The Museum of Hoaxes
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Time Period: 2005-Present
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…
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…
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…
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…
“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…
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…
“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…
Fake Smoke Over Beirut. (August 5, 2006) A freelance photographer heightened the drama of this image distributed by Reuters by adding additional smoke. More…
Katie Couric Slimmed Down. (September 2006) A digitally slimmed down version of Katie Couric appeared in CBS's Watch magazine. 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…
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…
Suicidal Teens Welcome. (Found on the internet, early 2007) The armed forces does not really actively recruit suicidal teenagers. 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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
“Not What You Want To See”. (Circulating online since early 2008) Two pictures were composited together to create this dramatic scene. More…
Hand with no thumb. (Found on the internet, June 2008) A digital composite creates the illusion of a hand with no thumb. 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…
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…
A Whiter Beyonce. (August 2008) Critics accused L'Oreal of lightening Beyonce's skin color in this advertisement for its cosmetics. 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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.