This got posted over at Weird Universe (though not by me), but it didn't trigger any hoax alarms in my head. But it should have. MSNBC reporter Erin Tennant was suspicious, did some investigating, and discovered it was all a hoax. Or rather, it seems to have been a case of satire mistaken as news. And it was that bastion of great journalism, the Daily Mail, that first published the story in English. More details from MSNBC:
when msnbc.com contacted police in Wroclaw, Poland, about the supposed criminal case, a spokesman said they had no record of such an incident.
"Lower Silesia Police Department has not been notified about such an event and is not investigating such a case," Pawel Petrykowski of the Provincial Police Headquarters in Wroclaw said in an email that was translated into English.
A legal adviser for Poland’s Chamber of Physicians and Dentists, which handles disciplinary matters, said the organization is not investigating and has never investigated any such case, and added that there is no dental practitioner named Anna Maćkowiak listed in Poland’s central register of dentists.
"No information about this kind of misconduct has been provided to the Supreme Chamber," the legal advisor, Marek Szewczyński, said in an email. "The Supreme Chamber is also not aware of any actions of this kind being taken by the Regional Chamber of Physicians and Dentists in Wroclaw, which would be the competent authority in case of a possible professional misconduct committed by a dental practitioner from Wroclaw."
Most online news outlets in Poland left the story alone. Polish television news channel TVN4 published an article mocking foreign media's coverage of the story, which it speculates began as a prank. "It appears that the article, written as a joke, began life on the Internet and has little to do with any truth," the translated article reads.
All the news reports about Maćkowiak published on news websites in the U.S. and elsewhere, such as Australia’s Herald Sun or New Zealand Herald, can be traced back to an article published in the online edition of Britain's Daily Mail newspaper.
The article, which has been shared on Facebook more than 75,000 times since it was published on April 27, appears under the byline of staff reporter Simon Tomlinson.
But Tomlinson said he does not know where the story came from and distanced himself from it when questioned about its origins.
"I've drawn a bit of a blank," he said in an email. "The (Daily) Mail Foreign Service, which did the piece for the paper, is really just an umbrella term for copy put together from agencies. My news desk isn’t sure where exactly it came from."
Controversy over Egyptian ‘Farewell Intercourse Law’ —
Late last week a strange story emerged alleging that Egypt's parliament was considering a 'Farewell Intercourse Law' to make it legal for Egyptian husbands to have sex with their dead wives for up to six hours after death. Why six hours? I assume to make sure the tender last moments are wrapped up before rigor mortis fully sets in. Though according to Wikipedia, rigor mortis begins after 3 to 4 hours, so that might be a bit awkward.
Naturally a lot of news orgs ran the story without bothering to do any kind of fact-checking. Then they had to backpedal after it became apparent there wasn't any kind of truth to the report.
TheAmericanMuslim.org tried to find the source of the story and traced it to a fringe Moroccan sheikh, Zamzami Abdelbari, who suggested (a while ago) that Islam might allow the practice. This recently inspired an Egyptian talk-show host to mention the idea. Then a pro-Mubarak columnist for Al-Ahram picked up on it, claiming it was an actual law that was being considered by the Islamist parliament. This provoked a TV commentary on the channel ON TV, which was then reported by the English website of Al-Arabiya. And this, finally, brought it to the attention of English-language news orgs that promptly ran the story. The whole thing was like an extended game of telephone.
The premise is that if you're an attractive person (but most likely a woman) who likes to travel, they'll pair you with a "generous" traveler who wants a traveling companion (a rich guy). So it's like a high-class escort service, trading travel for "companionship."
The concept seemed a bit dubious to me, but as far as I can tell the site is legitimate. It's registered to InfoStream Group Inc., which is in the business of "millionaire & fantasy dating." They've had the site registered since 2001.
If you're an unattractive wannabe traveler, I guess you're out of luck.
Professor argues dating sites do nothing more than weed out the freaks —
UCLA Professor Benjamin Karney thinks that online dating site eHarmony is making fraudulent claims about the scientific basis of its business. He admits it may provide a helpful service by providing access to a larger dating pool and 'weeding out the freaks.' But the company also claims that it's using "scientifically proven" methods in order to predict "happier, healthier long-term relationships." And that, Karney insists, just isn't so.
UCLA Professors Say eHarmony Is Unscientific and its Customers Are 'Duped.' Here's Why.
"If you're gonna make scientific claims, act like a scientist. Or don't make scientific claims," UCLA social psychology professor Benjamin Karney says, leaning forward in his chair in his office at UCLA's Franz Hall, his voice rising an octave. "Don't pretend!"...
On Feb. 17, Karney and four co-authors published "Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science," a secondary study that looks at established relationship science to critique dating websites that claim to have a scientific basis for matching singles, including eHarmony, Chemistry (whose methods are "almost crazy," according to Bradbury) and PerfectMatch and GenePartner (whose methods are "basically adorable," according to Karney).
Yet Another Fake Girlfriend Company —
The Fake Girlfriend industry is amazingly robust. I posted about some fake-girlfriend companies just a few months ago, and here's another one: Girlfriend Hire. For only $5, a real girl (or someone claiming to be a real girl) will pretend to be your girlfriend, or help you break up with your actual girlfriend, or do pretty much anything that doesn't involve physically meeting. (via Gizmodo)
Now I'm willing to believe that there are niche dating sites out there, but SeaCaptainDate.com seems a little too weird to be real. Is it really just an elaborate joke?
I'm not the first to ponder this question. The site first attracted attention back in Jan 2011, when articles about it appeared on nerve.com, time.com, and howaboutwe.com (among others). These sites expressed some doubts, but overall leaned toward the site being real.
Most recently, jezebel.com weighed in on the matter -- and they too decided the site seemed to be real, since they managed to contact a spokesperson for the site who, in turn, connected them with a woman who claimed she had actually been on a date with a sea captain through the site.
Jezebel.com conceded that both the site rep and the woman could have been in on the gag, but noted, "if that's true, someone out there is trying really, really hard to make us believe that you can sign up to date sea captains on the internet. And that's a labor of love in itself."
However, I still have my doubts. Here are the things that have my hoax-sense buzzing:
1) The site is registered anonymously. This, in itself, doesn't mean anything, except that anonymity is the preferred method-of-operation of hoaxers.
2) The site was registered in 2010, but it claims that its business has existed since 2007. It explains that it used to be called AtlantisDate.com. However, I can't find any evidence that AtlantisDate.com ever existed before 2011. According to the info in the WHOIS database, atlantisdate.com was only created in Jan 2011, which is a bit odd if the site supposedly existed since 2007.
3) The gallery of sea captains who are members of the site doesn't seem to have changed at all since Jan 2011. So if the site is real, its member base is pretty static. Doesn't appear to be getting much new business.
4) Finally, check out the Sea Captain Date Song -- and listen to the lyrics:
There's a place to go
To find the lady of your dreams
And sail into the sunset
Where no one hears her screams
I'm sorry, but no real dating business would be making jokes about its members murdering women on the high seas.
The site credits the Sea Captain Date Song to "acclaimed songwriter and musician" Cole Gladis. Coincidentally, Gladis lives in Philadelphia, where Sea Captain Date also says that it has its offices. I'm guessing the entire site is a joke dreamed up by Gladis.
you need to save the Fake Girlfriend number into your phone under her fictitious name. Then, when you're out with friends or a woman you're trying to make jealous, just text that number. You'll shortly get a text and then a pre-recorded call.
In a similar vein, Cloud Girlfriend is a service that allows you to create a fake Facebook girlfriend.
I wrote a bit about the history of imaginary online girlfriends in Hippo Eats Dwarf. The idea started on eBay back in 2003, when a 22-year-old Texas college student, Judy, posted an auction offering to become the highest bidder's imaginary girlfriend. The idea proved so popular that soon imaginary girlfriend companies were popping up, such as ImaginaryGirlfriend.com, which debuted in early 2004 (but which no longer exists).
However, I don't know anything about the history of imaginary girlfriends in the pre-internet days before the 21st Century. Were there companies that, for a fee, would send you love letters? Or are imaginary girlfriends a creation of the internet era? Perhaps I'll have to waste a few hours researching that.
Bunga Bunga —
The news from Italy is that Silvio Berlusconi has been engaging in some wild "Bunga Bunga" parties. Or so says a 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer who attended one of these parties. No one is really sure what a Bunga Bunga party entails, except that Berlusconi apparently learned the practice from Muammar Kaddafi, and it has something to do with sex.
On Slate.com, Brian Palmer explores the mystery of just what Bunga Bunga might be. The leading theory is that it derives from an old joke in which some western explorers are caught by a primitive tribe and offered a choice between Death or Bunga Bunga. I've actually heard this joke before. The punchline is that when an explorer chooses death, after realizing Bunga Bunga involves some kind of awful sexual torture, he's told that it will be "Death by Bunga Bunga." At least, that's the version I heard. On Slate, Palmer tells a slightly different version.
Anyway, there's a hoax connection here, because "Bunga Bunga" also happens to be the phrase uttered by Horace de Vere Cole and his accomplices while hoaxing the British Navy in 1910 during the Dreadnought hoax.
Margaret Mead Redeemed? —
A new salvo has been fired in the ongoing controversy about whether the anthropologist Margaret Mead was "hoaxed" during her research in Samoa in 1925. I've got a brief article about the controversy in the hoax archive. To summarize: Mead traveled to Samoa, interviewed some teenage girls about their sexual behavior, and concluded that Samoan culture had very relaxed, easygoing attitudes about sex. Almost sixty years later Derek Freeman challenged her findings and claimed that the teenage girls had told her wild tales, which she had been gullible enough to believe. Freeman's claims were partially based on the testimony of one of Mead's interviewees, Fa'apua'a, whom he tracked down in Samoa.
Freeman stated his argument so boldly and presented it with such certainty that it seemed believable. In fact, it seemed foolish not to believe him. Almost no one thought that it might be a good idea to look at the actual interviews with Fa’apua’a and to ask if Freeman’s certitudes about the value of her testimony were warranted. These unpublished interviews with her demonstrate that there is no compelling evidence that Mead was hoaxed. It was a good story — a story that many people wanted to believe. Alas, it was a story that was too good to be true.
Wanted: Lap Dance Researcher —
A help wanted notice recently appeared on the website of the University of Leeds for a research officer whose job would be to research "The rise and regulation of lap dancing and the place of sexual labour and consumption in the night time economy."
Sounds like a hard job. But is it real? Gill, who sent me the link, writes, "It LOOKS like a hoax, it SMELLS like a hoax, but....?"
I don't think it's a hoax. It's legitimately on the University of Leeds site, and sociologists definitely study the sex industry. Anyway, anyone who was thinking of applying is too late. The deadline was November 27.
A suspicious wife posed as a teenager online to catch her husband propositioning girls in a chatroom, Cardiff Crown Court has heard...
The court heard that mother-of-two Mrs Roberts became suspicious about the amount of time her husband was spending in his study and of a message which popped up on their computer while he was out.
While Roberts was chatting online in his study, Mrs Roberts used a different computer in the living room at their home in Pantygog, Bridgend, and pretended to be a schoolgirl.
Roberts propositioned the "girl", unaware he was chatting to his wife, the court was told.
Perverted Big Brother —
Nine Turkish women thought they had signed up to participate in a reality show. Instead, they had fallen into the clutches of a pornographer, who kept them imprisoned for two months while selling naked photos of them on the internet. "The women were not abused or harassed sexually. They were told however, to fight each other, to wear bikinis and dance by villa's pool." Turkish police finally realized what was going on and freed them. [msnbc.com]
Shanghai Sperm Bank Offers Helping Hand —
Pictures showing a Shanghai Sperm Bank that allegedly "gives men a hand" with sperm donations did the rounds last year, and now they seem to be circulating again. The deal is supposedly that if you agree to get a health check and abstain from sex and masturbation, then you can donate your sperm 4-5 times a month. You get paid RMB200 per session. The sperm bank is located in Ren ji Hospital, No 145 Shan Dong Zhong Lu, Building 1, 7th FL, near Fu Zhou Lu, Shanghai, China. Click here and here for the pics, which are potentially NSFW.
The Shanghai Sperm Bank is real, but its nurses don't actually help with the sperm donation process. The Sperm Bank issued a press release last year insisting that "These pictures are completely misleading. We never have female nurses assisting in sperm collection, which is done by the donor himself, alone in a special room." (Thanks, Asmo!)
Repentant cheating husband was a publicity stunt —
Last week a man made headlines when he stood on a busy street corner in a suburb of Washington DC wearing a sign that read, "I cheated. This is my punishment." The man told reporters his wife had ordered him to wear the sign. When I first read this story I thought it sounded like a publicity stunt. Sure enough, a DC radio show, Hot 99.5 "Kane in the Morning," now admits they engineered the stunt.
The radio station claims they did it as an experiment to see how much attention the stunt would receive from the media. (With RTL's Michael Jackson stunt, that makes two hoax experiments in one week.) When the media tries to pass off its publicity stunts as hoax experiments, I don't buy it. They may claim it was done in the interest of science, but it's still just a publicity stunt.
This legend arose to explain the incredible popularity of the poster, which sold over 12 million copies (by some accounts). It was always a bit of a mystery why that image in particular became such a focus of popular fixation. After all, there were plenty of other posters of scantily clad attractive young women. The subliminal seduction theory offered a seemingly plausible explanation. The poster was so popular, according to this theory, because the brains of young men were subconsciously perceiving the word "SEX" in her hair, and this triggered desire for the poster.
The word "SEX" is supposed to begin with the curls on her right shoulder that form an S. I can see the S, but I can't see an E-X.
Anyway, I don't think one needs to invoke subliminal seduction to explain the popularity of the poster. The combination of the smile and the nipples makes it an eye-catching image. And once it started to become popular, then the dynamics of group psychology kicked in, turning it into a fad.
Update: Thanks to Joel B1, I think I've now identified where the "EX" is supposed to be. For the benefit of those still unable to see it, I've highlighted the entire word in the relevant section of the image.
Virginity restored six times? —
I've posted before about hymen repair, aka Virginity Restoration Surgery. Inevitably, someone has taken what was a stupid concept to begin with and made it even more ridiculous by taking it to an extreme. Mosnews.com reports that a Russian woman, "Natalia K", restored her virginity a total of six times. Only a life-threatening infection stopped her:
When the husband confessed he was upset about her losing her virginity before the wedding and with another man, Natalia decided to make things up for him.
To celebrate their first year together as a married couple, she went to a plastic surgery clinic and had a hymenoplasty operation.
The husband was so delighted with the present, that a year later Natalia wanted to give that joy to him again. And the next year, and the year after that.
Cheating Hubby Caught on Street View —
A recent article in The Sun (and we all know how diligent The Sun is about fact checking) claimed that a woman, while using Google Street View, spotted her husband's car parked outside another woman's home. Now she's filing for divorce!
But Matt Platino, of the Idiot Forever blog, claims he hoaxed the sun into printing the story:
I emailed The Sun, first with the email address email@example.com. I shot them a “frantic” note:
I need your help. One of my mates caught her husband cheating by using Google Street View. He’s a pig. Also, this really shows how the addition of the Street View is hurting people. I think this is a good story for you.
I picked the name Sasha Harris because Sasha sounds somewhat British and Sasha Harris is the prostitute that was involved with Sham-Wow Vince. Also, note how I used words like “mates” and “cheers”. This lulls the Brits into a false sense of security. Unfortunately, I couldn’t logically work the phrases ” ‘Ello Gov-na!” or “mind the gap” into the email.
Then, to back up the story, I emailed the sun from the email address Mr.Mark.Stephens77@gmail.com to add a source. I sent them a picture of the said offending street view. The email was boring so I’m not going to post it, but The Sun quickly responded. They thanked me for the information and asked me if I was Mark Stephens, the media lawyer. I shrugged (even though they couldn’t see me shrug) and basically responded “yeah, sure”.
Apparently I hit a streak of good luck. I got the name Mark Stephens from one of those internet random name generators and went with it. I guess Mark Stephens is a known media lawyer in Britain.
I also got lucky because The Sun is a bunch of fools. The picture I sent wasn’t even a street view.
There's been no word yet from The Sun about their side of the story.
Love in the age of Facebook —
It's hard to tell how much of this story is genuine. Stuart Slann supposedly learned the hard way part of the truth of the old joke that on the internet the men are men, the women are men, and the children are FBI agents. In Stuart's case, Emma, the woman he thought he met on Facebook, was actually two guys playing an elaborate prank on him. Apparently they lured him into driving nine hours to meet Emma in Aberdeen, and then they revealed the truth to him.
And since this is the age of YouTube, the pranksters also created a video (now widely viewed) to celebrate the humiliation of their victim.