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August 2004
Any copyright lawyers out there willing to offer some free advice? I just received the following email from National Geographic (I'm sensing a bad trend developing here with emails like this... first the time travel mutual fund, and now Nat Geo):

One of our readers has informed us that you are featuring one of our
photographs on your website at [note: here's a more direct link].
We would ask that you either remove the photo immediately, or forward me
details of how long the image has been posted and how long you intend to
keep it posted so that we can determine an appropriate licensing fee and
send you a formal retroactive rights release and invoice. Please let me
know if you have any questions.

I'm not quite sure how to proceed. Nat Geo, unlike the time travel mutual fund, isn't someone you want to mess with. But on the other hand, I believe (hope) that my use of the image is protected by fair use. First of all, the image had circulated widely via email before I put it on my site. All I did was add some commentary to it in order to inform the public of the image's true source. Second, my use of the image hasn't deprived Nat Geo of any income since the image was too low quality to make print copies from. In fact, my commentary probably provided them with some free advertising.

I could just buckle under and remove the image, but this question of what is and what isn't fair use with regard to images that have escaped into the wilds of email is one that I'd very much like to know the answer to. Does a site such as mine, that tries to provide some information about random images that people find in their inboxes, have to request permission from the copyright owner whenever the owner is identified? Am I going to have to request permission from Touristguy to have his image on my site, or from that guy posing with the big bear? If so, that would potentially kill off large portions of my site.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 31, 2004
Comments (57)
image Do the new graphics on boxes of Haribo's Maoam fruit chews show scenes of explicit sex? The members of St. Blasien Jesuit College think they do, and have publicly complained about them. The boxes depict various fruits frolicking with a blobby lime-colored creature. Are the scenes as bad as the college says? Well, you've got to admit that the College has a point. After all, what is that lemon doing with the lime-blob? Even Haribo admits that the packaging is "very racy." So my guess is that the sexual overtones are deliberate. But on the other hand, we are just talking about fruits and a lime blob. So maybe all of us who think the lemon and lime-blob are getting it on, just have dirty minds. The controversy reminds me of that rogue tin of Huntley & Palmers biscuits, but on a much larger scale.
Update: The story gets even better. Turns out that the faculty of the Jesuit College never complained about the racy candy packaging. The letter of complaint actually was "a hoax perpetrated by pupils at the school who admitted writing it and posting it on the Internet 'as a joke'." The German tabloid press found the letter, thought it was real, and reported it as news. You gotta love the tabloids. Of course, this still doesn't answer the question of just what is that lemon doing with the lime-blob?
Categories: Food, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 31, 2004
Comments (27)
image I belong to the wine club of a local Southern California vineyard, but although they've sent me some nice merlots, chardonnays, etc., they have yet to send me any snake wine. Although I just found out about this stuff myself, evidently it's quite real, and fairly well known... at least in south-east Asia, where it's predominantly found. Snake wine consists of rice wine mixed with (you guessed it!) snake. You buy it in bottles with the snake coiled up inside (here's a picture). Very pleasant. Reportedly, the more venomous the snake, the better the wine. For a more in-depth account of snake wine, check out this article by Jerry Hopkins where he describes visiting the Snake King & Completely Restaurant in Guangzhou and sampling not only snake wine but also Five Testes & Penises Wine. (via Mostly Harmless)
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 31, 2004
Comments (40)
An email has been going around about the danger of freezing plastic bottles of water. It goes something like this:

Johns Hopkins has recently sent this out in their newsletters...worth noting...
Dioxin Carcinogens cause cancer. Especially breast cancer. Don't freeze your plastic water bottles with water as this also releases dioxin in the plastic. Dr. Edward Fujimoto from Castle hospital was on a TV program explaining this health hazard. He is the manager of the Wellness Program at the hospital.

But Johns Hopkins never sent out a newsletter suggesting any such thing. And Dr. Rolf Halden, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has now gone on record to debunk this hoax, noting that if freezing the plastic bottle were to do anything, it would probably make the water inside safer to drink because "freezing actually works against the release of chemicals."

But heating plastic water bottles is another matter. "Halden does warn that another group of chemicals that are used to make plastic less brittle can be released if you place them in hot water or heat them in the microwave." But considering all the junk that we Americans willingly shove into our mouths, the "miniscule amounts of chemical contaminants present in your water supply" probably shouldn't be high on anyone's list of worries.
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 31, 2004
Comments (1)
Hogzilla, the 1000lb wild hog supposedly shot and killed in Georgia, has already had its fifteen minutes of internet fame. But now the small town of Alapaha, GA is hoping to extend the fond memories of Hogzilla just a little longer by making the dubious hog the centerpiece of their November festival. They plan to have a Hogzilla float, a Hogzilla information booth, and Hogzilla T-shirts. Maybe they should make Hogzilla fest an ongoing tradition. It could become like the iceworm festival held every year in Cordova, Alaska. Oh, and despite what this story claims, President Bush has not declared Aug. 23 as 'National Hogzilla Day.'
Categories: Animals, Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 31, 2004
Comments (1)
image Looking for a unique Halloween costume for your kid? Then check out the Child Pimp & Ho Costumes offered by Brands On Sale. For your boy you have a choice of the generic pimp suit costume, the long pimp daddy suit, cheetah pimp suit, or zebra pimp suit. But for your girl you're limited to just a single ho costume (though you could send her out in the spoiled brat girl costume). And let Fido join in the fun with the pimp suit dog costume. A link to these costumes was doing the blog rounds last week, and when I first saw them I figured they were simply costumes in bad taste... not a hoax. But according to des femmes they are a hoax. Des femmes reports that, "I spoke with Jonathan at Brands On Sale. He said the page was hacked and they're still trying to remove it from the server. The pimp costumes are actually zoot suits and the ho costume is supposed to be a flapper." This was posted on the 25th. It's now six days later and Brands on Sale apparently still has not been able to correct the item descriptions, which seems a little suspicious. But we'll have to wait and see what happens.
Update: Looks like I was wrong. This Yahoo! News story that Dwight linked to in the comments seems to indicate that Brands on Sale is seriously selling these outfits... that they weren't the creation of a hacker.
Categories: Sex/Romance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 31, 2004
Comments (9)
Tmxxine is a hardware and software project that is thinking ahead (quite literally) and has committed itself towards developing "public domain Time Travel technology," because it would obviously be quite scary if a single corporation were to gain proprietary control of time travel technology (these guys must have seen Paycheck one time too many). Sadly they report that no time machines are yet available for purchase on eBay, although "Real experimental devices are expected for 2008CE with legislation required for 2012CE."
Categories: Future/Time
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 30, 2004
Comments (1)
Here's something I'd really like to try, but sadly it doesn't seem to be available anywhere except a few bars in the New York region. It's Crop Circle Beer, dreamed up by Dudley Cates, Jr. who, according to this Newsday article, has always had a passion for crop circles and beer, and finally found a way to join the two interests. The beer is brewed with barley collected from fields in which crop circles have appeared. Hmmm. This is an idea I wish that I had thought of first. It would sure beat selling Loch Ness Water (though that gives me an idea... what about a taste contest pitting Crop Circle Beer head-to-head with Nessie's Monster Mash Beer? and just for fun you might want to enter Olde Frothingslosh Pale Stale Ale into the contest as well).

One poster on who's actually had a chance to taste Crop Circle Beer reports that "This is quite a sweet amber ale, but balanced just enough to keep it from being too much so - slick mouthfeel with lots of caramel malt, nut and chocolate flavors - this is pretty damn good for a gimmick beer." The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. also has an audio interview on their site with the farmer who grows the crop circle barley (the interview is 4 years old... Dudley has been trying to sell this stuff for a long time). What I found interesting was how concerned the farmer seemed about the authenticity of his crop circles. He was quite worried about the possibility of the circles not appearing in future years because that would obviously bring a quick end to the business model of Crop Circle Beer. (Thanks, Goo)
Categories: Crop Circles, Food
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 30, 2004
Comments (6)
Here's an eBay auction I'm sorry I missed: some guy trying to sell a box of Loch Ness air... the same air that Nessie breathes. He didn't have any takers. What gets me is that it doesn't even sound like the box was tightly sealed, so all the Loch Ness air would have leaked out by the time it arrived at its destination. But although the market for Loch Ness air hasn't taken off, there's apparently quite a strong demand for bottles of Loch Ness water. Hey, I'm going to be in Loch Ness in two weeks, so if anyone wants me to pick them up some Loch Ness water while I'm there, put in your orders now. Loch Ness soil samples are also a possibility. I'll collect any water and soil samples once I'm done sampling Nessie's Monster Mash Beer.
Categories: Cryptozoology, eBay
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 26, 2004
Comments (15)
image A survey of British (male) gamers found that 61% of them would rather go on a date with the virtual Lara Croft, rather than the real flesh-and-blood model Jordan. These must be the same people who have a virtual girlfriend on their mobile phone and order up imaginary girlfriends from eBay. In fairness, I can see why the gamers might have said this. After all, Jordan doesn't rank too high on the reality index herself (and as one guy put it, she seems like she'd be "mind-numbingly dull" in person). But still, she does have the benefit of being real. (via Sexy Pop Culture)
Categories: Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 26, 2004
Comments (13)
image Banner ads for JDate, the Israeli dating service, promise to match Jewish bachelors up with attractive Jewish women. For instance, one ad shows blonde-haired, 22-year-old Hila from Tel Aviv who's "looking for a single Jewish guy." Another shows 26-year-old Sharon who's looking for a Jewish husband. But as it turns out, there is no Hila from Tel Aviv. The woman in the picture is actually Hungarian porn star Kari Gold. And Sharon? She's really Devon Sweet, a bisexual model from the United States. Neither Kari Gold nor Devon Sweet are affiliated in any way with JDate (so no luck meeting them that way). Their pictures were just randomly collected on the internet. I guess this is another shocking reminder that advertisers sometimes bend (or completely disregard) the truth.
Categories: Advertising, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 26, 2004
Comments (4)
image What is a cabbit? It's a cross between a cat and a rabbit. They're as cute as rabbits, but as affectionate as cats. But according to Sarah Hartwell, who's written an extensive study about this animal over at, cabbits aren't real. Though having said that, they're not exactly tall-tale creatures either, like the jackalope or fur-bearing trout, because there have been documented cases of animals that look like cat-rabbit hybrids. But these apparent hybrids always turn out to be cats with genetic mutations that have resulted in rabbit-like deformities. As Hartwell notes, "It is possible to cross-breed some animals... But you can't get crossbreeds from cats and rabbits because they are unrelated and are genetically very different from each other. A cat is a carnivore with its whole body adapted to hunting and meat-eating. A rabbit is a herbivore with its whole body adapted to eating plants." Lots of other curious cats are discussed over at including squittens, kangaroo cats, cacoons, cat-skunks, and woof-pusses. (via Metafilter)
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 26, 2004
Comments (14)
imageHere's a picture that's been doing the email rounds (for some time, I think). The question is, is it a photograph or a painting? Well, if you look closely you can see that the areas on the side are sketched in and not that detailed. So it's a painting. If you tilt your head to the left you can see the shape of a woman standing behind a child. But Mary Alice, who sent me the picture, says that if you tilt your head to the right you can also see a big bird's head pecking on an acorn (though she admits you might have to be a birder to see it right off the bat).
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 25, 2004
Comments (28)
image If you were to stumble randomly upon the Mineralarians website, you might actually think that this extreme diet cult was real. As the site explains: "The Mineralarians are an international association of people, diverse in other respects, who share the common determination to subsist on foods of mineral origin, thereby sparing our fellow beings the victimization that has been their lot, at our hands for the last million years, and before that at the claws and jaws of previously dominant species." I like the understated comment that you arrive at further down the page: "While there is no doubt of the wholesomeness of a mineralarian diet, the same cannot be said for its taste and texture." Of course, because you're EATING ROCKS!

The site is a hoax website created by Charles Bennett. Here are two of his other creations:

(via BoingBoing)
Categories: Food, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 25, 2004
Comments (12)
image Quentin Tarantino has supposedly joined the ranks of bloggers, having set up his own blog over on blogspot. I guess even though he's a multi-millionaire Hollywood director, he couldn't afford to spring for a fancier setup... had to go for the blogspot thing (that's also conveniently anonymous). There's no way to prove or disprove whether Tarantino himself is really authoring this thing. The flesh-and-blood Tarantino hasn't made any public comment about it. Here's what blogger-Tarantino says about why you should believe he is who he claims to be:
I don't want to turn this into a press promotion thing and that's what I told Miramax when I started it (with their cooperation). If you really want proof this blog is genuine, you can find it by contacting Miramax or whatever -- but I'm not going to be making public announcements about the blog. If fans ask me, shit yeah I'll tell the truth, but if I make a national announcement this'll just become a publicity stint, and I never intended it to be that way. This is for the fans, and if they trust me then fine -- if they don't, all I can say is that convincing a few of them isn't worth ruining it by telling reporters who'll post it all over the 'Net and daily news. In this case the juice ain't worth the squeeze.

JoBlo of JoBlo's Movie Emporium says that he's contacted Miramax to check out if Tarantino's blog is for real, but he hasn't posted their response yet.
Update: Tarantino's publicist, Bumble Ward, confirms that blogger-Tarantino is a fake. As Ward puts it: "It's fake. The guy is doing a great job though, don't you think? And truly, I'd hate to ruin his fun. But it's fake. Quentin hardly knows what a mouse is."
Categories: Celebrities, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 25, 2004
Comments (7)
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