Hoax Museum Blog: Urban Legends

Did Cleopatra Drink a Pearl Dissolved in Vinegar?

Ancient legend tells of Cleopatra drinking an extravagantly expensive beverage — the world's most expensive pearl dissolved in vinegar. But modern scholars disagree about whether she ever really drank such a concoction.

Posted: Sat May 30, 2015.   Comments (0)

The Man on Page 602

Was a male model's genitalia really visible in the 1975 Sears Fall/Winter catalog? We add some new evidence to this old debate. more…

Posted: Thu May 14, 2015.   Comments (2)

Touching wires means instant death and prosecution!

Throughout the 20th century, a brief story ran repeatedly in newspapers about a sign at a power plant that read, "To touch these wires means instant death. Anyone disregarding this notice will be placed under arrest." The story was most likely an urban legend masquerading as news. There's no good evidence that this sign ever hung anywhere. more…

Posted: Fri Apr 17, 2015.   Comments (2)

The Myth of the Poisonous Poinsettia

Millions of poinsettias are sold every year at Christmastime. But are these plants highly poisonous? For decades, many believed so. "One poinsettia leaf can kill a child," was a warning repeated often over the years. more…

Posted: Wed Dec 10, 2014.   Comments (1)


The Legend of the Chloroformed Turkey

The tale of the chloroformed turkey usually involves two women living in the city who decide to get a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But after the turkey has been delivered to their door, they realize they need to kill it. Unwilling to tell the local butcher that they're too squeamish to cut off its head themselves, they search for a "humane" way of ending the bird's life, and come up with the idea of using chloroform. more…

Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2014.   Comments (3)

Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe Redux?

While dining at the Bobby Flay Steak restaurant in Atlantic City, Joe Lentini said he ordered a bottle of Screaming Eagle Oakville 2011, at the recommendation of the waitress, who told him it cost "thirty-seven fifty." He was surprised when this turned out to be $3,750, not $37.50. After he complained the bill was lowered to $2,200. [NY Mag]

Posted: Wed Nov 05, 2014.   Comments (1)

Yellowstone Rumor Control

Guides at Yellowstone are having to spend more time debunking rumors because of a large increase in the number of scare stories about the park circulating online. The rumors mostly focus on the Yellowstone supervolcano and the fear that it's about to erupt. One rumor claims the park is being evacuated because of an imminent eruption. Another says the release of high levels of helium from the park's thermal features is a sign the volcano is about to blow. (The helium release is normal). Melting asphalt on the roads is also normal. And bison are not fleeing the park. It's common for…

Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014.   Comments (0)

The Disappearing Redhead Gene

Marie Claire notes on its blog that the idea that the gene for red hair could soon become "totally extinct" is just a hoax. [The disappearing redhead gene is a variant of the old disappearing blonde gene urban legend.] Nevertheless, Marie Claire does warn that global warming could cause "a dramatic increase in people born with auburn hair." It's getting this from The Daily Record, which in turn is getting it from a Dr. Alistair Moffat who works at a genetic testing company. Moffat's reasoning is that "red hair in Scotland, Ireland and the north of England is adaptation to the…

Posted: Wed Jul 09, 2014.   Comments (5)

Bible Didn’t Stop Bullets

Back in February, a bus driver, Rickey Wagoner, claimed that he was shot at by three teenagers while he was standing outside his bus. But he survived because a Bible he was carrying in his shirt pocket miraculously stopped the bullets. (The version of the Bible was a translation by Eugene Peterson titled 'The Message'.) Police have now conducted a thorough investigation and concluded that the bus driver couldn't have been telling the truth. According to the Dayton Daily News: Police ballistics tests showed that bullets fired from the handgun - a 25-caliber Raven model semiautomatic…

Posted: Mon Jul 07, 2014.   Comments (3)

Calling 999 does not charge your mobile phone battery — Idiotic things people will believe: The Bedfordshire Police recently posted a statement on their website, informing everyone that calling 999 and then disconnecting immediately will not actually boost the battery life of your mobile phone battery, despite a rumor to the contrary. Apparently emergency operators have been receiving a lot of these phone-charging calls. There's a similar rumor that claims you can recharge your mobile phone by putting it in a microwave for a minute. Also…
Posted: Fri Jan 17, 2014.   Comments (2)

Pathetic story of a Nigerian man whose kidney was stolen — The 'kidney thieves' urban legend has resurfaced in Nigeria, as evidenced by the story below which is circulating on Nigerian news sites (such as here and here). This version of the tale has a slight twist. After having his kidney removed, the victim doesn't realize what's happened until weeks later. He doesn't even realize he's been cut open, because the closure of the incision was "perfectly done and skin was used to cover up the stitch." Pathetic Story Of A Nigerian Whose Kidney…
Posted: Tue Jan 07, 2014.   Comments (0)

Saved by the Myth of Poisonous Poinsettias — According to a decaces-old urban legend, the leaves of poinsettias (aka the Christmas Plant) are extremely toxic, and can be fatal if ingested. But the reality is that poinsettias aren't toxic at all. They're not edible, but if you do eat them the worst that will happen is you'll get an upset stomach. You're not going to die. One of the most thorough debunkings of the "poisonous poinsettia" legend can be found in a Nov. 1996 article in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine:
Posted: Thu Dec 26, 2013.   Comments (2)

New York City Urban Legends (according to People magazine) — People magazine recently posted an article that it titled "N.Y.C.'s 8 Craziest Urban Legends Debunked." But that title is misleading, because it turns out the article only lists 3 urban legends, and then the writer must have been unable to find anything else when doing a google search for "New York urban legends," because the other 5 things on the list are random bits of NYC trivia and paranormal speculation. I guess I shouldn't have expected anything more from People magazine. To…
Posted: Thu Dec 19, 2013.   Comments (0)

The Myth of Holiday Suicide — According to urban legend, the holiday season sees a spike in suicides. But Scientific American notes that November and December actually have the lowest rates of suicide. The reason is perhaps because "The increased emotional and social support during holiday time temporarily dims the feelings of despair and anguish for many depressed children and adults." But unfortunately the holiday lull is followed by a peak of suicides in the Spring: "As winter thaws into spring, there is the…
Posted: Tue Dec 17, 2013.   Comments (0)

Help Save the Blondes — Assuming this story is true, it sounds like this woman has fallen for that urban legend about the gene for blonde hair being driven out of existence due to the greater percentage of dark-haired people in the world. According to the legend, the World Health Organization has predicted that in 200 years there will be no blondes left. THIS ANGOLAN LADY WALKS AROUND LONDON CAMPAIGNING TO SAVE BLONDE PEOPLE vice.com Say hello to Maria de Jesus-Lucungo... Maria has made it her life goal to…
Posted: Sun Dec 01, 2013.   Comments (2)

The World’s Leading Authority on Poisoned Candy — In 1985, Joel Best published an article in the sociology journal Social Problems analyzing reports of children receiving dangerous treats on Halloween (razor blades in apples, poisoned candy, etc.). After doing an extensive review of newspaper databases for all cases between 1959 and 1984, he couldn't find a single instance of a child being killed by a Halloween treat, although there were a handful of cases (18) of minor injuries, and a larger number of reports of the discovery of…
Posted: Sat Oct 26, 2013.   Comments (2)

Alcohol Myths — Mental Floss has an interesting, brief article on "6 Absurd Alcohol Myths People Believed During Prohibition". The myths were: Alcohol turns blood into water Merely smelling alcohol could deform unborn children Some bootleg wines were made with cockroaches Most beer drinkers die of dropsy Alcohol can give you a 25-pound liver Drunkards' brains can be used as torches The cockroach wine myth reminds me of the Army Worm Wine that I posted about back in 2005, except that Army Worm Wine was…
Posted: Fri Oct 25, 2013.   Comments (0)

Oops! We forgot the elevators — From Europe comes a good example of the absent-minded engineer urban legend. The most common variant of this legend, which seems to be repeated on almost every university campus, is that the library is sinking, because the engineers forgot to include the weight of the books when designing the building. The version that recently reared its head in the European press is that the Edificio Intempo skyscrapers currently under construction in Spain, which will be Europe's tallest residential…
Posted: Wed Aug 21, 2013.   Comments (1)

Hippo Eats Man — Thanks to Tah for giving me a heads up about this article. The hippo didn't eat a dwarf, but it does give an idea about how it would feel to become hippo food. My favorite line is, "Time passes very slowly when you're in a hippo's mouth." Experience: I was swallowed by a hippo guardian.co.uk There was no transition at all, no sense of approaching danger. It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf. I was aware that my legs were surrounded by water, but my top half was almost dry. I…
Posted: Tue May 07, 2013.   Comments (2)

The Argentinian Pet — I guess it's possible that con artists down in Argentina are giving ferrets steroids to increase their size, then fluffing up their fur and selling them as toy poodles, but as many people have already pointed out, this sounds an awful lot like a variant of the "Mexican pet" legend. Man gets shock of his life when he buys two toy poodles for $150 only to be told by a vet that they are actually GIANT RODENTS pumped up with steroids to look like dogs Daily Mail Gullible bargain hunters…
Posted: Thu Apr 11, 2013.   Comments (9)

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