Hoax Museum Blog: Miscellaneous

Checking In (again) — Been a little quiet here lately. Hello? Do I hear an echo?

I've returned from book writing (my new book, Electrified Sheep, is available for purchase in the UK... an American version is coming out in 2012), as well as home remodeling, and now I'm slowly slouching my way back toward blogging, one small step at a time. The first step was to address the problem of what to do with all my weird science material (such as my list of the Top 20 Most Bizarre Experiments which, somewhat confusingly, was housed here at the Museum of Hoaxes). I did this by creating the Mad Science Museum. My plan is that the MSM will serve as a sister site to the MOH.

The second step is to focus on the Hoax Museum again, and that means updating the site's software. That'll take me a couple of days because the software is now so out of date that updating it is going to cause a lot of things to go haywire.

The third step will be to freshen up the site's design and address the spam problem. Final step: start blogging again. So to those few people who may actually see this note, stay tuned for more!
Posted: Thu Aug 11, 2011.   Comments (10)

The Return of the Curator — Last week I handed in the final section of my book manuscript to my publisher. I think I originally anticipated completing it in June or July. So yeah, it took me a little longer than anticipated.

The title, I've recently learned, is going to be Electrified Sheep. This refers to a series of experiments in which sheep were placed in lightning simulators. I didn't actually come up with this title. I suggested a whole bunch of other titles including The Indestructible Atomic Pig and Psychoneurotic Atomic Goats, but the publisher decided to go with the sheep. The lesson is that authors don't get to choose the titles of their books! But the sheep title has been growing on me. I like the fact that it evokes Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

Anyway, I took a few days to decompress, and now I'm ready to turn my attention back to the Museum of Hoaxes. I'm not sure if there are any people still reading the site, except for the forum regulars... but that gives me the opportunity to make a fresh start and change things around a bit.

First of all, the comments pages need to be completely revamped, because the comment spam has run out of control. I'm thinking of making it so that all non-member comments have to be approved by a moderator, and all new members also have to be approved by a moderator. This will mean that far fewer comments get posted, but to me that's an acceptable trade-off.

And before I do that, I need to upgrade the entire site software, which will take a couple of days.

I also want to change around the front page of the site to highlight the fact that the site isn't just a blog, but is more like a blog sitting on top of a hoax encyclopedia. I want to put a "featured hoax of the day" on the front page, much like wikipedia has a featured article of the day.

So that's my plan.

I'd also like to say hello to everyone whom I haven't communicated with in almost a year. I'm finally back from secluding myself in the archives! I don't know why I write such research-intensive books. I guess I just like torturing myself. If I were smart I'd write my next book on a topic that doesn't require any research at all... maybe a novel about teenage vampires. I've heard those kind of books sell well -- a lot better than non-fiction books about sheep in lightning simulators, that's for sure!
Posted: Mon Nov 15, 2010.   Comments (29)

Checking In… — Like the Loch Ness Monster, I've been hard to find recently. So I thought I'd resurface for a moment and say hello. I've been working hard on my next book, and finding it difficult to focus on anything other than that.

I had grand plans to work on the book AND keep posting to the blog... but it hasn't worked out that way. It's hard to focus on two projects at once. Well, some people can do it, but not me.

Anyway, until the book is done (around June) I'll probably be pretty scarce around here, unless I'm procrastinating, in which case I may throw up an occasional post. But in the meantime, perhaps I'll put up some kind of notice at the top of the blog so that people don't think I've fallen off the edge of the earth, or anything like that: "Curator absent... writing a book!"
Posted: Sun Jan 24, 2010.   Comments (13)

A note from the curator — I've recently started work on a new book, which is the reason for my absence from the site. I need to deliver the manuscript to the publisher (Macmillan) by June 2010. I assume it will be published in late 2010 or early 2011. The title is still undecided, but the book will essentially be a sequel to Elephants on Acid — though sequels are always worse than the original, so I prefer to think of it as an entirely new project that also happens to be about bizarre things done in the name of science.

Other people seem to be able to work on several projects simultaneously, but I just can't do it. So after working all day on researching and writing about science, I find it very hard to mentally switch gears and think about what hoaxy things to post on the site.

Nevertheless, as days go by and I don't post anything, I start to feel a nagging sense of guilt. So in order to alleviate this sense of guilt, what I'm going to try to do is to post stuff, but make it as short and simple as possible. Essentially just a link and a quotation. My theory is that if I don't have to think much about what I'm posting, I may be inclined to post more often. That's better than not posting at all... at least until the book is done.

We'll see how it goes. If you all see any hoax-related items in the news, forward me the links, and that'll make my job even easier.
Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2009.   Comments (8)

Top 10 Hoaxes List plagiarizes me — Cranky Media Guy drew my attention to a list of the "Top 10 Hoaxes of all time" posted by Kelvin Lynch on examiner.com. Cranky asks: "Haven't we seen this exact list before... recently, in fact?"

I can't recall if this list had been posted elsewhere recently, but as I was reading through it, I felt that a lot of the language was strangely familiar. And then I realized why this was so. Much of the text has been lifted directly from the print version of The Museum of Hoaxes, published back in 2002.

For instance, here's part of what I wrote in my book about the Surgeon's Photo:

A highly respectable British surgeon, Colonel Robert Wilson, was driving along the shore of the loch on April 19, 1934, early in the morning, when, he said afterward, he noticed something moving in the water. He happened to have a camera with him, so he quickly stopped his car and snapped a photo. The resulting image showed the slender neck of a serpent rising out of the loch. For decades this photo was considered to be the best evidence ever obtained of the existence of a sea monster in the loch.

And here's what Kelvin Lynch writes:

Colonel Robert Wilson, a highly respectable British surgeon, said that he noticed something moving in the water and took a picture of it. The resulting image showed the slender neck of a serpent rising out of the Loch. The photo came to be known simply as "The Surgeon's Photo" and for decades it was considered to be the best evidence of the monster.

What I wrote about the Hitler Diaries:

On April 22, 1983, the German magazine Der Stern announced that it had made the greatest Nazi memorabilia find of all time: a diary kept by Adolf Hitler himself. And this was not just one thin journal. It was a sixty-two-volume mother lode, covering the crucial years of 1932-1945.

What Kelvin Lynch writes:

On April 22, 1983 the German magazine Der Stern announced that it had made the greatest Nazi memorabilia find of all time: a diary kept by Adolf Hitler himself. And this was not just one thin journal.

And it goes on like this for a number of the other items in the list. Strangely, Kelvin Lynch doesn't cite the Museum of Hoaxes as a reference. So I guess he just coincidentally came up with the exact same words as I did to describe these hoaxes!

I've had this problem before with finding my writing posted on associated content and examiner.com. (My list of the Top 100 April Fool's Day hoaxes has been a popular source of content.) The people who write for those sites seem to think that if they slightly shuffle other people's words, that makes it their own, and there's no need to give any credit. What makes this not only rude but illegal is that they're getting paid to post these articles.

Update: Looks like examiner.com took down the article. I never even got around to complaining directly to them.
Posted: Fri Jul 24, 2009.   Comments (20)

Museum of Hoaxes on Twitter — I recently created a twitter page for the Museum of Hoaxes, so if you're on twitter, check it out.

I'm pretty inept at this social networking stuff. I created a personal twitter page months ago, but almost never posted to it. Hopefully I'll be more disciplined about tweeting on the MOH page.

There may be a bit of a learning curve, because I still haven't figured out all the twitter lingo. RT is the only abbreviation I understand.

But I'm excited that I already have nine "followers," and I hadn't even told anyone about the page yet.
Posted: Sat Jun 27, 2009.   Comments (8)

New Look — I periodically get bored with how the site looks and decide it needs to be overhauled. That's the kind of mood I was in today, so I redesigned the blog.

I'm not sure if the new look is better or worse than the old one, but it is different, which is the important thing. (I haven't yet changed the comments or permalink pages, so if you're nostalgic for the old look, you can see it there, for now.)

In another year or two I'll probably get bored of this look and change it again.

More importantly, I'm also adding a new section to the site: the Hoax Archive.

One of the problems with the site has been that, although it contains a lot of information, that information has been very disorganized. There are all kinds of stray articles in forgotten corners of the site. So I'm trying to import all that information into one central database. I'm also merging the hoaxipedia into the archive, so that everything will be in one place, and easily searchable.

There's still a lot of work to do on it. I've only imported about one-third of the site's articles into it. But since I'm unveiling a new front page, I figured I might as well unveil the Hoax Archive as well.
Posted: Wed May 20, 2009.   Comments (18)

Back in Action! — I'm back, after a two-week absence! It was two weeks spent doing the always fun job of home remodeling (sarcasm).

My wife and I are slowly remodeling our home. Since we figure we can't afford to move any time soon, we're fixing up the house we have to make it nicer to live in. But since we also can't afford to hire real contractors, I get stuck doing all the work. Last year I redid the hallway bathroom. This time, it was the master bathroom. I thought I would be able to keep blogging as I did the remodeling, but after the first day of back-breaking work I realized that wasn't going to happen and decided to focus on getting the remodeling done as soon as possible. Luckily I had my dad to help me. He traveled out from the east coast to give me a hand.

Fun discoveries made during the remodeling process included finding that the sub-flooring was completely rotten and needed to be replaced, and that the old cast-iron pipes were so clogged that they also needed to be entirely replaced.

The job isn't done yet, but I made a lot of progress in the past two weeks. Some pics are below. In the meantime, I should now be able to pay some attention to hoaxes.

Posted: Thu May 07, 2009.   Comments (8)

National Geographic Interview and iPhone App — Marc Silver of National Geographic interviewed me about the history and customs of April Fool's Day. The interview is now up on the Nat Geo blog.

And in other news, programmer Mark Greenfield turned the list of the Top 100 April Fool's Day hoaxes into an iPhone app (for those people who want to have the list in an easy-to-read format on their phone). The app is now available at the iPhone store. I don't have an iPhone, so I haven't been able to test the app. I think it costs $1, of which I get about ten cents. Now, if only I could get everyone who reads the list on my site on April 1st to pay me a dollar, I'd be a rich man.
Posted: Tue Mar 31, 2009.   Comments (1)

Great Hoaxes Trading Cards — Topps has announced it plans to release a set of cards featuring the "world's biggest hoaxes, hoodwinks, & bamboozles." The entire set, according to visualeditors.com, will consist of:
  • Charles Ponzi
  • Bernie Madoff
  • The Runaway Bride
  • Idaho
  • The Turk
  • Enron
  • Anna Anderson
  • Ferdinand Waldo Demara
  • San Serriffe
  • D.B. Cooper
  • Spaghetti Trees
  • Victor Lustig
  • The War of the Worlds
  • George Parker
  • The Bathtub Hoax
  • The Cottingley Fairies
  • James Reavis
  • The Piltdown Man
  • The Cardiff Giant
  • Cold Fusion
Looks good, though I'm not sure why they include Idaho. Probably because of the rumor that Idaho got its name from a hoax. Or maybe they're referring to the theory that Idaho does not exist.

And D.B. Cooper? Is hijacking a plane and parachuting out really a hoax? And I think Cold Fusion was bad science, but it wasn't a deliberate hoax.

Anyway, Topps will also have a set featuring "creatures of legend, myth & terror."

What I'm not sure of is how one goes about buying these sets. I suspect you can't buy them as a stand-alone pack, but rather you'll have to buy the $3 packs of trading cards and hope a) you get a hoax card, and b) that you can eventually build up the entire set. I'll probably be one of the few people throwing out the baseball cards to get the hoax cards.
Posted: Mon Mar 30, 2009.   Comments (12)

Note from the curator — I've had no time to post anything recently, and that'll likely continue until the end of this month. The problem is that a British version of my second book, Hippo Eats Dwarf, will be coming out this year, but it'll be a significantly revised version. I have to get the manuscript to the publisher by February 1, and I still have a lot of work left to do on it. The next two weeks are going to be busy.

When I have to choose between blogging and doing something that actually makes some money, the money, in the short term, usually wins. In the long term, of course, my non-commercial instincts always kick in sooner or later, and I return to my poverty-making pursuits.
Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2009.   Comments (14)

A virus on the site? — In the past few days I've had a number of people report that there seems to be a virus on the site. I've also had it happen to me twice that I'll try to load a page of the site and instead be transferred to a spam site.

Could you all let me know if you're having similar problems. The more info I have, the easier it will be to track down the source of the problem.

I suspect the virus is being loaded onto the site via the ads, and I've contacted the ad hosting company. But there's a remote possibility a virus is actually on my server.

Anyway, I'm working on the problem.
Posted: Mon Jan 05, 2009.   Comments (12)

Museum News — There's quite a bit of news to report about the activities of MOHers throughout the world.

First, and most amazingly -- belated congratulations to Smerk and Accipiter who got engaged while I was in Germany. The two met in the MOH forum, making this the very first MOH marriage! That's quite a milestone. I can't quite get over the idea that this site, which I created as a way to procrastinate while I was supposed to be working on my dissertation, has played a role in allowing two people to meet, fall in love, and get married. That's incredible. More details about the engagement are posted in the forum.

Second, Scottish MOHers WaveOfMutilation, Boo, and Madmouse recently visited Aussies Nettie and Smerk in Perth. Nettie sent this great picture of the whole gang.

Tah and Oppiejoe met up in Hell, Michigan.

And finally, Nettie (subsequent to the Perth get-together) traveled to North America where she had the chance to meet up with Tah and Transfrmr in Seattle.

Posted: Sat Nov 08, 2008.   Comments (12)

My European Vacation — I'm back from my European vacation. Thanks to Cranky Media Guy for minding the madhouse while I was gone.

I spent nine days in Germany and four in England. The purpose of the vacation was to visit relatives, but since I was over there I, of course, had to take the opportunity to drag family members around to visit various hoaxy stuff.

For instance, I found the approximate spot on top of the Reichstag in Berlin from which Yevgeny Khaldei, in 1945, took his famous shot of soldiers raising a Soviet flag. Khaldei's shot (below on the left) was actually posed, and Soviet censors later erased the multiple wristwatches on the soldiers' arms (evidence they had been looting). Khaldei also added smoke into the background. On the right is what the same scene looks like today. (Well, as close as I could approximate it. It's not possible to stand in exactly the same place where Khaldei stood because there's a restaurant there now.)

I next visited the town hall of Köpenick (a suburb of Berlin), in front of which stands a statue of Wilhelm Voigt, the so-called Captain of Köpenick. In 1906 Voigt, who was an out-of-work shoemaker, dressed up in a second-hand German officer's uniform, approached a group of soldiers marching down the street, and assumed control of them. He then led them to Köpenick, where he arrested the mayor, took 4000 marks from the treasury, and disappeared with the money. The incident became famous as a symbol of the blind obedience of German soldiers to authority -- even fake authority. Inside the town hall is also a museum dedicated to Voigt (a Museum of a Hoax, as opposed to a Museum of Hoaxes). On display is a German officer's uniform identical to the one Voigt wore.

Finally, in London I tried to locate 54 Berners Street, site of a famous prank in 1810. Author Theodore Hook had bet a friend that he could make any house the most talked-about address in London in only a week. His friend chose 54 Berners Street as the address. Hook won the bet by sending letters to tradesmen and dignitaries throughout the city, asking them to come to that address... on the same day. This resulted in a massive crowd gathering outside the house. Even the Mayor of London supposedly showed up there, having received one of Hook's letters.

I found Berners Street, but 54 Berners Street no longer exists. On the site now stands the swanky Sanderson Hotel. There's not even a marker to note where the hoax occurred. I was quite disappointed. People nowadays just don't value the history of hoaxes.

Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2008.   Comments (7)

I’m off to Germany! — I've barely been able to post anything in the past week. Why? I'm blaming it on my decision to remodel the hallway bathroom in my house... and do all the work myself (because I can't afford to hire a contractor). New drywall, plumbing, electrical wiring, tile floor. I did it all. Problem was, I really wanted to get the bulk of it done before I go on vacation to Germany, which I do today. My flight leaves in about four hours. So that meant I've been scrambling to get it done for the past few days. Here's a picture of the new tile floor I just installed (the first tile floor I've ever installed), which I'm quite proud of. You can see that the sink is not yet installed. That'll have to wait.

Unfortunately I'd never be able to get a job as a contractor because, while I can do all the handyman stuff, I'm painfully slow at it.

So anyway, I'll be gone for two weeks, but I'm leaving everyone in the capable hands of hoax expert Bob Pagani, aka Cranky Media Guy. All the regulars here know him already, of course.

Hopefully I'll be able to post a few times while I'm in Germany visiting relatives. I'll be a week in Berlin, followed by a week in Bremen.
Posted: Fri Oct 17, 2008.   Comments (12)

An offensive ad? — I've received a few complaints about one of the ads running on the site, for Dickipedia.org. People are worried it might be a porn ad. It's actually not. According to Federated Media it's "a satirical wikipedia stye guide to celebrities who behave badly."

Most of the ads on the site run through Google, and I have very little control over them. But a few run through Federated Media, and I have slightly more control over these. FM warned me this ad was scheduled to run, and I could have opted out of it, but (except for the name) I didn't think it was very offensive. Even the name -- aren't people allowed to say "dick" on TV? It doesn't seem like it's considered to be a taboo word.

But if enough people have a problem with it, I can certainly have it removed.
Posted: Thu Jul 17, 2008.   Comments (16)

Announcing Weird Universe — So here's the big announcement I mentioned in the last post. (No point in keeping the secret until Wednesday because it's already been leaked!)

I'm starting up a new weblog: Weird Universe. Joining me in this questionable endeavor are fellow weird-enthusiasts Chuck Shepherd (well-known for his "News of the Weird" syndicated column) and noted science-fiction author Paul Di Filippo (of the Steampunk Trilogy fame).

For a long time I've wanted a place to blog about weird, but not necessarily hoaxy, stuff, but I didn't want to start a new blog by myself. So Weird Universe seems like the perfect solution.

Of course, this doesn't mean the end of the Museum of Hoaxes. Far from it. I'm hoping it'll bring more readers to MOH. But if you send me a link and it seems more weird than hoaxy, I'll probably post it over at Weird Universe, rather than here.

Anyway, come on over to Weird Universe and check it out. It should be (fingers crossed) all functioning properly now.
Posted: Tue Jul 08, 2008.   Comments (12)

The Hoax Photo Database — Years ago I created a Hoax Photo Gallery for the site. But I recently decided that the Gallery was showing its age and needed an update. So I came up with the idea to replace it with a Hoax Photo Database.

I've been working on the Database for the past two months. It's one of those projects that, if I had realized how much work it was going to be, I would have hesitated to start. But I'm too far along to stop now, so I'm going to continue at it until it's done. (Which will be never, since it's designed to be a constantly growing database.)

My idea was to create a database in which I could list every significant (or interesting) example of photo fakery throughout history. Having them in a database would allow them to be categorized and viewed in any number of different ways. For instance, they can be viewed in chronological order, from the beginning of photography to the present. Or, if you're interested in fake war photography select the War category. All kinds of themes are possible, such as Photojournalism, or Doctored Magazine Covers, etc., etc.

I've only got about 90 images in the database so far, and there are hundreds more I plan to put in it. But adding the images will be a months-long effort, so I figured I might as well make the database public now so people can check it out, give feedback, etc.

There's also another project that's been keeping me busy for the past month, which is why I haven't been able to post that often. But I can only reveal what the other project is on Wednesday.
Posted: Mon Jul 07, 2008.   Comments (6)

The Big 4-0 — I turn forty today. Getting old! Shown are two of my birthday presents: a Feejee mermaid (from my wife) and a replica of the Piltdown Man skull (from my parents). They look kind of creepy together, but I think they're cool. With all these things I'm acquiring, I'll be able to open a real Museum of Hoaxes soon!

Posted: Fri Jun 13, 2008.   Comments (26)

Back from Virginia — I returned last night from Virginia, where I spent Memorial Day Weekend with my parents. Their dog, Falcon, never ceases to amaze me. He's huge. Every picture of him looks surreal, as if it's been photoshopped to increase his size, but he really is that big. At 200 lbs, he's heavier than I am. You don't sit with him on the couch, so much as you try to squeeze in beside him.

Posted: Wed May 28, 2008.   Comments (10)

Page 2 of 9 pages  < 1 2 3 4 >  Last ›