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
Political Hoaxes
The Roorback Hoax, 1844.
The Ithaca Chronicle published an extract from a book in which "Baron Roorback" described meeting a gang of slaves belonging to James Polk, the Democratic candidate for President of the United States. Polk's slaves, Roorback said, had all been branded with his initials. The idea that Polk would brand his slaves shocked voters, but the claim was a hoax. As was, it turned out, "Baron Roorback" himself. Continue…
The Southern Conspiracy to Confederate with Mexico, 1850. A letter appeared in newspapers detailing a plot hatched by Southern conspirators to leave the Union and confederate with Mexico. The capital of the proposed new nation was to be Mexico City. But historians have found no record of such a plot in diplomatic records from the period. Southern radicals were definitely dreaming of such schemes, but in 1850 such plots were still only dreams, existing only on paper. Continue…
The Hopkins Hoax. At the beginning of the Civil War wild rumors swept through the northern states about plots to overthrow the government. These plots were supposedly organized by various secret societies of Southern sympathizers. One group in particular, known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, was especially feared. This secret society really did exist, and many northerners feared that its members were organizing in the midwest to lead a pro-Southern... Continue…
The Miscegenation Hoax, 1863. A pamphlet titled Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races went on sale arguing for the benefits of white and black people having children with each other. By modern standards, the suggestion sounds enlightened, but the pamphlet was actually a hoax designed to insert the inflammatory issue of race into the 1864 presidential election. The hoax fizzled, but the pamphlet did introduce the word 'miscegenation' into the English language. Continue…
Lafayette Mulligan, 1924. In 1924 a man calling himself Lafayette Mulligan presented the Prince of Wales with the key to the City of Boston, while the Prince was vacationing in Massachusetts. However, the Mayor of Boston had no idea who Lafayette Mulligan was. In fact, Lafayette Mulligan was not a real person at all. Continue…
Hugo N. Frye, 1930. In 1930 Republican leaders throughout the United States received letters inviting them to a May 26 party at Cornell University in honor of the sesquicentennial birthday anniversary of Hugo Norris Frye, aka Hugo N. Frye. The letter explained that Hugo N. Frye had been one of the first organizers of the Republican party in New York State. None of the politicians could make it to the event, but almost all of them replied, expressing sincere... 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 Veterans of Future Wars, 1936. Future veterans march to demand their bonuses In 1935 veterans of World War One lobbied Congress to pay them their war bonuses ten years early in order to ease the economic hardship they were experiencing during the Great Depression. Congress readily acquiesced and passed the Harrison Bonus Bill in January 1936. This pre-payment was a source of inspiration for Lewis Gorin, a senior at Princeton University. It seemed logical to him that if... Continue…
The Milton Mule, 1938. On September 13, 1938 Boston Curtis won the post of Republican precinct committeeman for Milton, Washington, by virtue of fifty-one votes cast for him in the state primary election. Boston Curtis ran no election campaign, nor did he offer a platform. However, he also ran uncontested, so his election should not have been a surprise. But when the residents of Milton realized who Boston Curtis was, they were surprised, because Boston was a... Continue…
Hitler’s Silly Dance, 1940. On June 21, 1940, Hitler accepted the surrender of the French government at a ceremony in Compiegne, France. He melodramatically insisted on receiving France's surrender in the same railroad car in which Germany had signed the 1918 armistice that had ended World War One. After Hitler accepted France's surrender, he stepped backwards slightly, as if in shock. But this isn't what audiences in the Allied countries saw who watched the movie-reel of... Continue…
Douglas R. Stringfellow, 1954. Oct. 16, 1954: Douglas R. Stringfellow confesses on-air that his heroic past was a hoax In 1952 the political newcomer Douglas R. Stringfellow was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from Utah. Much of the appeal of his candidacy lay in his decorated past as a hero during World War Two, a past which he made frequent references to during his revival-style campaign speeches. According to him, he had served as an agent of... Continue…
Cacareco the Rhinoceros, 1959. The 1959 city council election in Sao Paulo, Brazil had a surprise winner: Cacareco, a five-year-old female rhinoceros at the local zoo. Not only did she win, but she did so by a landslide, garnering 100,000 votes (15% of the total). This was one of the highest totals for a local candidate in Brazil's history to that date. Continue…
Yetta Bronstein for President, 1964. Yetta Bronstein, a 48-year-old Bronx housewife, ran for President in 1964 and again in 1968 as the candidate for the Best Party. Her slogans were "Vote for Yetta and watch things get better" and "Put a mother in the White House." Her proposals included national bingo, self-fluoridation, placing a suggestion box on the White House fence, and printing a nude picture of Jane Fonda on postage stamps "to ease the post office deficit and also give a... Continue…
Report From Iron Mountain, 1967. Front cover of Report From Iron Mountain. In 1967 the war in Vietnam was escalating and race riots were breaking out in many major U.S. cities. Popular distrust of the federal government was growing. It was in this context that on October 16 a book appeared titled Report From Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace. It was published by Dial Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. Leonard C. Lewin, a New York freelance writer,... Continue…
Nobody For President, 1976. Who should you vote for in the next election? What about Nobody? After all, Nobody is clearly the best candidate. Nobody cares. Nobody keeps his election promises. Nobody listens to your concerns. Nobody tells the truth. Nobody will lower your taxes. Nobody will defend your rights. Nobody has all the answers. Nobody should have that much power. Nobody makes apple pie better than Mom. And Nobody will love you when you're down and out. 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…
The Lovenstein Institute IQ Report, 2001. In July 2001 an e-mail began to circulate claiming that the Lovenstein Institute, a think-tank based in Scranton, Pennsylvania, had conducted research into the IQ of all the Presidents of the past 50 years and had concluded that George W. Bush ranked at the bottom, with an IQ of only 91. (Click here to read the text of the email.) The claim that G.W. Bush had the lowest IQ of any recent U.S. President attracted the attention of the international... Continue…
Bush Voters have lower IQs, 2004. A chart that circulated online during the first months of 2004 purported to show that American states whose populations possess higher average incomes and higher average IQs voted for Gore in the 2000 Presidential elections. Their poorer, lower-IQ counterparts voted for Bush. The implication was that smart people vote Democratic, and stupid people vote Republican. Major newspapers and magazines, including the St. Petersburg Times and the... Continue…
The CBS Bush Memos, aka Rathergate. On 8 September 2004, Dan Rather reported on 60 Minutes that CBS had obtained documents revealing that President Bush had disobeyed orders while serving in the National Guard and had then used his family's influence to cover up his poor service record. The documents allegedly came from the files of Col. Killian, Bush's commanding officer in the Guard. Rather's news report generated controversy almost immediately. Bloggers pointed out that the... Continue…
Flemish Secession Hoax, 2006. In 2006, on a Belgian TV station news broadcast, it was announced that Flanders, the Dutch-speaking half of the country, had seceded from the country. Thirty minutes into the news bulletin,only after the station''s phonelines were swamped, it was revealed to be a "War of the Worlds"-style hoax. Continue…

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