The Ultimate Houseboat. (2014) The boat is a VARD Offshore Subsea Construction Vessel. In real life it does not carry a house on its helipad. The composite image was created by a Norwegian construction firm as a humorous way to illustrate its campaign urging people to "Realize your dream home in the New Year!" The image subsequently began circulating online, captioned as the "ultimate houseboat." More…
Orphaned Syrian Boy Sleeping Between his Parents’ Graves.. (Jan 2014) The photo, as captioned, tugged at the heartstrings. So it was no surprise that it quickly went viral. But it was soon revealed to be a staged shot taken by a photographer in Saudi Arabia as part of a conceptual art project. The graves were fake, and the boy was the photographer's nephew. More…
Giant Squid in Santa Monica. (2014) This photo accompanied an article that ran on the site lightlybraisedturnip.com in January 2014, claiming that a giant squid (grown to mutant size because of Fukushima radiation) had washed ashore near Santa Monica. The article was intended as satire. Nevertheless, the image soon began to circulate online. The image was a composite of a squid washed ashore in Spain and a beach scene in Chile. More…
Long Exposure of a Tree Struck by Lightning. (2013) Photographer Darius Twin created this image using the technique of 'light painting,' which involves moving a hand-held light source in front of the camera. After he posted it on his Facebook page in October 2013, it soon went viral. However, the Internet recaptioned it with the claim that it was an actual image of lightning striking a tree. In its original context, it was clearly an art photo. More…
Snow-Covered Sphinx. (2013) In early December 2013, it snowed in Egypt for the first time in 112 years. Soon this photo of the Sphinx covered in snow began to circulate online. Problem was, the photo doesn't show the Egyptian Sphinx. It shows a miniature Sphinx located in the Tobu World Square theme park in Japan. This theme park features miniature models of many famous attractions from around the world. More…
Santa’s Identity Revealed. (Dec 2013) This set of images circulated widely accompanied by captions such as "Santa's identity revealed" or "an unexpected plot twist." The images were not fake, but they were taken out of their original context. They came from a Dutch ad campaign to promote awareness of Alzheimer's disease and were accompanied by a third image showing the rabbit fully unwrapped, revealing a message: "Alzheimer's patients are coping with this feeling daily." More…
Jennifer Aniston gets a buzzcut. (2013) Originally posted to the site "Daily Makeover" on April 1, 2013 as an April Fool Day joke, this photoshopped picture of Jennifer Aniston with a buzzcut began circulating widely in Dec. 2013 along with a caption claiming that Aniston had cut her hair to show sympathy for a niece with cancer. A rep for Aniston stated that Aniston had no such niece, and the claim was "nonsense". More…
Paris Hilton Says ‘Stop Being Poor’. (Nov 2013) The original, undoctored version of this photo, taken by photographer Vince Flores at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas on April 15, 2005, showed Paris Hilton wearing a t-shirt that said, "Stop Being Desperate." The altered version began circulating in late 2013. The reworded message played on Hilton's reputation for being somewhat shallow and spoiled by her inherited wealth. More…
Cow on hood of car. (Jan 2013) This image achieved internet fame when, on 18 Nov 2013, the Surrey Roads Police department posted it on its twitter account accompanied by the message: "Remember as days get colder animals are attracted to the warmth of cars so check wheel arches or other hiding places." However, the image had been circulating since early 2013. Its creator is unknown. The cow on the hood of the BMW is, of course, a product of digital manipulation. More…
Fairy Pools. (Oct 2013) As this photo circulated online, identified as "The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland," it attracted comments such as "oh my this is beyond beautiful." There are waterfalls on the Isle of Skye known as the Fairy Pools, but that's not what this photo shows. It shows the Shotover River in New Zealand, where the vegetation is a normal shade of green. The vivid purple color is a digital effect, achieved by means of a color filter. More…
What happens when lightning strikes sand. (2013) When lightning strikes sand, it can fuse the sand into long glassy tubes called fulgurites. However, the structure in this photo, despite the caption which the internet has given it, is not a fulgurite. It is a piece of driftwood with sand piled on top of it. This is a case of 'real picture, fake caption'. More…
Digital Glitch Furniture. (2013) Web postings of this image often claim it shows "an actual piece of carefully carved furniture" created by designer Ferruccio Laviani who used computer-aided machine tools to make it appear as if the cabinet had been deformed by a "digital glitch". Laviani did create a line of "glitch" furniture for a 2013 exhibition. But this photo was a mock-up used to illustrate his concept. It doesn't show one of the finished pieces. More…
Fireworks Over Europe. (2013) This photo is often said to show a satellite's view of the fireworks over Europe at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve. It first circulated in Jan 2013 and returned in 2014. Of course, Europe isn't all in the same time zone, so the New Year's Eve fireworks don't all go off at the same moment. Nor do they create such intense illumination. This is actually a color-coded NOAA image showing changes in illumination in Europe from 1993-2003. More…
Angry Koala. (2012) This koala looks quite vicious, but in reality koalas do not have wolf-life jaws. The original photo of a wet koala (with its mouth shut) was taken in Jan 2009 by Flickr user Oz_drdolittle. It was hot so he had sprayed it with water. In 2012, someone digitally added wolf fangs to the koala, and the resulting image quickly went viral. More…
Japanese Moon Melon. (2012) The caption that frequently accompanies this image claims that this colorful fruit is known as 'moon melon' in Japan, where it's grown. Also, it can "switch flavors after you eat it. Everything sour will taste sweet, and everything salty will taste bitter, and it gives water a strong orange-like taste." None of this is true. The fruit in the picture is just regular red watermelon that's been colored blue via Photoshop. More…
A Black Lion. (2012) It's biologically possible for lions to be black, and there have been reports of such creatures over the years. Although many of these reports may have been due to observation in poor light or strong sunlight behind the cat. However, the lion in this photo is not actually black. It's a white lion that was colored black through photo manipulation. The altered photo was posted on deviantart.com in early 2012 and quickly went viral. More…
Romney Family Misspells Their Name. (Feb 2012) As Romney campaigned for the Presidency, this picture started to circulate online, accompanied by the caption: "Romney's family misspell their last name in the greatest Freudian slip in history." However, that's not Romney's family. It's actually the Fisher family, who got up on stage with him during a campaign stop in Elko, Nevada. They wore t-shirts that did correctly spell his name. The misspelling was the result of photo alteration. More…
Romney Gets A Shoeshine. (2012) During the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, a photo circulated online that appeared to show Mitt Romney getting a shoe shine as his private jet waited behind him — an appearance reinforced by a caption that claimed this was the case. In reality, the picture dated to 2008 and showed Romney sitting for a security check before boarding a plane in Denver, Colorado. The man in the red jacket was waving a security wand over Romney's shoe. More…
Angolan Witch Spider. (2011) The Internet claims this spider was spotted on the side of a house in Texas and "it took several gun shots to kill it." In reality, this image is the creation of artist/photographer Paul Santa Maria, who took a photo of a normal-sized wolf spider outside his Florida home and then used Photoshop to expand it to gigantic proportions. More…
Brady Yawning. (2011) Circulating online since early 2012, with captions such as "Dogception" and "Perfect Timing Picture". Many assume the framed picture of the dog yawning in the background was digitally added. It wasn't. The shot was taken by photographer Jill Maguire in late 2011, who explains on her Flickr account that it's an unphotoshopped photo of her dog Brady yawning in front of a framed print of himself yawning. More…
The Cleavage Disappears. (2011) The woman shown above is Rathika Sitsabaiesan, a Canadian MP. The image on the left was her official parliamentary headshot. But in Sep 2011 a blogger noticed that although the image still appeared on the parliamentary website, it had been altered to the version on the right in which her cleavage had been digitally erased. It's not known who ordered the alteration. Sitsabaiesan has not commented on it. More…
Lottery winner finds love of his life after big win. (2009) The photo shows Swedish glamour model Natacha Peyre posing with a fan. But the Internet has recaptioned this image to give it a more amusing story. Of course, this story is false. It's not known who the man in the photo is, but he's definitely not the winner of a $181 million lottery. The photo first surfaced with the false caption in 2009 and has been resurfacing periodically ever since. More…
Viagra Corporate Headquarters. (2009) This image has circulated widely online with a caption claiming the building shown is the "Head Office of Viagra" in Toronto, Canada. The building is real, as is the suggestively shaped topiary. But it's not the head office of Viagra (which is a drug, not a corporation). It's actually the corporate offices of Swagelok Northwest, which manufactures valves and fittings. The building is located in Portland, Oregon. More…
Dati’s Disappearing Ring. (Nov 19, 2008) Photo editors at Le Figaro deleted a ring from the French justice minister's hand in order to make her appear less glamorous. More…
The Fake General Dunwoody. (November 2008) When Ann Dunwoody became the first four-star general in the American military, the Army released a doctored photo of her to the media. More…
Kim Jong-Il’s Shadow. (November 2008) Western media questioned whether this image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il had been doctored, but it appears not to have been. More…
U.S. Army Releases Doctored Photographs. (September 2008) Lacking an official photo of a deceased soldier, the U.S. Army instead released a doctored image to the media. More…
Sarah Palin in Bikini. (September 2008) After John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, provocative fake pictures of the Alaska Governor began to circulate online. More…
A Whiter Beyonce. (August 2008) Critics accused L'Oreal of lightening Beyonce's skin color in this advertisement for its cosmetics. More…
The Missile Launcher Vanishes. (July 9, 2008) The Iranian government pasted a missile into this photo, apparently in an attempt to conceal the failure of one of the missiles to launch. More…
Jumping Shark. (July 3, 2008) A photographer happened to take this series of photos just as a shark was leaping from the water behind a surfer. More…
Fox Airs Faux Photos. (July 2, 2008) Fox News aired pictures of New York Times staffers that had been digitally altered to make the men appear less attractive. More…
M.C. Escher Golf. (Taken Aug 18, 2006. Published June 2008) A surreal effect of impossible geometry may have been caused by the use of a telephoto lens to take this picture. More…
Cruise vs. von Stauffenberg. (Controversy from June 2008) United Artists was mistakenly accused of altering an image of German officer Claus von Stauffenberg to make him appear to resemble Tom Cruise. More…
Hand with no thumb. (Found on the internet, June 2008) A digital composite creates the illusion of a hand with no thumb. More…
“Not What You Want To See”. (Circulating online since early 2008) Two pictures were composited together to create this dramatic scene. More…
Charlton Heston’s Home Gun Collection. (Apr 2008) After Charlton Heston died in April 2008, a series of images began to circulate online, supposedly showing the actor's home gun collection. Heston was a well-known gun enthusiast. But the guns in the photos didn't belong to him. They were actually owned by attorney Bruce Stern, who died in 2007, after which most of his collection was auctioned off. It was one of the largest firearms collections ever to go up for auction. More…
Barack Obama Smoking. (Circulating online since early 2008) Obama admits to being a smoker (trying to quit), but this picture of him smoking was faked. More…
Vote for Dean Hrbacek. (January 2008) In this flyer distributed by Hrbacek's campaign, the candidate's head was pasted onto the body of a significantly slimmer man. More…
Paper Tiger. (October 3, 2007) The South China tiger in this photo, a species feared to be extinct, turned out to be a paper cutout. More…
Sarkozy’s Disappearing Love Handles. (August 2007) Paris Match was accused of pandering to French President Nicolas Sarkozy when it reduced the size of his love handles in this photo of him canoeing with his son. More…
The French Dinner. (July 2007) This fake picture caused a scandal in Malaysia because it appeared to link the country's deputy prime minister to the murder of a young woman. More…
Giant Tomatoes. (Feb 2007) These are just normal-sized tomatoes, but the angle of the photo makes them appear enormously large. This image was taken by Claro Cortes for Reuters and shows a Chinese farmer tending organic tomatoes in a greenhouse near Beijing. More…
Suicidal Teens Welcome. (Found on the internet, early 2007) The armed forces does not really actively recruit suicidal teenagers. More…
Oscar Mayer Wiener Jet. (2007) This fake image was probably created as a joke by the graphic designers whom Boeing commissioned to create the livery for the 747-400 Largo Cargo Freighter. The plane's unusual shape evidently reminded the designers of a hot dog. It initially appeared online in early 2007, but it gained a new boost of popularity in mid-2009 following the death of Oscar Mayer, the retired chairman of the Oscar Mayer corporation. More…
Hercules, the World’s Biggest Dog. (2007) The massive dog in this photo is not named Hercules. It hasn't been deemed World's Biggest Dog by Guinness World Records. Nor is it an English Mastiff. However, all this incorrect info often circulates with the image. The identity and owner of the dog remains unknown. Its size here is presumed to be a result of image manipulation. However, other images show the same dog massively large. So there's a chance the dog's size is genuine. More…
Katie Couric Slimmed Down. (September 2006) A digitally slimmed down version of Katie Couric appeared in CBS's Watch magazine. More…
Fake Smoke Over Beirut. (August 5, 2006) A freelance photographer heightened the drama of this image distributed by Reuters by adding additional smoke. More…
“Qinghai-Tibet railway opens green passage for wildlife”. (Published in 2006. Debunked in 2008.) This award-winning Chinese photo appeared to show the peaceful co-existence of antelope with a new high-speed train. Unfortunately the photo was a digital composite. More…
Holiday Greetings, from Spain’s Royal Family. (December 2005) Unable to gather for a photo shoot, the Spanish royal family instead digitally assembled for its Christmas holiday photo. More…
“I can promise, this will never get done”. (Created in 2005. Circulating online since 2008.) Artist Alison Jackson uses lookalikes to create images of "celebrities ostensibly caught unawares." More…
Migrant Mother Makeover. (April 2005 issue of Popular Photography) Popular Photography's readers were outraged when the magazine ran a feature on how Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother photo could be improved. More…
Martha’s Last Laugh. (March 2005) Newsweek indicated nowhere on the cover that this shot was actually a composite image of Martha Stewart's head pasted onto a model's body. More…
Islamic Hostage Action-Figure Hoax. (February 1, 2005) Hostage "John Adam," whose photo appeared on internet bulletin boards used by Iraqi rebels, turned out to be a Cody action-figure doll. More…
Tsunami Seen From a High-Rise. (Appeared online in early January 2005) This photo supposedly showed a scene from the devastating Asian tsunami of December 2004, but the city in the picture is Antofagasta, Chile. More…
Modern-Day Diplocaulus. (Circulating online since late 2004) The mysterious creature in the bucket was actually a clay model, not a surviving prehistoric Diplocaulus. More…
Whatever It Takes. (October 2004) An ad released by Bush's 2004 presidential campaign showed a crowd scene from which the President had been digitally removed. More…
Home Computer of the Future. (First posted online September 11, 2004) Popular Science magazine did not publish this image in 1954, predicting that it was what a home computer would look like fifty years in the future. More…
Fetal Footprint. (Circulating online since mid-2004) The abdominal wall is too muscular and thick to actually allow a footprint to be seen with this clarity. More…
Giant Human Skeleton. (Circulating online since early 2004) Despite what this photo appears to show, archaeologists did not unearth a giant human skeleton in Saudi Arabia. More…
Camel Spiders in Iraq. (Found online, Spring 2004) It's true that camel spiders are very large, but much of the information about these creatures that accompanied this picture as it went around the internet was false. More…
Hanoi John. (Circulating online since Feb 2004) Not only had Fonda not shared the stage with Kerry, she hadn’t even attended the rally shown here. More…
Trophy Turkey. (Thanksgiving 2003) This photo appears to show President Bush serving dinner to troops during a surprise visit to Iraq on Thanksgiving Day, 2003. The image was widely published and credited with helping the President's popularity rise in polls. But the image was later criticized for being misleadingly captioned, because newspapers failed to mention that Bush was holding a decorative centerpiece not intended for consumption. The troops were actually fed turkey from steam trays. More…
The Great Blackout of 2003. (Found online in late August 2003) This fake photo circulated widely in the days following the Great Blackout of 2003. More…
The Real Julia. (July 2003) Julia Roberts' head was pasted onto a younger version of her body. More…
Manitoba Home Security. (Found online in 2003) A digital composite makes it appear that polar bears are relaxing outside someone's house. More…
Louis Vuitton Designer SARS Mask. (April 2003) The fashion designer never actually included a SARS mask in any of its collections. More…
British Soldier in Basra. (Created March 29, 2003.) This digital composite slipped past the editors of the LA Times and ran on the paper's front page. More…
Shuttle Columbia Explosion Photos. (2003) When the space shuttle Columbia exploded upon re-entry on February 1, 2003, no cameras recorded the event. But online, a dramatic series of images of a space shuttle exploding began to circulate. They were said to have been taken "from an Israeli satellite in space." The pictures were actually screenshots from the opening scene of the movie Armageddon (1998), in which the space shuttle Atlantis is struck by meteorite fragments. More…
Kate Winslet’s Legs. (February 2003) Kate Winslet complained that photo editors made her look too skinny on this GQ cover. More…
The Misleading Steak Premiere. (Late 2002) A government investigation concluded there was a disparity between the amount of toppings shown in this ad, and the amount on the actual sandwich. More…
The Lackawanna Shooter. (Published Sep 20, 2002) A New York Times photographer was accused of staging this photo "like a fashion shoot." More…

Hoax Photo Archive — Categories
Time Periods
1840-19001900-19191920-19391940-19591960-19791980-19992000-20042005 to Present

Techniques of Fakery
General Categories

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