The Hoax Museum Blog

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 23

June 23, 1987: The Dayton Hudson Stock Hoax
The news that a private investment firm was buying the retailer Dayton Hudson for $6.8 billion sent the company's stock price soaring, and then crashing back down again when investors learned the report was false. A 46-year-old investment adviser, P. David Herrlinger, had phoned the Dow Jones News Service and told them he was buying the company, and the news service had believed him. But Herrlinger, it turned out, was suffering a nervous breakdown and delusional, which sparked concern at how easily a single irrational individual could manipulate the market. More…
Posted: Mon Jun 23, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 22

June 22, 2005: Death of William Donaldson
William Donaldson (1935-2005) was the author of one of the great satirical literary hoaxes of the late 20th century, the bestselling Henry Root Letters. Adopting the identity of Henry Root, supposedly a retired wet-fish merchant whose politics leaned far Right, Donaldson wrote brash, often abusive letters to eminent public figures. The letters usually contained a single pound note. The recipients of Root's letters would inevitably write back, apparently unaware that they were the butt of a joke. [wikipedia]
Posted: Sun Jun 22, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 21

June 21, 1947: The Maury Island Incident
On this day, Harold Dahl claimed to see six "donut-shaped" discs flying above him while he was on a boat in Puget Sound. One of the discs ejected bits of molten metal, which (so Dahl said) killed his dog and burnt the arm of his son. Dahl also said that he was later visited by a man in a dark suit who warned him not to talk further about the incident. This was the first report of a "man in black". Air Force investigators identified the metal as scrap metal from a factory, and Dahl confessed that his report was a hoax. [wikipedia, mauryislandincident.com]
Posted: Sat Jun 21, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 20

June 20, 1977: Alternative 3
A documentary titled Alternative 3 aired in England, on ITV. It revealed to viewers the existence of a secret plan by the governments of the world to create a Noah's Ark colony of humans on Mars in anticipation of a looming environmental catastrophe that would soon make the Earth uninhabitable. The earnestness of the show's delivery convinced many that it was real. However, it was intended as a mock documentary, originally intended to be aired on April Fool's Day. More…
Posted: Fri Jun 20, 2014.   Comments (0)


This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 19

June 19, 1816: Wimbledon Common Military Review
Twenty-thousand people assembled on Wimbledon Common in England to witness a 'Grand Military Review' that pamphlets had promised would occur. When it became clear that no parade was happening, the crowd grew restless and set fire to the grass. They weren't appeased when officials explained that no parade had ever been planned, and that the pamphlets were the work of a prankster. The crowd continued to grow ever more violent, so much so that the police were unable to contain them. Eventually a detachment of guards was dispatched from London with orders to parade up and down the Common, in order to satisfy the crowd.
Posted: Thu Jun 19, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 18

June 18, 2003: A Phone Call to Fidel Castro
On this day in 2003, two Miami DJs fooled Cuban President Fidel Castro into thinking he was receiving a phone call from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The DJs simulated Chavez's voice by playing back real soundbites spoken by the Venezuelan leader during speeches, while a presenter posing as a Chavez "aide" carried the bulk of the conversation. The "aide" explained that Chavez needed help finding a lost suitcase. Castro readily agreed to help, at which point the "aide" revealed to Castro that he "fell" for it, and that "All of Miami is listening to you." This prompted Castro to break out in a string of invective. [youtube]
Posted: Wed Jun 18, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 17

June 17, 1579: Drake's Plate of Brass
June 17, 1579 is the date engraved on a brass plate, commemorating the landing of Francis Drake in San Francisco Bay. The plate was found in 1936 and was initially believed to be the actual plate left centuries ago by Drake and his crew. It was only determined to be a forgery in the late 1970s. Members of a historical society, E Clampus Vitus, had created it as a practical joke on one of their own members, but the joke spun out of their control. [berkeley.edu]

Posted: Tue Jun 17, 2014.   Comments (0)

Bigfoot in New York

Veteran prank artist Joey Skaggs was up to his old tricks recently. At the beginning of June, he sent out a press release announcing that on June 7 the Tiny Top Circus ("the world's only pataphysical circus") would come to New York's Washington Square Park, where it would have "Bigfoot, the 8th Wonder of the World" on display. June 7 arrived and, as promised, the Tiny Top Circus showed up. It turned out to be Skaggs on a tricycle on which was mounted a tiny bigtop tent. Actually, the tricycle looks very similar to the one he used in his "Portofess" (portable confessional) hoax back…

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

This Day in the History of Hoaxes (and Stunts): June 16

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)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 15

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)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 14

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)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 13

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)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 12

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)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 11

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)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 10

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)

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