The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Psychology
Fake Smile Test — Status: Psychology test I've linked to a fake smile test before, but this one hosted by the BBC (and designed by Professor Paul Ekman, from the University of California) is more elaborate since it allows you to see actual video clips of people smiling. I did quite badly at differentiating the real from the fake, scoring only 9 out of 20. The blurb at the conclusion of the test notes that "Most people are surprisingly bad at spotting fake smiles. One possible explanation for this is…
Posted: Wed Nov 16, 2005.   Comments (37)

By-Accident.com — Status: Hoax Website By-Accident.com claims to be a company that will "deliver customized accidents such as rape, assault and past traumatic experiences. All personally tailored to suit your special needs." The idea is that you can fake a traumatic experience in your past, and thereby get all kinds of attention as a victim. The company will even provide (optional) Aesthetic Scar Surgery to make your past "accident" more believable: "You can have any physical damage you want, our…
Posted: Mon Nov 14, 2005.   Comments (3)

Gene Guess — Status: Hoax (supposedly a magic trick, but it doesn't work) I received this polite request this morning: Dear web master , Please review this website that is able to determine a persons sex just by four visual questions. Name : Gene Guess .com Link : http://www.geneguess.com Thank you , Pras Til So here goes: it worked for me, correctly guessing my gender. I suppose it was an interesting ten-second time waster. I don't know why it worked. Obviously it has a 50/50 chance of getting…
Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2005.   Comments (37)

Mindbending Software — Status: Art Project Mindbending Software claims to offer programs that will insert subliminal messages into the favorite computer games of your kids, thereby reprogramming them, as they play the games, to do as you wish. Their website states: Mindbending Software Inc. is a company specialized on psychological conditioning software packages for children. With the newest technologies our products infiltrate the computer games of your kids and mingle various subconscious or conscious…
Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2005.   Comments (6)


HETRACIL Anti-Effeminate Medication — Status: Hoax According to the HETRACIL website, "HETRACIL is the most widely prescribed anti-effeminate medication in the United States, helping 16 million Americans who suffer from Behavioral Effeminism and Male Homosexuality Disorder." In other words, it's supposedly a drug to treat homosexuality. The look and feel of the site is pretty convincing, perfectly imitating the bland soothing nature of other pharmaceutical sites. And it's plausible that some drug company could try to…
Posted: Tue Nov 01, 2005.   Comments (25)

Tom Cruise Lectures on Modern Science of Mental Health — Status: Hoax A press release that appeared during the past week on pressbox.co.uk declared that Tom Cruise would be delivering a series of four lectures at a scientology centre in Los Angeles on "topics related to 'The Modern Science of Mental Health.'" The press release turned out to be a hoax, getting a stern response from Cruise's lawyer: "It's totally phony... Tom is not giving any lectures... I'm going to look into it, because, in my view, it's forgery, wire fraud and apparently…
Posted: Thu Sep 29, 2005.   Comments (13)

Cheese Can Cause Nightmares — Status: Old wives' tale disproven by science At last I can return to my nocturnal cheese-eating ways, now that I know eating the stuff won't cause me nightmares... Actually I had never heard any rumor associating cheese with nightmares, but apparently researchers at The Dairy Council had, because they designed an experiment to disprove the fallacy. With the help of 200 volunteers they determined "cheese may actually help you have a good night's sleep." But stay away from Stilton, which…
Posted: Tue Sep 20, 2005.   Comments (30)

Fake Memories Fight Flab — Here's an ingenious way to lose weight: give yourself false memories to trick yourself into believing that you actually hate all the food you love. This technique is being pioneered by memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, of UC Irvine: In her latest work, her team convinced volunteers that they had been sick after eating strawberry ice cream as a child. Loftus and her colleagues gave 228 undergraduate students questionnaires about food. The volunteers subsequently received feedback on…
Posted: Thu Aug 04, 2005.   Comments (15)

The Piano Man — In the past few days the 'Piano Man' has been getting a lot of attention. He's a guy who was found "wandering on a windswept road on the Isle of Sheppey". He was dripping wet and very confused. The authorities took him to a hospital where the staff discovered that although the guy refuses to say a word, and they have no idea of his identity, he is an accomplished piano player. He's now been at the hospital for a couple of weeks, during which time he hasn't said a word, but he loves to…
Posted: Wed May 18, 2005.   Comments (28)

Does Email Cause IQ Loss? — A widely reported story last week stated that a study conducted by Hewlett Packard found that "Workers distracted by email and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers." Sounded like bad news for people like myself who are constantly checking email. But Mind Hacks has examined the study a little more closely and found its results aren't all they're cracked up to be. What the test actually found is that people do worse on IQ tests if they're…
Posted: Thu Apr 28, 2005.   Comments (6)

Fake Smiles and Women’s Intuition — A study conducted by Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire and the Edinburgh International Science Festival has found that women may not be as intuitive as they think they are. In fact, men may be more intuitive than women. Study participants "were asked to look at ten pairs of photographs showing smiling faces. One of the smiles in each pair was genuine and the other was fake, and people had to spot the genuine smile." You can take this fake-smile test yourself…
Posted: Sun Apr 17, 2005.   Comments (31)

Paul Harvey Riddle — Gary C. sent me this riddle which has been doing the rounds on email for quite a while, though I had never seen it before. As Gary pointed out, the interesting thing about this is not whether it really is a Paul Harvey riddle (I have no clue), or even the riddle itself. It's the claim that 80% of kindergarten kids got the answer while 83% of Stanford graduates were unable to. Instead of trying to track down whether or not a group of Stanford graduates ever has been tested with this…
Posted: Sat Feb 12, 2005.   Comments (214)

War Widow By Proxy — Sarah Kenney said that her husband died in Iraq when he dove in front of a bullet that would have hit a child. Her story attracted the sympathy of a group called Homefront Heroes, which then told the media about it. But it turns out that Kenney's husband didn't die in Iraq. He's still alive and well here in America. He isn't even a soldier. Kenney had made the entire thing up. This sounds like a case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, in which people attract attention by inventing…
Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2005.   Comments (8)

Morgellons Disease: Is It Real? — Sufferers of Morgellons disease complain of invisible parasites biting their skin. And they get skin lesions from which sprout strange fibers. And mysterious black spore-like specks appear on their skin. Cases of this strange disease seem to be spreading, especially in the Bay area. One theory is that it has something to do with Lyme disease. Or it may be a case of mass delusion. The medical community seems to think it's mass delusion. Most people who show up complaining of these…
Posted: Fri Feb 11, 2005.   Comments (607)

Sleep Messaging — Richard Griffiths has a problem. He sends text messages in his sleep. The messages seem to be inspired by whatever he's dreaming about. I'm actually perfectly willing to believe this case is real. I'm pretty sure I could type in my sleep, if I were the sleep-walking/sleep-talking type, which I'm not. However, I still refuse to believe that the sleep-sex woman was for real.
Posted: Sun Feb 06, 2005.   Comments (4)

Online Gamers Anonymous (Status: Not A Hoax) — I came across the On-line Gamers Anonymous (OLGA) site recently and can't make up my mind whether or not it's a hoax. It's a site "of, by, and for on-line gaming addicts." Some of the stories shared on its message board seem a bit farfetched. Take, for example, the tale of Tommy, a former EverQuest addict. Tommy complains that: Before EverQuest I used to have nearly a perfect life, I was living the american dream if you will. I hade a wonderfull job, a great house, a beautiful and…
Posted: Wed Jan 12, 2005.   Comments (38)

Prebirth Experiences — At RoyalChild.com Sarah and Brent Hinze investigate Prebirth Experiences. They define these as when "a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or grandparent, etc., receives communication from a child before she is born, or in many cases, before he was even conceived." I hadn't heard of this particular variety of psychic (or spiritual) phenomenon before. It seems like a strange offshoot of past-life communication... except that instead of talking with people who once existed, you're communicating…
Posted: Wed Dec 22, 2004.   Comments (173)

Imaginary Friends — In a recently published study, researchers at the Universities of Washington and Oregon have reported finding that two-thirds of children invent imaginary friends. I, of course, never had an imaginary friend as a child. That ten-foot-tall rabbit who lived in my closet was very real.
Posted: Wed Dec 08, 2004.   Comments (26)

The ESP Game — Do you think you have ESP? Test your skills with the ESP game. It's a bit addictive. You're paired with a random partner on the internet, then you're both shown a series of images. You each have to guess what word the other person is typing to describe the image. I ranked as a novice.
Posted: Tue Dec 07, 2004.   Comments (2)

Wakerich Asylum for the Criminally Insane — This one almost had me believing that it was real. It's Wakerich Asylum for the Criminally Insane. It all looks very official and real, right down to the phone numbers, staff bios, and maps to the asylum. It only starts to become fishy when you notice that the complete records of all the patients are accessible online. The supposed explanation for this is that "Patient information is being made available to the public after a ruling by The New York State Appellate Court in a Freedom of…
Posted: Wed Oct 20, 2004.   Comments (9)

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