The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
RIP H.R. Giger, father of the chupacabra — Swiss artist H.R. Giger recently died. He's most famous as the designer of the creature in the horror film "Alien". But Ben Radford notes that Giger also, indirectly, provided the inspiration for the chupacabra legend. The reasoning goes like this: Giger designed the monster, Sil, featured in the 1995 science-fiction film "Species". Soon after Species came out, a Puerto Rican woman named Madelyne Tolentino claimed she saw a creature near her house. She described it as having large eyes, walking on two legs, having no ears or nose, and a row of spikes on its spines. Tolentino's…Continue…
Posted: Wed May 14, 2014.   Comments (1)

Gigantic Tortoise Found on Mt. Etna — A video circulating on Italian news sites shows what appears to be a gigantic tortoise being transported on a truck. An accompanying story explains that this tortoise "of colossal dimensions" was found recently at the base of Mt. Etna. A helicopter full of Japanese tourists spotted the creature. At first they thought it was a large, dark rock, until they noticed it was moving. The helicopter pilot alerted the earthquake authorities, who arrived and discovered that it was a gigantic…
Posted: Wed May 14, 2014.   Comments (0)

High School Football Player Throws 40-yard Pass… To Himself — 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…
Posted: Wed May 14, 2014.   Comments (0)

“Plan for a healthy retirement” — 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)


Google Nest — 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…Continue…
Posted: Tue May 13, 2014.   Comments (1)

Owl formed by Hula Hoops in a cup of coffee — 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…Continue…
Posted: Tue May 13, 2014.   Comments (0)

Writing Fake Letters to Dear Abby — 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…Continue…
Posted: Fri May 09, 2014.   Comments (3)

Wrong Asian People — 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)

The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife — 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…Continue…
Posted: Wed May 07, 2014.   Comments (0)

Apple’s heart rate and blood pressure monitoring headphones — 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…Continue…
Posted: Wed May 07, 2014.   Comments (1)

The Man Who Counted — 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,…Continue…
Posted: Wed May 07, 2014.   Comments (2)

The Escherian Stairwell — 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…
Posted: Tue May 06, 2014.   Comments (1)

Clone Candidates — 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)

The Bullshit Prevention Protocol — 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…Continue…
Posted: Fri May 02, 2014.   Comments (4)

Sonar image of Nessie? — 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)

Pole Brand Cigarettes — 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 — 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, claiming the day is celebrated on April 29.) Goldberg also uses this…Continue…
Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2014.   Comments (0)

Quantified Toilets—collecting your toilet data — 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…Continue…
Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2014.   Comments (0)

Fake News: Indian Cobbler claims to be 179 years old — 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…Continue…
Posted: Tue Apr 29, 2014.   Comments (29)

The Jet Chicken of 1950 — 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…Continue…
Posted: Tue Apr 29, 2014.   Comments (0)

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