The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Archive — A collection of the most notorious deceptions throughout history
Time Period: 1950-1976
Eras: 0-1699 1700s 1800-1868 1869-1913 1914-1949 1950-1976 1977-1989 1990s 2000s
The Brassiere Brigade, 1950. In September 1950, police in Miami, Florida accidentally discovered a crime ring that had been stealing thousands of dollars from the local phone company for years. The thieves were young women employed in the counting room of the Southern Bell Telephone Company. They were smuggling money out of the building by hiding coin rolls in their bras. The combination of attractive young women, lingerie, and money proved irresistible to the media, and the... Continue…
The Kidnapping of Nicole Riche, 1950. At 3 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, April 1, 1950 the 22-year-old French actress Nicole Riche walked into a Paris police station dressed in a flimsy white negligee. She had been missing for over two days. When the police questioned her about where she had been, she spilled forth a bizarre tale about being kidnapped by "Puritans" who kept her in a room without food while they lectured her about the immorality of her life. Finally, she said, her... Continue…
Hugh Stewart’s Sextuplet Hoax, 1951. In August 1951, 59-year-old science reporter Hugh Stewart approached his editors at the Chicago Herald-American with a hot tip. He had learned that a Chicago mother was about to give birth to sextuplets. It would be the first time a confirmed birth of sextuplets had occurred in America. Stewart offered no verifiable sources for the news. He insisted that "if I break my informants' confidence it will ruin me." Nor could he disclose the mother's... Continue…
Ghost Artists, 1952. On February 5, 1952, a small ad ran on the theatrical page of the Washington Post offering the services of a company of "ghost artists": "Too busy to paint? Call on the Ghost Artists? We paint it, you sign it." The idea of ghost artists caught the interest of the media, and a report about the company went out over the wire services and appeared in newspapers nationwide. The ghost artists were said to be earning lucrative fees from executives who... Continue…
Rudolph Fentz, Accidental Time Traveler. The story of Rudolph Fentz was long considered an unsolved mystery, and a case of possible time travel. In June 1950, Fentz was said to have suddenly appeared in the New York City's Times Square, as if from out of the blue, wearing old-fashioned clothes and sporting mutton-chop sideburns. Glancing around, a look of astonishment and then of panic flashed across his face. He sprinted forwards, and was then struck down and killed by a car. Continue…
The Great Monkey Hoax, 1953. Three young men reported running over a space alien on a rural Georgia highway. What made this case unusual is that the body of the alien was lying on the highway to prove their tale. The incident quickly made national headlines. But when scientists from Emory University examined the 'alien,' they determined it was a Capuchin monkey with its tail cut off and fur removed with depilatory cream. The boys confessed it had been a prank. Continue…
Douglas R. Stringfellow, 1954. Oct. 16, 1954: Douglas R. Stringfellow confesses on-air that his heroic past was a hoax In 1952 the political newcomer Douglas R. Stringfellow was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from Utah. Much of the appeal of his candidacy lay in his decorated past as a hero during World War Two, a past which he made frequent references to during his revival-style campaign speeches. According to him, he had served as an agent of... Continue…
I, Libertine, 1955. On September 20, 1956 Ballantine Books published I, Libertine, a novel by Frederick R. Ewing. It was advertised as a "turbulent, turgid, tempestuous" tale of eighteenth-century court life in London. However, Ewing didn't actually exist. Both he and the book were the creation of nighttime deejay Jean Shepherd, devised as an elaborate hoax upon "day people." Continue…
The Third Eye of T. Lobsang Rampa, 1956. The Third EyeThe Third Eye, by Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, was first published in 1956. It purported to be his autobiographical account of growing up in Tibet and studying Tibetan Buddhism. Rampa claimed he had been born into a wealthy Tibetan family and had studied in Lhasa to become a lama. He had then undergone an operation to open up the "third eye" in the middle of his forehead. This operation had bestowed upon him amazing psychic powers. Continue…
The Olympic Underwear Relay, 1956. Route of the 1956 Olympic torch relay, from Cairns to Melbourne. In 1956 runners bore the Olympic flame across Australia, on a path from Cairns to Melbourne, where the summer games were to be held. But before the flame even got as far as Sydney, it had to endure a series of setbacks. Torrential rains soaked it. Burning heat almost overwhelmed the runners. The flame even went out a few times. Then in Sydney itself it encountered a situation unique... Continue…
The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest, 1957. On April 1, 1957 the British news show Panorama broadcast a three-minute segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed both to an unusually mild winter and to the "virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil." The audience heard Richard Dimbleby, the show's highly respected anchor, discussing the details of the spaghetti crop as they watched video footage of a Swiss family pulling... Continue…
Emile Coudé, 1957. Emile CoudéThe Coudé Catheter is a catheter with a curved tip, used in urology to facilitate insertion of the catheter tube through the urethra into the bladder. The Winter 1957 edition of The Leech, the journal of the students' society of the Welsh National School of Medicine at Cardiff, contained a brief biography of the Coudé Catheter's alleged inventor, Emile Coudé. According to the article, Coudé... Continue…
The Little Blue Man Hoax, 1958. In early 1958 Michigan motorists began to report sightings of a "little blue man". The glowing figure, who looked like a spaceman from a science-fiction movie, would appear out of nowhere on rural roads, and then just as suddenly disappear. When startled motorists stopped to investigate, they could find no trace of him. As time progressed, the sightings grew more fantastic. Some said the man appeared to be ten-feet high. Others thought he was... Continue…
The Birth of Bigfoot, 1958. Jerry CrewAugust 27, 1958: While working on a construction site in northwest California, a tractor operator named Jerry Crew found a series of massive, 16-inch footprints tracked through the mud. Due to the size of the prints, the media began referring to the creature that created them as "Bigfoot." The name stuck, eventually replacing Sasquatch in the popular imagination as the name for North America's legendary ape-man. It was long suspected... Continue…
The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, 1959. G. Clifford Prout was a man with a mission, and that mission was to put clothes on all the millions of naked animals throughout the world. To realize his dream, Prout founded an organization, the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (abbreviated as SINA). It was left unexplained why the society was 'for indecency' not 'against indecency'. Continue…
Cacareco the Rhinoceros, 1959. The 1959 city council election in Sao Paulo, Brazil had a surprise winner: Cacareco, a five-year-old female rhinoceros at the local zoo. Not only did she win, but she did so by a landslide, garnering 100,000 votes (15% of the total). This was one of the highest totals for a local candidate in Brazil's history to that date. Continue…
The Sandpaper Test, 1959. In 1959, the Colgate-Palmolive company began airing three TV ads in America for its Palmolive Rapid-Shave shaving cream. All three commercials included a "sandpaper test" designed to demonstrate that Rapid-Shave's "moisturizing" action was so powerful it would not only soften up even the heaviest beard in seconds, but also make sandpaper shaveable. But what viewers were led to believe was a piece of sandpaper being shaved was actually plexiglass... Continue…
Subways Are For Sleeping, 1962. On January 4, 1962, an advertisement appeared in the New York Herald-Tribune for a Broadway play titled "Subways Are For Sleeping." Judging by the ad, it appeared the play was a critical success. The names of seven well-known theater critics appeared in the ad, and accompanying their names were the rave reviews they had given the play. But, in truth, the quotations came from ordinary people who happened to have the same names as the critics. Continue…
Instant Color TV, 1962. In 1962 there was only one tv channel in Sweden, and it broadcast in black and white. On April 1st of that year, the station's technical expert, Kjell Stensson, appeared on the news to announce that, thanks to a new technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to display color reception. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their tv screen. Stensson proceeded to demonstrate the process. Thousands of people were taken in.... Continue…
Kick A Puppy Today, 1963. Hollis and friends model his "protest-dappled" sweatshirts. May, 1963. In 1963 an entrepreneur conceived of a way to promote antisocial tendencies and profit from it. Charlie Hollis, a 37-year-old copywriter and Brooklyn College sophomore, printed up stickers that bore messages such as LOATHE THY NEIGHBOR and KICK A PUPPY TODAY. He then placed an ad for his misanthropic product in the Village Voice: Continue…
Yetta Bronstein for President, 1964. Yetta Bronstein, a 48-year-old Bronx housewife, ran for President in 1964 and again in 1968 as the candidate for the Best Party. Her slogans were "Vote for Yetta and watch things get better" and "Put a mother in the White House." Her proposals included national bingo, self-fluoridation, placing a suggestion box on the White House fence, and printing a nude picture of Jane Fonda on postage stamps "to ease the post office deficit and also give a... Continue…
Pierre Brassau, Monkey Artist, 1964. Paintings by a previously unknown avant-garde French artist named Pierre Brassau, exhibited at an art show in Sweden, won praise from critics. What they didn't know was that Brassau was a monkey. A journalist had come up with the idea of exhibiting his work as a way of putting critics to the test — would they be able to tell the difference between modern art and monkey art? The critics failed the test. Continue…
Report From Iron Mountain, 1967. Front cover of Report From Iron Mountain. In 1967 the war in Vietnam was escalating and race riots were breaking out in many major U.S. cities. Popular distrust of the federal government was growing. It was in this context that on October 16 a book appeared titled Report From Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace. It was published by Dial Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. Leonard C. Lewin, a New York freelance writer,... Continue…
Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan, 1968. In 1968 Carlos Castaneda, a graduate student in anthropology at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), published The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. It described his encounters with Don Juan Matus, a Yaqui shaman from Mexico. Don Juan supposedly trained Castaneda in ancient forms of knowledge, such as how to use drugs to communicate with animals (or even to become an animal). Castaneda's book became a bestseller and... Continue…
Elmyr de Hory. Elmyr de Hory fooled the art world for thirty years with his expert forgeries of works by Picasso, Renoir, and other masters. To this day, many of his forgeries remain undetected and are in museums and collections throughout the world. Continue…
Naked Came the Stranger, 1969. Newsday columnist Mike McGrady was convinced that standards of literary and artistic taste were plummeting rapidly in the United States, driven down by a relentless flood of media sensationalism that catered to the lowest common denominator. So he decided to design an experiment to test the depths of the American cultural morass. He would commission the writing of a novel lacking in any redeeming features: no plot or character development, no... Continue…
Paul is Dead, 1969. In the Fall of 1969 a rumor swept around the world alleging that Paul McCartney, singer and bassist for the Beatles, was dead. In fact, that he had died three years ago on November 9, 1966 in a fiery car crash while heading home from the EMI recording studios. Supposedly the surviving band members, fearful of the effect his death might have on their careers, secretly replaced him with a double named William Campbell (an orphan who had won a Paul... Continue…
The Stone-Age Tasaday, 1971. A primitive, stone-age tribe found living in a rain forest in the Philippines was later alleged to be an elaborate fake. Continue…
The Autobiography of Howard Hughes, 1971. This remains one of the most brazen literary hoaxes of all time. Clifford Irving forged the "autobiography" of the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, while Hughes was still alive. His hope was that the famously reclusive billionaire would be unwilling to emerge from his seclusion to expose the fraud. For a long time it seemed like Irving was going to get away with it, but ultimately his plan failed, because Hughes did emerge to blow the whistle on the scheme. Continue…
Robert Patterson’s Tour of China, 1971. In June 1971 Robert Patterson, a 66-year-old newsman, filed a series of five reports for the San Francisco Examiner detailing his odyssey through mainland China. His journey was inspired by the popular interest in Chinese culture following President Nixon's official visit to that country. The series ran on the Examiner's front page. Patterson discussed details such as his difficulty obtaining an entry visa, witnessing Chinese citizens doing... Continue…
Dan Rattiner, the Hoaxer of the Hamptons. In 1960, twenty-year-old Dan Rattiner started a small paper during his summer vacation in the Hamptons. He gave copies of it away for free, making money from the advertisements. It was the first free paper in the United States. Gradually Dan started more papers, each of them serving a different community in the Hamptons. He called all of them collectively Dan's Papers, and they soon became the most widely read papers in the Hamptons. Dan wrote... Continue…
Body of Nessie Found, 1972. On the day before April Fool's Day, 1972, a team of British zoologists from the Flamingo Park Zoo found a mysterious carcass floating in Loch Ness. Initial reports claimed it weighed a ton and a half and was 15 ½ feet long. Continue…
The Unraveled Weaving Hoax, 1974. At the 12th Annual Mid-Mississippi Art Competition, held in October 1974, there were gasps and cries of surprise when artist Alexis Boyar walked up to the stage to receive the blue ribbon and $50 cash prize he had won for his entry in the weaving category. The shock wasn't caused by the art. Rather, it was caused by the artist himself, since he didn't seem to fit the entrance criteria. Specifically, he wasn't human. He was, in fact, a 6-year-old... Continue…
The Steps Experiment, 1975. Artwork accompanying Ross's 1979 article describing the Steps Experiment. In 1975 Chuck Ross was selling cable TV door-to-door, and dreaming of becoming a writer. However, he felt the odds were stacked against him since the publishing industry seemed incapable of recognizing talent. To prove his theory, he typed up twenty-one pages of a highly acclaimed book and sent it unsolicited to four publishers (Random House, Houghton Mifflin, Doubleday,... Continue…
The Caltech Sweepstakes Caper, 1975. Caltech student Becky Hartsfield shows off the prizes she won. Caltech is known for producing world-class scientists and engineers. But a few of its students have also demonstrated a flair for the law, as a highly controversial 1975 prank that turned on the legalistic reading of a sweepstakes entry form proved. The sweepstakes in question was held by McDonald's. It ran from March 3rd to March 23rd, 1975, at 187 participating McDonald's... Continue…
Nobody For President, 1976. Who should you vote for in the next election? What about Nobody? After all, Nobody is clearly the best candidate. Nobody cares. Nobody keeps his election promises. Nobody listens to your concerns. Nobody tells the truth. Nobody will lower your taxes. Nobody will defend your rights. Nobody has all the answers. Nobody should have that much power. Nobody makes apple pie better than Mom. And Nobody will love you when you're down and out. Continue…

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