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Today's Featured Topic:
Hoaxes of Joseph Mulhattan

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…

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…

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…

Posted: Tue Apr 29, 2014.   Comments (38)

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…

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…

Posted: Mon Apr 28, 2014.   Comments (3)

CodeBabes is a new site that promises to make the process of learning how to write code more fun by using "hot babes" as the instructors in video tutorials. Every time the student advances a level, the "babe" removes an item of clothing. The website explains: "We've developed a revolutionary learning programme that leverages sexual desire and turns it into the most powerful learning mechanism ever known to mankind. Babes and code. You watch the lesson. Absorb the info. Pass the quiz, and your instructor removes one piece of clothing. How much clothing, you ask? Enough to motivate…

Posted: Sat Apr 26, 2014.   Comments (5)

Earlier this week, a picture of a great white shark swimming close to the shore made the local news here in San Diego. I actually saw the broadcast. The news team interviewed a shark expert who confirmed that it was definitely a great white in the photo, and went on to explain that great whites were becoming more common in the area because of the growing seal population. An area of slight discoloration in the water at the right of the photo was said to be the remains of an animal the shark had killed. But now it turns out the photo was a fake. The original picture showed a dolphin,…

Posted: Sat Apr 26, 2014.   Comments (1)

The audience at the recent Broadway premiere of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" found playbills beneath their seats for a completely different production, "Hurt Locker: The Musical." However, there is no musical stage version of The Hurt Locker (nor any stage version of it at all). The fake musical was the creation of Hedwig's producers. The NY Daily News explains: "Hedwig" is being performed at the Belasco Theatre — and to maintain the illusion of a late-night one-off show by an East-German transgender pop-rocker — producers littered the floor with Playbills from a show that…

Posted: Sat Apr 26, 2014.   Comments (0)

The Tundra Drums details some myths and hoaxes about Alaska wildlife. For instance: Eagles do not actually snatch toddlers (they're too heavy). Nor are there any credible reports of eagles snatching up pet dogs. Eagles' talons do not involuntarily lock. They can let go if they want. But often they choose not to let go, even if a big fish is dragging them through the water. The 'majestic cry' of the eagle actually sounds more like a squeaky chirp. Which is why movies often dub in the call of the red-tailed hawk. Bears can run downhill. They can also climb trees very well. Lemmings…

Posted: Fri Apr 25, 2014.   Comments (0)

Happy Birthday, Robinson Crusoe — Today is the 295th anniversary of the publication of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. But as Rebekah Higgitt (writing for The Guardian) points out, the earliest editions of the book claimed that Robinson Crusoe himself, not Defoe, was its author. Also, there was nothing to indicate the book was fiction. In other words, the book was a literary hoax. More specifically, it was "a satire on travel narratives and other texts attempting to present reliable knowledge."
Posted: Fri Apr 25, 2014.   Comments (0)

It's called "beezin". It involves applying Burt's Bees lip balm to your eyelids. Media reports (such as here and here) are hyping it as a worrying new trend among teens. Supposedly it enhances the experience of being drunk or high. But doctors warn that it could also cause eye inflammation. Could this possibly be real? It sounds as stupid as that fake news report that was circulating recently about teens smoking bed bugs to get high. The reason.com blog is skeptical about the entire thing, but notes that even if kids really are "beezin," the media panic seems unfounded. Do we…

Posted: Fri Apr 25, 2014.   Comments (1)

On Good Friday, the folks at the Cowgirl Cafe in Norco, CA were flipping pancakes on the grill, when they flipped one over and saw the face of Jesus staring back at them. Or maybe it's the face of Charles Manson, or maybe Frank Zappa. There's some disagreement on exactly who it looks most like. The "Jesus Pancake" is now being stored in a freezer, awaiting a decision about its final fate.

Posted: Fri Apr 25, 2014.   Comments (4)

Mummified Fairy Kit — Seven years ago Dan Baines created a mummified fairy as an April Fool's Day hoax. Now he's taken to Kickstarter to raise money so that he can produce a "Mummified Fairy Kit" that will contain everything a person needs to create their own mummified fairy. He hoped to raise £5,000, and he's already raised more than that: £8,106 as I write this, with six days left before the funding period closes. So it seems like he's discovered a strong market demand for mummified fairies!
Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2014.   Comments (0)

My mother noticed that the AARP Bulletin had a short feature about "Great Hoaxes," so she sent it to me. It's a somewhat random selection of six hoaxes, but that's no surprise. These short list-type features in magazines often seem like they choose things to list at random. The six hoaxes are: Left-Handed Whopper (1998) -- Pierre Brassau, Monkey Artist (1964) -- The Hitler Diaries (1983) -- The Masked Marauders (1969) - wikipedia link -- Sidd Finch (1985) -- The Autobiography of Howard Hughes

Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2014.   Comments (0)

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