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October 2004
This one almost had me believing that it was real. It's Wakerich Asylum for the Criminally Insane. It all looks very official and real, right down to the phone numbers, staff bios, and maps to the asylum. It only starts to become fishy when you notice that the complete records of all the patients are accessible online. The supposed explanation for this is that "Patient information is being made available to the public after a ruling by The New York State Appellate Court in a Freedom of Information case brought by Health Insurance Companies against the State of New York." You've got to do a google search to discover that Wakerich Asylum is really the creation of the folks over at Whirled History. For $9.99 a year they'll admit you as a patient at Wakerich, with your own email account. So when friends or employers search for info about you on the web, they'll come across your asylum record. It would be more fun if you could admit other people into the asylum, but I think they'll only allow you to use your own name (or the name on your credit card). Whirled History will also allow you to become a monk at Pho Monastery.
Categories: Psychology, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 20, 2004
Comments (9)
If you're searching for unusual thrills, why not try getting kidnapped? Extreme Kidnapping promises that it will allow you to "customize your own kidnapping!" Yup. For the right price, women in fishnet stockings will show up unannounced at your door, whisk you away, and keep you bound and gagged in their basement for a few days. As weird as this sounds, I actually think it's real, mainly because I've heard of this before. Back in 2002 a guy called Brock Enright was in the news for staging 'Designer Kidnappings'. Enright commented that even though all his abductions occurred in broad daylight, in front of witnesses, no one had ever intervened to help the faux victim. Everyone figured the abductions were fake because of the guy with a tv camera filming them (the faux victims like to have a video of their faux abduction). Which demonstrates the way to pull off a perfect crime in our society: just bring along a camera and no one will call the cops because they'll think you're filming a tv show.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Sports
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 20, 2004
Comments (12)
Occasionally you see news stories like this one about lost cats who are found hundreds of miles from home, having got themselves locked into moving vans by accident. But watch out. If you lose your cat, then later get a call from movers who say they've found your pet in their van, it can be a scam. As the Crimes-of-Persuasion site details, it's known as the Catastrophic Lost Pet Scam. Those movers don't really have your pet. They're just con artists trying to get you to wire them 'gas money' supposedly to help them return your precious baby to its home. But in reality, Snuggles ain't coming home. At least, not with them. Once they get your money, you'll never hear from them again. (via alt.folklore.urban)
Categories: Animals, Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 20, 2004
Comments (3)
Last week programmers were all abuzz when a Hawaiian company announced that they had developed software, which they called Cherry OS, that would allow people to run Mac software on PCs. But programmers were also very suspicious, especially since the company has been reluctant to release trial versions of the software. Now it looks like Cherry OS may not be all it was cracked up to be, at least according to this website which claims that it's little more than a fraud. And in a similar vein, here's a story about a 12th grade Indian student who has supposedly developed a 32-bit operating system, which he calls O-Yes, that is "far superior to any of the desktop operating systems in the market today" and might emerge as a challenger to Windows. Hmmm. We'll have to wait and see if there's any truth to that claim, or whether O-Yes turns out to be more vaporware.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 20, 2004
Comments (5)
While browsing through the alt.folklore.urban usenet group, I noticed a debate raging over the question of how deep American roads are. Apparently (so the urban legend goes) American roads can only be built to a fairly shallow depth in order to make the land under them more easily reclaimed for farming. By contrast, European roads are built to a much deeper depth. As a consequence, European roads are much more durable than American roads and need fewer repairs. The usenet group didn't appear to have reached any conclusion about the validity of this claim, but I can't imagine it's true. I think the frequency of road repairs is mainly a function of weather conditions (does the ground freeze and thaw a lot) and the amount of traffic on the road. I can't find any references on Google to American laws stating that roads have to be kept shallow for the benefit of future farmers.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 19, 2004
Comments (13)
The Dream Machine, from Takara USA, "is designed to stimulate the user at the appropriate times during REM sleep to increase the likelihood of dreaming a particular desired dream." It involves incense, soothing background music, and a pre-recorded statement repeated over and over in your ear as you sleep. My guess is that it works about as well as cramming for a test by sleeping on a textbook would work.
Categories: Psychology
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 19, 2004
Comments (16)
According to the Independent, researchers have proven that the difference between Coke and Pepsi really is all in your head. Apparently the popularity of Coke's brand image causes people to think Coca-Cola itself tastes better, even though it really doesn't taste very different from Pepsi. As the article says: "When asked to taste blind, they showed no preference. However, when the participants were shown company logos before they drank, the Coke label, the more famous of the two, had a dramatic impact: three-quarters of the tasters declared they preferred Coke." I've long suspected this. Personally I can't taste any difference between Coke and Pepsi, but I have a friend who swears passionately that there's a huge difference. Now I can show him this research to prove that he's simply been brainwashed by advertising. Oh, and the Pepsi Taste Test also turns out to be nothing but hot air: "The findings suggest there is no scientific basis for claims made during the Pepsi ad campaign in which testers purportedly chose Pepsi over Coke when they were not told what they were drinking."
Categories: Advertising, Food
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 19, 2004
Comments (301)
If you're curious about how to go about exploiting chihuahuas, then the Center for Chihuahua Exploitation is the site for you. If you dig around the site a bit, you'll discover some interesting facts, such as this: "Most people don't realize that the chihuahua is not a true member of the canine family. In fact, it shares the same ancestor as common rats. This opens up new possibilities for the scientific community as chihuahuas can now legally be used in place of lab rats for experimentation." That reminds me of the old urban legend about the rat that's mistaken for a dog.
Categories: Animals, Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 18, 2004
Comments (3)
Are you tired of "namby-pamby politicians with their bean-counting, child-smooching sweaty handshakes?" A few Australians are, so they've taken politics into their own hands and formed the Enslave New Zealand Party. If elected, members of this party promise one thing: to invade New Zealand and enslave its entire population. Their plan sounds foolproof. After all, as they point out, "New Zealand bases her defence policy on one simple fact: no one can attack New Zealand without going through Australia first. This is generally true but there is, of course, one exception…Australia." But has the Enslave New Zealand party forgotten about Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn? Surely they'd save New Zealand.
Categories: Politics, Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 18, 2004
Comments (14)
image I didn't get around to posting for the last couple of days because a major situation developed in my house. We discovered that an entire wall in our guest room is home to a colony of bees. What a nightmare. I thought (hoped) it was some kind of hoax at first, because I didn't know that bees will build hives inside of walls. But sadly, it's very real. I spent the last two days moving furniture around, getting everything ready for the exterminator to come next week. But as much as it sucks to discover these uninvited guests in my house, I'm dying of curiosity to see what the hive looks like once the exterminator knocks down the drywall. Plus, now that I know they're there, I'm running into the guest room every couple of minutes to put my ear up to the wall and listen to them buzzing around. It's very creepy.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 18, 2004
Comments (22)
Here's yet another possible faux celebrity blog. This time it's the blog of Nick Nolte. It's probably becoming a sign of status in Hollywood to have a faux blog... it shows that someone out there cares enough about you to want to pretend to be you. Imagine all the forgotten stars waiting desperately for someone to create a fake blog about them. Maybe they eventually break down and pay someone to pretend to be them... which would make it a faux faux celebrity blog. Lost in Technophilia argues that the reason to believe the Nick Nolte blog isn't real is because the domain name is registered to someone called "Christian Newton" living at 501 Privacy Lane, Santa Monica, CA 90402. Obviously a fake address. Or maybe Nick Nolte just didn't want to give out his real address.
Categories: Celebrities, Identity/Imposters, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 14, 2004
Comments (4)
Here's an interesting article about Iraqi urban legends regarding the American forces. Here's a few of the more popular beliefs:

  • that the bulletproof vests American soldiers wear actually contain air-conditioning units (I'm sure the soldiers wish this were true)

  • that the sunglasses worn by almost all American soldiers allow them to see through clothing

  • And that American armored vehicles are protected by electrical fields that detonate RPG rockets before they strike, but that this protection can be defeated by wrapping the rockets in electrical tape.

Categories: Military, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 14, 2004
Comments (18)
Australia's The Age reports on the strange nocturnal exploits of a middle-aged woman living with a steady partner. "By night, she crept out of their house to seek random sex with strangers. But the woman was unaware of her own double life, which was conducted while she was asleep." The doctor who is treating her, Dr. Peter Buchanan, claims that she is suffering from a rare syndrome known as 'Sleep Sex', which he's hoping will soon be officially recognized as a legitimate sleep disorder. Dr. Buchanan also notes that "Incredulity is the first staging post for anyone involved in this... One has to maintain a healthy degree of scepticism." I think I'm definitely still in the incredulity and skepticism stages, because I'm having a very hard time believing this could be true. I can understand doing things around the house like making a sandwich (or even trying to have sex with your partner) while asleep. But I can't understand how anyone could leave their house, meet a stranger, and engineer a sexual encounter... while being asleep the entire time. I would accept that she may be suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder, but Sleep Sex... I'm not buying that yet.
Update: Here's an article in New Scientist about the sleep-walking woman. I'm still not convinced she was really sleeping. But it mentions a prior case where a man drove 23 kilometres, killed both his in-laws, then pleaded innocent to the murders by reason of being asleep... amazing. Can a person get out of anything by claiming to be asleep?
Categories: Psychology, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 14, 2004
Comments (9)
image Vincent linked to this in the hoax forum, and I thought it was bizarre enough that I should post it here where I can add a poll to it. The story is that 'Stephan M' lost his clothes overboard while on a canoe trip, so he had to wear the same things for the next six days. When he got home he took off his sweater and discovered that a seedling had sprouted in his belly button lint. He took photos of it as proof. Now to me this seems like a joke. I think he just stuck a leafy twig in his belly button and started snapping photos. But would it even be theoretically possible for this to happen? Wouldn't the sweater rubbing against his skin damage a delicate seedling and prevent it from growing? I think so. I also think that the sweaty, salty environment would kill a plant. But others might disagree.
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 13, 2004
Comments (16)
Here's another case of the media in one country reporting another country's satire as straight news. About a week ago the Austrian paper Der Standard reported that a Canadian-American company was going to privatise and expand the Bratislava airport, which would involve the relocation of the entire village of Ivanka pri Dunaji. And where did Der Standard get this story? From the website of, a Slovakian paper. It didn't notice that the story was over six months old and dated April 1st. What happened next, of course, was that the news bounced back to Slovakia where it was also reported as true, with the Slovakian media citing Der Standard as their source. Probably gave the villagers in Ivanka pri Dunaji a good scare.
Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 13, 2004
Comments (0)
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