Hoax Museum Blog: Religion

Towel Jesus — From Cranky Media Guy, with the comment, "New horizons in pareidolia":
A Houston woman says the face of Jesus is a message sent straight from God and left on a bathroom towel...

She says she used the towel to clean an air conditioner.
"I guess it just got stained," she said.
So Lucille washed it. And bleached it. Twice. And then her granddaughter used the towel.
"It kind of scared me, because I was going to dry my hair," Desiree Ramos recalled. "But then I just threw it. And then I went to go tell my grandma."...

You might not see the face in the towel. If you do, you might not believe it resembles Jesus. Lucille Lopez doesn't care. She does. And she's thankful for the gift she got from God.

Posted: Mon Oct 22, 2007.   Comments (12)

Fake Holy Water Warning — Health officers in Britain have issued a warning to consumers to be on the lookout for fake holy water. From the BBC:
The water is advertised as coming from the sacred well of Zam Zam in Mecca, the most holy city in Islam, and demand increases during Ramadan. The warning does not cover genuine Zam Zam, which is sourced from the Well of Zam Zam, located within the Masjid al Haram in Mecca. Councillor Audrey Lewis was concerned Muslims may be exploited into buying counterfeit Zam Zam during the holy month of Ramadan. She said: "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia forbids the commercial export of genuine Zam Zam, so we have no idea of the true source of the water which ends up on the streets of the UK.

Zam Zam holy water? I immediately thought it sounded like a good name for a kid's soft drink. Turns out it is. You can buy Zam Zam Cola in Iran.

I think they should issue a general consumer advisory about all holy waters -- that tap water shares all their special powers, for a fraction of the price.
Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2007.   Comments (7)

New From Elliot: Church of the SubGenius — In his new article in the hoaxipedia, Elliot gives some background info on the Church of the SubGenius -- the church which may represent a genuine religious movement, or may be just an elaborate joke.

The Church of the SubGenius is affiliated with the Universal Life Church, "an organization that has been legally (in some states) offering tax-exempt ministerships to all who apply regardless of religious or non-religious affiliation." Years ago I sent away to become a Universal Life Church minister, but I no longer have any clue where I put the sheet of paper saying I'm a minister.

I've sometimes thought about starting my own church. It would be the Church of the Great Hoax. Its motto would be: "Whatever you believe, it's wrong."

Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2007.   Comments (16)

More Faces in Trees — At least two or three faces seen in trees seem to get reported a month, and I faithfully note them here. Here are the latest:

imageLodi, California: Emily West was doing some meditating over the weekend in her sister's backyard in central Lodi when something caught her eye. "I looked up and saw the face of Christ in the fence and I said, "Whoa," West said. She called her sister Ana over to ask what she saw. She too agreed, it was the Son of God.

Cranky Media Guy forwarded me this story with the comment, "If this is the face of Jesus, then the Son of God is wearing one of those laser-equipped face masks like the Cylons on the original Battlestar Galactica." Yes, well that sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Jesus might be a big Battlestar Galactica fan.

And here's a a second face in a tree seen in Portland, Maine, though there are no details about exactly where it was seen, or by whom.


The thing about this image is that I can see two faces. There's the one on the left, outlined in blue lines below. But there's also the face outlined in green lines (on the right), which is actually the one I saw first.


Posted: Sat Sep 01, 2007.   Comments (16)

Best of the Forum - 24th August 07 — Due to personal circumstances, this week's Best of the Forum post is brought to you by guest writer and board moderator Madmouse.

Unauthorised Reincarnation Banned in Tibet (MadCarlotta)
China has banned Buddhists from reincarnating without permission, in an apparent attempt to have the next Dalai Lama chosen by the Chinese government.
From the news article:
"According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.”

This could lead to a situation where there are two Dalai Lamas, one recognised by millions of Buddhists around the world, and one by the Chinese government.
I don’t know how much of an effect this would have, but it would be a situation best avoided, if possible.

Skype Outage Caused By U.S. Government Spy Plan? (LaMa)
There’s been a lot of discussion in the forum about this conspiracy theory.
www.skype-news.com says:
“Skype says the problem was triggered by a Microsoft patch, delivered by Windows Update, which caused an automatic reboot of many PCs. "The high number of restarts affected Skype's network resources. This caused a flood of log-in requests, which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, prompted a chain reaction," says Skype's Villu Arak. According to Arak, the system would normally have recovered quickly, but on this occasion "a previously unseen bug" caused the network to fail.”
However, this news item suggests that the outage was in fact caused by the introduction of eavesdropping technology, made permissible by a newly-introduced law.

Online Game Used As Epidemic Scenario (Hulitoons)
Scientists have been studying players’ reactions to a disease in online game ‘World of Warcraft’. The researchers say that the information gathered about people’s varying reactions to a crisis like this could prove useful in the event of a genuine epidemic.
From the BBC article:
Researcher Professor Nina Fefferman, from Tufts University School of Medicine, said: “Human behaviour has a big impact on disease spread. And virtual worlds offer an excellent platform for studying human behaviour.The players seemed to really feel they were at risk and took the threat of infection seriously, even though it was only a game.”
Even if people might act somewhat differently in a game, I think that this is a reasonable (and safe) way of gathering data.

Rampant Rabbit In Stick-Up (Dave and Madmouse)
A man was jailed for five years for a robbery at a bookmakers in which he used the sex toy instead of a gun. The vibrator was hidden in a carrier bag, and seemed realistic enough that the shop staff handed over £600.
I do wonder what on earth made him think of using that rather than, say, a toy gun…
Posted: Fri Aug 24, 2007.   Comments (11)

Angel Wings in a Texas Tree — image A Texas woman thinks a pattern in the trunk of a tree in the parking lot of her local supermarket looks like a pair of angel wings. And, for good measure, she also thinks she might see Jesus there too. The woman, Gayle Griffin, says:

"I was drawn to this tree. Something compelled me to take pictures. Something kept telling me to go back." Maybe that something was her need to buy groceries.

So this is another tree to add to my growing list of images in trees. The wing pattern is quite easy to see, but does it count if the bark has been ripped off, as looks to be the case?

Interestingly, this Jesus/Angel Wing tree is located in the same area that the famous Screen Door Jesus appeared in, back in 1969. Screen Door Jesus recently became the title of a movie (though I don't think the movie is actually about the 1969 incident). There was also a recent movie called Tortilla Heaven inspired by the case of the face of Jesus supposedly visible on a corn tortilla.
Posted: Mon Aug 20, 2007.   Comments (16)

Jesus appears in yet another tree — image Here's yet another image of Jesus on a tree to add to my collection.

Irma Lopez, of Moorpark, CA, was watering her front yard when, she says, "I noticed an area on the tree that resembles Jesus. I threw down the hose and told my daughter Lisa to come outside." Lisa happens to be pregnant, and neighbors are suggesting that the image and her pregnancy might somehow be related... i.e. that the sudden appearance of the image is a "sign of God," "a true blessing for her and her family." More likely, it's just another case of pareidolia.

Sometimes these faces in trees are easy to see, but quite frankly, I'm not seeing anything on this tree.
Posted: Fri Aug 03, 2007.   Comments (14)

New Last Supper Theory — An Italian scholar, Slavisa Pesci, claims to have uncovered new secret images hidden in Da Vinci's Last Supper by superimposing the painting on to its mirror image. When you do this you can supposedly see a woman holding a child, as well as a goblet in front of Jesus. Personally, I can't see anything at all. It all looks like a blurry mess. But Pesci seems to feel that Da Vinci intended for his painting to be viewed this way. He says, "from some of the details you can infer that we are not talking about chance but about a precise calculation."

Two years ago I posted about another Last Supper theory: The idea that an image of the holy grail is hidden in the painting, located on the wall above the head of St. Bartholomew, the disciple at the extreme left.

The hidden holy grail theory seems a lot more plausible to me than this mirror-image theory. (Thanks, Big Gary)
Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2007.   Comments (9)

Is that the real Buddha’s tooth? — In a Buddhist temple in Singapore, stored inside a solid gold stupa, lies a tooth. The monks who run the temple claim that it's the Buddha's tooth. But others are not so sure. Apparently, "some experts have reportedly questioned whether the tooth is from the Buddha himself." Wow! It's hard to imagine something like this would be fake.

The problem seems to be that the tooth looks suspiciously like the tooth of a herbivore, such as a horse or a buffalo. Apparently vendors in places such as Myanmar often try to sell similar-looking teeth to tourists. Vets have confirmed that the teeth the vendors sell come from herbivores.

However, the monks in the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple are not about to let scientists do any tests on their Buddha's tooth. They argue that DNA testing is an invasive procedure and is a practical challenge to conduct. Plus, once it's confirmed as a fake, they'd be out of a job.

My favorite line from the Channel NewsAsia article: Renowned artist Tan Swie Hian says, "I don't mind praying to a buffalo's tooth provided I'm told it is one. Let me get it right before my prayer."
Posted: Mon Jul 23, 2007.   Comments (5)

Speaking of urban legends in the Third World… — A young Indian boy is claiming to be the reincarnation of an American scientist. According to the article linked below, he speaks mostly gibberish with a few "scientific" words mixed in. Proof enough for me! I especially like the next-to-last paragraph of the article. [Thanks to the reader who submitted this story]

Indian boy claims to be reincarnation of American scientist
Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007.   Comments (18)

Paris Hilton — Like with the iPhone (story below), I sincerely doubt I have to tell you who Paris Hilton is. I'm not sure, however, any of us could say what exactly it is she does for a living. Well, I've read that she charges Big Bucks to appear at people's parties, but what do you write on your tax forms in the box that says "Occupation" if that's what you do?

The "hoax" I'm referring to here, though, is her alleged conversion to--what? Christianity? Zoroastrianism? Scientology? Whatever sect she's aligning herself with now, she's turned over a new leaf after her stint in Oz. Sure, in the Olden Days, a person might have to rot on Devil's Island for years before deciding that there is a Controlling Entity in the Universe that one should respect, but in our accelerated age, apparently 23 days of wearing an unflattering orange jumpsuit can have the same effect on a person.

I note with interest that the New Improved Paris is wearing either no makeup or less obvious makeup since her brush with Fashion Hell. Sorry for being cynical, P.H., but I think the New You is more attributable to New P.R. than an epiphany.


According to this story, bodog.com took bets on whether or not Paris would talk about God during her Larry King interview Wednesday night.
Posted: Thu Jun 28, 2007.   Comments (16)

Face of God in Ceiling — image Memphis church-goers claim that the face of God has appeared in the ceiling of their church. The story of the image's first appearance is quite dramatic:
Pastor Reginald Lowery of Miracle Crusade Bible Church Holiness said it all started one Friday night at his church, located near 6th and Looney. "I was preaching on 'God Knows Where We Are,' and all of a sudden a big bang hit the church," he said. With that, Lowery said, alarms all over the neighborhood started going off, including those at the church. Then, according to the pastor, something else happened. "The lights on the inside went to solid gold," he said. It was then that Lowery's daughter first saw it: The face of God on the church's ceiling.
The catch is that you can only see the image while looking through a camera -- apparently a cellphone camera works best. (God works in mysterious ways.) The bottom thumbnail shows the face through a cellphone camera, and it is actually easier to see what they're talking about that way. The higher contrast accentuates the pattern.

The wmctv article notes that "skeptics may claim the face is simply a reflection from a light hanging from the church's ceiling." I actually think it looks like the face of a giant cat. (via Fortean News)

Update: The same news channel also has a story about the face of Jesus in a tree outside a Memphis church (a two-for-one pareidolia feature). I added this to my list of faces in trees in the hoaxipedia.
Posted: Thu Jun 21, 2007.   Comments (13)

Faces in Trees — I was inspired by the news story about the mayor's face in a tree to search out other examples of faces in trees. I knew that stories about faces in trees pop up regularly in the news, but to my knowledge no one had ever collected these stories together in one place. So it seemed like an appropriate thing to waste a couple of hours doing. I posted the results in the hoaxipedia. It's more faces in trees than you can shake a stick at.
Posted: Fri Jun 08, 2007.   Comments ()

Quick Links: Jesus on Google Maps, etc. — image
Jesus on Google Maps
Brian Martin claims that he saw the shape of Jesus in the clouds above Mount Sinai.
(Thanks, Madmouse.)

Cat Gives Birth to 'Puppy'
Following on from the Japanese poodle scam hoax, this made me laugh.
A cat in Zhengzhou, China has supposedly given birth to a litter of four, one of which looks like a poodle. There are no pictures to accompany the article, however.
(Thanks, Robert.)

Sexism in Tetris
It seems a lot of people didn't realise the April 1st post on this computer site was a joke.
(Thanks, ponygirl.)
Posted: Wed May 02, 2007.   Comments (6)

Quick Links: Honesty, Graffiti, Hindu Goddess, and Mozart —
Brits flunk honesty test
A credit-card protection firm, Affinion International, conducted an experiment in which they left items such as mobile phones, key, and wallets in city centres (Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, London, and Manchester). All the items were clearly marked with the owner's contact number, but most were never returned. Not surprising.

Obscene messages end graffiti experiment
Officials in Louisville tried to give graffiti artists a legal place to practice their craft, but abandoned the experiment after the concrete walls simply became filled with obscene messages. The walls will now be painted beige... and will doubtless soon be covered with illegal graffiti.

Man from Tooting becomes Hindu Goddess
Steve Cooper was just a run-of-the-mill unemployed guy in his hometown of Tooting, England. But when he moved to India he became known as the reincarnation of Bahucharaji, the patron of Indian eunuchs. I wonder how exactly he came into this new career. That's a story I'd like to know.

Mozart Effect debunked
A study commissioned by the German government has officially debunked the Mozart Effect -- which is the idea that listening to certain kinds of classical music will raise a person's intelligence.
Posted: Tue Apr 17, 2007.   Comments (5)

Yemeni Man Grows Horns from Head — image102-year-old Saleh Talib Saleh says he had had dreams when he was younger of growing horns from his head.
At the age of 77, he started noticing a hard patch on his scalp. It wasn’t really bothering him and, since at the time there were no local medical facilities, he just ignored it.
Gradually, the hard patch grew into what looked like a horn. The growth reached 1.6 feet before the stress on it, due to everyday life, caused it to weaken and fall off.

Almost immediately, a second ‘horn’ began growing in the place of the first. Many people from around the Gulf countries have travelled to visit Saleh in order to view what he considers to be a ‘gift from Allah’.

So, is this story true?
Well, I haven’t been able to track down much coverage of it (these aren’t the easiest search terms to isolate). Saleh has said he had no local medical facilities when he first grew the horn, but there is no mention of his having been to see a doctor (or a doctor seeing him) in the following twenty-five years. The only photograph I’ve found is the one in the linked article.

(Thanks, Tah.)

Edit: The complete photograph (shown in the article) seems to have some sort of Arabic writing at the bottom. Can anyone translate?
Posted: Wed Feb 28, 2007.   Comments (23)

Quick Links: Statue of Jesus Shoots Sparks, etc. — image
Statue of Jesus Shoots Sparks
Visitors to the Liverpool Academy of Art have claimed that a sculpture of Jesus has shot sparks from its eyes. 'Cleansing of the Temple' by Brian Burgess is a steel and bronze statue. Some visitors have also apparently gone into a trance whilst kneeling at the base of the sculpture. The artist says: "I worked on the piece for about a year but I never saw any sparks apart from those coming from the welding torch."
Forum thread here.
(Thanks, Madmouse.)

Snorkeler Mistaken for Rodent
John William Cheesman was shot in the face whilst diving when a 60-year-old man mistook him for a nutria - a type of water-dwelling South American rodent. The shooter, William Roderick, has been charged with assault, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of methamphetamine and marijuana.

Bald Hall of Fame
This website features a gallery of celebrities. Bald.
Posted: Tue Feb 13, 2007.   Comments (7)

Quick Links: Chicken Born With Duck Feet, etc. — image
Chicken Born With Duck Feet
A chicken in Columbia has surprised everyone by being born with webbed feet and legs like a duck. Vetinary experts say that the chicken is not a result of cross-species breeding, and is just a genetic mishap.
(Thanks, Adam.)

Divine Or Delusional?
wcbstv.com has a gallery of images showing items on which religious icons have allegedly been found. We've covered a few of them here, but some of the images were new to me. I found I could generally make out the figure or face or whatever was being claimed to be there, if I squinted or tilted my head, however some of them were really beyond my ability to make out, even though I was trying to. Personally, I accredit these phenomena to pareidolia.

Vatican Newspaper Denounces Fake Penitent
The Vatican Newspaper has attacked a reporter who, in the course of writing an article for a magazine, made false confessions to 24 different priests. The article the reporter was writing was researching whether priests followed the strict teachings of the church, and how they handled difficult situations in which to give advice.

Museum of Hoaxes is Site of the Week
Scifi.com has this week chosen the Museum of Hoaxes as its Site of the Week.
(Thanks, Hulitoons.)
Posted: Sun Feb 11, 2007.   Comments (15)

Quick Links: Holy Spatula, etc. —
Holy Spatula
A spatula used to flip a pancake that supposedly had the image of Jesus on it is now up for sale on ebay. The pancake itself was eaten. The seller says: ”Look closely at the middle photo, and you can see that it bears some mysterious symbols, possibly some kind of sacred message. I'm no religious scholar, but I'm sure this had some kind of spiritual significance.”

Art as Prank
A ‘Your Ad Here’ illuminated sign on the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles proved to be the work of L.A. graphic artist James Cui.

Man Fakes Robbery to Get Back to Prison
Danny Robert Villegas enjoyed prison so much that he staged a robbery in order to get sent back.

Posted: Tue Jan 16, 2007.   Comments (13)

Traveling Baby Jesus Prank — Last year a plastic baby Jesus was stolen from the nativity scene outside the home of the Leising family in Buffalo, New York. The Leisings were devestated, feeling that Jesus should have been off-limit from pranks. But recently Baby Jesus reappeared on their doorstep, along with a book titled "Baby Jesus Chronicles" that showed all the adventures he had been on during the past year. He had been camping, made brownies, went on a bike ride, had a few drinks, etc. Mrs. Leising commented, "They didn't go anywhere real expensive and spend a lot of money on Jesus, but they showed him a really good time." So now all is forgiven. This year Jesus is back in their nativity scene.

image image

Posted: Thu Dec 21, 2006.   Comments (6)

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