The Museum of Hoaxes
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Eras: 0-1699 1700s 1800-1868 1869-1913 1914-1949 1950-1976 1977-1989 1990s 2000s
The Hoax Archive — A collection of the most notorious deceptions throughout history
Hoaxes Involving Animals
The Duckbilled Platypus, 1799. The British Museum received a specimen of an Australian animal that appeared to be a combination of a duck and a mole. Naturalists there suspected it was a hoax. It was only when more specimens of the strange creature arrived in England that naturalists finally, grudgingly admitted it was real. Today we know the creature as the Duckbilled Platypus. It is one of the more famous instances of a hoax that proved not to be a hoax after all. Continue…
The Free Grand Buffalo Hunt. Posters that appeared around New York City in the summer of 1843 advertised a "Grand Buffalo Hunt" that would take place across the river in Hoboken on August 31, 1843. For the entertainment of the crowd, which would be protected behind thick double-rail fencing, cowboys would pretend to hunt and lasso a herd of wild buffalo imported from New Mexico. Best of all, the event would take place free of charge. The organizer of this event was the... Continue…
The Paulding County Hyena. On February 6, 1858 the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that a ferocious hyena had broken loose from his cage and was at large in Paulding County. It had already been spotted attempting to dig up several graves in search of food, and it had killed a man who tried to capture it. Understandably, readers were concerned. But a few days later, a correction appeared in the paper. There was no hyena. "He is not there now, never was there, and, it is... Continue…
The Central Park Zoo Escape, 1874. On November 9, 1874 the New York Herald published a front-page article claiming that the animals had escaped from their cages in the Central Park Zoo and were rampaging through the city. A lion had been seen inside a church. A rhinoceros had fallen into a sewer. The police and national guard were heroically battling the beasts, but already forty-nine people were dead and two hundred injured. It was "a bloody and fearful carnival," the article... Continue…
The Great Duck Egg Fake, 1894. During the final decades of the nineteenth century, a conservation movement coalesced around a campaign to save the nation's birds, whose populations were under pressure because of the fashionability of hats decorated with feathers. The Audobon Society and the American Ornithological Union both formed out of this campaign. The campaign was given renewed urgency in the early 1890s when a report appeared in various publications, including the... Continue…
The Winsted Wild Man, 1895. In August 1895 New York City papers received a wire story about a naked, hairy man that was terrorizing townspeople in Winsted, Connecticut. Intrigued, the papers sent reporters up to Winsted to find out what was happening. At first the reporters did not find much happening up in Winsted. But as they began asking local residents if they had seen an unusual creature lurking around, memories and tongues began to loosen. Soon reports of a "wild... Continue…
Lou Stone, the Winsted Liar. Louis Timothy Stone (1875-1933), more popularly known as Lou Stone, or the Winsted Liar, was a journalist famous for the hundreds of fanciful articles he wrote about the strange flora and fauna surrounding his hometown of Winsted, Connecticut. It was said he had a "faculty for seeing the unusual in stories." Continue…
Monkeys Pick Cotton, 1899. In February 1899, numerous American newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, printed a story claiming that a farmer, W.W. Mangum, had successfully trained monkeys to pick cotton on his plantation in Smedes, Mississippi. The story was sourced to an article in the Cotton Planters' Journal by T.G. Lane. Reportedly Mangum was so pleased with the success of his monkey-labor experiment that he had ordered more monkeys from Africa, and he was urging... Continue…
The Great Mammoth Hoax, 1899. Woolly mammoths became extinct thousands of years ago. But in October, 1899 a story appeared in McClure's Magazine titled "The Killing of the Mammoth" in which a narrator named H. Tukeman described how he had recently hunted down and killed a mammoth in the Alaskan wilderness. Continue…
The Cornell Rhinoceros, circa 1925. After a heavy snowfall, the footprints of a large animal were found on the campus of Cornell University, leading up to the shore of the frozen Beebe Lake. A hole in the ice indicated that the animal must have fallen in and drowned. A zoologist examined the tracks and identified them as those of a rhinoceros. Word of the rogue rhinoceros spread around town, and since the University got its water supply from the lake, many students declared they... Continue…
The Killer Hawk of Chicago, 1927. The story of the Killer Hawk of Chicago is a classic tale of early 20th century American journalism. It involves a hawk that may or may not have terrorized the pigeon population of downtown Chicago. Continue…
The Brazilian Invisible Fish. Harry Reichenbach (1882-1931) was a publicist whose career spanned the early twentieth century. He was responsible for promoting many movies and show business personalities. In his autobiography, Phantom Fame (written with the help of David Freedman), Reichenbach described a publicity stunt he devised early in his career that has since become a classic example of inventive (though misleading) low-budget promotion. It involved a creature called... Continue…
The Milton Mule, 1938. On September 13, 1938 Boston Curtis won the post of Republican precinct committeeman for Milton, Washington, by virtue of fifty-one votes cast for him in the state primary election. Boston Curtis ran no election campaign, nor did he offer a platform. However, he also ran uncontested, so his election should not have been a surprise. But when the residents of Milton realized who Boston Curtis was, they were surprised, because Boston was a... Continue…
The Flypaper Report, 1943. During World War II, the illustrator Hugh Troy was given a desk job stateside. He found it excruciatingly boring. So to amuse himself he began preparing Daily Flypaper Reports in the style of standard army regulations. These were counts, printed on official-looking paper, of all the flies trapped on flypaper in the mess hall during the last twenty-four hours. He analyzed the results according to wind direction, nearness to windows, nearness to... 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…
The Virginia City Camel Race. In 1959 Bob Richards, editor of the Nevada-based Territorial Enterprise, announced that a camel race would be held that year down the main street of Virginia City. He challenged other local papers to race their camels in the event. 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…
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…
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…
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…
Snowball the Monster Cat, 2000. Washington-state resident Cordell Hauglie owned a fat family cat named Jumper. As a joke, he created a picture of himself holding a digitally enlarged version of this cat. He emailed the photo to his daughter, and thought nothing more of it. What he didn't realize is that the image then began spreading around the internet, where it became an online sensation. Continue…
Bonsai Kitten, 2000. The Bonsai Kitten website. Bonsai describes the ancient Japanese art of growing miniature trees by rigorous pruning of their roots and branches. Because of their small size, aesthetic appeal, and minimal upkeep requirements, Bonsai trees have long been popular additions to offices and homes. In late 2000 the website bonsaikitten.com debuted. It described how to apply the same Bonsai principles to kittens. The idea was to seal kittens inside... Continue…
Monkey Fishing. Jay Forman wrote an occasional "Vice" column for the online magazine Slate.com. In it he often described various bizarre activities he had engaged in or witnessed over the years. For instance, one column probed the synergies between guns and liquor. Another discussed his short career in the pornography trade. In his 8 June 2001 column, he described his participation in the extreme sport of monkey fishing. Monkey fishing, in Forman's usage of the... Continue…
I Buy Strays. The website IBuyStrays.com appeared online in late December 2007 and quickly achieved notoriety. The site purported to represent a business that bought unwanted pets and stray animals and resold them to research labs for animal experimentation. Continue…

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