The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Archive — A collection of the most notorious deceptions throughout history
Time Period: 1990-1999
Eras: 0-1699 1700s 1800-1868 1869-1913 1914-1949 1950-1976 1977-1989 1990s 2000s
The Cross-Dressing Ken Doll, 1990. In July 1990 Carina Guillot and her 12-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, were visiting relatives in Florida when they wandered into a Toys 'R' Us store and spotted something very unusual. Standing inside a sealed cardboard package among the ranks of Ken dolls dressed in their standard-issue outfits was a Ken decked out in a purple tank top and sporting a lace apron on top of a polka-dotted skirt. Mrs. Guillot immediately thought, "Oh my God, now we... Continue…
Operation Blackbird, 1990. Colin Andrews confers with military personnel during Operation Blackbird By the summer of 1990 the phenomenon of crop circles was attracting large amounts of media attention. A group of researchers, who described themselves as 'cerealogists,' set out to solve the mystery of the circles' formation once and for all. They camped out on a hillside in Wiltshire with an array of heat, light and sound detectors, in the hope of recording the creation of... Continue…
The Buckwheat Imposter, 1990. Buckwheat, as seen on Our GangMany child stars achieve success and stability as adults, but some child stars go from stardom to the opposite extreme of anonymity and failure, as if dragged down by the weight of their early fame. According to a segment that aired on ABC News's 20/20 in October 1990, this appeared to be the fate of the actor who had played Buckwheat in the 'Our Gang' comedies of the 1930s and '40s. Buckwheat was the wide-eyed,... Continue…
Milli Vanilli, 1990. Milli Vanilli accepting a Grammy AwardIn 1988 the German record producer Frank Farian discovered Robert Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan (Rob and Fab) while they were living in Munich. Impressed by their charisma and chiselled good looks, Farian formed them into a pop group that he dubbed 'Milli Vanilli.' Their success was almost instantaneous. They rocketed to stardom on the strength of their hit singles, Girl You Know It's True and Blame It on the... Continue…
Russia Sells Lenin’s Body, 1991. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the Russian government struggled to mend its ailing economy, but the nation's financial situation remained dire. In November 1991, Forbes FYI, an American business magazine, revealed just how hopeless the Russian economic situation had become. It reported that the Russian government, desperate for foreign currency, had decided to sell the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin to the highest bidder.... Continue…
Ghostwatch, 1992. On 31 October 1992, Britain's BBC TV aired a 90-minute documentary called Ghostwatch. The program was advertised as a live investigation into reports of supernatural activity at a council house in North London. The show was anchored by a group of well-known television reporters: Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Mike Smith and Craig Charles. Michael Parkinson and Mike Smith both reported from a TV studio, where calls were being taken from the... Continue…
Grunge Speak, 1992. In the early 1990s, Grunge emerged as a popular new hard rock musical style. Its characteristic image was of greasy-haired, lumberjack-shirted garage bands playing punk-metal guitar rock. Groups such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney epitomized this new Seattle-based sound. On November 15, 1992 the New York Times published an article analyzing the roots and evolution of the grunge movement. It theorized that Grungers had embraced greasy hair... Continue…
The BMW Crop Circle, 1993. A crop circle appeared in a field of rye located outside of Johannesburg, South Africa during the first week of February 1993. The South African media speculated excitedly about whether it was the work of a UFO. Many newspapers and TV and radio shows discussed it, fanning interest in the incident. Popular curiosity grew until February 14, when a small detail was pointed out that had previously escaped almost everyone's notice: the circle formed... Continue…
Arm the Homeless, 1993. A press release distributed to the media in Columbus, Ohio announced the formation of a new charity that would benefit the homeless by providing them with guns and ammunition. It was called the "Arm the Homeless Coalition." News of this charity was soon picked up by the national media and generated enormous controversy. But when an Ohio reporter tried to track down the Director of the Arm the Homeless Coalition, his investigation led him instead... Continue…
The Sibuxiang Beast, 1994. On the evening of September 19, 1994 a stark warning was repeatedly broadcast to TV viewers in Taiyuan, a city in northern China. A message scrolled across an otherwise blank screen warning that the Sibuxiang beast, a mythical creature whose bite was said to be fatal, was not only real, but on the loose and heading towards the city. "It is said that the Sibuxiang is penetrating our area from Yanmenguan Pass and within days will enter thousands of... Continue…
Microsoft Buys the Catholic Church, 1994. In 1994 a press release began circulating online, primarily via email, claiming that Microsoft had bought the Catholic church. (Click here to read the press release.) The announcement, which bore a Vatican City dateline, noted that this was "the first time a computer software company has acquired a major world religion." The release then quoted Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates as saying that he considered religion to be a growth market and that,... Continue…
Alien Autopsy, 1995. Ever since the rumored crash of a flying saucer near Roswell, New Mexico in the summer of 1947, UFO theorists had speculated that the body of an extraterrestrial had been collected from the wreckage and autopsied. In May 1995, British music and video producer Ray Santilli announced he had acquired footage of such an autopsy. A broad coalition of expert ridiculed the footage as an obvious hoax. Physicians pointed out that the surgeons shown in the... Continue…
The Taco Liberty Bell, 1996. On April 1, 1996, the Taco Bell Corporation announced it had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell was housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed, a few hours later, that it was all a practical joke. The best line of the day came when White House press secretary Mike McCurry was... Continue…
The Sokal Hoax, 1996. Alan SokalAn article that appeared in the Spring 1996 issue of the cultural studies journal Social Text bore the portentous title "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity." At first glance the article appeared to be an unlikely candidate for controversy. It was written in the typical style of academic articles, slightly overbearing and verbose, and it came armored with a bristling flank of footnotes... Continue…
Allegra Coleman, 1996. Esquire magazine's November 1996 cover featured Allegra Coleman, said to be a hot new star taking Hollywood by storm. "Forget Gwyneth, Forget Mira," the cover declared. "Here's Hollywood's next Dream Girl." The feature article inside described the buzz building around her. David Schwimmer, star of Friends, was said to be her on-again, off-again boyfriend, although he was getting some competition from Quentin Tarantino who had apparently dumped... Continue…
Stephen Glass, 1998. During the mid-1990s, Stephen Glass was a young writer at the New Republic. He had a reputation for always getting the best scoops. For instance, in his most celebrated article, "Hack Heaven," he told the story of a fifteen-year-old hacker who broke into the computer system of a software corporation, Jukt Micronics, and then succeeded in extorting money, a job, a Miata, a trip to Disney World, and a lifetime subscription to Playboy from the... Continue…
Our First Time, 1998. When the website OurFirstTime.com debuted in early 1998, it promised to offer an internet first. Web surfers would be able to share in the experience as two wholesome 18-year-olds, Mike and Diane, lost their virginity together at 9 pm on August 4, 1998. The event would be broadcast live, as it happened. Continue…
The Blair Witch Project, 1999. In 1999 The Blair Witch Project became a multimillion-dollar box-office sensation. Much of this success owed to a clever marketing scheme centering around a website, blairwitch.com. The premise of the site (and the movie) was that in 1994 three student filmmakers had disappeared in the woods near Burkitsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary about the local legend of the Blair Witch. Supposedly the Blair Witch was Elly Kedward, a woman... Continue…
Final Curtain, 1999. The Final Curtain Website. In March 1999, an ad appeared in a variety of weekly magazines, such as the L.A. Weekly and the Village Voice. It read, "Death got you down? At last an alternative! www.finalcurtain.com" The website that it led to announced the imminent launch of a novel kind of cemetery. At the Final Curtain Cemetery artists would be allowed to design their own graves before they died. The result would be a cemetery that would be part... Continue…
The Piltdown Chicken, 1999. The Piltdown Chicken (artist's reconstruction) The National Geographic Society held a press conference on October 15, 1999 to announce a major discovery: It had found a 125-million-year-old fossil in northeastern China that appeared to be the long-sought missing link between dinosaurs and birds. For over twenty years paleontologists had debated whether birds were descended from dinosaurs. This fossil seemed to provide conclusive proof they... Continue…
Ron’s Angels, 1999. It is legal to sell donor eggs to infertile couples. However, Ron Harris, an erotic photographer, proposed taking this process one step further. He established a website, Ronsangels.com, at which nubile supermodels auctioned off their eggs to the highest bidders. The concept outraged other members of the infertility industry. Continue…

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