The Museum of Hoaxes
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Email Hoaxes
The NASA Satellite Photo
Soon after 9/11 an email began to circulate urging people to light a candle and stand outside their home with it at a specified date and time (the date varied between versions of the email). Supposedly a NASA satellite would then take a photograph of the entire nation illuminated by candlelight in order to demonstrate the solidarity of the American people in the face of terrorist aggression. The photo would appear on NASA's website the following day. NASA never planned to take such a photograph. The light of even 200 million candles spread out over the entire nation would be invisible from space. Therefore, a photo of the nation... More…
Nostradamus Predicted 9/11
Soon after 9/11 an email began to circulate claiming that the sixteenth-century astrologer Nostradamus had predicted the terrorist attacks. Some "genuine Nostradamus quatrains" were offered as proof of this claim. More…
Tourist Guy, 2001
Soon after the tragic events of Sep. 11, 2001, a sensational photo began circulating widely via email, showing a tourist posing for a snapshot on top of the World Trade Center as a plane approached from behind. A caption explained that the photo came from a camera found in the rubble of the building. Apparently the photo had been taken just seconds before disaster struck. The photo was quickly debunked, but it took several months to find out that the guy in the photo was really a Hungarian man who had visited the World Trade Center in 1997. He had inserted a plane into one of his old holiday photos as a joke, never realizing how far his joke would travel. More…
The Lovenstein Institute IQ Report, 2001
A report circulated via email detailing the findings of a four-month study by the Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, Pennsylvania in which it had calculated the IQ of all the US Presidents of the past 50 years. Franklin Roosevelt ranked at the top with an IQ of 147. But then President George W. Bush came in at the bottom with an IQ of only 91. These findings were repeated as fact by media outlets around the world, including The Guardian. However, the "Lovenstein Institute" wasn't a real organization. Nor had a study of presidential IQ ever been conducted. The report had originated as a joke on a humor website called linkydinky.com. More…
Microsoft Buys the Catholic Church, 1994
In late 1994, a news story purportedly issued by the Associated Press began circulating via email claiming that Microsoft had bought the Catholic church. 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." Although most of the article was clearly parody, many people believed it to be a real AP story and telephoned Microsoft to inquire about details. So many people called that Microsoft eventually felt compelled to issue an official statement denying it had bought the Catholic church. More…
The Wingdings Prophecies
Wingdings are a series of so-called "dingbat fonts" in Microsoft Word. They display symbols and pictures instead of letters, with each symbol corresponding to a different letter. In 1992, soon after the release of Windows 3.1, a rumor began to circulate alleging that anti-semitic messages had been coded into wingdings. The cause of this rumor was the (true) fact that if you typed the letters NYC using wingdings, you got a skull and crossbones, a star of David, and a thumbs up symbol. More…

The Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe
During the 1980s a rumor began to circulate alleging that the luxury department store Neiman Marcus had once charged a customer $250 for a cookie recipe. The rumor was first reported in newspapers during the late 1980s. However, the tale was likely older than that. Pat Zajac, a Neiman Marcus spokeswoman in Dallas, when interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times in 1992, said that the tale had been circulating since she came to work for the chain in 1986. More…
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Eras: 0-1699 1700s 1800-1849 1850-1899 1900-1949 1950-1979 1980s 1990s 2000s
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  • All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.