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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Urban Legends
Urban Legend Awards Announced — It's not what you think it is. The Urban Legend Awards will honor "contributions made by volunteers, local leaders, businesses, churches, partners and community members to the urban AIDS response in Swaziland." Maybe the term "urban legend" doesn't mean the same thing in Swaziland that it means in the US and UK. [Swazi Observer]
Posted: Fri Jul 03, 2009.   Comments (2)

Cash Stops Bullet — Mythbusters did an episode on the urban legend of a bullet being stopped by a Bible (or a Zippo lighter). They found that a hardcover book of at least 400 pages might stop a bullet, but anything less (including a Zippo) didn't have a chance. Nevertheless, police in Sao Paulo, Brazil are saying that the wad of cash a woman had stuffed in her bra slowed down a bullet enough to save her life. I'm sure the woman is very lucky, but I suspect the cash had nothing to do with her good fortune.[Yahoo!]
Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2009.   Comments (13)

Red Mercury in Sewing Machines — Red Mercury, according to a decades-old rumor, is a key component in the manufacture of nuclear bombs and worth millions of dollars. But now a new variant of the rumor has surfaced in Saudi Arabia, claiming that Red Mercury can also be used to find treasure and ward off evil spirits (in addition to its nuclear-bomb-making abilities). Plus, old Singer sewing machines are said to contain the substance in trace amounts. As a result, many Saudis are in a frenzy to acquire these old sewing…
Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2009.   Comments (4)

Goldfinger Urban Legends — The authors of The Science of James Bond note that the movie Goldfinger has spawned two enduring urban legends: 1) That if you shoot out the window of a plane flying at 35,000 feet, the resulting depressurization will create enough force to suck a person through the hole. Not true! The authors say the airflow wouldn't even be enough to lift a person. 2) It is possible to suffocate by completely covering yourself in gold paint. Therefore, professional dancers who paint themselves know…
Posted: Tue Feb 03, 2009.   Comments (8)


Scottish Urban Legends — Dani Garavelli, writing for Scotsman.com, examines the psychology of urban legends. The article doesn't offer any new insights into urban legends. There's the standard observation: urban legends "hold a mirror up to our culture, giving us an often unflattering reflection of our preoccupations and prejudices." But what I found interesting is that the article listed some urban legends specific to Scotland: For several days, [north-east Scotland] was gripped by a rumour that pop star and…
Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2008.   Comments (9)

The Turkey-Tryptophan Myth, and why do big meals make you drowsy? — Thanksgiving is approaching, which means the "turkey makes you tired because it has high levels of tryptophan" urban legend shall once again be heard at tables throughout America. Baylor College of Medicine dietitian Rebecca Reeves debunks this legend in an interview with the Houston Chronicle: Q: So the tryptophan in turkey doesn't make you sleepy, right? A: I am not sure how (that) gained wide acceptance. The urban legend is that the tryptophan in turkey is what makes you sleepy on…
Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2008.   Comments (12)

Caps for Charity — Another case of the Collecting Junk for Charity hoax. Aleta Brace of Parkersburg, West Virginia collected 20,000 bottle caps, believing that the caps could be redeemed for money which would aid cancer patients. And she wasn't alone. Churches, schools, businesses, and individuals throughout West Virginia have been collecting the bottle caps all summer. The caps would all have gone to waste, but now the Aveda skin care company has announced it'll take the caps and recycle them into new…
Posted: Wed Sep 03, 2008.   Comments (7)

Gays must leave the plane — Posted recently by Tobester in the Hoax Forum: I couldn't resist doing some research on this. Here's what I found. a) It's definitely an urban legend. b) I can't find any record of it ever appearing in the New York Times. c) The earliest mention of it I can find in print dates back to July 10, 2000, when it was discussed in the Sydney Morning Herald. Apparently, in a version circulating back then, they were identified as the source of the tale. They denied this, pointed out the…
Posted: Tue Jul 29, 2008.   Comments (6)

Bra Explodes on NPR — NPR's Storycorps gave the air this week to 94-year-old Betty Jenkins, who tells the tale of an inflatable bra her mother gave her when she was younger. She decided to wear the bra on a plane trip to South America. Unfortunately, as she sat in the unpressurized cabin, her bra started to get bigger and bigger: "As the thing got bigger, I tried to stand up," Jenkins said, "and I couldn't see my feet." The instructions said that the bra's pads could be inflated up to a size 48. "I thought,…
Posted: Tue Jul 01, 2008.   Comments (4)

Gloucester Pregnancy Pact — There's one final news item I've received a lot of emails about in the past week -- and so deserves a place on the front page (though it's already in the forum). The Gloucester Pregnancy Pact. Seventeen girls at Gloucester High School are pregnant. According to Time magazine, they all made a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. From Time: School officials started looking into the matter as early as October after an unusual number of girls began filing into the school…
Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2008.   Comments (13)

Why do casinos have ugly carpets? — There are many rumors about casinos. One I posted about earlier is the belief that casinos pump in oxygen to encourage people to gamble more. (It's not true). Another rumor focuses on the carpets in casinos, which are often noticeably ugly. The theory is that there must be some diabolical reason why they're so ugly. David Schwartz, a historian of gambling, writes, "Casino carpet is known as an exercise in deliberate bad taste that somehow encourages people to gamble." He's collected an…
Posted: Fri May 23, 2008.   Comments (24)

Placebo Walk Buttons — I've previously posted about the issue of placebo walk buttons -- that is, the widespread suspicion that the walk buttons at intersections don't have any effect on traffic lights. (There's also a separate theory that you can control the traffic lights by pushing the button in a special way.) An article on canada.com addresses the issue of placebo buttons at some length. They insist the idea of placebo buttons is a myth (at least for the city of Victoria), and they interview a traffic…
Posted: Thu May 08, 2008.   Comments (11)

It’s a cab, innit — Many British papers have reported the humorous story of a young woman who called the operator trying to order a cab, but instead had a cabinet delivered to her home. Her problem was too much Cockney, and too little Queen's English. From Ananova: the Londoner, 19, wanted a taxi to take her to Bristol airport, and first used the Cockney rhyming slang "Joe Baxi". When the operator told her she couldn't find anyone by that name, the teen replied: "It ain't a person, it's a cab, innit." The…
Posted: Tue Apr 15, 2008.   Comments (14)

Libraries and the Weight of Index Cards — Paul Collins has an interesting article in New Scientist about the Mundaneum, a mid-twentieth century effort to create a vast, interlinked archive, like a "proto-internet," using index cards. But what caught my eye was the first paragraph: UNLIKELY as it sounds now, the hottest thing in information technology was once the index card. In the US, for instance, the War Department struggled with mountains of medical files until the newfangled method of card filing was adopted in 1887. Soon…
Posted: Wed Apr 09, 2008.   Comments (17)

Do casinos pump in oxygen? — Do casinos pump extra oxygen into the air in order to make gamblers feel more energized? I've heard this rumor quite often. The Betfirms.com blog uses some common sense to debunk it: According to my Captain at the local Fire Department, “pumping oxygen into a casino would be a tremendous fire hazard that would greatly increase the flammability of all other objects. Any small fire, anywhere in the hotel, would be fanned and magnify itself by pumped oxygen.” As for the risk/reward…
Posted: Mon Mar 10, 2008.   Comments (9)

Tom Jones’s Million-Dollar Chest Hair — Last week the Daily Mirror reported that 67-year-old singer Tom Jones had insured his chest hair for £3.5million: With tough tour schedules and big money at stake, It's Not Unusual for stars to insure their bodies. So it should come as no surprise to learn that Sir Tom Jones, 67, whose mop of luxurious curly brown hair has made him a hit with the ladies, has had his chest hair insured - for the princely sum of £3.5million! Top insurance house Lloyd's of London was approached about the…
Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2008.   Comments (2)

Urban Legend ER — I don't check out CollegeHumor.com very often, but I came across this short movie they put together called "Urban Legend ER," which I thought was amusing. It imagines what an ER might look like if all the most popular urban legends were real. Warning: It's a little gory in a few places. Update: Posted previously in the forum by Tobester.
Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2008.   Comments (8)

Video Game Urban Legends — Yahoo! Games has an article about urban legends involving video games. Though half the legends they list are true. Here's a summary: Donkey Kong was a mistranslation of Monkey Kong. False. Donkey Kong was the original title. "Donkey" was apparently meant to indicate stubborn stupidity. "Kong" was a reference to King Kong. Saddam Hussein tried to build a supercomputer out of Playstation 2s. False. The rumor was offered as an explanation for a shortage of Playstation 2s, but if an evil…
Posted: Tue Jan 29, 2008.   Comments (8)

Real-Life Kidney Thieves — A kidney transplant ring has been busted in India. Hundreds of poor people were forced into having their kidneys removed. ABC News reports that victims were promised a job, then taken to a private house and forced at gunpoint to sell their kidneys. One victim's story sounds just like the kidney-transplant urban legend: "I was approached by a stranger for a job. When I accepted, I was taken to a room with gunmen," Mohammed Salim told India's local NDTV television channel. "They tested…
Posted: Tue Jan 29, 2008.   Comments (4)

Twins get married… or maybe not — Last week this story was EVERYWHERE. A pair of twins in Britain, who had been adopted into different families, met and fell in love... without realizing they were twins. They then got married, only to discover the terrible secret they shared. Their marriage was promptly annulled. When I first read about this, it sounded pretty fishy to me -- very much like an urban legend being reported as news -- but on a cursory reading of the story I also got the impression that there were officials…
Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2008.   Comments (15)

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