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The Hoax Photo Archive — Photo Fakery Throughout History
Composite Images
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
Suicidal Teens Welcome. (Found on the internet, early 2007) The armed forces does not really actively recruit suicidal teenagers. 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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
Manitoba Home Security. (Found online in 2003) A digital composite makes it appear that polar bears are relaxing outside someone's house. 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…
Tourist Guy. (Circulating online since September 2001.) Created by a Hungarian man as a bit of dark humor to share with his friends, this photo became one of the most widely viewed images online in the weeks after 9/11. More…
Helicopter Shark. (Circulating online since Aug 2001) Despite what this photo shows, a Great White shark has never attacked a helicopter in San Francisco Bay. More…
The Tip of the Iceberg. (2001) Photographer Ralph Clevenger created this image in 1999 by compositing together several different photos. He intended it as an art photo and never presented it otherwise. But around 2001, it began to circulate online with a false caption claiming it was a shot taken by a "Rig Manager for Global Marine Drilling in St. Johns, Newfoundland" and that "They actually have to divert the path of these things away from the rig by towing them with ships!" More…
Cut-and-Paste Diversity. (September 2000) University of Wisconsin-Madison officials pasted a black student's face into a crowd scene that appeared on the cover of the undergraduate application brochure (left). After the student newspaper revealed the alteration, embarrassed university officials explained they had wanted to highlight the campus's racial diversity, but had been unable to find a suitable photo. So they created one. The university subsequently attempted to recall all the brochures. More…
Tootsie Redressed. (Mar 1997 issue of Los Angeles magazine) Dustin Hoffman sued Los Angeles magazine for $5 million on account of this photo of his head pasted onto the body of a model wearing a silk gown. More…
Fire on Ice. (Feb 16, 1994) Harding and Kerrigan were seen skating together on this Newsday cover, but the scene never occurred in real life. More…
White Hot Mama. (July 1992) Ann Richards, governor of Texas, appeared on the cover of Texas Monthly in a "Bad Girl" pose astride a white-and-chrome Harley-Davidson. But Richards hadn't posed for the photo because she was unable to schedule time for a photoshoot. Texas Monthly created the shot by combining a stock photo of her head with a picture of a model. Richards later said that she loved the photo. More…
Oprah’s Head Transplant. (August 26, 1989) Oprah Winfrey appeared on the cover of TV Guide (left) lounging in a gauzy dress on top of a pile of money. She looked glamorous, but only the head belonged to her. The body came from a 1979 publicity shot of Ann-Margret (right) taken for a Rockette special. More…
Dr. Schweitzer in the Congo. (1954) More than thirty years after its initial publication, this famous photo by W. Eugene Smith was discovered to be two photos composited together. More…
The Tydings Affair. (1950) As payback for a political slight, the staff of Sen. Joseph McCarthy created a photo that appeared to show Sen. Millard Tydings (right) chatting with the head of the American Communist Party (left) — although in reality the two men had not met. They released the photo shortly before a 1950 senate race in which Tydings was running, and it is believed to have contributed to Tydings' defeat in that election. More…
Lung-Powered Flying Machine. (April 1, 1934) The Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung ran this photo in its 1934 April Fool's Day edition to illustrate a spoof story about a flying machine powered by the breath from a man's lungs. International News Photo then distributed the photo to its American subscribers, without identifying it as a fake. As a consequence, it appeared as factual news in many American papers, including the New York Times. More…
Wisconsin’s Capitol Collapses. (April 1, 1933) An April Fool's Day image of the Wisconsin state capitol collapsing due to an excess of gas generated by verbose debate. More…
Roosevelt Rides A Moose. (1912) Roosevelt ran for President in 1912 as the candidate of the Progressive Party, popularly known as the "Bull Moose Party." This image of Roosevelt appearing to ride a moose ran in the New York Tribune several months before the election. It was intended as a humorous photo fake depicting the "Race for the White House." In the 21st Century this image has circulated widely online, where many people have mistaken it for a photo of a real-life scene, which it is not. More…
The Melon Party. (1911) A postcard created by Alfred Stanley Johnson of Waupun, Wisconsin. In order to create the illusion of a children's party featuring a giant watermelon, Johnson made the children pose while holding a wooden prop. He then cut and pasted a picture of a watermelon slice into the picture to create the finished postcard. In order to create this postcard of children eating a giant watermelon, photographer Alfred Stanley Johnson used wooden props. More…
William ‘Dad’ Martin’s Freak Postcards. (1909-1910) Martin made a fortune selling "freak" postcards that featured midwesterners interacting with oversized animals and vegetables. More…
Lincoln’s Portrait. (Late 1860s) This standing portrait of Lincoln was created soon after the American Civil War. It hung in many classrooms, but Lincoln never posed for it. An unknown entrepreneur created it by cutting-and-pasting a headshot of Lincoln onto a portrait of the Southern leader John Calhoun. This was done because there were hardly any appropriate "heroic-style" portraits of Lincoln made during his life. More…
Petticoat Politics. (May 1865) A Northern photographer created this image of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in a dress. More…

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