Hoax Museum Blog: Birth/Babies

Baby Deception

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]

Posted: Wed Dec 03, 2014.   Comments (1)

Tom Thumb’s baby not a hoax?

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.

Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2014.   Comments (3)

Posted: Mon Sep 29, 2014.   Comments (0)

Posted: Wed Aug 27, 2014.   Comments (0)

Speakerphone Pregnancy Call Terrifies Teacher — The video of this April Fool's Day prank, played by students at Aquinas College on their Macroeconomics professor, now has over 25 millions views on YouTube, which has to make it one of the most popular April Fool pranks this year (if not the most popular). It's nice to see that a low-budget prank by amateurs still can overshadow all the April Fool marketing efforts of the advertising professionals.

The premise of the prank is that a female student receives a call on her cell phone during class. The professor has a rule that if a student has failed to turn their phone off, and it rings during class, they have to answer it in front of everyone. So the student proceeds to take the call, only to learn that it's from the "pregnancy resource center" informing her that she's pregnant. The look of horror on the professor's face as he hears this, and begins to imagine the repercussions of having forced the student to share this news with the class, is classic.

Fake pregnancy announcements are actually a fairly common prank on April Fool's Day. The typical set-up is that female employees will tell their boss on April 1 that they're pregnant and have to take time off. The prank works best if multiple female employees make the same announcement, leaving the boss to imagine the prospect of losing half his staff. I've recorded an example of this from 1963 in the April Fool Archive:

Posted: Mon Apr 14, 2014.   Comments (1)

Posted: Thu Apr 03, 2014.   Comments (0)

Belly Ballot Baby Name Hoax — Belly Ballot is an internet site that helps parents name their baby by "crowdsourcing" the process. That is, it allows parents to create a shortlist of names that their friends and family can vote on.

Back in January, the site announced a "Belly Branding" contest: "One lucky pregnant couple may win $5000 in exchange for letting the entire world decide their baby's name."

And in mid-February it declared a winner, LA-based art teacher Natasha Hill. It posted some photos of Natasha as well as a screenshot of her facebook page. Belly Ballot told the Huffington Post that Hill was chosen from a pool of nearly 80 applicants because of "her honesty and enthusiasm."

The unusual contest received a fair amount of media attention, much of which focused on the controversial aspect of a mother allowing strangers on the internet to name her child. Hill reportedly said she wasn't worried about this because, "I think people will do the right thing and vote for something unique and nice."

However, the story took an entirely different turn on March 3 when LAist.com revealed that Natasha Hill bore a striking resemblance to LA-based actress Natasha Lloyd. In fact, Hill and Lloyd were quite obviously the same person.

Natasha Lloyd (via imdb.com)

The next day, Belly Button admitted that the results of their baby-naming contest were a hoax. No one had entered the contest, so they had hired Lloyd to pose as the winner. In reality, Lloyd wasn't even pregnant.

Belly Ballot founder Lacey Moler explained to today.com that she and her staff decided to perpetrate the hoax because, "we're a start-up and we wanted to control the situation."

The mystery in all this is how LAist managed to notice the resemblance between Hill and Lloyd. They don't explain. Did someone at LAist already know Lloyd and recognized her picture? Or were they tipped off?

The second option would be the more interesting one, because it raises the question of who gave them the tip. Perhaps Belly Ballot surreptitiously exposed its own hoax, knowing that the news of a hoax would generate even more publicity for its site than the original baby-naming contest had. Secretly exposing his own hoaxes was one of P.T. Barnum's favorite tricks.

Or perhaps Lloyd was the informant. After all, the hoax is good publicity for her as well.
Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2013.   Comments (1)

Mexican Woman isn’t pregnant with nonuplets — From Mexico, last week, came news of a multiple-birth hoax. (posted by Smerk in the forum).

Thirty-two-year-old Karla Vanessa Perez of Coahuila claimed she was pregnant with nonuplets (six girls and three boys) and would give birth on May 20. This was dutifully reported by Mexico's main broadcaster Televisa as well as various newspapers. She gave welfare officials some kind of ultrasound video (not clear where she got that), so her claim wasn't entirely without evidence. But when Mexican newspapers investigated, they quickly learned she wasn't pregnant. Sounds like it was her own mother who outed her. From msnbc.com: "Her mother, Francisca Castañeda, told El Diario de Coahuila that Perez has three children, ages 15, 12 and 4 and after the last was born, had an operation to prevent her from getting pregnant again."

Motive is always a bit of a mystery in cases like this, because you have to wonder how the woman thought she could get away with it. Perhaps it was a welfare scam. And she probably had some psychological issues. Again from msnbc.com:

José Salvador Gallegos Mata, a member of the Mexican Society of Gynecology and Urology told the newspaper that someone who would make such false claims "needs to urgently say 'I'm here. Please look at me, I exist.'" He added, "That woman needs urgent psychological treatment."

Here's a quick refresher on some of the other multiple-birth hoaxes that have occurred over the years:
  • September 1726: Mary Toft, of Godalming, England, not only claimed she gave birth to 18 rabbits, but actually gave birth to a few of them in the presence of physicians. The hoax unraveled when she was placed under constant supervision, at which point she failed to produce any more rabbits. When Sir Richard Manningham suggested that he should surgically examine her to determine where the rabbits were coming from, she confessed that she had been putting them there herself when no one was looking.
  • April 1936: A French newspaper claimed that a woman in the South of France had given birth to sextuplets, and it ran a picture of the proud parents posing with their six new children. London newspapers picked up on the story and ran it as fact. It turned out to be an April Fool's Day hoax inspired by the recent birth of the Dionne Quintuplets in 1934.
  • April 1938: American newspapers announced that a woman in San Salvador was giving birth to sextuplets, thereby one-upping the famous Dionne quintuplets. The next day the papers realized they had been taken in by an unknown hoaxer.
  • August 1941: The Chicago Herald-American ran a headline announcing "Mother Here Expects 5 or 6 Babies." For six months it continued to promise that this local mother would give birth soon. Its source for this news was a single reporter, Hugh S. Stewart, who staunchly refused to disclose who this very pregnant woman was. As the expected delivery date neared and then passed, Stewart offered various reasons for why she hadn't given birth yet. For instance, he explained that medication had complicated her pregnancy. Finally, Stewart's editors grew impatient, and under pressure he confessed that he had made up the entire story.
  • November 1952: Newspapers in Santiago, Chile ran headlines announcing that a local woman had just given birth to septuplets — seven children at once! Soon international papers also picked up on the story. But eventually the news was traced back to a group of students who had dreamed it up as a way of advertising their upcoming spring festival.
  • March 2006: A Missouri couple, Sarah and Kris Everson, solicited donations after telling news organizations that Sarah had given birth to sextuplets. They supplied the Associated Press with a photo of Sarah looking very pregnant, as well as sonograms of the kids. But the hoax was discovered after local authorities became suspicious and checked with local hospitals, all of which reported they had no knowledge of the Eversons.

Posted: Mon Apr 30, 2012.   Comments (1)

Don’t give me a ticket, Officer. I’m about to give birth! — Judith Anne Holland obviously thought she had a pretty foolproof alibi when she got pulled over for speeding. She told the officer she was in labour and on her way to the hospital. But when she got pulled over a second time, within the same hour, she was accompanied to the hospital, where they discovered she wasn't pregnant.

Home detention for pregnancy hoax

A woman who pretended to be in labour twice on the same day after she was caught speeding and driving while disqualified was yesterday sentenced to home detention when she appeared in Invercargill District Court...

Posted: Wed Apr 04, 2012.   Comments (0)

Baby Yoga, or Swinging Your Kid Around Your Head — Infant learning and development is a field full of dubious theories, because there are so many desperate parents willing to try anything that might give their kids a slight edge-up in life. So the stage is set for Baby Yoga, aka "dynamic baby gymnastics," aka 'swinging your baby around your head.' Its practitioners claim that if you're not doing this, then you're depriving your child of an important developmental opportunity.

Check out the video below which shows Elena Fokina demonstrating some Baby Yoga moves. Warning: if the sight of kids being swung energetically around might disturb you, then you probably want to skip the video. Previous videos of Baby Yoga posted on youtube have been banned because they caused such an outcry. (See this BBC News story from Feb 2011).

Anticipating that this video might also get removed from youtube, here's a few screenshots of Elena in action.

According to the video, the practice of Baby Yoga originated in Russia -- its founder being Igor Borisovich Charkovsk, who also advocates the health benefits of dunking kids in water over and over again. More info: anorak.co.uk.

As one would expect, mainstream pediatricians warn that swinging your kid around like a rag doll could be very dangerous if you lose your grasp on the kid.
Posted: Fri Mar 09, 2012.   Comments (6)

Beyonce had her baby. Satan is on Earth. — On Jan. 11, TMZ posted a photo of the sign outside the Beulah Hill Baptist Church, which apparently bore a nice message inspired by the recent birth of Beyonce's baby: "BEYONCE HAD HER BABY. SATAN IS ON EARTH."

<# some text #>

According to TMZ, the pastor at that church told them that vandals had placed the message there, and that it had been taken down promptly.

However, the pastor, Rev. Curtis Barbery, is denying he ever told TMZ this. He gave an interview to the Fayetteville Observer in which he insisted the sign hadn't been vandalized and that the photo was a fake. He said, “It’s never been on our sign because our sign stays locked and the same phrase has been on it since Thanksgiving. Only one man has the key to it.”

But TMZ continues to insist the photo is real (though they won't say how they got it), and that the pastor DID tell them the sign was vandalized.

Most people seem to be inclined to believe the pastor, not TMZ. Mainly because it's so easy to photoshop fake messages onto signs. To illustrate the point, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted this photo on their blog:

Posted: Mon Jan 23, 2012.   Comments (5)

The Chinese Octomom —

In China, a photography studio recently posted an advertisement online displaying examples of baby photos it had taken. The problem was that the photos showed a family of eight kids, four boys and four girls, belonging to parents who had apparently paid $160,000 to have the kids delivered by surrogate mothers. However, it's illegal for Chinese hospitals to provide surrogacy procedures. Not to mention China's one-child policy. Which makes the public display of the photos a pretty brazen flouting of the law. But are the photos real, or just a publicity stunt? The AP reports:

Chinese media are calling the mother “babaotai muqin,” or “octomom,” a reference to the American woman who gave birth to octuplets using in vitro fertilization.
Much remains uncertain about the family from Guangzhou, the capital of south China’s Guangdong province. According to the Guangzhou Daily, a government newspaper, the biological mother carried two of the babies, while two surrogates gave birth to three each. After the babies were born in September and October last year, 11 nannies were hired to help take care of the children, the report said.
While some suspect a hoax, a media officer with the Guangdong Health Department said the case was real and under investigation. He declined to identify the couple, citing privacy concerns.
Links: Salon.com, BBC News.
Posted: Mon Jan 02, 2012.   Comments (1)

Beyonce Baby Bump Controversy — Singer Beyonce Knowles announced she was pregnant in August. But video of a recent interview with her on an Australian TV show has led to rumors that she's faking her pregnancy, because as she walked out and sat down for the interview her stomach appeared to bend and fold in a weird way.


The theory is that she's wearing a prosthetic baby bump, while a surrogate mother carries the actual child. This way, Beyonce will avoid the stretch marks and discomfort of pregnancy — and she'll look fit and toned immediately after "giving birth".

I think the conspiracy theorists are reaching a bit here. And Beyonce, of course, has denied the rumor.

But one question the controversy raises is why do people like to come up with these conspiracy theories about their favorite celebrities? It recalls the Paul Is Dead debate, though the Beyonce theories are nowhere near as elaborate as the Dead Paul theories. At least, not yet. Maybe fans will start finding fake baby clues in Beyonce's albums.

One reason for the theories is that they have some entertainment value. They provide fans with something to discuss about the celebrity. Also, psychologists argue that those who tell such rumors gain status by appearing to be privy to special information. And perhaps, in Beyonce's case, some of her fans don't want her to be pregnant. They prefer the image of her as a youthful "single lady", so they're fantasizing away her pregnancy as a hoax.

Links: tmz.com, US Magazine.
Posted: Wed Oct 12, 2011.   Comments (3)

The Egg-Laying Dog of Vienna — Recently I read Jan Bondeson's new book, Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities. Bondeson is one of my favorite writers because he's a master at finding incredibly obscure but truly bizarre oddities from history, and he doesn't disappoint in this book. I plan to discuss the book more in a future post, because he's collected a lot of urban legends and hoaxes concerning dogs. For instance, he reveals the story of Greyfriar's Bobby to be a hoax (LaMa has posted about this in the forum). But for now what I want to share is a story he mentions in his first chapter (page 11) about a dog that could supposedly lay eggs. He writes:

Another quaint old dog book is Christian Franz Paullini's Cynographia Curiosa from 1685, a compilation of curious dog lore from innumerable ancient and contemporary sources. Standing out even among Paullini's manifold canine curiosities is the Egg-laying Dog of Vienna. A large mongrel cur, it laid many large eggs via the anus. After each of these strange births, it seemed weak and exhausted, but it soon recovered from its recent confinement and jumped around its master, who showed it as a curiosity. To impress the spectators, and to demonstrate that the eggs were genuine, the enterprising Austrian broke one of the dog's eggs, fried it in a pan, and ate it.

Most normal people would probably think that was an awful story and move on, but I was quite intrigued by it. It reminded me of the story of Mary Toft and the Rabbit Babies, but instead of a woman stuffing herself with dead rabbits, you had a guy stuffing eggs into his dog. Plus, it offered a curious variation on the ancient tradition of "bosom serpent" legends, which feature various animals crawling inside women, growing to full size, and then emerging in unsettling ways. The most famous modern version of these legends is the tale of the girl who gets impregnated by frog (or octopus) eggs while swimming in a pool. In the case of the egg-laying dog, we're dealing with a different species, but the theme of unnatural births is similar.

Unfortunately Bondeson didn't offer any more details about the case of the egg-laying dog, so I embarked on a fact-finding mission of my own to learn more.

First, I was able to find the book he mentioned, Cynographia Curiosa, on Google books. (I love Google Books -- a few years ago it would have been close to impossible to track down such an obscure book, but I found it after less than a minute of searching.) The book is in latin, and doesn't seem to have ever been translated, but dusting off my high-school latin, I found the story of the egg-laying dog in it. I've reproduced the latin text below, and then I've attempted a very rough translation. Actually, I've probably mistranslated parts of it, but it's close enough to tell that Paullini's text offers a few more details than what Bondeson provided, but it omits the detail about the owner of the dog eating one of the eggs:

Paullini Text

This is indeed a marvel, which Jungius, of the Academy of the Curious, has told (in Ephemeriden, Vol 1:2) of the egg-laying dog -- a dog which had devoured some food prepared by a country woman for her hens in order to make them lay larger and more numerous eggs. Following his master on a journey, the dog then was seen by many spectators to lay some eggs, one after another, excreting them through its anus. After which it was greatly tired, but the food having been removed, it was restored to its former vigor. (See Thesaurus Practicus adauct. by Besoldi, p.389). A friend told me a similar story. And we have heard a similar story about a dog in Westphalia that vomited eggs from its mouth. Were these true eggs? Who can believe it!

Paullini, in turn, attributed the story to Jungius. Some more searching revealed that Jungius was the German scholar Georg (or Joachim) Sebastian Jungius, who was apparently a member of a German scientific society known as the Academia Naturae Curiosorum (The Academy of the Curious as to Nature), which published the world's very first scientific journal, Miscellanea curiosa sive ephemeridum medicophysicarum germanicarum Academiae, in which the story of the egg-laying dog appeared (Series 1, Volume 2, page 348). I find it fascinating that early scientists were sitting around seriously considering topics such as egg-laying dogs.

Unfortunately, Google Books doesn't have a copy of the Miscellanea curiosa (at least, not a copy of the relevant volume), nor does any library in San Diego have it, so my investigation ended there.

And at about this stage in my research, I was starting to wonder why I was spending so much time investigating a seventeenth century egg-laying dog. But for what it's worth, I did find out that Bondeson also mentioned the story in an earlier book, The Two-Headed Boy and Other Medical Marvels. But he gave essentially the same details.

Plus, I found online the second reference given by Paullini -- Besold's Thesaurus Practicus. On page 389 it has some kind of reference (again in Latin) to a dog laying eggs, but I can't figure out what it's saying.
Posted: Mon Sep 26, 2011.   Comments (3)

A Fake Pregnancy Experiment — pregnant womanHere's a slightly different spin on the old fake pregnancy prank. (Reality Rule 1.1 in Hippo Eats Dwarf is "Just because a woman looks pregnant, it doesn't mean she is."

As a social experiment, the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol made one of their operatives appear to be pregnant. Then they sent her to the state fair and had her stand around in full view drinking beer. They wanted to see if anyone would say something to her about how she shouldn't drink alcohol while pregnant. They even had the woman approach strangers with her beer in hand and ask them to take photos of her drinking.

The result: No one said anything negative to her. In fact, a few people congratulated her for drinking while pregnant.

They concluded that the "Minnesota Nice" thing may have undermined their experiment.

Or perhaps the woman should have stood around doing vodka shots. That might have produced more of a reaction. Though this is the third time they've run the experiment (once at last year's state fair and once in a downtown bar), and the other times they did get a few negative remarks.

However, from the perspective of social psychology, I'd say that the non-response is most likely a manifestation of the Unresponsive Bystander Effect. In situations involving large crowds, people are very reluctant to step forward and offer help (or criticism). There's the natural tendency to assume that it's someone else's responsibility. The non-response also becomes self-perpetuating. People take their cues from those around them. So if no one reacts to a situation, everyone assumes it's because there's no problem.
Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2011.   Comments (7)

Birth or Not — The Premise: A couple claims to be allowing the internet to vote on whether or not they'll have an abortion.

This has been getting a lot of attention on blogs over the past few days, and by now it's been definitively proven to be a hoax. Kevin Hoffman points out what I think is the most telling piece of evidence. The couple registered the domain name birthornot.com over two months before the baby was supposedly conceived. Also, the man behind the site has been identified as Pete Arnold, who is apparently a well-known right-wing troll.

So, in other words, this is just another cynical shock-style hoax designed to be offensive. (Thanks, Bob!)
Posted: Mon Nov 22, 2010.   Comments (17)

Airbrushed Babies — According to The Telegraph, politicians and industry experts have been shocked (shocked!) to learn that magazines occasionally photoshop pictures of babies:

The practice came to light in a BBC documentary, My Supermodel Baby. In footage of a photo shoot for the magazine, the casting director explained how the photograph of baby model Hadley Corbett, five months, was airbrushed: "We lightened his eyes and his general skin tone, smoothed out any blotches and the creases on his arms," he said. "But we want it to look natural."

Honestly, this seems like a non-issue to me. It's not like doctoring baby pictures is a new thing. Remember Baby Adolf?
Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2009.   Comments (5)

Visit Denmark, and get a girl pregnant — As posted recently by LaMa in the forum, a video recently began to circulate that appeared to have been created by a Danish girl who was trying to find the father of her child. She said the father had been a tourist in Denmark. They had had a one-night stand a year ago.

Turns out the video was actually created by Denmark's National Tourist Agency as part of a viral marketing campaign. The tourist agency has since issued an apology:

Local media reported yesterday the woman is actually an actress named Ditte Arnth Jorgensen and the baby "August" is not hers. The revelation caused outrage in the country, with one newspaper labelling the stunt "grotesque". VisitDenmark CEO Dorte Kiilerich said the aim of the viral advertising campaign was to create a positive view of Denmark.

As a publicity stunt, I'd say the campaign was highly effective. But in terms of encouraging people to visit Denmark, I'm not so sure.
Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2009.   Comments (17)

Milkman Experiment — Swedish father Ragnar Bengtsson is pumping his breasts at three-hour intervals every day, in the hope that eventually he will start to lactate and be able to breastfeed his future children. If it works, he has no plans to breastfeed his 2-year-old son. The experiment is being filmed by Swedish TV8.

Odds that he may produce some milk if he works at it long enough: pretty good. Odds that he'll produce enough to feed a child: close to zero. He could help his cause by starving himself, since starvation triggers male lactation. That's just one of the odd facts I happen to know. (Thanks, Bob!)
Posted: Fri Sep 04, 2009.   Comments (7)

Baby Glutton — I think the trend toward hyper-realism in dolls started in the 1970s with the introduction of Kenner's "Baby Alive" doll which ate, drank, and wet its diapers.

The latest evolution of the trend is Baby Glutton, the breastfeeding doll. According to thingamababy.com: "Your child wears a colorful bra-like halter-top featuring flowers over the nipple area. When the doll is lifted to the flowers, it makes a suckling motion and sound." A little too realistic, perhaps?

More links: berjuan.com (maker of the doll), nj.com.
(Thanks, Bob!)
Posted: Tue Aug 04, 2009.   Comments (28)

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