The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Olympic Underwear Relay, 1956
Sober Sue, the woman who never smiled, 1907
Use your left ear to detect lies
The boy with the golden tooth, 1593
Swiss peasants harvest spaghetti from trees, 1957
Actress who claimed she was kidnapped by puritans, 1950
Dead Body of Loch Ness Monster Found, 1972
Baby Yoga, aka Swinging Your Kid Around Your Head
Prankster causes volcano to erupt, 1974
Man flies by own lung power, 1934
The Perambulating Skull
Twenty-two-year-old Arthur Rothstein took these photos while on assignment for the Resettlement Administration in South Dakota. His task was to document drought conditions there. But when the top photo was released to the media in August, 1936, coinciding with a trip by President Roosevelt to the Great Plains, it generated enormous controversy.

Republican papers, led by the Fargo Forum, argued that the photo amounted to government propaganda designed to create the appearance of drought conditions for political purposes. In reality, the Fargo Forum insisted, there had been no drought. The photo simply showed, it explained, an alkali flat, similar to ones that could be found in "Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana. Wherever one chooses." The paper also called the skull "a movable prop, which comes in handy for photographers who want to touch up their pictures with a bit of the grisly."

Subsequent investigation turned up the other pictures, revealing that Rothstein had indeed moved the skull around. Republican critics made it sound as if Rothstein had traveled the country with the steer's skull in his suitcase, but Rothstein insisted he had moved the skull no more than ten feet from where he had originally found it. Nevertheless, the controversy hung over Rothstein for the remainder of his career. Critics mockingly referred to the cow's head as the "perambulating skull."

Links and References
Curtis, J. (1989). Mind's Eye, Mind's Truth: FSA Photography Reconsidered. Temple University Press.


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