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July 2004
image Five years ago the Blair Witch Project became a multi-million dollar box-office sensation thanks to a clever marketing scheme that pretended the Blair Witch was real (and offered a spooky companion website filled with pseudo historical background about her). Ever since then movie marketers have latched onto the concept of promoting movies via hoaxes. So much so, that I think we should just begin referring to the practice of promoting movies by hoaxing the public as 'Blairwitching'. For instance, a sample sentence using this term might be: Failing to think of any original way to promote their movie, the marketing team simply decided to Blairwitch it.

The latest movie to be Blairwitched is the Sci-Fi Channel's documentary about filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan (The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan) that aired last night. The Sci-Fi Channel's marketing team promoted the movie by promising that it was going to reveal a secret buried in Shyamalan's past, a secret that had driven him towards his obsession with the supernatural. Supposedly Shyamalan didn't want this secret exposed, which caused him to stop cooperating with the documentary team. This conflict between Shyamalan and his biographers managed to garner a fair bit of press. But then yesterday, when the documentary aired, the Sci-Fi Channel admitted that they simply invented Shymalan's buried secret as well as Shyamalan's disagreement with them (the big secret was supposed to be that he once witnessed a drowning).

I like the line in this article about the hoax campaign where NBC executives (NBC owns the Sci-Fi Channel) apologize, saying that "We would never intend to offend the public or the press and value our relationship with both." Yeah, right. Meanwhile, they're happy to accept all the publicity that the hoax generated (including having people like me write about it on their weblogs). And oh yeah, the hoax itself and the documentary were ultimately all big advertisements for Shyamalan's upcoming movie The Village, which actually looks kind of cool. (Thanks to Terry in the hoax forum for giving a heads up about this)
Categories: Advertising, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 19, 2004
Comments (13)
Kids nowadays! What will they think of next? Reuters is reporting that a popular new pasttime amongst youngsters in the Florida Keys is to dangle themselves from meat hooks attached to bamboo tripods set up at the beach, and then just hang out that way for a while. Apparently the Coast Guard found "a young woman, her feet brushing the surface of the shallow water, dangled from the frame, hooks embedded firmly in her shoulders." I don't know. I thought I had come across some pretty strange things in my time, but meat-hook dangling definitely took me by surprise. But then, when I was over the initial shock, I immediately thought of the sport of Monkey Fishing, which Slate.com wrote about back in 1996. Monkey Fishing (which also, according to Slate, was popular down in the Florida Keys) involves rowing up to the island of Lois Key which contains a population of wild monkeys, attaching a piece of fruit to a fishing line, throwing the fruit to the monkeys, waiting until the monkeys impale themselves on the hook when they try to eat the fruit, and then yanking the poor animals into the water. Monkey Fishing, of course, turned out to be a hoax which Slate was taken in by. So could meat-hook dangling be the new monkey fishing? Reuters says that the Coast Guard vouches for the reality of meat-hook dangling, but I'd like to see some pictures and get a little more proof before I totally accept this story.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Sports
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 19, 2004
Comments (48)
Fake blogs are a growing trend on the web. Just recently we saw Plain Layne exposed as Odin Soli. But now, with the advent of an online role-playing game called Be A Celeb, the fake-blog phenomenon seems to be rising to a whole new level. The goal of Be A Celeb is to create a convincing fake celebrity blog. You can choose to be whatever celebrity you like, as long as someone else hasn't already taken the celebrity. Celebrities already in play include Clay Aiken, Jessica Biel, and Kirsten Dunst. Once you've created your fake celebrity, you can then make them interact with other fake celebrities... kind of like a strange alternative reality Hollywood, or LiveJournal Celebrity Sims.
An article about this game has been posted on morons.org. I'm wondering if they'd let me play either Plain Layne or Kaycee Nicole Swenson as a character... though they'd probably say they don't qualify as 'celebrities.'... or what would happen if a real celebrity began playing themselves as a fake celebrity? The mind boggles.
Categories: Celebrities, Identity/Imposters, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 16, 2004
Comments (5)
David Emery reports on this gross-out case from Durham, North Carolina. A family bought a package of chicken tenders from the store, took it home, and discovered what appeared to be the foot of a human baby tossed in with the chicken pieces. "It's breaded, and it's already cooked," police Sgt. Maurice Hayes said. Happily, the foot turned out to be a piece of dough molded into the shape of a foot.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Food
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 16, 2004
Comments (3)
A story published on the Women Wall Street website about a possible new terrorist threat has been setting the blosophere abuzz. The story, written by Annie Jacobsen, describes her experiences on a four-hour plane ride during which a group of 14 Syrian men began to act suspiciously (in her eyes), whispering to each other and making frequent trips to the bathroom. After the plane landed, Jacobsen did some investigating and learned that authorities are worried about gangs of terrorists separately carrying aboard the parts needed to make a bomb, and then assembling the bombs onboard in the bathroom. However, the Syrians on Jacobsen's flight were apparently just a group of musicians. A lot of people are suspicious of Jacobsen's story... not that she necessarily invented it, but that she exaggerated it. Some details seem a bit unlikely. For instance, the stewardesses on her flight seem awfully willing to divulge passenger information as well as the location of federal air marshals. I guess people are suspicious because no one ever heard of Annie Jacobsen before this, and Women Wall Street is an odd place for an article like this to appear. But preliminary research by Michelle Malkin seems to indicate that the story is basically true. Though this doesn't mean that Jacobsen wasn't being a bit paranoid. Would it really require 14 terrorists to assemble one bomb?
Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 16, 2004
Comments (19)
While I was away in Virginia I got behind on posting and didn't note some terror/war related hoaxes occurring in the news. So for the sake of completeness, here's a quick rundown of these stories.

  • First we had Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, a soldier in Iraq suspected of faking his own abduction (tip: if you're going to fake your abduction, don't call your family on your cellphone while you're supposed to be abducted).

  • Then there was the bizarre case of American soldier-of-fortune types in Afghanistan who set up a fake prison in order to interrogate people they grabbed off the street whom they thought might be al-qaeda members. Instead of going all the way to Afghanistan, these guys should have simply stayed in America and attended the Abu Ghraib Prison Fantasy Camp.

  • Finally, France has been shocked by the case of a woman (known in the media only as 'Marie') who reported that she was attacked on a train by a gang of Arab youths who thought she was Jewish. Marie later confessed that her report was a hoax.

Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror, Military
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 16, 2004
Comments (0)
image Viewers of British tv might remember Rainbow, a children's show starring the puppet characters Bungle, Zippy, and George, and hosted by Geoffrey Hayes. Recently a movie has been circulating around the web (you can also see it here) purporting to show an episode of Rainbow that's heavily, heavily laced with sexual innuendo. Way too much innuendo to possibly be accidental. It's been dubbed the 'Rainbow Plucking Orgy' tape. It's very funny, but is it real? Was it ever really broadcast? According to the Planet Gromit site, the tape is real, but it never aired. It was created as a joke and was not meant to see the light of day. I have no idea how it's surfaced now.
Categories: Entertainment, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 14, 2004
Comments (17)
image This question comes from the hoax forum, where it's sparked quite a debate: what's the deal with that guy in the Six Flags ads? You know the one. The 'old dude' who looks like he's about 90-years-old but dances around maniacally like a 19-year-old. Is he really an old man? Or is he a young professional dancer dressed up as an old man? If you're not familiar with 'Mr. Six', then you can check out the commercials starring him at Six Flags' website. Apparently Six Flags is being swamped by requests to reveal the true identity of Mr. Six, but so far they're staying mum, evidently hoping to milk the interest in him for all it's worth. So here's a poll so that the public can vote on who they think Mr. Six really is:
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 14, 2004
Comments (91)
image Jim sent in this picture of his grandfather posing with an ear of corn, along with this explanation: "My grandfather, Frank Weed, who died in 1949, worked on the railroad for years. He bragged to the other men about how big the Iowa corn was but they wouldn’t believe it. So my father took a picture of him, and of an ear of corn, then cut the negative, pasted the other into the hole and printed it. After that, the criticism of my grandfather’s exaggerations were silenced!" Thanks, Jim!
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 14, 2004
Comments (4)
image Sex addiction can be real enough, but Viagraholics Anonymous, a site dedicated to helping men who are addicted to Viagra, seems a bit tongue-in-cheek. For instance, take this testimony from Ben, a recovering Viagraholic: "I turned to the Internet and ordered more Viagra online, from two or three sites at a time, to maintain my supply. The days that followed are just a blur. Mornings I'd wake up on the couch, my pants around my ankles with another damned erection, then take a cold shower and stagger into work. I'd be walking around with an obvious erection in my pants, unaware that people were laughing at me behind my back." Ben's problem sounds a little like something out of a Clive Barker story. (via J-Walk)
Categories: Sex/Romance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 14, 2004
Comments (3)
image About a week ago I posted a picture of a 'Big Hairy Fanny' bus that supposedly operates in Finland. I suspected the picture was a fake, and it turns out that my suspicion was correct. Quite a few people commented that they had seen other pictures of the same bus with the name 'Fücker' painted on the side, and today Iain Cartmill sent me a picture of this bus. A quick google search turned up lots of other images of it, as well as the website of the Fücker travel company, based in Germany (click on the 'Die Busflotte' button to see pictures of the bus in question). So the Fücker Bus is real, but the Big Hairy Fanny Bus is fake. The mystery is why anyone photoshopped the picture to read 'Big Hairy Fanny,' since the actual name is funnier than the hoax name.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 13, 2004
Comments (17)
Either this is a bizarre new scam, or the Times of India has fallen for a tall tale. It claims that the hot new trend among programmers is to outsource their own jobs to India. As the article explains: "Says a programmer on Slashdot.org who outsourced his job: 'About a year ago I hired a developer in India to do my job. I pay him $12,000 out of the $67,000 I get. He's happy to have the work. I'm happy that I have to work only 90 minutes a day just supervising the code. My employer thinks I'm telecommuting. Now I'm considering getting a second job and doing the same thing.'" Sounds like a great scheme... unless your boss finds out you're just a middleman and decides to cut you out of the loop. I'm suspicious that this practice is really as prevalent as the Times of India implies. (via Common Sense Technology)
Categories: Business/Finance, Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 13, 2004
Comments (2)
Since I'm on the subject of free-energy cars, here's the ENOON Car by Hoax Industries. "The ENOON*-device is able to power a car for an
unlimited time period without the need of refuelling!" ENOON stands for 'energy out of nowhere.'
Categories: Free Energy, Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 12, 2004
Comments (5)
image Earth2012 this month announced the launch of a major new project: they're going to build a water-fueled car. And they're soliciting donations to help them achieve this ambitious dream. Of course, a water-fueled car might raise a few skeptical eyebrows, but Earth2012 says the science behind their project is all very sound. The tank of their car will be filled up with water, but the water will then be converted onboard into hydrogen. So it's really a hydrogen-powered car, not a water-powered one. And hydrogen-powered cars, of course, already exist.

What makes my hoax detector start ringing when I read about their project is their description of the onboard water-to-hydrogen conversion process. From what I understand, it takes quite a bit of energy to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. This has always been one of the major stumbling blocks on the road to a hydrogen economy (the cost of producing hydrogen). But Earth2012 says that it has developed a 'revolutionary way of creating hydrogen from water.' This involves vibrating the water at exactly the correct frequency, thereby causing the water to easily separate into oxygen and hydrogen.

Maybe Earth2012 really has developed this revolutionary new process, though the details they provide about it are awfully sketchy. But it all sounds an awful lot like a water-as-fuel hoax, of which there have been many in the past... one of the weirdest being Guido Franch's claims back in the 70s that he had developed a cheap green powder that, when added to water, transformed the water into gasoline. Franch gave a few demonstrations of his powder, though never under scientifically controlled conditions, and his credibility took a bit of a blow when he confessed that the secret of the powder had been given to him by a group of spacemen from the planet Neptune. The Straight Dope has an article about Franch if you're interested in reading more about him.

Update: Parazyte has provided a link to an article (in English) about Daniel Dingel, a Filipino man who claims that he invented a water-powered car back in 1969. The rest of the site is in German, but click here to see a video of Mr. Dingel driving around in his watercar.
Categories: Free Energy
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 12, 2004
Comments (67)
Apparently there's a tradition in India that a eunuch can show up at a house after a birth or marriage and ask for money. But nowadays more and more fake eunuchs are elbowing in on this lucrative market... much to the annoyment of the real eunuchs. The fake eunuchs are also involved in a lot of other even more criminal activities: "From extorting money to robbing shopkeepers and passengers in trains, these fake eunuchs are running a parallel network." Honestly, I never knew there was such a thing as a eunuch crime network, let alone a parallel fake eunuch crime network. For some reason this sounds like something out of a Monty Python skit.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 07, 2004
Comments (8)
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