The Museum of Hoaxes
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Hoaxes Throughout History
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Today's Featured Topic:
Hoaxes of Joseph Mulhattan
May 19, 1951: Young Ladies Seeking Adventure
Police had to be sent to downtown London to control an unruly crowd of over 500 women who had gathered in response to a newspaper ad that read, "Well set-up young gentleman with honorable intentions invites young ladies seeking adventure to meet him on the steps of the Criterion restaurant, Lower Regent St., 7:15 p.m., May 19. Identified by red carnation and blue and white spotted scarf. Code word: 'How's your uncle?'" The ad turned out to be a hoax run by BBC DJ Brian Johnson who had been hoping to find a few young women to interview on his Saturday night program. He said, "I never expected more than a few girls." [Spokane Daily Chronicle]

May 19, 2000: Charles de Jaeger Dies
Charles Theophile de Jaeger died on May 19, 2000. He had worked as a cameraman for the BBC, but he was most famous as the creator of the 1957 Swiss Spaghetti Harvest April Fool's Day hoax, which involved the news show Panorama reporting that Swiss farmers were experiencing a bumper spaghetti crop. The segment included footage of Swiss peasants pulling spaghetti from trees. The idea for the hoax grew out of a remark one of De Jaeger's school teachers had once said to his class: "Boys, you're so stupid, you'd believe me if I told you that spaghetti grows on trees." More…


Posted: Mon May 19, 2014.   Comments (0)

May 18, 1864: The Civil War Gold Hoax
New Yorkers read in their morning papers that President Lincoln had issued a proclamation ordering the conscription of an additional 400,000 men into the Union army on account of the "general state of the country." The news sent the stock market plummeting. But within hours the news was revealed to be false, planted by a rogue newspaper editor who had sent a forged Associated Press telegram to the papers, planning to profit from a decline in stock prices and a consequent rise in the price of gold, which he had heavily invested in. More…

May 18, 1926: The Disappearance of Aimee Semple McPherson
Popular evangelist preacher Aimee Semple McPherson disappeared while swimming off Los Angeles. It was feared she had drowned, but she turned up unharmed five weeks later in Arizona claiming to have escaped from kidnappers. But it was widely suspected that she had actually spent the time in a seaside cabin having a romantic affair with a married man. [smithsonian.com]

May 18, 1996: The Sokal Hoax
A front-page article in The New York Times revealed that an article by physicist Alan Sokal, recently published in the cultural studies journal Social Text was actually intended to be a parody "thick with gibberish." This had gone unrecognized by the journal's editors. Sokal argued that the publication of his parody demonstrated "an apparent decline in the standards of rigor in certain precincts of the academic humanities." More…


Posted: Sun May 18, 2014.   Comments (0)

Most people familiar with jackalopes have probably heard that rabbits actually can grow small horns (though not full sets of antlers) if they're infected with the Shope papilloma virus. The "horns" are tumorous growths. Rabbits with such horns may have inspired the legend of the jackalope. What I didn't know, but which is pointed out in a recent article about jackalopes in Wired, is that during the 1930s, Richard Shope of Rockefeller University conducted experiments to see if he could make rabbits grow these horns. In a way, he was creating jackalopes in the lab. Shope ground up…

Posted: Sat May 17, 2014.   Comments (0)

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…

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)

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…

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…

Posted: Fri May 09, 2014.   Comments (3)

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…

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…

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,…

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)

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