The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Pranks
The Pulling Up Piccadilly Prank — I recently received the following email from Marjorie: In the late 50's, on the morning of April 1, a group of Sydney City Council workers went with jackhammers and other machinery and started an approved excavation in the middle of George St. (the main drag). Hoaxers from Sydney University called the police and warned them that a group of Uni Students dressed as Council workers were tearing up George St. They simultaneously went to the site and warned the workers that a group of…
Posted: Fri Apr 06, 2012.   Comments (0)

The Society for Insulting Women and Frightening Children — The Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1873 includes an article about the mathematician/inventor Charles Babbage. In this article, there's a page-long footnote discussing some hoaxes, and at the end of this footnote, there's a brief reference to the existence of a curious group that called itself the "Society for Insulting Women and Frightening Children": What is this Society? I haven't been able to find it mentioned anywhere except in…
Posted: Wed Feb 15, 2012.   Comments (2)

Texas Roof Tiger — Add this to the 'Things on Roofs' file: Police in Houston, Texas received reports of a tiger sitting on the roof of an abandoned hotel. The animal was causing a bit of a traffic jam as drivers stopped to look at it. But upon investigation, it turned out to be a toy tiger. I'm assuming it was the work of a prankster, who's now out a pretty nice stuffed animal. Link: BBC News.
Posted: Thu Jan 19, 2012.   Comments (7)

Car lands on roof of house—real or fake? — About two weeks ago a story hit the news wires about a car that landed on the roof of a house in Fresno, CA. The story goes that Benjamin Tucker stole the car, was driving fast, but lost control as he was going round a corner and hit some landscaping rocks, causing the car to become airborne. And it flew through the air until it landed on the roof of a nearby house. The autoshopper blog points out that this chain of events is highly improbable: Let’s put together some relevant…
Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2012.   Comments (8)


Cows In The Library — Apparently Bethel College in Kansas has a history of pranks. Enough so that there's now a website dedicated to collecting all the pranks perpetrated there. The site has a great name: CowsInTheLibrary.com. The name refers to an actual prank at Bethel, but also (perhaps unintentionally) gives a nod to Neil Steinberg's classic book about college pranks, If At All Possible, Involve A Cow. Bethel's most famous prank is Herman Bubbert, a fictional student "who began appearing on class rolls…
Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2011.   Comments (1)

Coning: A Strange New Prank — Coning (or cone-ing) involves ordering an ice-cream cone at a fast-food drive-thru window, and then taking it by the ice cream instead of the cone when it's handed to you. If you do a search for coning on youtube, you can see a lot of examples of it. Even Justin Bieber is a fan of coning. It's a strange prank because it inverts the typical logic of pranking. Usually pranks involve humiliating or one-upping a victim. For instance, a victim sits on a whoopee cushion, prompting everyone…
Posted: Thu Sep 22, 2011.   Comments (7)

Sussex Zebras — Unidentified pranksters broke into the Sussex Horse Rescue Trust in Uckfield, East Sussex and transformed "Ant" the donkey into a zebra by spray-painting stripes on him (express.co.uk). Ant wasn't hurt in any way, though the spray paint reportedly had a strong, unpleasant smell. The RSPCA condemned the prank: "It's shocking people would think it was funny to spray-paint a donkey in this way. We take reports of animals being painted very seriously." This prank immediately reminded me of…
Posted: Thu Sep 22, 2011.   Comments (2)

The Script Kiddies Strike Again — There's a long history of hoaxers finding ways to slip fake stories into newspapers. Back in 1864 Joseph Howard tried to manipulate the New York stock market by sending fake Associated Press telegrams to newspaper offices. The telegrams claimed Lincoln had decided to conscript an extra 400,000 men into the Union army. Several papers printed the fake news. The stock market panicked, because the news suggested the Civil War was going to drag on for a lot longer, and Howard (who had…
Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011.   Comments (1)

The Secret Meaning of Hanging Shoes and Hats — Here's an example of how people can interpret what is basically the same phenomenon in very different ways. Yesterday, kcautv.com (Sioux City, IA) reported that the Sioux City police were concerned about shoes hanging from power lines, noting that far from being just a harmless prank, the dangling shoes have a sinister meaning. They "give the alert that there is drug activity here. That you can find your drug needs at this location or in this area." (I've blogged about Secret Powerline…
Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2011.   Comments (6)

GOP URL Shortener put to unintended use — Yesterday the GOP debuted its own URL shortener. Wired.com describes the results: Almost immediately after it launched yesterday, pranksters began using the service to link to controversial or ironically-intended websites such as the official site of the American Communist Party, a bondage website and a webpage advertising a sex toy in the likeness of Barack Obama. GOP.am started blocking such links apparently at some point Tuesday morning, and the GOP.am homepage is now offline.
Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2009.   Comments (1)

A fork in the road, literally — A few days ago a fork appeared in the middle of a Pasadena road. It's located, appropriately, at a fork in the road, where Pasadena and St. John avenues divide. From the Pasadena Star News: It turns out the fork is an elaborate - and expensive - birthday prank in honor of the 75th birthday of Bob Stane, founder of the Ice House comedy club, who now owns the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena... The wooden fork, is "expertly carved and painted," to look like metal, Stane said. "It's…
Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2009.   Comments (6)

Treasure hunt prank, from beyond the grave — Patty Henken found a small envelope in a rocking chair she bought at auction. In the envelope was a key and a note giving her directions to where $250 in U.S. gold coins was supposedly buried in a lead chest. The note was signed "Chauncey Wolcott." There was also a request to contact the State Journal-Register newspaper of Springfield, if the treasure was found. The Associated Press tells the rest: With help of a donated backhoe, Patty Henken tore up a vacant lot in Springfield, Ill...
Posted: Mon Oct 05, 2009.   Comments (12)

The Lying Down Craze — An internet fad that managed to escape my attention is the "lying down" craze, in which people post photos of themselves lying face down, hands against their sides, in unusual locations. This sounded like fun to a group of British doctors and nurses: "The staff were pictured face down on resuscitation trolleys, ward floors and the air ambulance heli-pad during a night shift at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, Wilts." Their mistake was to then post the photos on Facebook. Seven of…
Posted: Thu Sep 10, 2009.   Comments (5)

Wave of Hotel Pranks — As noted by Beasjt in the forum, there's been a case of a phone prankster tricking a couple into smashing up a hotel room by telling them there's a gas leak. I reported a case of an identical prank in April. The Boston Herald describes these incidents as part of a "wave of hotel pranks": The Monday incident follows others from around the country: In Arkansas, a caller posing as a sprinkler company employee convinced a motel employee to do more than $50,000 in damage to a motel as…
Posted: Fri Jul 10, 2009.   Comments (9)

Woman “prank calls” her own grandmother — Calling a store and asking "have you got Prince Albert in a can" is a prank call. Calling your grandmother 45 times and saying "You're going to die" is not a prank call. It's a sign of serious psychological issues. [google] A 21-year-old woman faces felony charges after allegedly prank-calling her 69-year-old grandmother 45 times in one day, threatening to kill her. The woman faces five felony counts including harassment. A criminal complaint said she told police she was "bored" and…
Posted: Mon Jul 06, 2009.   Comments (3)

Where is my pond? — At 9 a.m. George Terry Dinnie left his house to walk Buckley, his bouvier des Flandres. When he returned, an hour-and-a-half later, he discovered that his 2500 gallon pond had disappeared. He figures someone took it, though he doesn't know why or how someone removed that much water: "They pumped the water out faster than I can fill it up again. It's as weird as weird can be." Something fishy is going on. That's for sure. [morning call]
Posted: Sat Jun 27, 2009.   Comments (7)

Pranksters move Loch Ness signs — Pranksters in Inverness have made it even more difficult to find Nessie by moving the road signs for Loch Ness so that they point in the wrong direction. The leading suspects are concert-goers attending the RockNess music festival. But here's the part of the article I found interesting. One resident "likened the alterations to World War II, when the authorities removed signs to prevent German soldiers from navigating their way round the country if they invaded." I didn't know that had…
Posted: Fri Jun 26, 2009.   Comments (12)

The Jiffy Prank — Apparently there's a tradition of past employees of Jiffy Lube breaking into the store and stealing the bleeder valve on the compressor, thus rendering the machine useless. It's called the "Jiffy prank." At least, that's the excuse Paul Marvella is giving to explain why he took the valve. He later returned it, but nevertheless the store is charging him with felony commercial burglary. [Hernando Today]
Posted: Wed Jun 24, 2009.   Comments (3)

The Barrel Monster — Proof that the art of the student prank hasn't quite died. N.C. State University student Joseph Carnevale has been arrested and is facing misdemeanor charges for damage to property after creating a "barrel monster" that menacingly pointed its finger at motorists on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. The creation of the monster is documented at nopromiseofsafety.com. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Its that itch, that need to make real an idea that has rolled around in one’s head for…
Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2009.   Comments (8)

Sprinkler System Activated — A telephone caller, posing as a representative of a fire alarm company, convinced employees of a Comfort Suites Hotel to activate the sprinkler system, which resulted in thousands of dollars worth of damage. (tricities.com) This type of prank is definitely a recurring theme (see the rectal exam prank call, strip-search prank call, and satellite medical exam call), but I'm not sure what to call it. Maybe the "manipulative phone call prank," though that's not very catchy.
Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2009.   Comments (5)

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