizewinners from the 1970s that were lauded as British novel writing at its best. Of the 21 replies, all but one were rejections. Only Barbara Levy, a London literary agent, expressed an interest, and that was for Middleton’s novel. She was unimpressed by Naipaul’s book. She wrote: “We . . . thought it was quite original. In the end…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (7)
Status: Hoax A news report has been doing the rounds concerning a student at UMass Dartmouth who was visited by Department of Homeland Security agents after ordering the official Peking version of Mao Tse-Tung's Little Red Book via interlibrary loan. The student needed the book for a research paper on communism, but apparently the book is on some kind of government watch list, and thus the visit. However, over at Boing Boing, suspicions have been raised that the story is a hoax. Apparently a second version of the story is floating around that places the student at UC Santa Cruz. Also, people find it suspicious that the student is unnamed, and therefore the story is…
Patent The A and Patented Storylines
Posted by The Curator on Fri Nov 04, 2005
Status: Patent the A is satire; patented storylines is serious The Ecchi Patent Company claims to hold a patent on the letter A: The rights lie with us for all forms of the letter A, including, but not limited to, uppercase, lowercase, accented, Cyrillic, put in a little circle (e-mail users please note), in code, and in any form we may not have thought of already. Supposedly you need to obtain a license from them in order to use the letter A in any form: "we will soon begin prosecuting people who fail to purchase a license and continue to use the letter A." Of course, this is a joke. Unless…
Chris Elliott Falls for Boilerplate
Posted by The Curator on Wed Nov 02, 2005
Status: Hoax claims victim In my Gallery of Hoax Websites (which I created about four years ago, and which has since been superceded by the Hoax Websites category of the weblog), I list the website of Boilerplate, the Victorian Era Robot. The site details the history of a robot named Boilerplate who was supposedly created during the 19th century in order to replace humans in combat. I admit that the site had me going for a while, and that I only realized it was a hoax when I tried to check the bibliographic references, none of which referred to real books. It…
The Grafton Portrait of Shakespeare
Posted by The Curator on Fri Oct 28, 2005
Status: Art Fake (i.e. it's not Shakespeare) The National Portrait Gallery has reported that the Grafton portrait, long thought to depict Shakespeare as a young man, doesn't depict him at all. They don't know who the guy in the painting is. The portrait apparently served as the inspiration for the portrayal of Shakespeare in the movie Shakespeare in Love. So the Grafton portrait will now join the Flower portrait (revealed to be a nineteenth-century fake earlier this year) in the category of "portraits of Shakespeare that don't actually show Shakespeare." My hunch is that all…
Categories: Art, Literature/Language Comments (10)
World’s Longest Surname
Posted by The Curator on Fri Oct 21, 2005
Status: Seems to be true Charles Haberl e-mailed me with a question about the world's longest surname. Here's the main part of his message (it's kind of long): There's an bit of internet lore circulating around that the Guinness World Record for Longest Name in the world belongs to a Mr. Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorffwelchevoralternwarengewissenschaftschafe rswessenschafewarenwohlgepflegeundsorgfaltigkeitbeschutzenvonangreifeudurch ihrraubgierigfeindewelchevoralternzwolftausendjahresvorandieerscheinenersch einenvanderersteerdemenschderraumschiffgebrauchlichtalsseinursprungvonkraft gestartseinlangefahrthinzwischensternaitigraumaufdersuchenachdiesternwelche gehabtbewohnbarplanetenkreisedrehensichundwohinderneurassevonverstandigmens chlichkeitkonntefortpflanzenundsicherfeuenanlebenslanglichfreudeundruhemitn icheinfurchtvorangreifenvonandererintelligentgeschopfsvonhinzwischenternart Zeus igraum Senior, who was born in Munich in 1904 and lived in Philadelphia for most of his life. Apparently he shortened his name to Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, and subsequently went by Hubert…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (37)
Is The Word ‘Dwarf’ Derogatory?
Posted by The Curator on Tue Oct 18, 2005
Status: Not to my knowledge. Since my upcoming book is titled Hippo Eats Dwarf, this brief article in The Sun caught my attention: PANTOS of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs are being censored — to outlaw the word DWARF. A shocked village drama group sent off for a script and found Dopey and his pals — played by kids — had to be called “gnomes” instead. Ray Lionet, 73, of the Coxheath Players in Kent, said the ban was to avoid offending short people. He said: “It’s madness.” I never thought the word dwarf was considered to be derogatory. I hope it's not, because it's way too late…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (36)
Is J.T. LeRoy a Hoax?
Posted by The Curator on Mon Oct 10, 2005
Status: Yes, he's a hoax J.T. LeRoy is either a) an extremely shy young man who, at the age of 13, while living a life of abuse and prostitution on the streets, met a psychologist who encouraged him to write down his experiences, which he did, thereby propelling him to literary stardom (now in his mid-twenties, LeRoy has three books, one of which has been made into a movie); or b) a woman in her late-thirties called Laura Albert who, for the past eleven years, has crafted an elaborate hoax to make people believe that LeRoy is a real person. Stephen Beachy believes that option…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (39)
Esquivalience Copyright Trap
Posted by The Curator on Wed Sep 07, 2005
The most recent edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD) defines esquivalience as "the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities." However, esquivalience isn't a real word. It's a copyright trap, placed in the dictionary so that the editors can know when others are stealing their work. This was reported in last week's New Yorker. The editors of NOAD admit that they made up esquivalience: "An editor named Christine Lindberg came up with “esquivalience.” The word has since been spotted on Dictionary.com, which cites Webster’s New Millennium as its source." But, of course, if enough people start to use the word, it could become real. I think the most famous case of fake entries in a dictionary occurred…
Categories: Literature/Language Comments (2)
Gulliver’s Erotic Adventures
Posted by The Curator on Mon Aug 22, 2005
A Russian woman, Neonilla Samukhina, claims that the original version of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels was far racier, containing numerous explicit sex scenes... and she happens to have acquired a manuscript of this early version. She published a Russian translation of it last week. The book features the hero of 18th century Irish author Jonathan Swift’s famous satire in physical encounters with tiny Lilliputs — who are only 15 centimeters tall — and in Brobdingnag, which is inhabited by 20-meter giants. No experts seem to be taking her claims very seriously. Obvious signs that it's a hoax are that she refuses to allow anyone to see the manuscript, nor will she allow…
Automatic Paper Generator
Posted by The Curator on Fri Apr 15, 2005
A group of MIT students wrote a computer program capable of creating "random Computer Science research papers, including graphs, figures, and citations." They then used this program to create a paper that they submitted to an academic conference: the World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics, which sounds like a thrill a minute. The paper was accepted, which isn't really surprising since as the students point out conferences such as this are really 'fake' conferences "with no quality standards, which exist only to make money." The students hope to travel down to the conference (if they're still allowed to attend) and deliver a "completely randomly-generated talk."
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