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
Chemistry Hoaxes
Von Kempelen and His Discovery. The April 14, 1849 edition of The Flag of Our Union contained an article titled "Von Kempelen and his Discovery." It described the discovery by a German chemist, Baron Von Kempelen, of an alchemical process to transform lead into gold. The account concluded by noting that news of the discovery had already caused a two hundred per cent leap in the price of lead in Europe. The story was fictional, although this was not indicated anywhere. Its... Continue…
Solar Armor, 1874. An article published in 1874 described a man who invented "solar armor." The armor, made of sponges wetted with a special mixture of chemicals, cooled the wearer through evaporation. Unfortunately, the armor worked too well and caused its inventor to freeze to death in the middle of a Nevada desert during the Summer. Accounts of this invention appeared in papers throughout America and Europe. However, the story was the satirical creation of... Continue…
Freund’s Electric Sugar Fraud, 1889. In the mid-1880s, Henry C. Freund showed up in New York, claiming he had invented a process that would revolutionize the sugar refining industry. He said he could refine one ton of raw sugar for 80 cents, whereas the techniques currently in use cost around $10 a ton. Plus, his method took only ten minutes, and it produced a high-quality granulated sugar, far finer than any seen before. But he insisted on keeping his process secret, disclosing... Continue…
The Gold Accumulator, 1896. Prescott Jernegan claimed he had found a way to cheaply extract gold from sea water. His "Gold Accumulator" consisted of a wooden box, inside of which was a pan of mercury mixed with a secret ingredient. A wire connected the mercury to a small battery. When lowered into the ocean, this contraption supposedly sucked gold out of the water. A test conducted in Narragansett Bay in February 1897 proved the gold accumulator worked. After a few hours... Continue…
Spud Server, 2000. Getting a potato to power a clock is a popular high school chemistry project. The website Spud Server purported to take this concept a step further by using potatoes to power an internet server. Visitors to the site (which loaded extremely slowly) could marvel at their interactive participation in such a technological feat. The site reached the peak of its popularity in March 2000 when both USA Today and the BBC, among others, ran stories about... Continue…

Hoax Archive Categories
  • Email
  • Websites
  • Wikipedia
  • Legal
  • Linguistic
  • Literary Hoaxes
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  • Mistaken for a Hoax
  • Movies
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  • Outrage Hoaxes
  • Paranormal
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  • Pranks
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  • Pseudoscience
  • Radio Hoaxes
  • Religion
  • Romance
  • Rumors and Legends
  • Science
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  • Social Activism
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  • Technology
  • Television Hoaxes

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