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
Photography Hoaxes
William Mumler’s Spirit Photography, 1861. While developing a self-portrait, Mumler noticed the shadowy figure of a young girl floating beside his own likeness. He assumed it was an accident, but spiritualists proclaimed it to be the first photo ever taken of a spirit, and Mumler didn't argue with them. Instead, he went into business as the world's first spirit photographer and grew wealthy producing "spirit photos" for grief-stricken clients who had lost relatives in the Civil War. Continue…
The Mammoth Potato Hoax of Loveland, Colorado, 1894. Joseph B. Swan was proud of his potatoes. On his farm outside Loveland, Colorado, in the late nineteenth century, he grew 26,000 pounds of potatoes in one year on a single acre of land. He also claimed to have grown a giant potato that weighed 13lbs 8oz. W.L. Thorndyke, editor of the Loveland Reporter, came up with an idea to help Swan promote his spuds at an 1894 street fair. Thorndyke's idea was to create a hoax photograph of Swan showing off a... 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…
Death in the Air, 1933. A book called Death in the Air: The War Diary and Photographs of a Flying Corps Pilot was published in 1933. It contained numerous pages of spectacular aerial photographs of World War One dogfights supposedly taken by a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Since very few photos of aerial fighting had been taken by the military, the photographs caused a great sensation. Interest in them grew even greater when they were exhibited at galleries in New York... Continue…
Baby Adolf, 1933. In 1933 a picture supposedly showing Adolf Hitler as a baby began circulating throughout England and America. The child in the picture looked positively menacing. Its fat mouth was twisted into a sneer, and it scowled at the camera from dark, squinted eyes. A greasy mop of hair fell over its forehead. Continue…
The Nazi Air Marker Hoax, 1942. On August 10, 1942 the U.S. Army's public-relations office issued a press release warning the public of "secret markers" that had been found on farm fields throughout the eastern United States. These markers were patterns formed by the arrangement of fertilizer sacks or the way a field had been tilled. From the ground they looked like nothing, but from the air they formed the shape of arrows, apparently created by Nazi sympathizers in order to... Continue…
The Stuart Photograph. On July 14, 1951, Forestry Commission employee Lachlan Stuart took a picture of mysterious humps rising from the loch. Over twenty years later researchers visited the spot where he had taken the picture and realized the humps would have been in extremely shallow water close to the shore, meaning that Stuart's monster must have been awfully flat. Confirming their suspicions, author Richard Frere later revealed that Stuart had confessed to him the... Continue…
The MacNab Photograph. July 29, 1955: Bank manager Peter MacNab snapped a photo of something large moving through the water of the loch near Urquhart Castle. But when researcher Roy Mackal studied the photo, he discovered differences between the negative of the image and the print that MacNab had originally shown to the media. Specifically, there was more of the image in the print than there was in the negative (the tree at the bottom left is missing from the... Continue…
The Flipper Photo. August 7, 1972: An expedition to find Nessie led by Dr. Robert Rines of the Academy of Applied Science struck gold when its underwater camera took a picture of what appeared to be the flipper of a large aquatic animal resembling a plesiosaur. However, the relatively clear image of a flipper shown to the public was not quite what the camera had initially recorded. The initial image was far less distinct. (It basically looked like a shot of a bunch... Continue…
The Loch Ness Muppet, 1977. May 21, 1977: Anthony 'Doc' Shiels claimed that he took this picture while camping beside Urquhart Castle. Its startling clarity (it's probably the clearest picture of Nessie ever taken) has made it popular with the public. But it's hard to find any expert willing to take it seriously, simply because the creature depicted in it looks so obviously fake. (And it's odd that there are no ripples in the water around the neck.) Skeptics refer to... Continue…
Snowball the Monster Cat, 2000. Washington-state resident Cordell Hauglie owned a fat family cat named Jumper. As a joke, he created a picture of himself holding a digitally enlarged version of this cat. He emailed the photo to his daughter, and thought nothing more of it. What he didn't realize is that the image then began spreading around the internet, where it became an online sensation. Continue…
Tourist Guy, 2001. Soon after September 11, 2001, a sensational photo began circulating via email. It showed a tourist posing for a snapshot on top of the World Trade Center as a hijacked plane approached from behind. An accompanying caption explained that the photo came from a camera found in the rubble of the world trade center. Apparently the photo had been taken just seconds before disaster struck. Continue…
Lcpl. Boudreaux’s Sign. In March 2004, a photo circulated online showing an American soldier posing with two Iraqi boys. One of the boys was holding a sign that read, "Lcpl Boudreaux killed my Dad, then he knocked up my sister!" The Council on American-Islamic Relations saw the picture and complained to the Pentagon about it. The photo also received coverage in publications such as Islam Online. But it turned out that there were multiple versions of the photo in... Continue…
The Daily Mirror’s Hoax Photos. On May 1, 2004 the British Daily Mirror published pictures of Iraqi prisoners allegedly being tortured by British soldiers. The photos generated immediate controversy, as critics pointed out many features of them that seemed suspicious. First of all, they looked posed. The 'prisoners' did not appear to be injured or even sweating. And the British soldiers were wearing incorrect uniforms and driving vehicles not deployed in Iraq. Two weeks later... 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.