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Category: This Day in History
June 16, 1946: Jim Moran Hatches an Egg
Publicity man Jim Moran began sitting on an ostrich egg, taking the place of the mother ostrich who supposedly refused to sit on it. He wore special "hatching pants" and sat in a "hatching chair" (a wheelchair with a compartment for the egg) in order to keep it warm. The egg hatched 19 days later. The stunt was designed to promote the 1947 movie "The Egg and I." More…


Posted: Mon Jun 16, 2014.   Comments (0)

June 15, 1936: A.D. Lindsay Acquires the Universe
On this day in 1936, Arthur Dean Lindsay had a deed of claim notarized declaring his ownership of "all of the property known as planets, islands-of-space or other matter." He subsequently filed this deed at the Irwin County Courthouse in Ocilla, Georgia, where it was recorded in the Deed Book. After bringing his ownership rights to the attention of reporters, Lindsay became widely known as the "man who owns the universe." Although skeptics questioned what gave Irwin County the right to give deeds to the heavenly bodies.


Posted: Sun Jun 15, 2014.   Comments (0)

June 14, 1870: Burial of Emile Coudé
On this day in 1870, the French doctor Emile Coudé, inventor of the curved "Coudé Catheter" used by urologists to relieve urinary obstruction, was buried in a churchyard at Villeneuve-la-Comtesse. Except that he wasn't. The man and his biography were invented as a joke by Welsh medical students in the 1950s. Some physicians didn't realize it was a joke and referred to the man in medical textbooks. A few sources still mistakenly claim that the coudé catheter was named after a French physician. In reality, the coudé catheter was invented by Louis Mercier (1811-1882). In French, coudé (the adjective) means bent; coude (the noun) means elbow. More…


Posted: Sat Jun 14, 2014.   Comments (0)

June 13, 1971: "Hanoi John"
On this day in 1971, John Kerry spoke at the Register for Peace Rally in Long Island. Thirty-three years later, during Kerry's 2004 presidential election campaign, a picture surfaced of him at the rally apparently on stage with Jane Fonda. The image circulated widely, but was soon identified as a politically motivated forgery attempting to link him to Fonda, who was widely reviled by conservatives. Fonda had not attended the rally. Her image had been composited into the photo. More…


Posted: Fri Jun 13, 2014.   Comments (0)


June 12, 1922: Margherita Hack Born
Margherita Hack (1922-2013) was an Italian astrophysicist, known also for being a vegetarian, feminist, and outspoken atheist. In 2005, she famously debunked the annual "miracle" of the liquefaction of the blood of San Gennaro by noting that the substance contained in a phial in Naples Cathedral was simply hydrated iron oxide, which looks very much like blood, but liquefies when shaken. She said, "There is nothing mystical about this. You can make the so-called blood in your kitchen at home." This observation sparked widespread outrage in Italy. [The Telegraph]


Posted: Thu Jun 12, 2014.   Comments (0)

June 11, 1990: America Loves Donald Trump!
On this day in 1990, USA Today announced the results of a phone-in poll, showing that 81% of callers believed Donald Trump symbolized "what makes the USA a great country." The headline declared, "You like him! You really like him!" A month later, the paper admitted that 70% of the votes (5,640 of 7,802 calls) came from two phones in an office building in Ohio owned by financier Carl Lindner Jr. Without those votes, the survey showed that a majority of callers believed Trump represented "the things that are wrong with this country." [LA Times]


Posted: Wed Jun 11, 2014.   Comments (0)

June 10, 1865: Frederick Cook Born
American explorer Frederick Cook claimed to have been the first to reach the summit of Mount McKinley, as well as to have been the first to reach the North Pole. Both these claims were derided as fraudulent during his life, and his reputation suffered greatly. Cook had a particularly bitter rivalry with Robert Peary, who also claimed to have been the first to the North Pole. Modern analysis suggests that it's likely neither man actually reached the Pole. [wikipedia]


Posted: Tue Jun 10, 2014.   Comments (0)

June 9, 1987: Save the Geoduck
The Save the Geoduck Committee held a protest in New York to bring attention to the "plight of the geoduck" (which is a kind of clam) because it was apparently threatened with extinction on account of a "voracious international appetite for aphrodisiacs." United Press International covered the protest, leading to nationwide attention for the group. In fact, the geoduck was not in any danger, nor was it used as an aphrodisiac. The Save the Geoduck committee was the creation of media hoaxer Joey Skaggs. [joeyskaggs.com]


Posted: Mon Jun 09, 2014.   Comments (0)

June 8, 1958: The Rooftop Austin Seven
Residents of Cambridge woke to find an Austin Seven parked on the 70ft-high rooftop of Senate House. The student ringleader of the prank later explained that he felt the roof "cried out" to be made more interesting. It took police and firefighters over a week to figure out how to get the car off the roof. [The Telegraph]

June 8, 1992: Pregnant Man Debunked
A Filipino male nurse, Edwin Bayron, who had received worldwide media attention when it was announced that he had become the first ever man to become pregnant, was exposed as a fake. He had initially fooled health officials by claiming to be a hermaphrodite, strapping on a fake belly, and doctoring his urine tests. He concocted the hoax in order to support a court application to legally change his gender so that he could marry his Army officer lover. [top.net.nz]


Posted: Sun Jun 08, 2014.   Comments (4)

June 7, 2009: The Birth of Little April Rose
A Chicago woman who identified herself only as "B" or "April's Mom" had attracted a large online following by blogging about her decision to give birth to a child diagnosed as terminally ill. On June 7, 2009 she announced that the child, April Rose, had survived a home birth, but had died a few hours later. But skeptics soon noticed that the photos of April Rose actually showed a lifelike doll and not a real baby. After this revelation, her entire story quickly unraveled, exposing the truth — that she hadn't been pregnant at all. [Chicago Tribune]


Posted: Sat Jun 07, 2014.   Comments (0)

June 6, 1944: D-Day
Allied forces landed on the beaches at Normandy. The invasion was preceded by Operation Fortitude, one of the largest campaigns of military deception ever undertaken, which involved the creation of fake field armies consisting of inflatable rubber tanks and planes. The Operation succeeded in convincing the Axis powers that the invasion was going to occur somewhere other than Normandy. [wikipedia]

June 6, 2011: Gay Girl in Damascus Kidnapped
It was reported that popular blogger Amina Abdallah Arraf al Omari, author of the blog "A Gay Girl in Damascus," had been captured and detained by armed men in Syria. But as a result of the media attention generated by this news, questions started to be raised about her identity, leading to the revelation that Amina was actually Tom MacMaster , a 40-year-old American man studying for a masters at Edinburgh University. [wikipedia]


Posted: Fri Jun 06, 2014.   Comments (0)

June 5, 1961: Piotr Zak
On this day, the highbrow BBC radio show network Third Programme presented an "avant-garde work" titled "Mobile for Tape and Percussion" by the Polish composer Piotr Zak, who was said to be one of the youngest and most controversial figures in modern music. Two months later, the BBC confessed that Piotr Zak didn't exist. A company BBC spokesman explained, "We dragged together all the instruments we could and went around the studio banging them… It was an experiment to demonstrate that some contemporary compositions are so obscure as to be indistinguishable from tapes of percussion played at random." [wikipedia]

June 5, 2000: Shades for Men Lipstick
Ads appeared on the side of Toronto buses announcing the launch of a men's lipstick line called "Shades for Men." However, this product never went on sale. It turned out to be a hoax campaign used to test the effectiveness of bus advertising as a vehicle for launching new products.


Posted: Thu Jun 05, 2014.   Comments (3)

June 4, 1872: The Great Diamond Hoax
Two prospectors arrived with a group of investors at a field in Colorado that appeared to be full of diamonds lying close to the surface — just as the prospectors had promised it would be. The investors enthusiastically paid a large finding fee, but later discovered (after the prospectors had disappeared) that the field had been artificially salted with diamonds. [Smithsonian]


Posted: Wed Jun 04, 2014.   Comments (0)

June 3, 2002: The Retractable Capitol Dome
On this day in 2002, the Beijing Evening News ran a story alleging that the U.S. Congress was hoping to construct a new Capitol building that included a retractable dome roof. When critics mocked the newspaper for having mistaken a satirical story in The Onion for real news, the paper's editor denied this, saying "How can you prove it's not correct? Is it incorrect just because you say it is?" More …


Posted: Tue Jun 03, 2014.   Comments (0)

June 2, 2001: Dave Manning Exposed
Newsweek reporter John Horn revealed that movie reviewer Dave Manning, whose positive blurbs often appeared on ads for movies put out by Columbia Pictures, didn't actually exist. He was a fictional person created by a marketing executive at Sony, the parent company of Columbia Pictures, entirely for the purpose of making it appear as if their movies were getting good reviews. More…


Posted: Mon Jun 02, 2014.   Comments (0)

June 1, 1997: Wear Sunscreen!
Mary Schmich published a humorous column in the Chicago Tribune on June 1 advising college grads that her best advice for the future was to "wear sunscreen." Two months later, the text of her column began circulating widely via email, but attributed to Kurt Vonnegut and said to be a commencement speech he had given at MIT. Even Vonnegut's wife reportedly received the hoax email and, believing it to actually be the work of her husband, forwarded it to family and friends. [about.com, Chicago Tribune]

June 1, 2007: De Grote Donorshow
The premise of the Dutch reality TV show De Grote Donorshow (The Big Donor Show) was that a terminally ill woman with an incurable brain tumor would decide which of 25 "contestants" in need of a kidney transplant would get to have her organ. Despite widespread condemnation, the show went ahead as planned, airing on June 1, 2007. But minutes before the end, the entire thing was revealed to be a hoax designed to publicize the urgent need for more organ donors. [wikipedia]

Posted: Sun Jun 01, 2014.   Comments (1)

May 31, 1725: The Lying Stones of Dr. Beringer
On this day, Dr. Johann Beringer, a University of W├╝rzburg professor, was given three unusual fossils that showed images (the sun and several worms) in three-dimensional relief. Beringer thought he had made a remarkable discovery and grew even more convinced of this when many more, similar stones turned up. He eventually authored a book about the stones. At which point, he found out that two fellow professors had created the stones to hoax him. More…

May 31, 2003: The Cesky Sen Hypermarket
Lured by ads throughout Prague promoting a new hypermarket called Cesky Sen ("Czech Dream") that would sell products at unbelievably low prices, hundreds of people showed up at the Lethany Fairgrounds for the grand opening. But all they found was a giant Cesky Sen banner. There was no hypermarket, nor plans to build one. Several student filmmakers had set out to record what would happen when consumer's expectations collided with reality, and so had launched a marketing blitz to promote a non-existent, too-good-to-be-true store. More…


Posted: Sat May 31, 2014.   Comments (0)

May 30, 2000: spud server revealed to be a hoax
It was purported to be a web server powered entirely by potatoes, and it served up web pages at an appropriately slow, potato-powered speed. After gaining international media exposure — both USA Today and the BBC reported about it — the makers of Spud Server admitted it was all a joke. There was no giant potato battery powering their site. More…


Posted: Fri May 30, 2014.   Comments (0)

May 29, 1947: Sea Monster Attacks Tokyo
The armed forces radio station in Tokyo interrupted its evening broadcast to report that a 20-foot sea monster had emerged from Tokyo Bay and was making its way inland. A series of bulletins provided updates on the progress of the creature as it derailed trains and smashed buildings. The report caused widespread panic. Military police were put on alert, and Japanese police were told to stand by to fight the monster. But after an hour, the announcer admitted the news flashes had just been a joke in honor of the station's fifth anniversary. More…


Posted: Thu May 29, 2014.   Comments (0)

May 28, 1952: The Cornell War Broadcast Hoax
On the night of May 28, 1952, a group of Cornell students disguised by halloween masks raided the campus radio station, WVBR, and began broadcasting news flashes claiming that Russian planes had bombed Paris, Marseilles, and London. The reports initially caused hysteria in the dorms, although most people soon realized they were fake. The Dean of the University later described it as a "lunatic stunt." The students involved were suspended for a year. [Cornell Archives]

Posted: Wed May 28, 2014.   Comments (0)

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.