The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
Last week a Vine video of high-school football player Gary Haynes (of Manvel Texas High) throwing a 40-yard pass to himself went viral, sparking much discussion about whether the pass was real or fake. In order to determine whether such a throw to oneself is possible some people have been performing all kinds of calculations trying to take into account vertical distance, acceleration due to gravity, weight of the ball, time from peak to ground, etc. The general consensus is that such a long self-pass would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. But I don't think such calculations…
Posted: Wed May 14, 2014 Comments (0)

Spoof ads showing a doctor handing a gun to an elderly woman, beneath the headline, "Plan for a healthy retirement," have been appearing at bus shelters throughout the UK. Clear Channel, the firm responsible for bus shelter ads, has been reporting them to the police. A Clear Channel representative speculated that the ads are part of a movement called "brandalism" which "subverts advertising billboards to make political and social points." [The Oxford Times]
Posted: Tue May 13, 2014 Comments (0)

Several members of a Berlin-based activist group called the Peng Collective recently made a presentation at the Re:publica tech conference in which they pretended to be Google employees and debuted four new "Google Nest" products: Google Trust (free data insurance), Google Bee (a personal drone to watch over you at all times), Google Hug (a kind of matchmaking service), and Google Bye (an online memorial automatically created for you by Google after you die). After the presentation, the Peng people told the audience that it was all a parody designed to emphasize Google's "hypocritical" privacy policies. But they asked the audience to tweet about the new products as if they were real, and some people took…
Posted: Tue May 13, 2014 Comments (1)

This image has been circulating online since at least 2012, accompanied by the claim that the likeness of an owl was not created by photoshop, but rather by dropping two Hula Hoops snacks into the coffee. This is not true. The real story is that this image was definitely created by using photo manipulation software. A pair of owl eyes, such as the ones below, was digitally layered onto the coffee. The original creator of the image remains a mystery, but it achieved Internet fame on Sep 26, 2012, after conceptual artist Stuart Rutherford posted the picture on Twitter with the…
Posted: Tue May 13, 2014 Comments (0)


A few days ago, the Concourse blog posted about a recent letter to Dear Abby that clearly had to be fake. Here's the letter. DEAR ABBY: I'm the happily married mother of two teenage boys. The other day I overheard my older son (age 17) talking with a friend about "twerking." I have never heard of it and now I'm worried. Is twerking a drug term? Is it similar to "tripping," "getting high" or "catfishing"? My 17-year-old is supposed to go to Princeton next year on a sports scholarship, and I'm afraid "twerking" will derail him from his charted path. Thank you for any advice you may have. —…
Posted: Fri May 09, 2014 Comments (2)

On April 19, Fox News ran a segment about the Korean ferry accident which showed what were identified as "relatives of the missing mourning." But bloggers noticed that the grieving people didn't appear to be Korean. Who were they? Apparently they were just some random, sad-looking people from Asia. Some have speculated that it's footage of Tibetans.
Posted: Thu May 08, 2014 Comments (1)

There's been a lot of news coverage recently about a fragment of ancient papyrus that contains language suggesting Jesus was married. Specifically, it contains the phrase, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'" So it's been called the "Gospel of Jesus's Wife." A study published in the April issue of the Harvard Theological Review concluded that the papyrus fragment was an authentic ancient artifact. But now the tide is turning, and evidence is mounting that it's actually a fake. From the Washington Post: Last week, an American researcher named Christian Askeland published findings that scholars say represent the most convincing evidence yet that the 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife' is…
Posted: Wed May 07, 2014 Comments (0)

Recently a post appeared on the sharing app Secret (that allows people to anonymously confess any secret they want) revealing that Apple was soon going to release sophisticated new headphones that would include built-in heart rate and blood pressure sensors, as well as iBeacons so they couldn't get lost. The post was entirely anonymous, so it should have had no credibility. However, it soon was being widely reported on technology sites, and even made its way onto the Daily Mail. Why did people give an anonymous rumor such credence? Because, as was frequently noted, it appeared to be a rumor backed up by patents. Specifically, Apple…
Posted: Wed May 07, 2014 Comments (1)

May 6 was the National Day of Mathematics in Brazil. This day was chosen because it was the birthday of Julio Cesar de Mello e Souza, a maths teacher from Rio de Janeiro, who was also the author of Brazil's most famous literary hoax, O Homem que Calculava (The Man Who Counted), which is also one of the most successful books ever written in Brazil. It's a hoax because when the book was first published in 1932, it was said to be the work of an Arabian author, Malba Tahan. Melle e Souza created Tahan because he realized that it was easier to get published in Brazil, during the 1930s, if…
Posted: Wed May 07, 2014 Comments (2)

Hidden away in a building at the Rochester Institute of Technology is a little-known marvel called the "Escherian Stairwell." It seems to defy the laws of physics, because when you walk up it, you arrive back at the same place where you started. Don't believe me? Just watch this video from RIT's "Can You Imagine" series in which it was featured. Okay, so maybe the Escherian Stairwell is not a real thing. The real story here is that the video about it was created by Michael Lacanilao as an attempt to create a "modern myth." To get people believing that something impossible (such as…
Posted: Tue May 06, 2014 Comments (1)

Channel NewsAsia reports on a form of electoral trickery popular in India. In an attempt to confuse voters, rival parties are fielding multiple candidates who have the same name as a more well-known candidate. For instance, "in central Chhatisgarh, incumbent MP Chandulal Sahu of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is running against no less than seven competitors who share his name." So when election day arrives, the voters may not be sure which is the correct Chandulal Sahu to vote for. Apparently this is a perfectly legal thing to do.
Posted: Tue May 06, 2014 Comments (1)

Michelle Nijhuis offers a method for recognizing fake news stories via training in what she calls a "Bullshit Prevention Protocol" (BPP). The protocol essentially zeroes in on the old Golden Rule of hoax-detection, which is that "Information is only as good as its source." So to spot fake news, one should spend the time to ascertain how credible the source of the news is. She uses an article recently published by the Daily Mail to illustrate how the BPP should work. The article claimed that "China starts televising the sunrise on giant TV screens because Beijing is so clouded in smog." But analysis of the news source would…
Posted: Fri May 02, 2014 Comments (4)

The latest Nessie news is that a Loch Ness cruise ship, operated by Jacobite Cruises, picked up a mysterious sonar signal in the Loch. Skipper John Askew told the Daily Mail: "It's impossible to tell what we've picked up here." But since it's Loch Ness, everyone is going to assume it's Nessie! The article notes that Jacobite Cruises was also recently behind the NessieToVote campaign, urging that Nessie be placed on the electoral register so that she'll be able to vote in the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence.
Posted: Fri May 02, 2014 Comments (0)

A billboard advertising "Pole Brand Cigarettes" recently appeared in Wellington, NZ, outside the Evans Bay Intermediate School. I'm guessing the students at the school may have had something to do with its appearance. Pole Brand Cigarettes is a pretty old joke, but it took some dedication to create an entire billboard for this faux brand. The Dominion Post notes, somewhat obviously, that the billboard "appears to be an obscene prank." And also that it "carries an endorsement from the fictitious 'Ministry of Smoking Pole' organisation."
Posted: Fri May 02, 2014 Comments (1)

April 30 is National Honesty Day. So, happy National Honesty Day! The day was created by M. Hirsh Goldberg, author of The Book of Lies, back in the early 1990s. He chose to place it on the last day of April to serve as a counter-weight to April Fool's Day at the beginning of the month. According to wikipedia, if someone asks you a question on National Honesty Day you're obligated to give them a truthful and straightforward answer. (Ironically, or perhaps purposefully, the wikipedia page contains some information,…
Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2014 Comments (0)

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