The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
 
Snowball the Monster Cat, 2000
Cat that walked 3000 miles to find its owners, 1951
The Lovely Feejee Mermaid, 1842
The Crown Prince Regent of Thulia, 1954
The Diaphote, a television hoax, 1880
Bizarre pictographs of Emmanuel Domenech, 1860
Rare planetary alignment decreases gravity, 1976
Van Gogh's ear exhibited, 1935
Mule elected G.O.P. committeeman, 1938
The Nazi Air Marker Hoax, 1942
Prophecies of Nostradamus, 1555
Michel de Notredame (1503-1566), better known as Nostradamus, rose to prominence as an astrologer in sixteenth-century France. He was supported by the patronage of Queen Catherine de Médici, for whom he wrote numerous verses implying the downfall of her rival, Elizabeth I of England. Obviously, these predictions did not come true. His most popular work was The Prophecies, first published in 1555, which has remained in print to this day.

Nostradamus himself cannot properly be regarded as a hoaxer since astrology in his time was a highly respected practice. He believed in the legitimacy of his art. The real deception lies in the uses to which his work has been put since his death.

Nostradamus wrote his prophecies in an ancient form of French worded so ambiguously that it could be interpreted to mean almost anything a reader desired. As a result, his followers have been able to credit him with predicting a wide range of calamities including the great London fire of 1666, the rise of Adolf Hitler, the Iranian revolution of 1979, and the events of September 11, 2001. However, Nostradamus's supposed predictions are only ever noted after the fact. There has never been an instance in which a verse by Nostradamus has been used to accurately predict an event before it occurred.

The work of Nostradamus has also been a theme in a large number of outright hoaxes—instances in which verses were falsely attributed to him. For instance, during World War II the Nazis spread propaganda claiming that Nostradamus had prophesied the success of Hitler. The Allied countries retaliated by spreading propaganda claiming Nostradamus had foreseen Germany's defeat. After 9/11 interest in Nostradamus surged thanks to some verses of his, circulated by email, in which he seemed to predict the tragedy. However, the verses had not actually been written by him. They were the work of an anonymous hoaxer.

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