The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Literature/Language
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)

James Frey, Fiction Writer? — 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…
Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2006.   Comments (14)

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)

Truthiness — 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…
Posted: Mon Jan 09, 2006.   Comments (8)


Publishers Reject Booker Prize Winners — 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.…
Posted: Mon Jan 02, 2006.   Comments (7)

Student Visited By DHS Agents After Requesting Little Red Book at Library — 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.…
Posted: Tue Dec 20, 2005.   Comments (10)

Patent The A and Patented Storylines — 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…
Posted: Fri Nov 04, 2005.   Comments (14)

Chris Elliott Falls for Boilerplate — 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…
Posted: Wed Nov 02, 2005.   Comments (4)

The Grafton Portrait of Shakespeare — 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…
Posted: Fri Oct 28, 2005.   Comments (10)

World’s Longest Surname — 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…
Posted: Fri Oct 21, 2005.   Comments (37)

Is The Word ‘Dwarf’ Derogatory? — 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…
Posted: Tue Oct 18, 2005.   Comments (36)

Is J.T. LeRoy a Hoax? — 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…
Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2005.   Comments (39)

Esquivalience Copyright Trap — 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…
Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2005.   Comments (2)

Gulliver’s Erotic Adventures — 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…
Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2005.   Comments (8)

Automatic Paper Generator — 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'…
Posted: Fri Apr 15, 2005.   Comments (5)

Book Millionaire — Want to be a best-selling author making millions of dollars? Then sign up to be on Book Millionaire and your dreams could become reality! Here's your chance to finally become America's next Best Selling Author and Reality Show TV Celebrity!  We are scouting for the next group of candidates for America's hottest new reality show. Act now. Picture yourself featured on national television sharing your story, writing, book-to-be or book with millions of people showing you have what it…
Posted: Thu Apr 14, 2005.   Comments (16)

Springtime in Arkham — This should appeal to all H.P. Lovecraft fans. It's Springtime in Arkham, a collection of scents inspired by the world of Lovecraft. For only $155 you can buy the entire set, sold together as the 'Gibbering Madness Pack: More eternal evil than you can shake a stick at'. The fact that these are only available from April 1 to June 1 makes it all seem a little like an April Fool's day joke, but I think they're quite real. I'm actually tempted to buy the CTHULHU scent: A creeping, wet,…
Posted: Mon Apr 04, 2005.   Comments (20)

Plagiarizing for Laura — Hundreds of blogs have linked to this in the past week, so I might as well pay it some attention, even though I'm doubtful that it's a hoax. The basic story is as follows: Some guy was contacted out of the blue via IM by a college student who wanted to know if he would write a paper on Hinduism for her. She had searched for people who mentioned the word 'Hindu' in their AOL profile and came up with him. To make a long story short, he agreed to write the paper for $75, but all he did was…
Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2005.   Comments (13)

Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie — I received the following email from Joe Mason. Instead of summarizing it, I'll just cut-and-paste the whole thing: Amazon has a listing for "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie". The book also has a homepage at http://www.hamsterhueypress.com/, and it's listed as being written by "renowned story teller" Mabel S. Barr. Hamster Huey is, of course, the fictional book written by "Mabel Syrup" in Calvin and Hobbes. It looks like somebody with a vanity press has ripped off the title (I…
Posted: Wed Mar 23, 2005.   Comments (37)

Another Belle de Jour Theory — The Book Club blog has collected together more information than you'd ever want to know about the Belle de Jour blog, the supposed online diary of a London call girl that recently was published as a book. About a year ago there was a lot of speculation that Belle de Jour was really Sarah Champion, a 33-year-old music journalist. Now the Book Club blog is speculating that Belle is really a writer named Lisa Hilton.
Posted: Mon Mar 07, 2005.   Comments (3)

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