The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Urban Legends
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.
Disney World Urban Legends
Posted by The Curator on Tue Oct 04, 2011
Time magazine offers a list of the Top 5 Disney World Urban Legends: Walt Disney built a special suite for himself in Cinderella's castle at the Magic Kingdom. (Apparently this wasn't true while Disney was alive, though there is a suite there now in which special visitors can stay.)Cinderella's castle can be disassembled or made to sink into the ground to protect it from natural disasters such as hurricanes. In the case of a death at a Disney park, no one can be declared dead until their body leaves the park itself.There's a whole other park beneath the Magic Kingdom. (No, but there are utility corridors beneath it.)Disney's body was cryogenically frozen and is kept beneath the Pirates…
Plastic Caps for Cancer
Posted by The Curator on Mon Sep 05, 2011
The collecting-junk-for-charity hoax must be at least a century old by now. It resurfaced most recently in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where members of a church had been collecting plastic bottle caps, thinking the caps would somehow help pay for chemotherapy treatment for a sick child. One of the church members, when she learned the truth, had this to say about the hoax: "It's a form of terrorism because it disrupts your day-to-day life and prevents you from doing the things you want to accomplish." That may be stretching the definition of terrorism just a little bit. Though I can understand why she's upset. The article also noted some…
Crop Circles and Ostension
Posted by The Curator on Wed Dec 23, 2009
An article on smithsonian.com discusses the history of crop circles and why people believe in them. Part of the reason is the paradox of ostension. Fake evidence, even if proven fake, nevertheless tends to reinforce belief: False evidence intended to corroborate an existing legend is known to folklorists as “ostension.” This process also inevitably extends the legend. For, even if the evidence is eventually exposed as false, it will have affected people’s perceptions of the phenomenon it was intended to represent. Faked photographs of UFOs, Loch Ness monsters and ghosts generally fall under the heading of ostension. Another example is the series of photographs of fairies taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths at Cottingley, Yorkshire, between 1917 and 1920. These show that the motive for producing such evidence…
Jacob Hadcock: the new Craig Shergold
Posted by The Curator on Thu Dec 17, 2009
The Craig Shergold rumor strikes again. Jacob is a real kid, and he really has leukemia, but he isn't dying. But somehow word got out on the internet that he was dying, and that his last wish was to get christmas cards from everyone. So now the cards are pouring in by the thousands. Link: Associated Press. Below is one of the youtube videos spreading the rumor.
CNET lists top 8 brainless tech rumors
Posted by The Curator on Tue Nov 17, 2009
CNET UK has come up with a list of "the eight most brainless tech rumours ever." They are: Hoverboards are real The large hadron collider will kill us all X-ray is a hoax Home taping to kill music Apple will buy Nintendo Google to buy CNET Y2K Bug will kill us all Bill Gates is the antichrist An odd list. They've omitted classics such as killer cell phone calls, cell phones explode gas stations, sunlamps cook internal organs, the Nokia speed trap detector, and (of course) penis-melting zionist robot combs.
Does dust consist primarily of human skin?
Posted by The Curator on Wed Nov 11, 2009
It's a widely repeated factoid that dust consists primarily of human skin. For instance, one can find this piece of information in the first paragraph on the wikipedia page about dust. But Paloma Beamer, a dust expert at the University of Arizona, disputes this claim. From NPR.org: Beamer says there are really only two places dust can come from: outdoors and indoors. We are an important part of the process of getting the outdoor stuff indoors. We bring it with us when we enter a house — through "soil particles that come in on your shoes," says…
Does the internet promote extremism and crazy rumors?
Posted by The Curator on Mon Nov 09, 2009
Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker discusses whether the internet promotes the spread of bizarre rumors by encouraging "group polarization": People’s tendency to become more extreme after speaking with like-minded others has become known as “group polarization”... “Views that would ordinarily dissolve, simply because of an absence of social support, can be found in large numbers on the Internet, even if they are understood to be exotic, indefensible, or bizarre in most communities,” Sunstein observes. Racists used to have to leave home to meet up with other racists (or Democrats with other Democrats, or Republicans with…
The Lunar Effect
Posted by The Curator on Tue Nov 03, 2009
There's a full moon tonight (had a great view of it here in San Diego). This has inspired WSAW in Wisconsin to phone up a local Professor and quiz him about the "lunar effect": A common superstition says accidents, natural disasters, and bizarre crimes increase during a full moon. One Psychology professor says there is no scientific evidence to support a connection between the moon and our moods. The UW-Marathon County Professor has worked in the Psychology field for more than 20 years. He says for centuries, our culture has relied on the urban legend known as "The Lunar Effect" to explain the unexplainable. The Professor says the lack of scientific…
Religious urban legends that refuse to die
Posted by The Curator on Wed Oct 21, 2009
Even though the famous atheist’s body [Madalyn Murray O’Hair] was discovered in 1998 and positively identified in Texas -- and even though she apparently has been dead since she disappeared in 1995 -- patently false rumors about her alleged anti-Christian campaigns continue to spread. Credulous Christians who once forwarded these kinds of rumors in mimeographed chain letters or spread them on talk radio now can broadcast them around the world with the mere click of a mouse. Link: apbnews.com (Thanks, Big Gary!)