The Museum of Hoaxes
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Lord Gordon-Gordon, robber of the robber barons, 1871
Prankster causes volcano to erupt, 1974
The Great Electric Sugar Swindle, 1884
The Diaphote, a television hoax, 1880
Life discovered on the moon, 1835
Sober Sue, the woman who never smiled, 1907
Cursed by Allah
September Morn, the painting that shocked the censor, 1913
Female thieves hide money in their bras, 1950
Mencken's fake history of the bathtub, 1917
Islamic Hostage Action-Figure Hoax
On February 1, 2005 the media reported that a hostage had been taken in Iraq. Broadcasts showed a photo (top) of a U.S. soldier sitting on the ground with a rifle pointed at his head. The photo came from an internet bulletin board frequently used by Iraqi rebels, where it was accompanied by this statement:

Our mujahideen heroes of Iraq's Jihadi Battalion were able to capture American military man JohnAdam after killing a number of his comrades and capturing the rest. God willing, we will behead him if our female and male prisoners are not released from U.S. prisons within the maximum period of 72 hours from the time this statement has been released.

The Mujahideen Squadron had kidnapped a Brazilian engineer the previous month, so although the U.S. military denied any soldier was missing, the threat seemed credible. However, many bloggers questioned the photo, pointing out that the soldier was strangely expressionless for someone with a rifle pointed at his head and his arms twisted behind his back. The gun also looked fake.

Within hours American toy manufacturer Dragon Models USA Inc. issued a statement noting that "John Adam" closely resembled its Cody action-figure doll (middle). A side-by-side comparison revealed the two to be one and the same.

A week later on a Jihadist message board, an anonymous "20-year-old Iraqi young man... unarmed [and] independent" took responsibility for the hoax, insisting it was just "a scheme that I made up with a toy that I bought with $5." Accompanying his confession, a photo (bottom) showed the hostage scene from a different angle, the tiny rifle held between someone's fingers.


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