The Hoax Museum Blog
Does Email Cause IQ Loss?
Posted by The Curator on Thu Apr 28, 2005
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 simultaneously trying to answer email and phone calls. Which isn't surprising. But this 'IQ loss' only lasts for as long as the distractions last. In other words, you're not really…
Fake Smiles and Women’s Intuition
Posted by The Curator on Sun Apr 17, 2005
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 and see how intuitive you are. I only scored 5 out of 10, so I must not be intuitive at all. However, I have a few doubts about the study. First of…
Paul Harvey Riddle
Posted by The Curator on Sat Feb 12, 2005
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 riddle, I thought I'd do the next best thing. Take an unscientific poll of Museum of Hoaxes readers to see how many of you are able to figure…
War Widow By Proxy
Posted by The Curator on Fri Feb 11, 2005
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 illnesses in others (usually claiming that their children are sick, but claiming that a husband has died would seem to fit the description of the syndrome as well). Kenney…
Morgellons Disease: Is It Real?
Posted by The Curator on Fri Feb 11, 2005
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 symptoms get diagnosed with 'delusional parasitosis', which is a psychological problem in which people imagine that they're infested by…
Posted by The Curator on Sun Feb 06, 2005
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.
Online Gamers Anonymous (Status: Not A Hoax)
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jan 12, 2005
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 lovely wife and most importanly my 2 beautiful little girls wich I love dearly....now I've lost everything because of this game.
Posted by The Curator on Wed Dec 22, 2004
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 with people who are waiting to exist in the future. My question is: what if a 'parent' communicates with their child-to-be, but then they end up never having a child. Who, then, were they chatting with? Would the Hintzes define this as an imposter…
Posted by The Curator on Wed Dec 08, 2004
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.
The ESP Game
Posted by The Curator on Tue Dec 07, 2004
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.
Wakerich Asylum for the Criminally Insane
Posted by The Curator on Wed Oct 20, 2004
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 Information case brought by Health Insurance Companies against the State of New York." You've got to do a google search to discover that Wakerich Asylum is really the creation of the…
The Dream Machine
Posted by The Curator on Tue Oct 19, 2004
The Dream Machine, from Takara USA, "is designed to stimulate the user at the appropriate times during REM sleep to increase the likelihood of dreaming a particular desired dream." It involves incense, soothing background music, and a pre-recorded statement repeated over and over in your ear as you sleep. My guess is that it works about as well as cramming for a test by sleeping on a textbook would work.
Posted by The Curator on Thu Oct 14, 2004
Australia's The Age reports on the strange nocturnal exploits of a middle-aged woman living with a steady partner. "By night, she crept out of their house to seek random sex with strangers. But the woman was unaware of her own double life, which was conducted while she was asleep." The doctor who is treating her, Dr. Peter Buchanan, claims that she is suffering from a rare syndrome known as 'Sleep Sex', which he's hoping will soon be officially recognized as a legitimate sleep disorder. Dr. Buchanan also notes that "Incredulity is the first staging post for anyone involved in this... One has to maintain a healthy degree of scepticism." I think I'm definitely still in the incredulity and…
Are You Superstitious?
Posted by The Curator on Sat Sep 04, 2004
Do you think you're not superstitious? Then test it using this simple little experiment devised by John Stilgoe: Stilgoe's Law: to test if you are really NOT superstitious. Bring a photograph of your romantic partner, or of a son or daughter to a meeting. Here is an ice pick. Will you poke out the eyes in the picture? Will you poke out the eyes for ten dollars? Most students will not do this, the image has the power of a voodoo doll. -- suggested by Professor John Stilgoe, Harvard Magazine, (Jan.-Feb. 1996) pp. 36-42. Personally, I would fail. (via
Posted by The Curator on Thu Aug 19, 2004
I never realized that the pet psychic industry had grown so large. Should you have a need for someone to peer into your pet's thoughts, you now have a wide range services to choose from. There's Animalstalk.com, run by Barbara Morrison (her company motto is 'I talk to the animals!'). Then, of course, there's tv personality Sonya Fitzpatrick. But my favorite is Terri Diener, owner of Petspeak.com. She tells us that communicating telepathically with animals is "similar to turning on a radio and tuning into the station you want." To get her to read your pet's thoughts all you have to do is phone…