Hoaxes of 2014
Determined to maintain a relationship with Liam Griffiths, with whom she had a one-night stand, Charmaine Wilson presented him with a child, telling him it was his. A birth certificate and DNA test seemed to back up her claim. So Griffiths did what he thought was the right thing and took responsibility for the child, only to find out six months later that it was all an elaborate deception. Wilson had "borrowed" the child from a friend and used her position at a hospital to forge the birth certificate and DNA test results. Wilson, who said it was "a lie that snowballed out of control," was sentenced to serve 16 weeks in jail, but was released after 23 days on condition that she take a "thinking skills" class to help her realize the effect her actions had on Griffiths and his family. [Daily Mail]
In his 1930s newspaper column, John Harvey Furbay (aka The Debunker) wrote that it was a myth that all dogs can bark. But was he correct?
A video has gone viral that shows a bear chasing a cyclist through a forest. The video seems realistic when you first view it. But if you slow it down and watch it frame by frame, it starts to look a lot less convincing. more…
"Historians point out that there is a great deal of difference between pilgrim and puritan, which many people use interchangeably, supposing them to be the same thing. The Puritans were a religious order that arose in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. They were the strictest among the Church of England. The Pilgrims split off from this sect and refused to follow the Church of England -- thus they were no longer puritans. In fact, they were not as strict as the old puritans, but were quite liberal in comparison with them."
BBC News tells the story (briefly, but with good pictures) of this famous kidnapping hoax from the 1920s. Note that McPherson claimed she was drugged with a chloroform-soaked rag and then abducted. This alone suggests her story was bogus since, as Wikipedia notes, the chloroform-soaked rag as an incapacitating agent is a cliche of crime fiction. The reality is that it's very difficult to drug someone in this way with chloroform.
It says here that in a recently aired BBC documentary, The Real Tom Thumb, historian John Gannon argues that Tom Thumb's baby may not have been a hoax, even though Tom Thumb's wife Lavinia confessed it was a hoax in her autobiography.
The tale of the chloroformed turkey usually involves two women living in the city who decide to get a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But after the turkey has been delivered to their door, they realize they need to kill it. Unwilling to tell the local butcher that they're too squeamish to cut off its head themselves, they search for a "humane" way of ending the bird's life, and come up with the idea of using chloroform. more…
It took me a while to see it, but once you see it, you can't unsee it. The question is: is this a purposeful illusion, or an accidental one? more…
Residents of Polk City, Iowa noticed that a tree standing beside a busy intersection (3rd St and Bridge Rd) had on its side a six-foot tall mark that looks like the Virgin Mary. However, some people think the marks looks more like Jesus. Once it had been noticed (and the mark had likely been there for years unnoticed), people began leaving flowers at the base of it. [kcci.com]
Ernesto Hernandez of Pennsylvania was about to eat his dinner, prepared by his wife, when he noticed that one of the pieces of breaded chicken on his plate seemed to have an image of Jesus on it. Although professing not to be very religious, he did tell the local TV news (WNEP in Scranton, PA) that seeing Christ's face on his plate "kind of took me back a minute." He also felt that it was some kind of sign. He put the piece of Jesus chicken in the refrigerator where, by the next day, it had shrunk in size.
Word is that a new film about P.T. Barnum is in the works. It'll be a musical, titled "The Greatest Showman on Earth," starring Hugh Jackman as Barnum. Kathy Maher, curator of the P.T. Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, told the Hartford Courant that the film company contacted her four years ago when the project first started, but she hasn't heard anything from them since. She adds, "they said they would be on touch as soon as the project got on the grid... Hopefully they'll get the story right and not go for the mythology." Hmmm. What are the odds of that happening?
In the summer of 1925, the carcass of a large ocean creature washed up onto Moore's Beach in the California town of Santa Cruz. The creature had a strange duck-like head and what looked like a long neck. Interest in the carcass grew when it was examined on the beach by one E.L. Wallace, who described himself as the president of the Natural History Society of British Columbia, and he declared that it was the remains of a plesiosaur — a species long extinct. more…
Artist Jonty Hurwitz has created "nano sculptures" so small that they can't be seen with the eye. You need a scanning electron microscope to view them. So how do you know the sculptures really exist and that he's not just showing you an image on a screen? You don't. That's why he's titled his works "Trust." In that sense, it's kinda like the old Brazilian Invisible Fish gag. [mnn.com]
A pair of videos that seemed to show a giant "human sized eel" in New Zealand's Manawatu River went viral in the past week. It caught the attention of a viral video show, Right This Minute, who contacted the two young men (brothers Tim and Ray Hamilton) who filmed the footage and asked them for the right to air it on TV. At which point, Tim and Ray confessed that the footage was fake. They had filmed the eel in a bathtub and then composited that footage with shots of the river and Ray throwing bread at the imaginary eel.
Redditor "famousmess" posted an image to the pareidolia subreddit, showing a gum mark he saw on the floor of the subway that looks like Edgar Allan Poe. What subway, I don't know. He concedes it's possible that it might be stencil art. However, he notes that, "it's real small and the same general size of the other gums... I know some street artists and showed them, consensus is gum but who knows. It would be a silly spot and size to get noticed."