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The Hoax Photo Archive — Photo Fakery Throughout History
Category: Humor
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…
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…
Suicidal Teens Welcome. (Found on the internet, early 2007) The armed forces does not really actively recruit suicidal teenagers. 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…
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…
Manitoba Home Security. (Found online in 2003) A digital composite makes it appear that polar bears are relaxing outside someone's house. More…
Snowball the Monster Cat. (Circulating online since early 2000) Cordell Hauglie never anticipated that this picture of him holding a digitally enlarged version of his family cat would become one of the most popular images on the internet. More…
Whopper Hoppers. (circa 1935) Giant grasshoppers were particularly popular subjects for photo fakery during the 1930s. In this image, taken on a farm near Mitchell, South Dakota by an unknown photographer, three men struggle to subdue "the largest grasshopper in existence." The "whopper hopper" appears to have been a wooden model. 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…
High-Pressure Hijinks. (ca. 1923) A soldier appears to be lifted in the air by the pressure from a water hose. The source of this photo is uncertain. More…
The Nest of a Fatu-Liva. (1921) An image of square eggs satirically proves that the camera never lies. More…
Cat Drinks From a Bottle. (1911) Unfortunately there's not a lot of information on where this photo comes from. It's listed on the website of the French National Library as having been created in 1911 by the "Agence Rol." photo agency. It's an amusing example of early twentieth-century photo fakery. Included in the same series are photos titled "cat peers through binoculars" and "cat looks through a telescope." 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…
Pacific Sea Monster. (1906) A group of men show off a sea serpent that washed up on the beach at Ballard, Washington. However, the "sea serpent" looks suspiciously like the trunk of a tree. More…
A Bear and its Hunters. (ca. 1900) A humorous example of a staged scene — a bear joins its hunters for a friendly group photo, somewhere in the Utah wilderness. More…
The Sympsychograph. (September 1896) David Starr Jordan, president of Stanford University, published an article in Popular Science Monthly announcing the discovery of a new form of photography, "Sympsychography," that allowed mental images to be made visible on a photographic plate. This photo, he said, was an example. It was a psychic projection of "a cat in its real essence." He intended his article as a joke, but was surprised when many took it seriously. More…

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