The Hoax Museum Blog

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 26

May 26, 1930: Hugo N. Frye Sesquicentennial
U.S. politicians, including the Vice President, received letters inviting them to a May 26 party at Cornell University in honor of the sesquicentennial birthday anniversary of "Hugo N. Frye," who was said to have been the founder of the Republican party in New York State. None could attend, but most replied with letters expressing their sincere admiration for Hugo N. Frye. Unfortunately for them, Frye did not exist. The invitation was a student prank, and Frye's name was just a gag ("You Go and Fry!"). More…
Posted: Mon May 26, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 25

May 25, 1933: Norman Jefferies, author of the Jersey Devil hoax, dies
Norman Jefferies was a Philadelphia publicist and theatrical booking agent, who was best known for the stunt he engineered in January 1909 while working at the Ninth and Arch Street Museum. He announced that the legendary "Jersey Devil" (aka "Leeds Devil") had been captured and would be exhibited at the museum. Thousands came to see it. Although what they actually viewed was a kangaroo painted with green stripes and outfitted with fake wings.

Posted: Sun May 25, 2014.   Comments (0)

La Réalité

French artist Rémy Dautin has put together a book that he's titled La Réalité. In it, he's collected about 60 pictures of cryptids in which he's "erased the paranormal element (loch ness monster, alien, yeti, etc.) in order for them to become pictures of the reality." Unfortunately, I don't think the book is available for purchase. It's a project he did while pursuing a degree in graphic design, and he sent me an email to let me know about it. However, you can check out some of the pictures from La Réalité on his tumblr blog.

Posted: Sat May 24, 2014.   Comments (0)

Why do people cling to false beliefs?

According to Dartmouth professor Brendan Nyhan (as reported by Maria Konnikova in the New Yorker), "persistently false beliefs stem from issues closely tied to our conception of self." So in order to change deeply held misperceptions, it's useless to present people with facts and information. Instead, you need to "target people’s beliefs about themselves." This recalls what's long been known by hoaxers, that it's easy to fool people if you just tell them what they want to believe. That is, people readily accept ideas that complement their pre-existing view of the world and of…

Posted: Sat May 24, 2014.   Comments (1)


This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 24

May 24, 1976: Abducted by Bigfoot
After going missing while searching for Bigfoot in Humboldt County, 23-year-old Sherie Darvell showed up screaming outside a Bluff Creek resort on May 24, 1976, claiming she had been abducted by a Bigfoot. She said the creature had scooped her up and carried her off, but that it had abandoned her unharmed during the night, after which she had wandered through the woods for several days. Sheriff Gene Cox dismissed her claim as a hoax, noting that she didn't appear to have spent any time in the wilderness. Her clothes were clean and she smelled of perfume. [Wildman of the Woods, Eugene Register-Guard]

Posted: Sat May 24, 2014.   Comments (2)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 23

May 23, 1926: Mencken confesses to bathtub hoax
On May 23, 1926, eight years after publishing an article in which he had detailed the curious history of the bathtub in America, the journalist H.L. Mencken confessed that his history was entirely false. His history had claimed that Americans had been slow to accept bathtubs, believing them to be a health risk, until President Millard Fillmore popularized them by installing one in the White House in 1850. But in 1926, Mencken admitted this was all "a piece of spoofing to relieve the strain of war days." His confession had little effect. His faux history of the bathtub continued to circulate widely and to be accepted as fact. [More…]

Posted: Fri May 23, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 22

May 22, 1981: Cockroach Pills
Dr. Josef Gregor held a press conference in New York to announce he had developed a pill that could cure colds, acne, anemia, and menstrual cramps. And it could even make people immune to nuclear radiation. The key ingredient in the pill, he said, was a hormone extracted from cockroaches. Over 175 newspapers published articles about the discovery. However, Dr. Josef Gregor was really long-time media hoaxer Joey Skaggs. Upon revealing the hoax, Skaggs commented, "I guess no one reads Kafka anymore." [joeyskaggs.com]

Posted: Thu May 22, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 21

May 21, 1977: The Loch Ness Muppet
Anthony 'Doc' Shiels claimed that he took this picture of the Loch Ness Monster on May 21, 1977 while camping beside Urquhart Castle. The creature in the photo soon came to be known as the "Loch Nes Muppet" because it looked like a puppet. Shiels was a showman, "wizard," and psychic entertainer who was developing a side business as a professional monster hunter. [See Loch Ness Monster Hoaxes]

May 21, 2011: End Times Prediction
Evangelist preacher Harold Camping predicted that the Rapture would occur on May 21, 2011. This was supposed to involve massive earthquakes and the ascension of some 200 million chosen people up to heaven. Camping said the world itself would end five months later. When none of this happened, Camping first claimed that a "spiritual" day of judgement had indeed occurred, but eventually admitted he had been mistaken. [wikipedia]

Posted: Wed May 21, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 20

May 20, 1775: The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence
On May 20, 1775, so it is said, Mecklenburg County in North Carolina declared independence from Great Britain, more than a year before the Continental Congress in Philadelphia did so. This would have been the earliest American declaration of independence, if it actually happened. But no original copy of this Declaration survives. Nor do any credible contemporary references to it, leading most historians to conclude that the Mecklenburg Declaration was invented years later. [wikipedia, New River Notes]

Posted: Tue May 20, 2014.   Comments (0)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 19

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)

This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 18

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)

Creating jackalopes in the lab

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)

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…

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)

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