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Hoaxes of Joseph Mulhattan
Garden Ornaments Mystery — They're popping up all over the place in Acle: huddled under bus shelters, lined up at the bank. They're garden ornaments (gnomes, Grecian figures, etc.), and no one knows who or what is responsible for their mysterious movements. Let's hope it's not Travelocity.
Posted: Thu Mar 04, 2004.   Comments (0)

The Great Doughnut Hoax — Three years ago Robert Ligon announced that he had invented a low-fat doughnut. He stood to make millions off the invention. But a few days ago he was hauled off by the police, who simultaneously raided his warehouse and confiscated over 18,000 of his doughnuts (all of which, I'm sure, will be held as evidence... not one of them will mysteriously disappear). You see, Ligon's doughnuts weren't actually low-fat. He was simply buying normal donuts and slapping a low-fat label on them.
Posted: Thu Mar 04, 2004.   Comments (1)

Church of SpongeBob Squarepants — Are you bored with mainstream religion and ready, eddy, eddy for something different? Then why not consider converting to the Church of SpongeBob Squarepants? In fact, you probably don't even have to give up your existing faith. Spongebob is quite ecumenical, in this regard. To convert all you have to do is "drop on the deck and flop like a fish." (Thanks to Alex... that's someone else named Alex, not me... for the link).
Posted: Wed Mar 03, 2004.   Comments (5)

I Can Still Tell Your Wife, Bill — The advertising agency Yarnbird is trying to make a name for itself as a creator of viral content. It invents odd sites that appear to be the creations of weird, eccentric people. The hope is that the popularity of the sites will provide publicity for Yarnbird. One of its previous sites, that I've linked to before, was My Son Peter. Another site that people have been linking to recently is I can still tell your wife, Bill. It appears to be created by a woman who's mad at Bill, a…
Posted: Wed Mar 03, 2004.   Comments (3)


The Vinland Map — The debate about the Vinland Map continues, and Scientific American summarizes the controversy. Everyone agrees that the parchment the map was written on is medieval, but what about the ink? That's the question.
Posted: Wed Mar 03, 2004.   Comments (0)

Bad California Weather — This picture is going around via email. It's not really a hoax at all. Just a joke. But since it's about Southern California, I couldn't resist sharing it. Here's the text that accompanies the email: With all the news on TV lately about the subzero weather and snow that the east coast and upstate NY areas are experiencing, we shouldn't forget that Southern California has it's share of devastating weather also. I've attached a photo illustrating the excessive damage caused to a home…
Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2004.   Comments (18)

Push Button for Walk Signal — I've long suspected that those buttons on corners that you're supposed to push to get a walk signal are a bizarre hoax. Just a facade created by city governments to let us pedestrians feel like we possess some small measure of control. Now this article (NY Times, reg. req.) largely confirms my suspicion. The article only discusses New York City, but I think the situation is the same throughout most of the country.
Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2004.   Comments (33)

Lies, Damned Lies, and Photography — "While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph." Paul Vallely has written a good article on the history of photographic fraud for the Independent.
Posted: Sun Feb 22, 2004.   Comments (1)

Imaginary Girlfriends — A few weeks ago I noted the growing popularity of buying and selling imaginary relationships on eBay. Now the concept has migrated off of eBay and became the basis for a new company: ImaginaryGirlfriends.com. As the site explains: You can soon receive personalized love letters by mail, e-mail, photos, special gifts, even phone messages or online chat from your new Imaginary Girlfriend. We won't tell anyone that it's not real!. Okay, but what about the imaginary boyfriends?
Posted: Sun Feb 22, 2004.   Comments (6)

Is John Edward a fake? — It seems like whenever I turn on the SciFi channel, there's John Edward talking to the dead. I don't really care if he actually can talk to the dead or not (I assume he can't). I'm more concerned by the fact that his show is boring. But on the start of his Australian tour, a man has sued him, claiming that Edward's show violates the Trade Practices Act which stipulates that suppliers of goods can't make claims that they can't substantiate. In this case, Edward claims he can talk to the…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (91)

Harrods vs. the Wall Street Journal — In 2002 the upscale British department store Harrods issued a press release on April 1 announcing plans to 'float' the company. At first it indicated that this would involve a "first-come, first-served share option". Later it revised this to indicate that it was not planning to float shares on the stock exchange. Instead, it was planning to create a floating version of the store on the river Thames. It was just an April Fool's Day joke, but the Wall Street Journal fell for it. In…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (1)

Muse Magazine — This week I started a new job as contributing editor to Muse Magazine. It's a magazine for young teenagers (9-14 years old) about science, history, and the arts, but I don't think that description quite captures its quirky nature. It runs articles on everything from 'Weird tales of the subway' to 'Could you live forever' (which is in the current issue). Its mascot is a trickster named Kokopelli (from Native American mythology) who loves to play pranks, which might explain why they were…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (5)

Satanic Toaster — In the tradition of the Ghost In A Jar, but not as funny or clever, we recently had a Satanic Toaster offered for sale on eBay. The toaster first began to burn the toast. Then, when the seller tried to throw it away, it mysteriously reappeared back in his kitchen. Like I said, a pale imitation of the ghost in a jar. (Submitted by Bob Pagani)
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (2)

The Irish Virus hoax — This is just dumb. You receive an email with the following message: Greetings, You have just received the "IRISH VIRUS". As we don't have any programming experience, this Virus works on the honour system. Please delete all the files on your hard drive manually and forward this Virus to everyone on your mailing list. Thank you for your cooperation. I think I've seen other versions of it that attribute it to other ethnicities/social groups. There's more info about it over at symantec.com.…
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2004.   Comments (5)

The Milton Mule and Henry Bull — In 1936 a candidate named Boston Curtis ran for the post of Republican precinct committeeman in the town of Milton, Washington. And he won. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to the people who voted for him, Boston Curtis was a mule. His name had been placed on the ballot by the Democratic mayor Ken Simmons who guessed, correctly, that no one actually knows anything about the candidates for the lower-ranking positions. They just vote along party lines. Simmons figured it would be funny to…
Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2004.   Comments (1)

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