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
Paranormal Hoaxes
The Shroud of Turin, 1355. This famous cloth bearing the image of a naked man first came to the attention of the public in 1355. Its supporters claim that it was the funeral shroud of Christ. But skeptics dismiss it as a medieval forgery, arguing that: 1) there was a flourishing trade in such false relics; 2) a medieval forger could definitely have created it, despite claims to the contrary; and 3) the man's body is oddly proportioned (his head is too large), which suggests the image is a painting. Continue…
Prophecies of Nostradamus, 1555. Michel de Notredame, better known as Nostradamus, rose to prominence as an astrologer supported by the patronage of Queen Catherine de Médici. He wrote prophecies in an ancient form of French worded so ambiguously that it could be interpreted to mean almost anything a reader desired. This artful ambiguity has allowed his followers to credit him with predicting many events. Although his supposed predictions are only ever noticed after the events have occurred. Continue…
The Ghostly Drummer of Tedworth, 1661. John Mompesson of Wiltshire claimed to hear strange noises in his home such as a drum beating, scratching, and panting noises. Objects, he said, moved of their own accord. Many people came to witness the spirit activity for themselves. But skeptics suggested Mompesson himself may have been behind the haunting, either to profit from those who came to see the spirit, or to decrease the value of the house (which was rented). Continue…
The Witch Trial at Mount Holly. On October 22, 1730 an article appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette describing a witch trial that had recently been held in Mount Holly near Burlington, New Jersey. According to the article, over 300 people had gathered to witness the trial of two people, a man and a woman, who had been accused of witchcraft. The charges included "making their neighbours sheep dance in an uncommon manner, and with causing hogs to speak, and sing Psalms, &c. to... Continue…
The Materialization of John Newbegin. On December 19, 1874 the New York Sun published a long letter on its front page which it said had been sent from a businessman who lived in the small community of Pocock Island, located seventeen miles off the coast of Maine. In his letter this businessman related an unusual tale about a spirit that had materialized during a seance, but which had then refused to unmaterialize and had resumed his former life as a fisherman. Continue…
The Ghosts of Versailles, 1901. On August 10, 1901 two English women visited the gardens of the Petit Trianon near Versailles. The controversy over exactly what these women saw there on that day would linger on for decades. The two women were Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, both academics, principal and vice-principal respectively of St. Hugh's College, Oxford. They were on vacation in France and decided to spend a day at Versailles. They first toured the palace and then... Continue…
The Angel of Mons. On August 22 and 23, 1914 the British Expeditionary Force near Mons was struggling to retreat from the German Army. They were almost surrounded and badly outnumbered. But just when all hope seemed to have been lost, a shimmering angelic apparation appeared in the fog and smoke that hung over the battle field. The British troops staggered towards the figure and discovered that it had shown them an escape route. This remarkable story quickly spread... Continue…
The Cottingley Fairies, 1920. In 1920 a series of photos of fairies captured the attention of the world. The photos had been taken by two young girls, the cousins Frances Griffith and Elsie Wright, while playing in the garden of Elsie's Cottingley village home. Photographic experts examined the pictures and declared them genuine. Spiritualists promoted them as proof of the existence of supernatural creatures, and despite criticism by skeptics, the pictures became among the... Continue…
King Tut’s Curse, 1923. In November 1922 Howard Carter located the entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamun. By February he and his team had unsealed the door of the Burial Chamber. But a mere two months later, on April 5, 1923, the sponsor of his expedition, Lord Carnarvon, died in his Cairo hotel room, having succumbed to a bacterial infection caused by a mosquito bite. The media immediately speculated that Carnarvon had fallen victim to King Tut's Curse. This curse... Continue…
Rudolph Fentz, Accidental Time Traveler. The story of Rudolph Fentz was long considered an unsolved mystery, and a case of possible time travel. In June 1950, Fentz was said to have suddenly appeared in the New York City's Times Square, as if from out of the blue, wearing old-fashioned clothes and sporting mutton-chop sideburns. Glancing around, a look of astonishment and then of panic flashed across his face. He sprinted forwards, and was then struck down and killed by a car. Continue…
The Disappearance of David Lang. David Lang was said to be a farmer who lived near Gallatin, Tennessee. On September 23, 1880 he supposedly vanished into thin air while walking through a field near his home. His wife, children, and two men who were passing by in a buggy all witnessed his disappearance. At least, this is what a popular tale that has circulated since the 1950s claims. Continue…
The Third Eye of T. Lobsang Rampa, 1956. The Third EyeThe Third Eye, by Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, was first published in 1956. It purported to be his autobiographical account of growing up in Tibet and studying Tibetan Buddhism. Rampa claimed he had been born into a wealthy Tibetan family and had studied in Lhasa to become a lama. He had then undergone an operation to open up the "third eye" in the middle of his forehead. This operation had bestowed upon him amazing psychic powers. Continue…
Operation Blackbird, 1990. Colin Andrews confers with military personnel during Operation Blackbird By the summer of 1990 the phenomenon of crop circles was attracting large amounts of media attention. A group of researchers, who described themselves as 'cerealogists,' set out to solve the mystery of the circles' formation once and for all. They camped out on a hillside in Wiltshire with an array of heat, light and sound detectors, in the hope of recording the creation of... Continue…
The BMW Crop Circle, 1993. A crop circle appeared in a field of rye located outside of Johannesburg, South Africa during the first week of February 1993. The South African media speculated excitedly about whether it was the work of a UFO. Many newspapers and TV and radio shows discussed it, fanning interest in the incident. Popular curiosity grew until February 14, when a small detail was pointed out that had previously escaped almost everyone's notice: the circle formed... Continue…
The Sneaker Pimps Crop Circle. In July 1997 a crop circle resembling the logo of a popular band, the Sneaker Pimps, appeared in Warwickshire, England. This band was playing in the nearby Phoenix music festival. No one ever took credit for the formation. Cerealogists Andy Thomas and Mike Leigh have suggested that "the thought patterns of those at the festival had somehow coalesced to create it in ways which experiments had shown possible." An alternative (more plausible)... Continue…

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