The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Urban Legends
Did President Taft once get stuck in a bathtub?
Posted by The Curator on Thu Feb 07, 2013
William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States (1909-1913), was a large man. He reportedly weighed 355 pounds while in office, and according to rumor, he was so large that he once got stuck in the white house bathtub. The experience supposedly so rattled him that he ordered the installation of an extra-large tub big enough to hold four ordinary men. William Howard Taft The story of him getting stuck in a tub has been frequently repeated in books and newspapers, but is there any truth to the tale? Constitution Daily recently investigated the rumor, scouring through newspaper archives, documents from the National Archives, and Taft biographies, and concluded that "the…
Slave Girl for $7.14 Hoax, 1959
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jan 28, 2013
Here's an example of a rumor that swept through an African community back in 1959. The story appeared in The Bakersfield Californian (Nov. 10, 1959). Slave Girl For $7.14 All A Hoax MOMBASA, Kenya (UPI) — Crowds of Africans who wanted to buy wives for $7.14 each have been told by the government that those stories about slave auctions were only rumor. Local official W.P.M. Maigacho had to issue an official denial of the rumors after men from outlying tribes twice gathered in the town of Tononka, expecting to take part in a slave auction. According to the rumors, native girls from a local mission…
An algorithm for finding the source of rumors
Posted by The Curator on Sun Aug 12, 2012
A Lausanne-based researcher, Pedro Pinto, has developed an algorithm that can quickly trace rumors back to their original source. From eurekalert.org: "Using our method, we can find the source of all kinds of things circulating in a network just by 'listening' to a limited number of members of that network," explains Pinto. Suppose you come across a rumor about yourself that has spread on Facebook and been sent to 500 people – your friends, or even friends of your friends. How do you find the person who started the rumor? "By looking at the messages received by just 15 of your friends, and taking into account the time factor, our algorithm can trace the path…
What do the lines on Solo Cups mean?
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jun 17, 2012
Recently a graphic began circulating on facebook, pinterest, etc. suggesting that the lines on Solo Cups were intended to indicate proper sizes for popular alcoholic drinks (liquor, wine, and beer): The Solo Cup company responded by posting a message on its facebook page, explaining that it never intended the lines to mean any such thing. Although it conceded that the lines could be used for this purpose. Evidently it was worried about being seen as promoting binge drinking, so it offered some non-alcoholic drinks that the lines could also be used to measure, such as water, juice, and chocolate milk. (click to expand image)
Death by Gatorade Shower
Posted by The Curator on Fri May 18, 2012
In his column on latimes.com, Brian Cronin examines the legend that Hall of Fame football coach George Allen got sick and died after being doused in gatorade by his team following a winning season. Did a Gatorade shower kill George Allen? latimes.com After three straight losing seasons, Allen led the Long Beach 49ers to a season-ending victory over the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on November 17, 1990 that secured them a winning season. Allen's team gave him a Gatorade shower (Allen noted that due to the budget issues, the team could not afford actual Gatorade, so it was just ice water). Six weeks later, Allen died. The story is most…
Breast-Sucking Turtles of Namibia
Posted by The Curator on Sat Apr 21, 2012
If you happen to be a young woman in Namibia, watch out for a middle-aged Indian man who may try to strike up a friendship with you. Before too long, he may whip out his breast-sucking turtle. It happened to Lina Sames (link: informante.web.na): Sames, a domestic worker, related how the mysterious man suddenly produced a live turtle, no bigger than the average grown up's hand and pressed the reptile against the victim's right breast. "It proceeded to suck, while at the same time growing bigger. I was then forced to drink blood from the turtle," a traumatized Sames said. And this has happened before! The folklore surrounding…
Study finds that chivalry at sea is a myth. Men survive shipwrecks at much higher rate than women.
Posted by The Curator on Sat Apr 14, 2012
If you're a woman, don't expect much help from men during a shipwreck. In fact, the men are likely to be shoving the women out of the way in their eagerness to save themselves. That's the general message of a new study by Swedish economists Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixson, "Every Man for Himself! Gender, Norms and Survival in Maritime Disasters." Women fare worst on British ships — contrary to the tradition of British chivalry. The one exception to this rule was the Titanic, where Captain Smith announced, 'Women and children first.' And he enforced this rule at gunpoint. But apparently, during disasters it hardly ever occurs to captains to insist that women and children…
UK Legal Urban Legends
Posted by The Curator on Mon Apr 09, 2012
Another list of urban legends from the BBC. This time it's legal urban legends. All the following laws, though frequently repeated, are NOT TRUE: It's illegal to die in Parliament. It's illegal to put a stamp on upside down. It's illegal to eat a mince pie on Christmas Day. It's legal to kill Welsh people in the town of Chester. It's legal for a man to urinate in public, as long as it's on the rear wheel of his car and his right hand is on the vehicle. And pregnant women can legally relieve themselves in any public place, including into a policeman's helmet. London taxis have to carry a bale of hay in their boot. If someone knocks…
The Turd in the Olympic Ring
Posted by The Curator on Sat Apr 07, 2012
Brian Chapman reports the start of an interesting Olympics 2012 rumor on his Legends & Rumors blog: Enormous Olympic rings have started popping up in London. There's a set at St Pancras, another recently floated down the Thames, and a third set will be suspended at Tower Bridge. We're told that there's something special about one of the rings. Someone involved in their construction had a bit of a downer on the whole Olympics in London thing. So he took a shit inside one of the rings. And then had it welded shut.
Myths of the Titanic
Posted by The Curator on Fri Apr 06, 2012
The BBC has an interesting article about myths associated with the Titanic. The five myths they list, summarized, are: The unsinkability of the Titanic: "the White Star Line never made any substantive claims that the Titanic was unsinkable - and nobody really talked about the ship's unsinkability until after the event"The band played Nearer, My God, To Thee: The band probably did play on deck as the ship sank, but there's no good evidence that their final song was 'Nearer, My God, To Thee.'The Heroic Captain Smith: Captain Smith really wasn't that heroic. In fact, his inaction meant that there wasn't a more orderly evacuation.The Villainous J Bruce Ismay: Ismay, present of the company that built the…
The Taj Mahal is Sinking
Posted by The Curator on Tue Mar 13, 2012
Apparently it's because the original architects didn't factor in the weight of all the tourists who visit it. Well, no. Not really. According to the BBC, the real reason is that, "The building's foundations require a steady stream of moisture from the Yamuna River to retain its strength - but the river is slowly drying up." But the headline immediately reminded me of the urban legend of the sinking library.
The Great Banana Smoking Hoax of 1967
Posted by The Curator on Thu Feb 23, 2012
Brooke Kroeger and Cary Abrams have an article in the Local East Village analyzing the Great Banana-Smoking Hoax of 1967 -- in which a rumor spread alleging that you could get high by smoking bananas. Or rather, get high by smoking "bananadine," created by scraping the inside of a banana peel, boiling the residue, then drying out the residue and rolling it into a joint. They try to get to the bottom of who started the rumor. One contender is the staff of the East Village Other magazine. Another theory has the singer Donovan as the instigator, through his song Mellow Yellow. Or perhaps it was the singer Country Joe.
Posted by The Curator on Tue Feb 21, 2012
Social networking sites in Nigeria have been ablaze with the rumor that a woman turned into a snake at the Hotel Excel in Warri. The proprietor of the hotel, Chief Moses Odeh, has been doing everything he can to put out the rumor, but once these stories get started, they acquire a life of their own. (informationnigeria.org) African rumors still have true strangeness to them. Here in America, the majority of twitter and facebook rumors are fake reports of celebrity deaths... which get boring after a while. It'd be kind of refreshing to see a rumor claim that Madonna or Lady Gaga didn't die, but instead turned into a snake.
Are there more doctors from Malawi in Manchester than in Malawi?
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jan 16, 2012
Charlotte McDonald of the BBC News debunks a persistent rumor that there are more doctors from Malawi in Manchester than there are in Malawi itself. Apparently the rumor has been repeated by a variety of sources including "the authors of an international study of health workers, and the head of Malawi's main nursing union." However, the rumor isn't true. She estimates there are approximately 265 doctors in Malawi (which isn't a whole lot for a country of 15 million), but there are only 7 Malawian doctors in Manchester, which has a population of half-a-million. Even if you look at the ratio of doctors to people, Malawi wins out. There's one doctor for every…
Posted by The Curator on Thu Oct 06, 2011
The legend of Out-Of-Control Government Expenditures is alive and well. Back in the 1980s, reports of the US government paying $400 for a hammer and $600 for a toilet sparked outrage. And now, late last month, came the news that the Justice Department had paid $16 a piece for muffins at a 2009 conference. But just as the hammer and toilet weren't really as expensive as they seemed, it turns out that the price of the muffins was an artifact of accounting. The $16 included the entire continental breakfast, service, and taxes. Of course, while the government may not be paying premium price for muffins, those bailouts to the bankers did seem a little steep.