I recently received a nice letter from a reader in England:
Dear Mr. Boese,
I have enjoyed the Museum of Hoaxes greatly. I do not know if you want any more examples, but if not just throw this away.
The Veterinary Record is the weekly journal of the Veterinary Profession, and I did the index for 36 years. So on 1st April 1972 I met some observations on the diseases of Brunus edwardii (Species Nova), Vet. Rec. (1972) 90, 382-395. It reads like a perfectly authentic scientific paper though the illustrations give the game away. So I suppose it does not really qualify as a hoax. I understand that the British Library had some difficulty with the classification! But the authors had great fun doing it. If you would be interested to see the text I will send you a photocopy. I am not a vet but a librarian, understandably retired at 92! With all good wishes for 2008.
After debating whether or not to throw away her letter (of course not!), I decided to drive up to UCSD, where I hunted down the Veterinary Record
(UCSD has a complete run of it), and made a copy of the article.
The article does describe, in a dry, scientific fashion, the diseases of Brunus edwardii
, which is described as a species "commonly kept in homes in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe and North America." The article warns that: "Pet ownership surveys have shown that 63.8 percent of households are inhabited by one or more of these animals, and there is a statistically significant relationship between their population and the number of children in a household. The public health implications of this fact are obvious, and it is imperative that more be known about their diseases, particularly zoonoses or other conditions which might be associated with their close contact with man."
The pictures do give the joke away:
For months afterwards the correspondence section of the Veterinary Record
was dominated by letters about Brunus edwardii
. A few readers were outraged by it, such as A. Noel Smith who wrote:
I have been practising veterinary medicine for the past 12 years or more "across the pond" and my Veterinary Records arrive a month or more late. However, I still open them with interest and read what is going on "at home". April 1st's edition thoroughly soured my interest. How three members holding sets of impressive degrees can waste their time writing such garbage in a journal that is the official publication of the B.V.A. is beyond my comprehension, as is your effrontery to publish it under "Clinical Papers".
But most of the correspondents loved it. It proved so popular that it was eventually published in a special edition by Whittington Press.
Anyway, thanks to M.M. Raymer for the reference.