The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
After gardeners trimmed the old branches off a tree in the village of Burmakino in central Russia's Kirov Oblast last month, people noticed a pattern in the wood grain of one of the cut branches that looked like the face of Jesus. And other cut branches displayed what looked like the faces of his disciples. Now large crowds of people have begun gathering in front of the tree to pray and give thanks. [Daily Mail]
Posted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 Comments (0)

  • A viral picture apparently showing a Liberian Ebola victim who had 'risen from the dead' is actually a screenshot from the film World War Z. [mirror.co.uk]
  • Amy Argetsinger argues that it's time to bury the idea that Andy Kaufman faked his own death [washington post]
  • Craig Silverman offers an in-depth analysis of that pumpkin spice condom hoax from a few weeks back [digg.com]
  • The Great Exhibition Toilet Myths (such as that "the public toilet was invented by the plumber George Jennings, for the Great Exhibition of 1851") [Yale Books Blog]
  • News article from 1909 claimed that a pen made from the headboard of EA Poe's coffin kept writing the word "Lenore" backwards [Haunted Ohio]
Posted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 Comments (0)

I added an article about the Plainfield Teachers hoax from 1941 to the archive. This is considered a classic sports hoax, in which a stockbroker, Morris Newburger, discovered that he was able to get football scores for a fake college team reported in major papers, including the New York Times, simply by calling the sports desks of the papers and reporting the score. The papers only realized what was going on when someone who knew Newburger phoned in a tip, ratting him out.
Posted: Tue Oct 07, 2014

Seven days ago (on Sep 30) a photo of "terrified cheerleaders" was uploaded to reddit, where it was presented as material for a "photoshop battle," in which the challenge is to creatively alter the original image. A redditor named "totalitarian_jesus" submitted an entry titled "where will you be when diarrhea strikes?" in which he made the cheerleader appear to be losing control of her bowels in mid-air, provoking expressions of horror from her teammates below. This quickly became the most highly voted entry, and it immediately inspired a prediction that the altered image would "definitely end up on a Facebook post accompanied by an 'omg I can't believe it,…
Posted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 Comments (2)


As part of his ongoing "Fantastically Wrong" series at Wired.com, Matt Simon investigates the ancient legend that beavers will chew off their own testicles when pursued and throw them back at their pursuer, in this way making their escape. The legend was mentioned in Aesop's Fables and popped up in various works of natural history, until it was debunked in the 17th century by Sir Thomas Browne who pointed out that the testes of beavers don't hang outside their body. They're internal. So it would be difficult to chew them off, even if the beaver wanted to.
Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 Comments (1)

An article headlined "Large snowstorm could slam N.J. next week" recently went viral on Facebook, gaining thousands of shares and causing many people to express concern. The post linked to an article on the site of the New Jersey Star-Ledger, which was a legitimate article. But it had been written 18 months ago in March 2013. When the Star Ledger realized that people were mistaking the article for a current weather forecast, they posted an editor's note at the top of it, pointing out that it was an old article. But this made no difference, because people on Facebook were generally only looking at the headline and sharing that.
Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 Comments (0)

A photo supposedly showing a "Sasquatch watching a passing train" recently began doing the rounds online, after it appeared as the Photo of the Day on the website of Coast to Coast AM, where it was submitted by "Ricky B". A caption with the photo read, "Picture was taken on a cell phone from a moving train near Hayden Lake, Idaho. 8-19-2014. [The creature is enlarged in the square on the right]" However, the community of Bigfoot advocates managed to expose this as a hoax on their own, figuring out that the photo did indeed show a Sasquatch watching a train. However, it wasn't a living Sasquatch. It was a model…
Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 Comments (0)

For £800, you can purchase this genuine Feejee Mermaid from Pyewackett & Pecke, makers of curios, oddities, & artefacts. But UK delivery only, due to its fragility. If you buy it, you may also be able to negotiate inclusion of the "Automated Sideshow Teller" and have yourself an exhibit.
Posted: Thu Oct 02, 2014 Comments (0)

CBC Radio's satirical This is That show recently ran a segment about artist Lana Newstrom, who is supposedly making millions by selling invisible art. The show quotes Newstrom as saying, "Art is about imagination and that is what my work demands of the people interacting with it. You have to imagine a painting or sculpture is in front of you." The show's web page for the segment included a photo of art enthusiasts staring at blank walls in a gallery, apparently admiring Newstrom's paintings and sculptures. The image was actually a doctored version of a photo taken by Adriano Castelli showing people at Phil Stern's photograhy exhibition in Milan, Italy, June…
Posted: Wed Oct 01, 2014 Comments (0)

An article in the NY Times briefly profiles Emergent, a new website created by Craig Silverman which aims to track the dissemination of rumors online. It records how many shares a rumor has received, and also assesses whether the rumor is true, false, or unverified. Looks like a very useful site! The NY Times article notes that the problem with false rumors is that "they're often much more interesting than the truth." Therefore, they get more widely shared. The challenge, says the Times, "is to make the facts as fun to share as the myths they seek to replace." Nice goal, but I don't see it ever happening. The false rumors can endlessly transform themselves to appeal to our deepest hopes and fears. Whereas the facts always have to remain boringly factual.
Posted: Wed Oct 01, 2014 Comments (0)

The Asahi Shimbun (circulation 7.6 million) recently issued some corrections. It was not true, despite previous statements, that writer Seiji Yoshida had kidnapped 200 women during World War II to act as "comfort women." Apparently Yoshida made up his claims. Nor was it true that workers at the Fukushima plant had disobeyed orders and fled the plant during the nuclear disaster. The newspaper misinterpreted documents. Finally, it wasn't true that the paper had interviewed the president of Nintendo. The paper had lifted responses from an interview published on the Nintendo website and passed them off as an Asahi Shimbun interview. iMediaEthics
Posted: Wed Oct 01, 2014 Comments (0)

Prankster Philip Bradbury tweeted Donald Trump a photo, telling him it was a photo of his parents and asking if Trump could retweet it in their memory because he was a "big inspiration" to them. Trump obliged. But it turned out the photo was actually of the English serial killers Fred and Rose West. Trump's response: "Some jerk fraudulently tweeted that his parents said I was a big inspiration to them + pls RT — out of kindness I retweeted. Maybe I'll sue." Yeah, the prank was a bit juvenile, but it's classic Trump to threaten to sue. Reminds me of April Fool's Day 1971, when the…
Posted: Tue Sep 30, 2014 Comments (2)

The Cyranoid Illusion, named after the French play Cyrano de Bergerac, refers to a person who is not speaking their own thoughts, but rather the thoughts and words of another person fed to them via radio transmitter. A recent experiment has found that people can't tell when they're speaking to a Cyranoid, probably because our brains haven't evolved to detect when a person is speaking through the body of someone else. The problem is, the online world is full of Cyranoids. "From online games to online dating sites, people act through virtual versions of themselves (or assumed virtual identities) more and more." [wired.com]
Posted: Tue Sep 30, 2014 Comments (0)

A notice recently posted on the door of a "small building" in the village of Kingswinford has announced that the pub chain Wetherspoons will soon be opening a "Microspoons" mini-bar there, to be staffed by "a person of reduced height." The bar will only have room for 3 people (height restrictions will apply). It will only serve 1 lager, and entertainment will consist of "Sky Sports on 3-inch microscreen." The pub will be called "The Shorter Arms." Wetherspoons itself has denied any knowledge of this new bar. The Stourbridge News speculates that the sign marks the return of the Kingswinford Hoaxer, who was active about a decade ago. Some of the…
Posted: Mon Sep 29, 2014 Comments (0)

It looks like Jasmine Tridevil will be a popular theme for costumes this Halloween. HalloweenCostumes.com offers instructions for a "DIY 3 breasted woman Halloween Costume."
Posted: Mon Sep 29, 2014 Comments (1)

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