Hoax Museum Blog: Urban Legends

Chinese Killer Bananas — Back in 2000 an email rumor was going around here in the U.S. warning of bananas infected by a flesh-eating bacteria. The rumor read, in part, that: Several shipments of bananas from Costa Rica have been infected with necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh-eating bacteria... It is advised not to purchase bananas for the next three weeks. Because of this rumor, the Centers for Disease Control had to issue a warning assuring everyone that no shipments of killer bananas had ever…
Posted: Thu May 31, 2007.   Comments (8)

The Legend of Deerman — A series of articles by Dave Clarke of the Star Courier has revived interest in the legend of the Deerman. The legend is local to Kewanee, Illinois. It tells of a creature, with the upper body of a deer and the lower body of a man, that lurks in the woods, occasionally popping up to scare lovers parked on moonlit nights or people wandering around alone. Supposedly if you see Deerman three times you die. Clarke credits Jerry Moriarity, the editor and publisher of the Star Courier during…
Posted: Fri May 25, 2007.   Comments (19)

Killer Mobile Phone Virus — I'm a bit late with this, but I see (via Fortean Times) that last month Reuters reported that rumors were spreading around Pakistan and Afghanistan alleging that: a deadly virus was being sent through mobile phones, and that anyone answering phone calls from some certain numbers would contract a fatal illness. The rumours claimed that "as soon as you answer your phone blood comes out of your mouth, nose and ears and you die" The local phone companies were trying to calm people down,…
Posted: Fri May 18, 2007.   Comments (30)

PC World’s Top 25 Web Hoaxes — PC World writer Steve Bass compiled a list of the Top 25 Web Hoaxes and Pranks. Here's the list (minus Bass's commentary): The Accidental Tourist Sick Kid Needs Your Help Bill Gates Money Giveaway Five-Cent E-Mail Tax Nigerian 419 E-Mail Scam Kidney Harvesting Time You've Got Virus! Microsoft Buys Firefox The Really Big Kitty $250 Cookie Recipe Free Vacation Courtesy of Disney Sunset Over Africa Alien Autopsy at Roswell, New Mexico Real-Time GPS Cell Phone Tracking Apollo Moon Landing…
Posted: Sat May 05, 2007.   Comments (3)


Quick Links: Pig-Tossing, etc. — Pig-Tossing A number of incidents involving animal throwing have been reported in West Point, Miss., leading one to the conclusion that the sport is the new fad for those to whom cow-tipping is just too passé. Mayor of Lebanon Sends Chain Letter The Mayor of Lebanon was not available to comment after he discovered that the Make-A-Wish chain letter that he sent to 33 other businessmen was a hoax. Woman Sues Over Fake Avocado Dip A Los Angeles woman has filed a lawsuit against Kraft,…
Posted: Wed Dec 20, 2006.   Comments (14)

Quick Links: Bear Hunting, etc. — Spanish King Shoots Drunk Bear When the Spanish King visited Russia recently he was taken on a bear hunt. But apparently "hunt organizers, keen to make the King of Spain's chances of killing a bear easier, provided a tame one drunk on vodka." Sad. But the last paragraph of the story is even more pathetic: "Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev had trouble with his aim in his later years. Some of the animals he liked to stalk were either tied to trees or plied with booze." (Thanks, Big Gary)
Posted: Mon Oct 23, 2006.   Comments (11)

Hanging Munchkin set for Stage Debut — The well-known and much maligned Wizard of Oz urban legend – that of a scene in the film where one can ‘see’ one of the munchkins hanging himself at the back of the set – is the centre theme of a show opening in Dublin this week. Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh has focused the play, depicting the lives of the actors who portrayed the munchkins, around the premise that the legend is true. The BBC quotes him as saying: "It's a persistent myth - the point about myths is they don't have…
Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006.   Comments (8)

Foot Myths — image: bastetThe Xenna Corporation has issued a press release in which they detail a number of widely circulated myths about feet. These include: • If a person's second toe is longer than the others, they are dependable, conservative and keep their emotions in check. • If a person's third toe is bigger than the others, they're hot-headed and have a temper. • If a person has long toes, they're among the thinkers of the world. • If a person's feet are wide, they're a hard worker and have…
Posted: Wed Aug 02, 2006.   Comments (25)

Did Einstein Consider Geography More Difficult Than Physics? — Status: Hoax The following quotation is widely attributed to Albert Einstein: "As a young man, my fondest dream was to become a geographer. However, while working in the Customs Office, I thought deeply about the matter and concluded that it was far too difficult a subject. With some reluctance, I then turned to physics as an alternative." Did he ever say it? No. Nor did he ever work in the Customs Office. (He worked in the Patent Office.) In an article in the Toronto Star, Sharon…
Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2006.   Comments (7)

The Frosties Kid Is Dead — Status: Urban Legend A recent ad for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes shows a blond-haired kid dancing around singing "They're going to taste great!" I think this is a British ad. At least, I've never seen it here in America. And all the references to it I've found occur in the British press. For instance, David Whitehouse writes in the Guardian: Pity the poor Kellogg's marketing department... all they wanted to do was make an advert in which a chirpy young scamp would skip his way through the…
Posted: Fri Jul 07, 2006.   Comments (102)

Firediving Image — Status: Photoshopped A Brazilian ad agency (FCB Brasil) has created some pictures as part of a campaign for a diving magazine, one of which illustrates the firediving urban legend (in which a diver gets scooped up by a helicopter bucket and dumped onto a forest fire). The second picture shows a diver getting shot out of a dam. The tagline is "Read Before Diving." Cute. (via Coolzor)
Posted: Tue May 30, 2006.   Comments (3)

The Million Dollar Space Pen — Status: Urban Legend Dwayne Day has an interesting article in Space Review about the urban legend of the Million Dollar Space Pen. I'm sure you've heard the legend before. It's the one in which NASA pays a million dollars to develop a pen that will write in space. The Russians, meanwhile, being a bit more practical and budget-conscious, just use a pencil for their space missions. The truth is that the space pen was independently developed in the mid-1960s by Paul Fisher of the Fisher…
Posted: Mon May 08, 2006.   Comments (17)

Human-Flavored Rum — Status: Probably an urban legend mistaken as news This could be the next big thing: Soylent Green Human-Flavored Rum. Reuters reports: Hungarian builders who drank their way to the bottom of a huge barrel of rum while renovating a house got a nasty surprise when a pickled corpse tumbled out of the empty barrel, a police magazine website reported... the body of the man had been shipped back from Jamaica 20 years ago by his wife in the barrel of rum in order to avoid the cost and…
Posted: Thu May 04, 2006.   Comments (15)

Collecting Junk For Charity — Status: Urban Legend The Oroville Mercury Register has an interesting article about the lost art of saving— how people don't save stuff the way they used to. A lot of people, myself included, save rubber bands and plastic bags in order to reuse them, but back in the old days it was common to religiously save string and tinfoil. The tinfoil, in particular, was a bit of a mystery since it never seemed to be reused. It would just accumulate, the ball of it growing larger and larger over…
Posted: Thu May 04, 2006.   Comments (24)

Chapstick Lets You Cheat on Scantron Tests — Status: Urban Legend Here's an odd urban legend that I just stumbled across. Supposedly if you smear chapstick down the side of a scantron sheet (the kind used for standardized tests such as the SAT), the grading machine will mark all your answers correct. The theory is that the chapstick will interfere with the scanning light, confusing it into thinking that your answers are correct. Needless to say, this doesn't work. Some guy named Richard Mangahas has written a short article
Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2006.   Comments (37)

The Tongue Map — Status: Urban Legend One of the many catalogs I receive is the Wine Enthusiast. On the inside cover of the catalog I received last week is a description of Symphony Stemware wine glasses which are supposedly "designed and shaped to enhance the best characteristics of every wine." Accompanying this claim is a map of the tongue with the following caption: "The specially designed shape of each glass directs the flow of wine to the proper areas of your palate, emphasizing a wine's best…
Posted: Sun Feb 26, 2006.   Comments (30)

Philippine Urban Legends (Jose Rizal was Jack the Ripper) — Status: urban legends An article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer records some Philippine urban legends: the "White Lady" of Balete Drive, Robina Gokongwei's "snake twin" lurking in department store dressing rooms, the elusive "kapre" that lives in an ancient mango tree near the Emilio Aguinaldo house in Kawit town, and Andres Bonifacio's love child from a place aptly named Libog (now Santo Domingo) in Albay province. None of those mean much to me. But most of the article is devoted…
Posted: Wed Feb 22, 2006.   Comments (190)

Popular Myths in Science — Status: Urban Legends LiveScience.com has a list of the 20 Most Popular Myths in Science. Included in the list are classics such as these: It takes seven years to digest gum. Hair and fingernails continue growing after death. A penny dropped from the top of a tall building could kill a pedestrian. Humans use only 10 percent of their brains. You get less wet by running in the rain. Eating a poppy seed bagel mimics opium use. Oddly enough, they also throw a few strange-but-true items…
Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2006.   Comments (17)

Comic Book Urban Legends — The Comics Should Be Good blog is creating a database of comic book urban legends. I don't recognize all the names and characters referred to, but it makes for interesting reading anyway. Here's a few samples (full explanations for all of these at Comics Should Be Good): Wolverine's costume was patterned in part on the uniforms of the Michigan Wolverines football team. (False) Joker was originally killed off in his SECOND appearance! (True) Wolverine was initially intended to be a…
Posted: Mon Feb 13, 2006.   Comments (7)

Is Lip Balm Addictive? — Status: Undetermined There's an old urban legend that states that the makers of lip balm (Carmex, specifically), add ground-up fiberglass to their product. The glass irritates people's lips, causing them to feel like they need to apply the balm again and again. There's another urban legend that states that lip balm interferes with the moisture sensors in the lips, causing lips to become dry and requiring more lip balm to be applied. Neither of these urban legends is true. Carmex debunks…
Posted: Tue Jan 24, 2006.   Comments (21)

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