Hoax Museum Blog: Hate Crimes/Terror

Loch Ness Terror Plot? — This is weird:
An east London electrician accused of having terror ties claimed he was not attending training camps but hunting for the Loch Ness Monster during a trip to Scotland with other terror suspects, the Scottish Daily Record reported Saturday.

Kader Ahmed, 20, was up in the Loch Ness area with a group organized by preacher Mohammed Hamid. I wonder if they went on the Nessie Hunter cruise with that boat captain who sounded like Sean Connery?
Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2007.   Comments (1)

American troops eat babies? — Among the many difficulties American troops are encountering in Iraq (I won't get all political here by listing them), one is a little bit more bizarre than others. It seems that some Iraqis believe that American soldiers carry poison-tipped bullets and eat babies. Kinda tough to win hearts and minds when you're dealing with people who think you dine on infants, I would imagine. I wondered if this story itself was a hoax until I followed the link I found and saw that it lead to Stars and Stripes, the newspaper of the U.S. Army. Again, I'm not being political here, I'm just saying that I think Stars and Stripes is a more credible source for something like this than, say, Ananova. Anyway, it's a weird one for sure.

American troops eat babies?
Posted: Tue Jul 10, 2007.   Comments (17)

Fake Attack at Elementary School — Sixty-nine elementary students from Scales Elementary School got quite a scare during a recent field trip to Fall Creek Falls. Their teachers told them that a gunman was on the loose in the area:
The students were told to lie on the floor or crawl underneath tables and keep quiet. The lights went out, and about 20 kids started to cry, 11-year-old Shay Naylor said. Some held hands and shook.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ ” Shay said Saturday afternoon as she recounted the incident. “At first I thought I was going to die. We flipped out. (A teacher) told us, ‘We just got a call that there’s been a random shooting.’ I was freaked out.
As the students lay cowering on the floor, a man in a hooded sweatshirt pulled on a locked door, trying to get into the room. But here's the punchline -- it turned out that the threat was just a prank. And the pranksters were none other than the teachers, who were trying to make the kids think about what it would be like to be in a real situation like that. Two of the school employees responsible for the prank have now been suspended.

I can understand why it might be useful to stage a fake drill for an emergency such as a fire, but the logic of staging fake terror attacks escapes me. After all, what if someone were to fight back? Nevertheless, this is not the first time we've seen a situation like this. Back in August 2004 I posted about a fake terrorism drill that took place in a government office in Carter County, Tennessee, in which the local Emergency Management Director secretly arranged for armed intruders to burst into the office, fire shots in the air, and take hostages... prompting the workers to panic and run for cover.
Posted: Tue May 15, 2007.   Comments (16)

Quick Links: Peace Bomb and Fake Snakes — image Peace Bomb
Colin Barnett thought a good way to promote his art might be to place one of his vases outside the National Gallery of Victoria with the phrase "Peace Bomb" written on it. The police disagreed, and now Barnett is spending three months behind bars. I guess his publicity stunt backfired.

Fake Snakes
"Austrian officials fed up with motorists stopping to urinate by the roadside have put up fake snake warnings to scare them into using toilets... Of course there are no snakes but they don’t know that." So what happens when the Austrian authorities really want to warn people about snakes? No one will believe them.

Taiwan Hostage Hoax
Two Taiwanese MPs reported that students had been taken hostage at National Taiwan University. The police arrive, only to discover it was all a hoax. the MPs just wanted to test the police response time.
Posted: Fri Apr 20, 2007.   Comments (2)

American Airlines 9/11-Themed Ad — Here we go again. Yet another ad circulating around that features a plane flying towards two tower-like structures. Wilson Bryan Key would probably claim that it's done deliberately as a form of subliminal seduction, like the skulls hidden inside ice cubes in alcohol ads. I, on the other hand, am willing to give the advertisers the benefit of the doubt. Although I'm not sure exactly what those tower-like structures are. Stereo speakers, I'm guessing. (Submitted anonymously)


Update: Looks like American Airlines pulled the ad and replaced it with this version (that omits the speakers).
Posted: Mon Sep 25, 2006.   Comments (25)

1979 Pakistan Airlines WTC Ad — image Alex from Colombia sent me this picture. He writes:
This is supposed to be a PAKISTAN AIRLINES ad, posted on the newspaper LE POINT on March 19, 1979. It announced nonstop voyages from Pakistan to New York. I saw it on this page. Interesting coincidence.
This image has been circulating widely around the internet during the past week. For instance, it appeared on Digg four days ago. The question is, is the image really an ad from 1979? Following the link chain back, you soon arrive at 11sep.info, where they have a larger scan (see below) of the entire page of the March 19, 1979 edition of Le Point in which the ad is said to have appeared. The scan looks legitimate, and I see no reason to doubt that it's real. But I also don't think the image is surprising or meaningful in any conspiracy-theory kind of way. Images of the World Trade Center appeared in many ads, and were a common symbol of New York. So it's not surprising that an airline combined an image of them with airplane imagery.

Update: The advertisement is definitely real. This has been verified by a reference librarian at UCLA's Charles E. Young Research Library (which, apparently, is the only library in America that has back copies of Le Point). The advertisement appeared on p.143 of the March 19, 1979 issue, #339. The ad also ran in other issues, such as April 2, 1979, p.163. (Thanks to J Fontane for tracking down and verifying the authenticity of the ad.)
Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2006.   Comments (14)

Is the “End of Serenity” Photo Fake? — image I think what follows is an example of the truism that "we are most gullible when we are most skeptical."

When United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, a woman named Val McClatchey, who lived nearby the crash, managed to get a picture of the cloud of smoke from the crash rising above the trees. Her photo, which she subsequently titled 'The End of Serenity,' became quite famous, but now conspiracy theorists are suggesting that it's a fake:
Mrs. McClatchey's fame has recently taken a sour turn. The real estate agent has recently become a target of bloggers calling themselves "9-11 researchers," who are seeking to prove that the U.S. government was complicit in the attacks that brought down the Twin Towers, pierced the Pentagon and crashed United Airlines Flight 93. The smoke plume doesn't line up right, they say. It is too large in the frame. The smoke is characteristic of an ordnance blast, not a jet fuel fire, further evidence that the government shot down Flight 93. They analyze wind direction, debris patterns and camera trajectories, all in the service of the theory that the crash was faked. They have visited Mrs. McClatchey's office and called her at home, posting satellite maps of her property and accusing her of digitally altering her photo to insert a fake smoke plume. The bloggers have picked apart her story, highlighting inconsistencies in different news accounts and questioning her motives. Others have described her as "surly," "hostile," "irate" and "defensive." People have called her at home, accusing her of being anti-American and of "holding the photo hostage." On a simple Google search, Mrs. McClatchey's name now pops up in the same sentence as "total fraud."
Good grief. Why would the photo be a fake? The woman really did live near the crash, and she doesn't seem to have possessed the kind of skills needed to create a sophisticated photo forgery. Plus, the FBI examined the photo and vouches for its authenticity.

It's an interesting phenomenon when people became so suspicious that they start seeing evidence of fakery everywhere. It goes to show that doubting everything can be just as bad as believing everything.
Posted: Mon Aug 07, 2006.   Comments (23)

Attack of the Mario Power-Up Cubes —
Status: Misinterpreted April Fool's Day Prank
image This story offers a sad commentary on the state of affairs in America. Five teenage girls living in Ravenna, Ohio got into the spirit of April 1st by decorating a few public places in their town with brightly colored boxes designed to look like the power-up cubes in the Super Mario Bros. game (the ones you jump up to hit and get extra energy). They got the idea from qwantz.com. Local residents who didn't recognize what the boxes were supposed to be weren't amused and called out the bomb squad. And it seems like the police are coming down pretty hard on the girls:

[Ravenna Police Chief] McCoy said even though no harm was intended by the girls, they could face criminal charges for their actions. “The potential is always present when dealing with a suspicious package that it could be deadly,” McCoy said. “In today’s day and age, you just cannot do this kind of stuff.”... McCoy said the incident will be referred to the Portage County Prosecutor’s Office for possible charges against the girls.

Lots of blogs are posting this story, and it seems like everyone agrees that the police seem to be overreacting. The incident reminds me of April 1, 2003 when seven young guys were charged with making terrorist threats because they posted signs reading "All your base are belong to us" around Sturgis, Michigan.

Update: It seems that the prosecutor has decided not to charge the girls with any crime: "The girls were imitating an art project which they found on the Internet,” the prosecutor said. “None of the girls had any prior contacts with the police or juvenile court and are all good students.”
Posted: Tue Apr 04, 2006.   Comments (15)

YCT Immigrant Hunt — An email is going around that describes an 'Illegal Immigrant Hunt' to be held at the University of North Texas by a group called the Young Conservatives of Texas:

"Well, the YCT (Young Conservatives of Texas) are at it again. This time they've organized a so-called "Immigrant Hunt" for this Wednesday, March 2nd on the West Mall on campus-- they have reserved the space from 11:00am-1:00pm. They recently organized a similar event at the University of North Texas and appear to be emboldened by the post-9-11 anti-immigrant climate. They plan to wear color-coded anti-immigrant shirts and "hunt for immigrants" who will be YCT-ers dressed in brown for Latina/os, yellow for Asians, etc. and offer rewards."

This email appears to be a mixture of fact and fiction. From what I can piece together, the YCT did hold a controversial rally about a month ago which
"featured Young Conservatives members wearing bright orange shirts that read "Illegal Immigrant" on the front and "Catch me if U can" on the back. Passersby were encouraged to track down the mock "illegal aliens" around campus to win a prize." So the original rally seems bad enough. However, they don't seem to be hosting a follow-up event in which they'll actually play the 'immigrant hunt' game. An email, supposedly from the Chairman of the YCT, denying involvement in this event is now going around:

Here's an update on the reported illegal immigrant hunt: The information you received is false. Somebody made this shit up, and I'm extremely pissed off. We're having a friggin' Texas Independence Day Celebration tomorrow....AND THAT'S IT!!! Cakes and Cookies and Lemonade!!! I got a hold of the original email that I'm guessing you received, and it was all lies. Email whoever sent you your information, and ask them to  research their information before they sent it ALL OVER THE UNITED STATES!!!
Lauren E.Conner
Young Conservatives of Texas - UT Austin

Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005.   Comments (43)

Osama Bin Laden As A Teenager — image Apparently this picture (click to enlarge) has been circulating around for quite a while (over three years), but I've just seen it. It shows a happy group portrait of twenty-two brothers and sisters posing for the camera while on a family holiday, but the grinning kid whose face is circled is none other than Osama bin Laden. This picture appeared in the Sun with the caption:

the 14-year-old is Osama bin Laden - and within a few years the grinning schoolboy was on his way to becoming the world's most cold-hearted mass murderer. The bin Laden children lined up next to a pink Chrysler Imperial for this snapshot on a trip to Falun, Sweden, in 1971. The holiday was paid for by their father Mohammed, a billionaire building tycoon. Osama inherited a fortune when his dad died soon afterwards - and used it to build a worldwide network of terror.

Is it just me, or does young Osama look a tiny bit like Bill Gates? Also, I had no idea he was only 47-years-old. He looks like he's nearing 60. (via Image of the Day)
Posted: Mon Feb 21, 2005.   Comments (47)

Islamic Hostage Barbie Hoax, Part Two — image As a follow-up to the Islamic Hostage Barbie Hoax, an anonymous poster to a Jihadist message board (he calls himself 'al-Iraqi4') has come forward to claim responsibility for the hoax. He says that:

In the name of God, the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate,
Soldier John Adam is [only] a toy.
I am a 20-year old Iraqi young man. I am unarmed, independent and do not belong to any party or group. I apologize to all the parties and everyone, for I meant nothing by that [no harm].
The picture was a scheme that I made up with a toy that I bought with $5.
Today I am announcing that this news was made up, and that the picture was of a toy that I worked on with the help of some children.
I cannot provide any information about me because, as I mentioned earlier, I am unarmed, and any information about me might jeopardize my life and the lives of my family [members].
My apologies to everyone.

As evidence that his confession is real, he provides a picture of 'Soldier John Adam' taken from another angle. But not everyone is convinced that this confession is real. Confederate Yankee has examined the two pictures and is convinced that they were taken in different places. He notes that the floors don't look the same, and thinks that the banner shape and text look different as well. I can see what he's talking about with the floor, though it could be explained away by differences in the lighting of the pictures. But the banner looks pretty much the same to me.

And Andrew Margarson forwards this image that "may explain why barbie was there..."
Posted: Wed Feb 09, 2005.   Comments (4)

Islamic Hostage Barbie Hoax — The Islamic Hostage Barbie Hoax as Instapundit has dubbed it (i.e. that hoax photo of a captured U.S. soldier) is now all over the blogosphere. It seems quite clear that it was an action figure in the photo, not an American soldier. But it's not clear to me where this photo originally came from. Where is this mysterious Islamic website that the picture was posted on? If we knew that it would be a lot easier to tell if it was meant as a joke, or as a serious (though absurd) threat.

Anyway, as I've been browsing the web I've already come across a lot of photo parodies of the hoax. Here are a few that I've found so far:

From The Templar Pundit, Hostage Barbie:

From EtherHouse, Team America:

From Power Line, Elmo Captured:

And from Ludicrosity, Rumsfeld Decides:
Posted: Tue Feb 01, 2005.   Comments (14)

Volkswagen Polo Ad — image Check out this ad for the Volkswagen Polo (link may be dead) that's been going around. A suicide bomber blows himself up inside the car, but the car is so tough that it contains the explosion. Seems to push the envelope a bit too much to be an actual ad commissioned by Volkswagen, and sure enough it's not. It's a 'spec ad', created by leeanddan.com. Spec ads are 'speculative ads' created to show potential clients what kind of work you're capable of doing. In other words, Volkswagen never endorsed this material.
Update (1/20/05): The Guardian reports that they were able to track down Lee of leeanddan.com, who did indeed make the VW Polo ad. Lee says that he wasn't working for Volkswagen, but implies that he made the ad to get Volkswagen's attention. Reportedly the ad cost £40,000 to make.
Posted: Tue Jan 18, 2005.   Comments (18)

Were students suspended for wearing John Deere shirts? — According to a rumor, students at a Baltimore County school were recently suspended for wearing John Deere shirts. The shirts, apparently, are considered racist. (I'm still trying to figure that one out. I guess if you wear a John Deere shirt you must be a redneck and, by extension, you must also be racist). But a spokesman for the school system has denied that any John-Deere-shirt-wearing students have been suspended on account of their fashion choice.

Posted: Tue Nov 09, 2004.   Comments (36)

Woman Learns of Her Death in Iraq — I've heard about people who find their own obituaries mistakenly printed in papers, but I imagine that discovering you've been killed by Islamic militants in Iraq would be a little more off-putting. As the Associated Press reports: A woman was shocked to learn Friday that a photo of what appeared to be her old driver's license showed up on an Islamic Web site along with a claim that she had been captured in southern Iraq and slain. She's never been anywhere near Iraq, but she speculates that the militants got her name from a Kuwaiti guy she dated in the '80s. So not only has she been killed by Islamic militants, but also an old relationship is coming back to haunt her. That's got to be the worst. (via hoaxes' journal)
Posted: Thu Nov 04, 2004.   Comments (4)

Survive 9/11 — According to Replay Studios, Survivor will be a computer game that will allow people to "experience the most dramatic disasters of the 20 - 21th century in independent game episodes." The goal will be not only to virtually experience these disasters, but also to see if you could survive them. Here are some of the scenarios gamers will be able to play: Hiroshima, the Titanic, Hurricane Andrew, and (of course) 9/11. Replay Studios seems to be a legitimate game developer, so I'm almost certain that the game is real. But the inclusion of 9/11 does seem odd, especially since there was a previous 9/11 Survivor game from last year that turned out to be a hoax/art project. This article about the game notes that "The very inclusion of the World Trade Centre terrorist attack is bound to offend a great many people, but Replay makes the valid point that this game is entirely about rescuing people, saving human lives and surviving." Right. I'm sure it won't occur to any gamers to shoot every virtual person in their path in order to escape.
Posted: Tue Nov 02, 2004.   Comments (18)

A Visit from the Secret Service — A couple of stories about writers receiving visits from the Secret Service have been getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere, and a lot of people have been wondering if they're real or fake. The first case involves fanfic writer Annie Sewell-Jennings who posted an entry on her blog in which she satirically prayed that Bush would die. A couple of weeks later, according to her, "the Secret Service showed up on my mother's front door to talk to me about what I said about the President, as what I said could apparently be misconstrued as a threat to his life. After about ten minutes of talking to me and my family, they quickly came to the conclusion that I was not a threat to national security (mostly because we are the least threatening people in the entire world) and told me that they would not recommend that any further action be taken with my case." There's a thread going about this in the Hoax Message Board, and Annie posted a follow-up here.

The second case involves an anonymous romance novelist (who refers to herself as Dilyn) who claims that her house was raised by agents from the FBI simply because she checked out some books from the library about Cambodia and the use of land mines there as part of some research she was doing for a novel. An interview with Dilyn appeared in a recent issue of Romance Writers Report, which isn't online, but the text of the interview has been copied and can be read here (scroll down to find the post).

Are these cases real? Well, in each case you only have the word of a single person to go on, and since I've never heard of these people before (and 'Dilyn' is even choosing to remain anonymous) I wouldn't place absolute blind faith in what they say. However, what they're saying doesn't seem that outlandish to me either. I know that cases like this have happened before and have been investigated and verified by the media. So I'd vote that the cases are real. But like I said, there's not much evidence here besides their word and your own gut instinct.
Posted: Mon Nov 01, 2004.   Comments (11)

Transformers Comic Book Predicted 9/11 — image Here's something that brings back memories of the Nostradamus predictions that swirled around in the weeks after 9/11. Some guy is claiming that comic book artist Simon Furman predicted 9/11 in a Transformers comic book published on Sep. 14, 1991. His main proof: a picture of a transformer (rodimus prime) hanging between the destroyed towers of the World Trade Center. He's selling the comic book that contains this picture (as well as some other stuff) on eBay UK. He launches into some convoluted explanation of other ways in which his Transformers comic book predicted 9/11, and then he winds up his sales pitch with this startling, though rather garbled, claim:

wouldn't you like some glimpse into future events, these comics if used to predict events from week to week, they are currently around issue 230, this is august 1989 (2004), and they run until 18th feb 1992 (2007), that means there are over 100 more issues to go, thats almost three years of predictions, i can send you information of exactly what to look for in them, how to make sense of the vague and cryptic predictions, and will allways answer emails from anyone who wants to help understand these better.

In other words, he's saying that these old Transformers comics are like windows onto the future. But the question you have to ask is why, if this guy can see into the future via his comic books, isn't he taking advantage of that ability? Why wouldn't he use this power to enrich himself (or at least warn the world about upcoming disasters) instead of giving it away for a pittance on eBay? (via Metaphorge)
Posted: Mon Aug 23, 2004.   Comments (15)

Hoax Execution and ABC News — Today ABC News sent a camerateam around to my house to interview me about the hoax execution of Benjamin Vanderford. Vanderford used special-effects to stage his own execution by Islamic militants, then uploaded footage of the scene onto file-sharing networks, and waited for the media to bite. It took three months, but the media finally did bite, reporting it as an actual execution yesterday. At which point, Vanderford confessed to the hoax. I got a call from ABC this morning asking if I'd be willing to do an interview. I had only just read about Vanderford's hoax a few minutes before they called, but I said sure, why not. About an hour later the camerateam was there. I haven't seen the news segment yet, but from what I hear they use a soundbite from me saying something about how digital technology makes video and photo hoaxes much easier to perpetrate. It's always frustrating to be soundbited, because there's so much more one could say about these types of events: how Vanderford's hoax is representative of the 'moral crusader' genre of hoax in which people justify their hoaxes by claiming they serve a moral, educational purpose; how the media will always, always fall for sensational hoaxes because of the 'if-it-bleeds-it-leads' news model; how the case of Vanderford demonstrates that access to the media (and thus the phenomenon of hoaxing itself) has become democratized by the internet (in the old days hoaxes were mostly perpetrated by people with insider connections to the media). Oh well. At least I got my face on the news. So I can't complain.
Update: Robert Martin, the producer of Vanderford's hoax video, has placed a 'press release' online, explaining their side of the story.
Posted: Sat Aug 07, 2004.   Comments (11)

Fake Terrorism Drill — This should win some kind of award for stupidity. Government officials in Carter County, Tenn. were settling down to their meeting about property taxes when armed intruders burst into the room, fired shots into the air, and proceeded to take hostages. "There will be no new taxes, everyone here is going to vote no," one intruder shouted. People panicked and rushed for cover. But no need. Turns out it was just a "drill" orchestrated by the local Emergency Management Director. Problem is, while the Director had told a few people there was going to be some kind of exercise, he hadn't warned anyone about the nature of it. Maybe it's just me, but I can't imagine that the Carter County tax board would be a high-priority target for terrorists in the first place. But in the unlikely event that it is, this drill has now guaranteed that no one will ever be sure if future situations are real or just pretend.
Posted: Thu Aug 05, 2004.   Comments (2)

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