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The Hoax Museum Blog
Hoaxes, mischief, and misinformation throughout history
This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 4
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jun 04, 2014
June 4, 1872: The Great Diamond Hoax
Two prospectors arrived with a group of investors at a field in Colorado that appeared to be full of diamonds lying close to the surface — just as the prospectors had promised it would be. The investors enthusiastically paid a large finding fee, but later discovered (after the prospectors had disappeared) that the field had been artificially salted with diamonds. [Smithsonian]

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Rusty AC Jesus
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jun 03, 2014
Christopher Goldsberry of Jackson County, MS said that when he saw the rust pattern on this old AC unit, he "knew who that was immediately." Of course, it was Jesus. Who else? But Goldsberry added, "The gentleman I purchased it from didn't see any of it. Think about it. They don't recognize what it is. Some people see it, some people don't. Think about that." [foxcarolina.com]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 3
Posted by The Curator on Tue Jun 03, 2014
June 3, 2002: The Retractable Capitol Dome
On this day in 2002, the Beijing Evening News ran a story alleging that the U.S. Congress was hoping to construct a new Capitol building that included a retractable dome roof. When critics mocked the newspaper for having mistaken a satirical story in The Onion for real news, the paper's editor denied this, saying "How can you prove it's not correct? Is it incorrect just because you say it is?" More …

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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 2
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jun 02, 2014
June 2, 2001: Dave Manning Exposed
Newsweek reporter John Horn revealed that movie reviewer Dave Manning, whose positive blurbs often appeared on ads for movies put out by Columbia Pictures, didn't actually exist. He was a fictional person created by a marketing executive at Sony, the parent company of Columbia Pictures, entirely for the purpose of making it appear as if their movies were getting good reviews. More…

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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: June 1
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jun 01, 2014
June 1, 1997: Wear Sunscreen!
Mary Schmich published a humorous column in the Chicago Tribune on June 1 advising college grads that her best advice for the future was to "wear sunscreen." Two months later, the text of her column began circulating widely via email, but attributed to Kurt Vonnegut and said to be a commencement speech he had given at MIT. Even Vonnegut's wife reportedly received the hoax email and, believing it to actually be the work of her husband, forwarded it to family and friends. [about.com, Chicago Tribune]

June 1, 2007: De Grote Donorshow
The premise of the Dutch reality TV show De Grote Donorshow (The Big Donor Show) was that a terminally ill woman with an incurable brain tumor would decide which of 25 "contestants" in need of a kidney transplant would get to have her organ. Despite widespread condemnation, the show went ahead as planned, airing on June 1, 2007. But minutes before the end, the entire thing was revealed to be a hoax designed to publicize the urgent need for more organ donors. [wikipedia]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 31
Posted by The Curator on Sat May 31, 2014
May 31, 1725: The Lying Stones of Dr. Beringer
On this day, Dr. Johann Beringer, a University of W├╝rzburg professor, was given three unusual fossils that showed images (the sun and several worms) in three-dimensional relief. Beringer thought he had made a remarkable discovery and grew even more convinced of this when many more, similar stones turned up. He eventually authored a book about the stones. At which point, he found out that two fellow professors had created the stones to hoax him. More…

May 31, 2003: The Cesky Sen Hypermarket
Lured by ads throughout Prague promoting a new hypermarket called Cesky Sen ("Czech Dream") that would sell products at unbelievably low prices, hundreds of people showed up at the Lethany Fairgrounds for the grand opening. But all they found was a giant Cesky Sen banner. There was no hypermarket, nor plans to build one. Several student filmmakers had set out to record what would happen when consumer's expectations collided with reality, and so had launched a marketing blitz to promote a non-existent, too-good-to-be-true store. More…

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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 30
Posted by The Curator on Fri May 30, 2014
May 30, 2000: spud server revealed to be a hoax
It was purported to be a web server powered entirely by potatoes, and it served up web pages at an appropriately slow, potato-powered speed. After gaining international media exposure — both USA Today and the BBC reported about it — the makers of Spud Server admitted it was all a joke. There was no giant potato battery powering their site. More…

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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 29
Posted by The Curator on Thu May 29, 2014
May 29, 1947: Sea Monster Attacks Tokyo
The armed forces radio station in Tokyo interrupted its evening broadcast to report that a 20-foot sea monster had emerged from Tokyo Bay and was making its way inland. A series of bulletins provided updates on the progress of the creature as it derailed trains and smashed buildings. The report caused widespread panic. Military police were put on alert, and Japanese police were told to stand by to fight the monster. But after an hour, the announcer admitted the news flashes had just been a joke in honor of the station's fifth anniversary. More…

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Futility Closet on the Dreadnought Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Wed May 28, 2014
The Futility Closet blog recently posted a podcast about the 1910 Dreadnought hoax, in which upper-class British pranksters, disguised as Abyssinian princes, managed to fool the British navy into giving them a tour of the HMS Dreadnought. Even if you're familiar with the story, it's worth a listen, because it's a good account of it.
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 28
Posted by The Curator on Wed May 28, 2014
May 28, 1952: The Cornell War Broadcast Hoax
On the night of May 28, 1952, a group of Cornell students disguised by halloween masks raided the campus radio station, WVBR, and began broadcasting news flashes claiming that Russian planes had bombed Paris, Marseilles, and London. The reports initially caused hysteria in the dorms, although most people soon realized they were fake. The Dean of the University later described it as a "lunatic stunt." The students involved were suspended for a year. [Cornell Archives]
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 27
Posted by The Curator on Tue May 27, 2014
May 27, 1959: SINA makes Today Show debut
Actor Buck Henry, in character as G. Clifford Prout, president of the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, appeared on NBC's Today Show. As Prout, he urged Americans to promote decency by putting clothes on naked animals. SINA continued its unusual campaign for four years until it was revealed to be a hoax masterminded by Alan Abel. More…
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Norwegian artist ate his own hip, maybe
Posted by The Curator on Mon May 26, 2014
Norwegian conceptual artist Alexander Wengshoel claims that following a hip replacement operation four years ago, he was allowed to keep his removed hip. So he went home, boiled the bone to remove the meat, and then ate the meat accompanied by some wine and potato gratin. He said it tasted like "wild sheep, if you take a sheep that goes in the mountains and eats mushrooms. It was goaty." Sensing that Wengshoel's story might be complete baloney, the reporter from The Local asked him if it was a hoax — apparently on the theory that, if asked, a hoaxer will readily admit he's lying. Wengshoel replied: "You can either believe it…
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Release the Crickets!
Posted by The Curator on Mon May 26, 2014
Several students at Chartiers Valley High School in Pennsylvania are facing disciplinary action following a senior prank that involved the release of "several thousand" crickets in the school. Apparently insect release pranks have been popular lately. KDKA News in Pittsburgh notes, "Last year, seven Kentucky students were involved in a similar prank." But these recent examples of the prank don't have quite the same wit that was exhibited in a 1911 instance of it reported at the time by the Washington Post: Locusts Invade a Church New York, May 28 — For the text of his sermon today the…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 26
Posted by The Curator on Mon May 26, 2014
May 26, 1930: Hugo N. Frye Sesquicentennial
U.S. politicians, including the Vice President, received letters inviting them to a May 26 party at Cornell University in honor of the sesquicentennial birthday anniversary of "Hugo N. Frye," who was said to have been the founder of the Republican party in New York State. None could attend, but most replied with letters expressing their sincere admiration for Hugo N. Frye. Unfortunately for them, Frye did not exist. The invitation was a student prank, and Frye's name was just a gag ("You Go and Fry!"). More…
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This Day in the History of Hoaxes: May 25
Posted by The Curator on Sun May 25, 2014
May 25, 1933: Norman Jefferies, author of the Jersey Devil hoax, dies
Norman Jefferies was a Philadelphia publicist and theatrical booking agent, who was best known for the stunt he engineered in January 1909 while working at the Ninth and Arch Street Museum. He announced that the legendary "Jersey Devil" (aka "Leeds Devil") had been captured and would be exhibited at the museum. Thousands came to see it. Although what they actually viewed was a kangaroo painted with green stripes and outfitted with fake wings.

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.