The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
 
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
Death Hoaxes
Phony 9/11 Deaths. As estimates of the death toll rose in the days following the 9/11 attacks, enormous amounts of sympathy and media attention flowed out towards those who had lost loved ones in the attack. Those who had participated in rescue efforts were hailed as national heroes. But simultaneously, many people (motivated, perhaps, by a desire for sympathy or attention) fabricated tales of phony heroics and lost loved ones in the weeks and months following... Continue…
The Predictions of Isaac Bickerstaff. An almanac released by Isaac Bickerstaff in February 1708 predicted that a rival astrologer, John Partridge, would die on March 29 of that year. On March 31st Bickerstaff released a follow-up pamphlet announcing that his prediction had come true. Partridge was dead. However, Partridge was actually still very much alive. He was woken on April 1st by a sexton outside his window announcing the news of his death. Isaac Bickerstaff was actually a... Continue…
The Death of Titan Leeds. Benjamin Franklin published a highly successful, yearly almanac from 1732 to 1758. He called it Poor Richard’s Almanac, adopting the literary persona of "Poor" Richard Saunders, who was supposedly a hen-pecked, poverty-stricken scholar. In the first year of its publication, Franklin included a prediction stating that rival almanac-writer Titan Leeds would die on "Oct. 17, 1733, 3:29 P.M., at the very instant of the conjunction of the Sun... Continue…
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. The December 1845 edition of the American Whig Review contained an account of an unusual experiment designed to test whether hypnotism could delay the arrival of death. According to the article, a terminally ill patient, M. Ernest Valdemar, who only had hours left to live, was placed in a trance by a hypnotist. The effect was quite remarkable. Valdemar appeared to go into a state of suspended animation, moving only in response to the hypnotist's... Continue…
The Beheading of Baron Rothschild. During the 1890s reports began to emerge from Bosnia (at the time, part of the Austro-Hungarian empire) of peasants, innocent of any crime, surrendering themselves to the authorities with the request that they be beheaded. When the authorities investigated, they discovered that the peasants had heard a rumor alleging that the wealthy Austrian banker Albert Salomon von Rothschild had been sentenced to death for some crime and had offered a million... Continue…
Jean Gauntt, the Immortal Baby, 1939. In 1939 a secretive cult known as the Royal Fraternity of Master Metaphysicians made headlines when its leader, James Bernard Schafer, announced their intention to conduct an unusual experiment. They were going to raise an immortal baby. Continue…
Operation Mincemeat, 1943. In 1943 the body of a British officer, Major William Martin, was discovered off the coast of Spain, near Huelva. British diplomats strongly requested that all documents found with the body be returned to them, and the Spanish government eventually complied. But upon examination, it was obvious the documents had been opened and read before their return. This was exactly what the British had hoped would happen, because Major Martin did not exist.... 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…
Vilcabamba: the town of very old people, 1978. In 1970, scientists researching the link between diet and heart disease visited the small town of Vilcabamba, located high in the Ecuadorian Andes. The scientists included Dr. Alexander Leaf of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Harold Elrick of the University of California at San Diego, and a group from the University of Quito. The scientists found that the residents of Vilcabamba, who were principally of European descent, had very low cholesterol... Continue…
The Death of Alan Abel, 1980. On January 2, 1980 the New York Times announced the death of Alan Abel on its obituary page. It provided a flattering account of his career. The obituary read, in part: Alan Abel, a writer, musician and film producer who specialized in satire and lampoons, died of a heart attack yesterday at Sundance, a ski resort near Orem, Utah, while investigating a location for a new film. He was 50 years old and lived in Manhattan and Westport, Conn. Mr.... 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…
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…
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Final Farewell. Gabriel Garcia MarquezDuring the summer of 1999 Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature and author of such classics as One Hundred Years of Solitude, was treated for lymphatic cancer. Following this, there were persistent rumors about his failing health. On May 29, 2000 these rumors appeared to be confirmed when a poem signed with his name appeared in the Peruvian daily La Republica. The poem, titled "La Marioneta"... Continue…
Andy Kaufman Returns. The comedian Andy Kaufman died of lung cancer on May 16, 1984. But twenty years later, on May 16, 2004, a press release announced that he was still alive and living in New York City on the Upper West Side. Simultaneously, a blog authored by Kaufman appeared online. The press release explained that Kaufman had merely faked his death twenty years ago. But now he was back! During his life Kaufman had been fascinated with the idea of faking his... Continue…

Hoax Archive Categories
  • Email
  • Websites
  • Wikipedia
  • Legal
  • Linguistic
  • Literary Hoaxes
  • Mass Panic
  • Media Hoaxes
  • Military
  • Mistaken for a Hoax
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Newspapers and Magazines
  • Outrage Hoaxes
  • Paranormal
  • Photography
  • Political
  • Pranks
  • Pranksters
  • Pseudoscience
  • Radio Hoaxes
  • Religion
  • Romance
  • Rumors and Legends
  • Science
  • Sex
  • Show Business
  • Social Activism
  • Sports
  • Technology
  • Television Hoaxes

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