The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
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)

When attendees at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing (held in Toronto) went to the bathroom, they found a sign alerting them that "Behaviour at these toilets is being recorded for analysis. Access your live data at quantifiedtoilets.com." Visiting the Quantified Toilets website (which has the tagline 'Capturing toilet behavior for real-time data and health analysis'), they found a live feed that provided data about all the toilet "deposits" that had been made. The information included how much had been depoisted, whether drugs were detected in it, as well as other bio-information such as pregnancy, infections, blood alcohol, gender of the depositor, and even what…
Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2014 Comments (0)

A news story is circulating claiming that the man in this photo is a 179-year-old Indian cobbler named Mahashta Murasi. The text of the article is as follows: A retired cobbler from northern India, Mahashta Murasi, claims he was born in January 1835, making him not only the oldest man on earth, but the oldest to have ever lived, according to the Guiness World Records. According to indian officials, the man was born at home in the city of Bangalore on January 6th 1835, and is recorded to have lived in Varanasi since 1903. He worked as a cobbler in the city until 1957, when he retired at the already venerable…
Posted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 Comments (9)

In 1950, a very unusual UFO was reported by several people. Although UFO probably isn't the correct term to use in this case, because the flying object was identified, but it was identified as something very strange — a chicken flying at the speed of a jet. The sightings occurred in March around Toronto. Mrs. J. Wilson was visiting North Toronto from New York, and as she was driving around she saw, "a flying chicken dashing through the sky in a northeasterly direction with the speed of a jet plane." Mrs. Wilson's sighting was seconded by a "G. Fuller" who said he saw the creature "flying or whizzing or cavorting or gamboling"…
Posted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 Comments (0)

SFGate.com briefly tells the story of the Great Diamond Hoax of 1871, which is one of the classic scams of the nineteenth century. The lingering mystery is what exactly happened to all the money the scammers made.
Posted: Mon Apr 28, 2014 Comments (0)

It's long been rumored that there were millions of copies of an Atari video game, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, buried in the New Mexico desert. But the rumor seemed so bizarre that it was often dismissed as an urban legend. The story goes that back in the early 1980s Atari developed the game as a tie-in with Steven Spielberg's movie. But game designer Howard Warshaw was given only five and a half weeks to create it in time for Christmas, and as a result, the game turned out to be awful. Reviewers panned it, and consumers didn't buy it. Atari took a huge loss on the game, leading to a massive devaluation of its stock. The…
Posted: Mon Apr 28, 2014 Comments (3)

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