The Museum of Hoaxes
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Extraterrestrial Life Hoaxes
The Morristown UFO Hoax
On January 5, 2009, mysterious red lights appeared in the night sky above Morris County, New Jersey. They were seen by numerous people, who reported them to the police. The lights were seen again on several nights throughout January and February. The police speculated that the lights were probably the work of a prankster. Nevertheless, the media gave extensive coverage to the theory that the lights were actually UFOs. In February the lights were featured on the History Channel series UFO Hunters. More…
Alien Autopsy, 1995
British film producer Ray Santilli came forward with several canisters of film that he said showed military surgeons performing an autopsy on an extraterrestrial creature in 1947. He said he had acquired the film from a former military cameraman. Skeptics mocked Santilli's claims. Nevertheless, when the FOX network aired his film in August 1995, it received extremely high nielsen ratings, and subsequent video rentals of the film were consistently popular. But eventually (in 2006) Santilli confessed the film was fake. He had filmed the footage inside a London apartment., and the body of the alien had been created by sculptor John Humphreys. More…
Aliens Invade Rockford, 1989
The Sunday, Dec. 3 edition of the Rockford Register Star (Rockford, Illinois) contained a brief article on its front page under the headline, "Aliens Spotted Near Rockford." The article warned that "These aliens claim to be human children offering further proof that alien beings do indeed live in our planet and may be among local residents." The paper printed a retraction and apology the next day, explaining that the story had been written as a prank by a production worker and then mistakenly placed on a page cleared for printing. The worker was fired.
Chariots of the Gods?
Chariots of the Gods?, written by Erich von Däniken, was first published in 1968. It became an international bestseller. The thesis of the book is that ancient human civilizations had contact with visitors from outer space. These "ancient astronauts" were supposedly responsible for many of the great architectural feats of history, such as the Egyptian pyramids, the Nazca lines of Peru, and the statues on Easter Island. Mainstream archaeologists dismiss von Däniken's argument as pseudoscience. A charitable view of von Däniken would credit him with really believing all the arguments he makes. A more cynical view paints him as a... More…
The Little Blue Man Hoax, 1958
In early 1958, Michigan motorists began to report sightings of a glowing "little blue man," like a spaceman from a science-fiction movie, who would appear out of nowhere on rural roads, and then just as suddenly disappear. Eventually three young men confessed that the blue man was their work. They had created a costume consisting of long underwear, gloves, combat boots, a sheet, and a football helmet with blinking lights. One of them, wearing this costume, would hide in a ditch and leap out when a motorist approached, run along the road, and then make a quick getaway by jumping into the trunk of the car driven by his two accomplices. More…
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 actually a Capuchin monkey with its tail cut off and fur removed with depilatory cream. The boys confessed they had created it as a prank. More…

A Homemade UFO, 1947
July 11, 1947: Ten days after residents of Twin Falls, Idaho reported seeing flying saucers in the sky, a woman reported finding a flying saucer embedded in the lawn of her neighbor's home. Police came out to investigate, followed by the FBI and three army officers who flew out from Fort Douglas, Utah. What they found was a small, gold-and-silver-colored saucer about the size of a bicycle wheel. It had gouged long strips in the lawn as it landed. The army officers removed the saucer and took it to Salt Lake City for closer investigation. But the police, working on a tip, then identified the saucer as the creation of four teenage boys, who had... More…
The Maury Island Incident, 1947
Harold Dahl claimed that on June 21, 1947 he saw six "donut-shaped" discs flying above him while he was on a boat in Puget Sound. One of the discs ejected bits of molten metal, which (so Dahl said) killed his dog and burnt the arm of his son. Dahl also said that he was later visited by a man in a dark suit who warned him not to talk further about the incident. This was the first report of a "man in black". Air Force investigators identified the metal as scrap metal from a factory, and Dahl confessed that his report had been a joke that spun out of control. [wikipedia,]
The War of the Worlds, 1938
On October 30, 1938, thousands of people fled in panic after hearing CBS Radio report that Martian invaders had landed in New Jersey and were marching across the country, using heat rays and poisonous gas to kill Earthlings. But as soon became clear, Martians hadn't really invaded New Jersey. What people had heard (and mistook for a real news broadcast) was a radio version of H.G. Wells's story The War of the Worlds, performed by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater. More…
The Great Moon Hoax of 1835
The New York Sun announced that the British astronomer Sir John Herschel had discovered life on the moon by means of a new telescope "of vast dimensions and an entirely new principle." Creatures supposedly seen by Herschel included lunar bison, fire-wielding biped beavers, and winged "man-bats." The public was fascinated. It took several weeks before they realized it was all a hoax. More…
The Unparalled Adventures of One Hans Pfall
A June 1835 article in the Southern Literary Messenger recounted the experiences of a man, Hans Pfall, who claimed to have traveled to the moon in a balloon and spent five years there living among its inhabitants. He had supposedly returned briefly to Earth, just long enough to drop an account of his travels from his balloon, before deciding to go back to the moon. The article, though it purported to be factual, was actually a story written by Edgar Allan Poe. It was his first, and somewhat unsuccessful, attempt at a hoax. Few if any people were fooled, perhaps because, as Poe himself later acknowledged, it was written in a "tone of mere banter." More…
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  • All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.