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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 6
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jul 06, 2014
July 6, 1915: Birth of Elizabeth Durack
Elizabeth Durack was an acclaimed western Australian artist. But controversy erupted in 1997 when Durack revealed that she was also Eddie Burrup, an Aboriginal artist. Works by Burrup had appeared in a number of exhibitions of Aboriginal art, which angered many since Durack (aka Burrup) was in no way Aboriginal. However, Durack remained unrepentant since she considered Burrup to be a legitimate alter ego. [wikipedia]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 5
Posted by The Curator on Sat Jul 05, 2014
July 5, 1810: P.T. Barnum's Birthday
Happy Birthday, P.T. Barnum! Barnum became one of the most famous men in 19th century America thanks to his realization that "people like to be humbugged" — as long as the humbug provided some entertainment value. So he freely used humbugs to promote his New York museum. His most famous deception was probably the Feejee Mermaid hoax of 1842 in which he lured huge crowds to his museum with ads that showed a beautiful, bare-breasted creature. But what people found on exhibit inside was a small, wizened creature, that was actually the head of an ape stitched onto the body of a fish. More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 4
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jul 04, 2014
July 4, 1879: The Taughannock Giant
Residents of the town of Trumansburg, in upstate New York, came out to see a giant "Stone Man" that had recently been discovered buried near Taughannock Falls. But the excitement only lasted a few days, since it soon became known that the figure wasn't a petrified prehistoric man, as originally thought, but rather a fake created by local hotel owner John Thompson to drum up publicity for his business. [Taughannock Stone Man]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 3
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 03, 2014
July 3, 1931: Death of Harry Reichenbach
Harry Reichenbach was a press agent for the movie industry, known for staging outrageous stunts and hoaxes for the sake of publicity. He was best known for the "September Morn" hoax of 1913 in which he pretended to complain about the indecency of a painting, thereby bringing it to public attention and leading to the sale of millions of copies of it. Ironically, it is now clear that although Reichenbach took credit for the painting's popularity, he could have played no role in its promotion, which reveals that ultimately he was best at promoting himself.
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 2
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jul 02, 2014
July 2, 1874: Solar Armor
An article that ran in Nevada's Territorial Enterprise newspaper described the case of a man who had invented "solar armor." The armor counteracted the heat of the sun, cooling the wearer more the hotter it grew outside, but his invention worked so well that it caused him to freeze to death in the middle of the Nevada desert during the Summer. Summaries of this curious case soon appeared as fact in papers throughout America and Europe. In reality, the story was the satirical creation of humorist Dan De Quille. More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: July 1
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jul 01, 2014
July 1, 1959: Watch Found in Shark Hoax
Boat captain Joe St. Denis admitted that the story he had told about finding a wristwatch in a shark's stomach was a hoax. St. Denis caught the 12-foot, 750-lb shark off Catalina Island and then gave the watch (supposedly taken from its belly) to the Sheriff's office who attempted to find out if it belonged to any missing persons. Eventually St. Denis conceded that his entire tale was a "big fat happy hoax." The watch was an old one he had smashed up and dipped in acid. His motive for inventing the story was that he "wanted in the news."
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 30
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jun 30, 2014
June 30, 2005: Save Toby
A case of bunny blackmail. The owner of the website SaveToby.com claimed that unless he received $50,000 by June 30, 2005, he was going to cook and eat a rabbit named Toby. It was a hollow threat. The deadline passed and was extended multiple times. Nevertheless, animal lovers were outraged. Toby's owner then secured a book deal, resulting in a new threat — that unless 100,000 books were sold, Toby would be eaten. It's doubtful this goal was ever reached. Nevertheless, Toby was eventually issued a formal reprieve.
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 29
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jun 29, 2014
June 29, 1988: The first Lizard Man sighting
A 17-year-old driving home from work at 2 AM in Lee County, South Carolina reportedly encountered a green reptilian humanoid with glowing red eyes. Within a month, several other people had reported seeing a similar creature, leading to a wave of "Lizard Man" mania. Tourists came hoping to see the creature, and a radio station offered a $1 million reward for his capture. Lizard Man remains at large. [wikipedia]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 28
Posted by The Curator on Sat Jun 28, 2014
June 28, 1902: Passage of the Dick Act
According to an email that has circulated widely since 2012, the "Dick Act" (passed on June 28, 1902) permanently made all gun-control laws unconstitutional. Furthermore, the Dick Act "cannot be repealed." This email is a hoax. The truth is that there was a Dick Act, which created the National Guard system, but it had no bearing on gun-control laws. And like any law, it could be repealed (and was, in fact, extensively rewritten by subsequent acts of Congress). [armsandthelaw.com]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 27
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jun 27, 2014
June 27, 1994: O.J.'s Darkened Mug Shot
Time magazine used a mug shot of O.J. Simpson on its June 27, 1994 cover. However, Newsweek ran the same mug shot on its cover that week. When the two covers appeared side-by-side on newsstands, it became very obvious that Time had altered the mugshot by darkening it. Time argued that it had artistically interpreted the mugshot to make it into an "icon of tragedy." But critics charged Time with racially motivated photofakery. More…


June 27, 2012: Phony Back to the Future Day
Thousands of Facebook users shared a photo that appeared to show that June 27, 2012 was "Back to the Future Day" — the day on which Marty McFly arrives in the future in the 1989 Movie Back to the Future II. However, the actual date of BTF day is Oct. 21, 2015. The phony image had been created as part of a promotion of a box set of Back to the Future DVDs. More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes (and Pranks): June 26
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jun 26, 2014
June 26, 1998: Discovery of the Marree Man
A pilot flying in a remote region of South Australia spotted an enormous geoglyph carved into the ground, depicting a man throwing a stick. No one had seen the figure before. Nor did anyone know how it had come to be there. Its creation was assumed to be the work of pranksters. To this day, no one has confessed to making it. [wikipedia]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 25
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jun 25, 2014
June 25, 1899: The Great Wall of China Hoax
On this day, a group of Denver reporters ran a hoax story claiming that China had decided to tear down the Great Wall and was inviting American firms to bid on the demolition project. Decades later a persistent rumor began to circulate alleging that when this article reached China, the Chinese became so furious at the idea of Americans tearing down the Great Wall, that they took up arms against Westerners in retaliation. Thus launching the Boxer Rebellion. However, there was no truth to this rumor at all. More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 24
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jun 24, 2014
June 24, 1947: The Kenneth Arnold UFO Sighting
On this day in 1947, civilian pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine unidentified objects flying at supersonic speed past Mount Rainier. Newspaper accounts referred to what he saw as "flying saucers," which popularized this term. There's no indication that Arnold was lying about what he saw. Skeptics suggest that he might actually have been seeing birds or some kind of mirage. So his report itself isn't a hoax. But his report is widely credited with ushering in the modern era of UFO sightings, which has been a rich source of hoaxes. [wikipedia]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 23
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jun 23, 2014
June 23, 1987: The Dayton Hudson Stock Hoax
The news that a private investment firm was buying the retailer Dayton Hudson for $6.8 billion sent the company's stock price soaring, and then crashing back down again when investors learned the report was false. A 46-year-old investment adviser, P. David Herrlinger, had phoned the Dow Jones News Service and told them he was buying the company, and the news service had believed him. But Herrlinger, it turned out, was suffering a nervous breakdown and delusional, which sparked concern at how easily a single irrational individual could manipulate the market. More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 22
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jun 22, 2014
June 22, 2005: Death of William Donaldson
William Donaldson (1935-2005) was the author of one of the great satirical literary hoaxes of the late 20th century, the bestselling Henry Root Letters. Adopting the identity of Henry Root, supposedly a retired wet-fish merchant whose politics leaned far Right, Donaldson wrote brash, often abusive letters to eminent public figures. The letters usually contained a single pound note. The recipients of Root's letters would inevitably write back, apparently unaware that they were the butt of a joke. [wikipedia]
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.