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October 2003
Okay, this is gross, but what else would you expect from a web hoax? It's some guy's collection of fecal tongs. Personally, I've never heard of such a thing as a fecal tong before. They look like just regular tongs to me. In fact, I would say that this site is actually just a collection of pictures of tongs, (so it's quite safe for work, unless your boss would object to the word 'fecal') which this guy has managed to spin a wild story around.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Gross
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 31, 2003
Comments (1)
orson welles The Toronto Star has an article about the 1938 War of the Worlds panic (the anniversary of which is today)... and they quote me in it! The article argues that the mass panic was much smaller than is popularly thought. I'm inclined to agree with this. My reasons are:

  1. being familiar with the way in which stories about hoaxes are told, I know that the impact hoaxes make is often exaggerated in order to tell a better story. So it sounds a lot more dramatic to say that one million people panicked in 1938, but the truth is that it was probably only a few thousand.

  2. I suspect that the media reported every incident of anomalous behavior that night as evidence of a panic (i.e. every speeding car, every suicide, all loud behavior), whether or not it actually had anything to do with the panic at all;

  3. there really was some chaos in Grover's mill, where the main panic was said to have occurred, but that's because a lot of young people drove into Grover's Mill after hearing the broadcast because they thought CBS might be hosting some kind of event there... in other words, they were searching for a party, not panicking.

  4. Most recollections of the panic turn out to have come from reading newspaper reports about it, not from direct first-hand experience.

Categories: Mass Delusion, Radio
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 30, 2003
Comments (0)
A student from Dunwoody Highschool in Dunwoody, Georgia sent me a note through the form on my comments page asking for help with a science fair project about gullibility. Unfortunately this student didn't include their return email address, so I don't know how to contact them. So hey, if you're the student who contacted me and you're reading this, send me another email, but remember to include a return address.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 30, 2003
Comments (1)
san diego fire Here's a very cool picture of one of the San Diego fires. For a second I actually thought it was fake because it seemed weird that traffic was heading right into the fire. Plus the time stamp looked odd (it's stamped October 28, even though the picture was posted on the 27th, and the woman who posted it says it was taken on the 26th... maybe their camera has the wrong date). I thought maybe someone had pasted the bottom scene of the traffic together with the top scene of the smoke. But on second thought, I'm sure it's real. I can't see any sign of photoshopping. It was just the skeptic in me being too doubtful. (via J-Walk)
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 29, 2003
Comments (1)
plane crash I received this image from 'Detective Kid' who wants to know if it's real or fake. I've been checking it out and can't see anything obviously fake about it. The picture has a watermark on it, that I can't read. It's something like 'erzool.com.' If anyone knows anything about the picture, let me know.
UPDATE: A solution to this photo comes from Jeffrey Schuh: "This photo is a national geographic photograph. The photo has been republished in 'The Photographs' coffee table book. (The one with the Afghan woman on the cover.) The plane photo is on page 50-51 and is captioned:
Sanarate, Guatemale 1976.
'On a rescue mission after an earthquake, a plane caught by a crosswind crashes. Moments earlier, Madden had landed on this same road; he took the photo through the window of his plane.'
I presume since it's a National Geo photograph/photographer, it is authentic...."
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 29, 2003
Comments (3)
Here's a couple of vampire-themed websites sent in by visitors. First we have the Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency. According to the blurb on the site, "From 1868 to 1975, the Federal Vampire & Zombie Agency (FVZA) was responsible for controlling the nation's vampire and zombie populations while overseeing scientific research into the undead. This site is a tribute to the men and women who served in the FVZA, especially the over 4000 Agents who lost their lives fighting to keep our country safe." And next we have The Temple of the Vampire. If you want to live forever, then all you have to do is join the temple. The catch is that in order to join you have to buy their book, The Vampire Bible. That's a good sales gimmick. I should try something like that for my book, such as if you want to achieve a state of absolute enlightenment, then you have to buy my book.
Categories: Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 29, 2003
Comments (2642)
Just found out that I'm going to be on NPR's Talk of the Nation tomorrow. They're doing something about the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast (the 'panic broadcast') and are having me on as the hoax expert to comment. Good timing, since the paperback version of my book is also coming out this week. Hopefully it'll provide some publicity.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 29, 2003
Comments (0)
Just got back from New Mexico where I had been invited to speak at a conference about "Hoaxes, Myths, and Manias." I gave a talk about Internet Hoaxes. Getting back was a nightmare. Almost all the flights into Southern California had been cancelled, but I was lucky enough to get rebooked onto a small propeller plane that was flying into the tiny Carlsbad airport. Flew right over the fires, which was an eerie sight... a thin line of flame stretching from horizon to horizon. Here and there you could see houses burning. I live in the east county of San Diego which is quite close to one of the fires, but my house isn't in any danger. The problem is all the smoke in the air making it hard to breathe. Below are a few pictures I just took.
    
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 27, 2003
Comments (0)
Check out the wonders of the Romanian Mint Rubbing Association. (Thanks to t.m.Enzo for the link).
Categories: Food, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 21, 2003
Comments (1)
Here's an interesting item sent to me by Geoduck, just in time for Halloween. Apparently a rumor has been going around suggesting that the image of witches flying on broomsticks, with the brush behind them, is wrong. Back in the old days witches always flew holding the brush in front of them. It was only in modern times, as we came to understand aerodynamics, that we flipped the broom around. This rumor can be traced back to Kevin Carlyon, a self-proclaimed Witch King. But this website, Pagan Prattle, has studied the issue by looking at images of witches dating back as far as the 15th century, and has determined that Carlyon doesn't know what he's talking about. The proper way to ride a broom IS with the bristles behind you.
Categories: Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 21, 2003
Comments (2)
amd crop circle Last month Advanced Micro Devices debuted its new 64-bit micro processor. Apparently it helped promote the launch of this new processor by hiring a group of crop-circle experts to create circles throughout the UK and America. Pictures of their efforts can be seen here (Thanks to Geoduck for the link).
Categories: Crop Circles, Technology
Posted by Alex on Sun Oct 19, 2003
Comments (0)
Here's an odd hoax, brought to my attention by Patrick Georges who lives up the road from me in Carlsbad. It appears that a message has been circulating amongst the Greek community, suggesting that Apple Computer has created a program to teach Ancient Greek online. This program will be hosted by CNN on a page titled Hellenic Quest. The text of this message can be read at the GrecoReport website. The supposed logic behind this move is that learning Ancient Greek promotes creativity and Apple is all about promoting creativity because creative people use Apple Computers. Might be true. I took a couple years of Ancient Greek in high school, and here I am, years later, using an Apple Computer. I never thought the two were related, but now I see that they must be.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Sun Oct 19, 2003
Comments (0)
A very extensive collection of Pareidolia data has been collected by a guy calling himself The Folklorist. Pareidolia, in case you don't remember this word from high-school english class, is the phenomenon of seeing meaningful images in random patterns. Examples would include seeing the number 666 on the wall of the Alamo, seeing the figure of the Virgin Mary in the window of a Boston hospital, or seeing the head of an Indian chief in your door.
Categories: Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Sun Oct 19, 2003
Comments (0)
Do you really, really love your pet? Then why not marry him or her? Go to MarryYourPet.com, and you can make it happen. Of course, the marriage isn't recognized by a court of law, which makes it somewhat of a hoax, but they really will sell you a marriage certificate, an 'I married my pet' T-shirt, or a wall plaque. They're all incredibly overpriced. If they offered the certificate for $5 instead of $20, they probably would do more business. They're trying to sell the wall plaque for $200. Ouch! Who in their right mind would shell out that much for a gag gift?
Categories: Animals, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Sun Oct 19, 2003
Comments (4)
While I was gone, George Clooney apparently got conned by a woman who told him that her daughter, Cindy, had cancer. When Clooney offered to visit, he got a call from the mother telling him that Cindy had died. Evidently Cindy had never existed. She was just a ploy on the woman's part to get Clooney's attention. Somewhat parallel to the Kaycee Nicole Simpson case.
Categories: Celebrities, Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Sat Oct 18, 2003
Comments (0)
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