Hoax Museum Blog: Exploration/Travel

Fake Vacation Plagiarism? — Turns out there's some controversy surrounding Zilla van den Born's fake vacation (see previous post). Another art student, Merel Brugman, says that Zilla stole the idea from her, because two years ago, while Merel was at the Willem de Kooning Academy, she did an art project that was almost identical. Merel's project was called "Same Same But Different" and also involved simulating a vacation in Asia via photoshopped pictures. There's an article (in Dutch) about the controversy here. And details of Merel Brugman's project are on her site.
Posted: Wed Sep 10, 2014.   Comments (0)

Posted: Wed Sep 10, 2014.   Comments (1)

Miss Travel—flying beautiful people around the world for free. Real or Fake? — Miss Travel calls itself "The #1 Travel Dating Site." But I'm not sure how many other travel dating sites there are. Is it the only one?

The premise is that if you're an attractive person (but most likely a woman) who likes to travel, they'll pair you with a "generous" traveler who wants a traveling companion (a rich guy). So it's like a high-class escort service, trading travel for "companionship."

The concept seemed a bit dubious to me, but as far as I can tell the site is legitimate. It's registered to InfoStream Group Inc., which is in the business of "millionaire & fantasy dating." They've had the site registered since 2001.

If you're an unattractive wannabe traveler, I guess you're out of luck.

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2012.   Comments (1)

Study finds that chivalry at sea is a myth. Men survive shipwrecks at much higher rate than women. — If you're a woman, don't expect much help from men during a shipwreck. In fact, the men are likely to be shoving the women out of the way in their eagerness to save themselves. That's the general message of a new study by Swedish economists Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixson, "Every Man for Himself! Gender, Norms and Survival in Maritime Disasters."

Women fare worst on British ships — contrary to the tradition of British chivalry. The one exception to this rule was the Titanic, where Captain Smith announced, 'Women and children first.' And he enforced this rule at gunpoint. But apparently, during disasters it hardly ever occurs to captains to insist that women and children should be saved first. The recent Costa Concordia disaster demonstrated this.

The abstract of Elinder and Erixson's study:

Since the sinking of the Titanic, there has been a widespread belief that the social norm of 'women and children first' gives women a survival advantage over men in maritime disasters, and that captains and crew give priority to passengers. We analyze a database of 18 maritime disasters spanning three centuries, covering the fate of over 15,000 individuals of more than 30 nationalities. Our results provide a new picture of maritime disasters. Women have a distinct survival disadvantage compared to men. Captains and crew survive at a significantly higher rate than passengers. We also find that the captain has the power to enforce normative behavior, that the gender gap in survival rates has declined, that women have a larger disadvantage in British shipwrecks, and that there seems to be no association between duration of a disaster and the impact of social norms. Taken together, our findings show that behavior in life-and-death situation is best captured by the expression 'Every man for himself'.

Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012.   Comments (0)

Those French beaches look great, because they’re really in Hawaii — France's tourism agency has been embarrassed after it's been revealed that a whole series of photos it's been using to promote French beaches don't actually show French locations at all. They're stock photos, taken in Hawaii and South Africa, in the background of which the tourism agency sometimes photoshopped sections of French coastline. It seems stupid since France has some great scenery, but the tourism agency was apparently too cheap to hire a photographer to take photos of any of it. (link: Daily Mail)

This is hardly the first time tourism agencies have been caught pulling this trick. In Hippo Eats Dwarf I noted some examples, including a 2003 brochure for Bermuda that showed sunny beaches that were in Hawaii, and a Kentucky tourism brochure that featured a covered bridge actually located in New Hampshire.

Looks like France

But it's really Hawaii

Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2012.   Comments (0)

Myths of the Titanic — The BBC has an interesting article about myths associated with the Titanic. The five myths they list, summarized, are:
  1. The unsinkability of the Titanic: "the White Star Line never made any substantive claims that the Titanic was unsinkable - and nobody really talked about the ship's unsinkability until after the event"
  2. The band played Nearer, My God, To Thee: The band probably did play on deck as the ship sank, but there's no good evidence that their final song was 'Nearer, My God, To Thee.'
  3. The Heroic Captain Smith: Captain Smith really wasn't that heroic. In fact, his inaction meant that there wasn't a more orderly evacuation.
  4. The Villainous J Bruce Ismay: Ismay, present of the company that built the Titanic, is traditionally portrayed as a villainous businessman who bullied Captain Smith into going faster, and then jumped into the first available lifeboat to save himself. But he probably wasn't that villainous in real life. He actually helped a lot of people into boats.
  5. Forcibly barring third-class passengers from the lifeboats: There was no deliberate attempt to prevent third-class passengers from reaching lifeboats. However, "Gates did exist which barred the third class passengers from the other passengers. But this was not in anticipation of a shipwreck but in compliance with US immigration laws and the feared spread of infectious diseases." As a result, only one-third of steerage passengers survived.

Posted: Fri Apr 06, 2012.   Comments (3)

The Adventures of the Little Cardiff Giant in New Zealand — The Little Cardiff Giant recently wound up his travels through New Zealand. Some pictures are below.

As you may remember, his world tour started in Southern California, then he went to Perth, and then NZ. His next stop, if all goes according to plan, is Melbourne.

My administrative duties as the coordinator of his tour went a little awry at first. I should have created a master list of everyone who volunteered to host him, but instead I just let emails accumulate. So now I'm trying to piece together a list retroactively. This is what I have -- but if I missed someone, or you want to be added to the list, let me know.

  • Alex -- San Diego
  • Nettie -- Perth
  • Sean -- New Zealand
  • G Beattie -- Melbourne
  • C Barrett -- Melbourne
  • M Anto -- Brisbane
  • J Scharff -- Japan
  • C Morgan -- British Columbia
  • Oppiejoe -- Michigan
  • Tah -- Idaho
  • dbrunker -- Portland
  • Crafty Dragon -- Montana
  • G Pylant -- Texas
  • K O'Brien -- Philadelphia

Posted: Tue Apr 03, 2012.   Comments (7)

Ghetto Hikes — The author of "Ghetto Hikes," which is a twitter feed and accompanying website, offers this description of it:

I'm 28. I have a full time job leading urban kids (of all races) on nature hikes. I simply write down shit they say.

It's kind of obvious that it's a parody in the style of "Shit My Dad Says," but the Village Voice confirms it isn't real:

Looks like Ghetto Hikes is a parody account -- and an unfunny one at that. According to a just-released tweet, Men's Humor and Ghetto Hikes were registered by the same person.

The most surprising thing about Ghetto Hikes is that it has over 430,000 followers!

Posted: Fri Feb 24, 2012.   Comments (0)

The Hoaxing Hitchhiker, 1941 —

In 1941, Tommy Graham employed a clever, but slightly duplicitous, technique to get rides as he hitchhiked from Maryland to California. He used an oil can as a suitcase, so that drivers thought his car had broken down and stopped to help him out. I wonder if this technique would work today. Do people even pick up hitchhikers anymore?

from The Bradford Era, Nov. 4, 1941

Posted: Mon Feb 13, 2012.   Comments (4)

Cardiff Giant in Perth — Here are some pictures, courtesy of Nettie and Smerk, of the Cardiff Giant enjoying the sights in Perth. (Nettie sent me the pictures about three weeks ago, but Thanksgiving and the moon hoax distracted me. At least, that's the excuse for my slowness that I'm going with.)

So where should the Cardiff Giant go next? Any volunteers to host him? I'm hoping it might be possible to send him somewhere in the general neighborhood of Australia. Japan, maybe? I'll wait a week for responses, and in the meantime I'll also see if I can find any volunteers through non-MoH channels.
Posted: Fri Dec 16, 2011.   Comments (6)

Cardiff Giants Invade Pasadena — I use Google news alerts to find out whenever various keywords I'm interested in appear in news stories or on websites. One of these keywords is "Cardiff Giant". This particular keyword search doesn't usually generate many results. Perhaps one or two a week. But on friday night my patience was rewarded when I got a google news alert about the creation of a new site: cardiff1869.com.

The site is the creation of a Pasadena-based artist who chooses to remain anonymous, using the alias "Cardiff1869". Inspired by the Cardiff Giant of 1869 (which I posted about just a few days ago), he (or perhaps she) is creating a limited series of small-scale replicas of the Cardiff Giant. And he's leaving these miniature giants at various public locations around Pasadena. He explains:

These Cardiff1869 art installations are meant to be found at random by lucky passers-by (known as “Finders” on this web site) who then become a special part of the Cardiff1869 Free Art Project by discovering their own little “Cardiff Giant”.

The primary goal/intent of the Cardiff1869 Project is to allow people to experience the unique joy and wonder of discovering a free and anonymous gift of hand sculpted art, and to allow them the rare opportunity to ponder its mysterious origins and significance, just as the public did back in 1869 when the original Cardiff Giant was discovered.

In the past, I've actually searched quite extensively to find out if anyone had ever created small replicas of the Cardiff Giant, because while it would be impractical for me to keep a full-scale, ten-foot stone giant in my house, I very much wanted to have a smaller version of the giant to call my own. So to find out that little Cardiff Giants were being placed around Pasadena, which is only 2 hours away from where I live, seemed too good to be true.

I briefly wondered whether it was all a hoax. I also wondered whether it would be cheating to purposefully look for the statues. So I emailed Cardiff1869 who assured me that, "Purposefully looking for an installation is common in Street Art. No worries. There is a large sub-culture of Street Art fans who are always on the lookout for new works by their favorite artists - especially the 3D/Sculpture type 'Street Installations' they can actually take and keep."

So early the next morning I dragged my wife out of bed (she was quite willing to humor me and go along, which is one of the reasons I'm so lucky she married me), and we headed up to Pasadena to search for Cardiff Giants.

According to the Cardiff1869 site, six giants had been placed, and four of them had already been found. That left only 2. We quickly confirmed that one of these was also gone, and then spent a fruitless hour-and-a-half searching for the other one, which was supposed to be somewhere on Magnolia St.

I was feeling pretty downbeat, thinking I wasn't going to find a giant. But then my wife and I checked the Cardiff1869 site again and discovered that, just that morning, two more giants had been placed. We must have looked like contestants from the show Amazing Race as we sped toward the new locations. I jumped out of the car at an intersection and sprinted across the road to the WWI Veterans Memorial where one of them was placed. It was still there, placed on a piece of slate surrounded by a circle of stones!


Within half an hour we had located the second one, which was placed on the Colorado St. Bridge. Here I am, moments after finding it. Note that I wore my Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum t-shirt for the hunt, since Marvin's Museum has a Cardiff Giant replica on display. (Kind of nerdy, I know, but I was having fun.)


So I'm now the proud guardian of two little Cardiff Giants. Here's a photo of one of them meeting some of the other residents of the Museum of Hoaxes.


Cardiff1869 tells me that one of the giants — the one on Magnolia St. that I searched for but couldn't find — is still there waiting to be found! Plus, he'll soon be placing more giants. So if you live in the LA area and you're interested in a treasure hunt to find a Cardiff Giant, now's your chance. Keep watching his site to find out the new locations. I had great fun searching for the giants, and I want to thank Cardiff1869 for taking the time to put together such a great project!

So what am I going to do with my giants? One of them I'd like to send on a round-the-world tour — like a traveling gnome adventure. A while back Nettie tried to organize a MoH traveling gnome project, but I completely botched the project. She sent me the gnome, Bumpkin, which I then passed on to a friend of mine here in San Diego who was doing a driving tour of the midwest. Unfortunately my friend lost Bumpkin's legs somewhere in the midwest. So that ended Bumpkin's adventures. I've felt responsible for killing Bumpkin ever since.

So anyway, to partially make up for that previous disaster, I'm happy to send you the Cardiff Giant first, Nettie, if you're interested. And anyone else who wants to participate in the Cardiff Giant's world tour, let me know. We'll put together an itinerary for him.

As for the second cardiff giant — I plan eventually to relocate him somewhere. When I find him a new home, I'll post the details.
Posted: Sun Oct 09, 2011.   Comments (9)

MOH chosen as one of America’s Kitschiest Roadside Attractions — It's official. American Express's Travel and Leisure Magazine has chosen the Museum of Hoaxes as one of America's Kitschiest Roadside Attractions. We're honored to be recognized in this way!

kitschy attraction

Posted: Thu Sep 01, 2011.   Comments (9)

Gravity-Defying Message in a Bottle — Looks like another case of the old Message in a Bottle hoax.

Two years ago 4-year-old Libbi Wallace threw a bottled message into the Kennebec River, inspired by her dad's tales of doing so as a kid. According to Maine's The Times Record, she recently received a reply from someone who claimed to have found her bottle while kayaking on Lake Erie. Her correspondent chose to remain anonymous, identifying themselves only as "Surprised in Cleveland."

But as Brian Bienkowski of the Great Lakes Echo points out, it would be physically impossible for a bottle to float from Maine's Kennebec River to Lake Erie.

For a start, the Kennebec flows into the Atlantic Ocean. To get to Lake Erie, the bottle would have to float up to the St. Lawrence River, head upstream for hundreds of miles, and somehow get over Niagara Falls.

Perhaps someone carried it to Lake Erie. Or, as Bienkowski asks: "Is 'Surprised in Cleveland' really 'Loving Father in Bath, Maine?'"
Posted: Wed Aug 31, 2011.   Comments (5)

The Hotelicopter — The premise: According to Hotelicopter.com, a giant helicopter (a Soviet-made Mil V-12) has been transformed into a flying hotel:

The Hotelicopter features 18 luxuriously-appointed rooms for adrenaline junkies seeking a truly unique and memorable travel experience. Each soundproofed room is equipped with a queen-sized bed, fine linens, a mini-bar, coffee machine, wireless internet access, and all the luxurious appointments you’d expect from a flying five star hotel. Room service is available one hour after liftoff and prior to landing.

Reasons to think it's a hoax: a) it's a strange idea (how long it could fly before it would have to be refueled?); b) all the photographs of it are computer-rendered; c) the site is registered anonymously (what are they trying to hide?); d) no contact info; e) the site made its debut suspiciously close to April Fool's Day.

Probable perpetrator: It mentions Yotel, the mini-sized hotel rooms you can check into at Heathrow or Gatwick airports. So that would be my guess.
Posted: Mon Mar 30, 2009.   Comments (10)

Man mails himself from New York to Las Vegas — Doing some catchup here on hoaxes I've missed: Wade Whitcomb claimed he squeezed himself into a cramped wooden crate and mailed himself via UPS from New York to Las Vegas. Because this would violate a number of laws, it attracted the attention of the FBI, who interviewed Whitcomb, who then promptly admitted he had made the entire thing up. "We have no further interest in this," said the FBI spokesman. And nor, frankly, do I. (Thanks, Bob!)
Posted: Thu Mar 12, 2009.   Comments (0)

Is “Where the Hell is Matt” a hoax? — Time magazine listed the Where The Hell Is Matt? video (which shows Matt Harding doing an odd little dance in various locations around the world) as the #1 viral video of 2008. But at a conference on December 11, Harding confessed that the video was just a hoax. He said the whole thing had been shot in front of a green screen, and that animatronic mannequins had been used to make it look like people were dancing with him. Check out the full video of his confession:

Now, when I watch this, I think it's obvious he's being sarcastic. He's making fun of people who are so paranoid they think everything is fake.

However, not everyone seems to recognize the sarcasm. I've run across some websites in the past few days that are reporting Harding's "confession" as a straight story, with no mention of sarcasm. For instance, check out this Associated Content article, which doesn't seem to be just playing along with the gag.

As the saying goes, "we are at our most gullible, when we are most skeptical."
Posted: Wed Jan 07, 2009.   Comments (13)

Gays must leave the plane — Posted recently by Tobester in the Hoax Forum:

I couldn't resist doing some research on this. Here's what I found.

a) It's definitely an urban legend.

b) I can't find any record of it ever appearing in the New York Times.

c) The earliest mention of it I can find in print dates back to July 10, 2000, when it was discussed in the Sydney Morning Herald. Apparently, in a version circulating back then, they were identified as the source of the tale. They denied this, pointed out the tale was an urban legend, and noted that in earlier versions of the story American Airlines was referred to as the carrier.

d) Despite being an urban legend, it has occasionally been reported in papers as real news. For instance, the Belfast News Letter reported it on April 19, 2003. The Scotsman reported it on February 2, 2001. And The Gleaner reported it on March 13, 2004.
Posted: Tue Jul 29, 2008.   Comments (6)

Fly Derrie-Air — Derrie-Air claims to be the world's only carbon-neutral luxury airline. From its website:

Welcome to Derrie-Air, the world's only carbon-neutral luxury airline, where you don't have to choose between living the high life and saving the planet. Nine out of ten scientists agree—we need to reduce our carbon emissions or perish from the face of the earth. Air travel is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions and global warming. Derrie-Air will be the only airline that plants trees to offset every pound of carbon that our planes release into the atmosphere.
But not only will we do our part to protect the environment, we will expect you, our passengers, to do your part as well. The magic comes from our one of a kind "Sliding Scale"—the more you weigh, the more you'll pay. After all, it takes more fuel—more energy—to get more weight from point A to point B. So we will charge passengers based on how much mass they add to the plane. The heavier you and your luggage are, the more trees we'll plant to make up for the trouble of flying you from place to place.

The reality is that Derrie-Air doesn't exist. It's a fake company dreamed up by Philadelphia Media Holdings, owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. In addition to creating the Derrie-Air site, they also ran Derrie-Air ads in their papers as a marketing test "to demonstrate the power of our brands, in print and online, to drive traffic awareness -- in this case for a brand that doesn’t exist and is fictitious." More details in Editor & Publisher, and on MSNBC.

I predict this will become a case of satirical prophecy, in that it won't be long before airlines actually are implementing measures such as charging by the pound. (Thanks, Rebecca)
Posted: Fri Jun 06, 2008.   Comments (7)

Diesel Trees — With the price of gas going through the roof, there's been a lot of interest in alternative fuel supplies. For instance, various schemes to use water as a fuel have been getting renewed interest. But a new idea (at least, new to me) is the Diesel Tree. This is a tree that directly produces diesel fuel. All you have to do is tap the tree (just as you would tap a maple tree for its syrup), then fill up your tank with the oil, and you're good to go. From treehugger.com:

the Brazilian Copaifera langsdorfii, to use its botanical name, can be tapped not unlike a rubber tree, but instead of yielding rubbery latex it gives up a natural diesel. According to the nurseryman selling the trees, one hectare will yield about 12,000 litres annually.
Once filtered—-no complex refining required, apparently—-it can be placed straight into a diesel tractor or truck. We read that a single Copaifera langsdorfii will continue to produce fuel oil for an impressive 70 years, with the only negative being that its particular form of diesel needs to be used within three months of extraction.

You can also check out this video on YouTube in which an Australian farmer who's growing Diesel Trees is interviewed. He admits it "sounds like a fanciful concept," but insists it's real. There are also articles in the Sydney Morning Herald and ABC.net.au.

As odd as the idea sounds, Diesel Trees do appear to be real. Here's the wikipedia article about them. They simply produce a plant oil pure enough that diesel engines can run on it. The Alaska Science Forum notes:
Though not likely to become a significant source of diesel fuel in temperate climates, in the tropics Cobaifera plantations might produce as much as 25 barrels of fuel per year. Still, Cobaifera relatives in the same genus, Euphorbia, are producing 10 barrels per acre in northern California.

It would be pretty cool to be able to fill up your car directly from a tree in your backyard.(via geoisla)
Posted: Fri Jun 06, 2008.   Comments (4)

The Bus Stop to Nowhere — This is a little sad, but odd. There's a bus stop located outside the Benrath Senior Centre in Dusseldorf. People occasionally walk up to the stop and stand there, waiting for a bus, but a bus never comes. In fact, the stop is on no bus route. It's a faux bus stop, purposefully created by the local department of transportation as a lure designed to deceive Alzheimer's patients from the senior centre. From telegraph.co.uk:

“It sounds funny,” said Old Lions Chairman Franz-Josef Goebel, “but it helps. Our members are 84 years-old on average. Their short-term memory hardly works at all, but the long-term memory is still active. They know the green and yellow bus sign and remember that waiting there means they will go home.” The result is that errant patients now wait for their trip home at the bus stop, before quickly forgetting why they were there in the first place.
“We will approach them and say that the bus is coming later today and invite them in to the home for a coffee,” said Mr Neureither. “Five minutes later they have completely forgotten they wanted to leave.” The idea has proved so successful that it has now been adopted by several other homes across Germany.

Update: I added an image of the fake bus stop. Thanks to Mikkel for finding it.
Posted: Wed Jun 04, 2008.   Comments (11)

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