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December 2004
Numerous bad loans to a polygamist sect that believes the end of the world is nigh has caused the 99-year-old Bank of Ephraim in Utah to go under. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a small Mormon sect a small splinter sect of the Mormon church, unaffiliated with the main church) was spending money like the end of the world was around the corner... because they thought the end of the world actually was around the corner. And happily funding this spending spree was the Bank of Ephraim. They approved loans for one bizarre project after another: a watermelon farm that didn't grow watermelons, a construction company that made a loss on everything it sold (materials, labor). The bank liked giving loans to the end-of-world sect because the end-of-worlders readily agreed to outrageously high interest rates (Why not? If the world ends tomorrow you don't have to pay it back). I'm trying to imagine how the interview to assess credit worthiness might have gone:
-'So you're a member of a sect whose members have sworn an oath to borrow as much money as possible before the world ends and all financial markets collapse. Is that right?'
-'That's right.'
-'Sounds good. You're approved.'
I like the understatement of Utah Banking Supervisor Jim Thomas who simply notes that the bank got in too deep with sect members who "didn't have much to lose".
Categories: Business/Finance, Future/Time, Religion
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 08, 2004
Comments (5)
Do you think you have ESP? Test your skills with the ESP game. It's a bit addictive. You're paired with a random partner on the internet, then you're both shown a series of images. You each have to guess what word the other person is typing to describe the image. I ranked as a novice.
Categories: Psychology
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 07, 2004
Comments (2)
image Lots of people are linking to this floating Baby Jesus head that squeaks plaintively, occasionally moans 'WHY', and constantly demands 'WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?' One look at the URL told me that it was a spoof, because it's part of the Objective: Christian Ministries (O:CM) site, probably the most elaborate anti-fundamentalist parody site on the internet. But apparently not everyone is aware of O:CM, so they're getting creeped out thinking the floating Baby Jesus head is supposed to be taken seriously.

O:CM has been around for a while. I first became aware of it in mid-2003, but it's older than that. I think it's a spinoff of Landover Baptist Church (note the many links to Landover Baptist on the O:CM site). For a while back in 2003 O:CM was frequently changing servers and domain names. In fact, for a brief time it conned its way onto an actual Christian webhosting service (which gave it a veneer of authenticity), but then got booted off that service once the Christian webhost realized what O:CM was. A Boing Boing reader notes that O:CM is registered to IdeaFlood, a company owned by Brian Shuster, a porn website operator who also owns a patent on pop-up ads.
Categories: Religion, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 07, 2004
Comments (7)
image The makers of PhotoBlocker spray claim that their product will make your license plate invisible to photo radar, red light cameras, and infrared and laster cameras. Special crystals in the spray will reflect back the flash (or light source) used by these cameras, making your license look like a bright blur. Would this actually work? Would it be legal if it did? They say that the spray is invisible to the naked eye, which means that it won't be of much use if a cop pulls you over. Personally, I've always thought someone should make a stealth car, made out of the same material as the stealth airplanes. That would be cool. (via Red Ferret)
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 07, 2004
Comments (222)
So, the same online casino that shelled out $28,000 for the Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich last month, has now bought the haunted walking cane for $65,000. It occurs to me that this casino is rapidly building a Museum of Hoaxes all of its own. They're becoming the P.T. Barnum's of the 21st Century.
Categories: eBay
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 07, 2004
Comments (14)
According to Don Diebel, "Americas #1 Singles Expert", the secret to picking up women is hand puppets. (so that's what I was doing wrong back when I was single... no hand puppets!). Here's what you do:

When you see a girl that you're attracted to, approach her and tap her on the shoulder lightly with your puppet and when she turns around raise your hand puppet towards her face and say something like this with your puppet, "Hi beautiful, would you like to dance with me?" Move your puppet up and down with your hand as you are saying your script just as if the puppet was really talking. And be sure to talk in a real silly voice.

As far as I can tell, Mr. Diebel is perfectly serious. (via J-Walk)
Categories: Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 07, 2004
Comments (19)
There was a very nice blurb in today's issue of The Guardian about the Museum of Hoaxes. Does this mean I can now tell my mother that I'm famous?

Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 06, 2004
Comments (10)
David Emery has posted an intriguing piece of netlore concerning the gender of Santa's reindeer. Here's the text of the email that's going around:

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year (the only members of the deer family, Cervidae, to have females do so), male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid December. Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring.
Therefore, according to every historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, every single one of them, from Rudolf to Blitzen ... had to be a female.
We should've known this when they were able to find their way.

David confirms that most male reindeer lose their antlers by early December... but it is possible for younger bulls to keep their antlers until well into the spring. So it's technically possible for Santa's reindeer to be male. However, it does look like it's more probable that Donner, Blitzen, and the rest of them are female, based on the antler evidence.
Categories: Animals, Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 05, 2004
Comments (17)
When customers of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce tried to withdraw cash from the bank's ATM, instead of money they received "colorful bills used as incentives at Canadian Tire Corp. hardware stores." So what do you do if an ATM gives you funny money instead of real bills? An article in the Charlotte Observer (requires obnoxious registration) gives this advice: "Don't walk or drive away from the teller window without checking the money first... Once you leave the teller, fake bills are your responsibility. If you're at an ATM, go into the bank and ask for a replacement... If the bank's closed, you're likely out of luck." Of course, if you do find yourself stuck with fake cash you could always try using it to buy pizza and soda at a school cafeteria, as these students did.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 05, 2004
Comments (16)
Here's an interesting short crime report from the China Post:

Hong Kong customs officers have seized nearly 1,500 fake fortunetelling books that contain published predictions for the wrong year, a customs official said Sunday. The fake books, which were seized Friday, purport to offer predictions for the next Chinese calendar year, the Year of the Rooster, but their texts are lifted from published predictions for previous years, said Customs and Excise Department official Chiu Yuk-hung. The fakes were published under the names of local fortune tellers and legitimate publishers, he said.

I wonder if the police were most worried about the plagiarism, or protecting the public from potentially inaccurate predictions?
Categories: Future/Time
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 05, 2004
Comments (2)
image Cluster Ballooning is air travel achieved by means of tying numerous helium balloons to yourself. I knew about Larry Walters' famous 1982 cluster balloon flight in which he took off from the LA area on a lawn chair tied to helium balloons, so I knew it was possible to do. But I didn't think that people did this regularly as a sport. Apparently they do. It actually looks like fun (the site has some great pictures).
Categories: Sports
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 05, 2004
Comments (1)
Yet another ghost is up for sale on eBay. This one has received huge amounts of media attention (stories about it on CNN, MSNBC, etc.) thanks to a sob story that goes along with it. Last year this woman's father died. Now her eight-year-old son Collin thinks that the ghost of his grandfather is still living in the house. So the highest bidder will get the ghost of the grandfather (plus the grandfather's walking stick). The one condition is that the winning bidder has to write a letter to Collin assuring him that the ghost has relocated. I have just a few things to say about this. First of all, the really scary thing about this auction is the amazingly huge font that the woman feels compelled to write in. What's up with that? (oops, wrong auction). Second, the woman says that her father was a nice guy, but Collin thinks the grandfather's ghost is evil. In situations like this, the kid always knows best. Therefore, the ghost is evil. And finally, will an evil ghost that isn't trapped in some kind of physical container (a jar, coke can, toaster, etc.) willingly move houses? Unlikely. So all you're really getting is the walking stick. And the woman doesn't even provide a picture of that.
Categories: eBay, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 05, 2004
Comments (12)
This story (author unknown) has been 'floating around' the internet for a few months. I found a discussion of it on alt.folklore.urban. There's an easier to read version of it here. It involves a fox terrier named Jasper who eats twelve uncooked yeast rolls that a woman leaves out to rise before baking. The yeast begins to rise in the dog's stomach, causing him to swell up like a balloon:
"He looked like a combination of the Pillsbury dough boy and the Michelin Tire man wrapped up in fur. He groaned when he walked. I swear even his cheeks were bloated."
The next day it's worse. The yeast has begun to ferment inside the dog's stomach, causing Jasper to become drunk: "the darn dog was as drunk as a sailor on his first leave. He was running into walls, falling flat on his butt and most of the time when he was walking his front half was going one direction and the other half was either dragging on the grass or headed 90 degrees in another direction."
Finally, it ends with fermented yeast burps, farts, and poops (that are rock-hard like 'Portland cement'). Now, this all sounds an awful lot like an urban legend, especially since it comes from an anonymous source. Would the yeast actually begin to rise and ferment in the dog's stomach, or would it be killed by stomach acid? I'm not sure. I'm guessing that given the quantity of yeast involved (twelve rolls), the yeast might actually cause the dog's stomach to swell quite a bit... so something like this could happen. Though whether it actually did happen is anyone's guess.
Categories: Animals, Food, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 05, 2004
Comments (13)
The hoaxing of the BBC has now been all over the news. In case you haven't heard, on Friday the BBC broadcast an interview with a man claiming to be a representative of Dow Chemical, Jude Finisterra (is the guy's last name supposed to mean 'the end of the world'?). During the interview the man said that Dow had decided to accept full responsibility for the chemical disaster that killed thousands of people in Bhopal twenty years ago, and in addition it would pay $12 billion in compensation to the victims. The BBC broadcast the interview twice, causing Dow's stock value to promptly drop. Later that same day it became clear that the man wasn't a representative of Dow, and the BBC apologized for falling for a hoax. Though it tried to duck responsibility somewhat by claiming that it was the victim of an 'elaborate deception'. Was the deception really that elaborate? According to this NY Times article, the BBC was actually the one to make first contact with the hoaxers via a website that 'appeared to be Dow Chemical's web site'. So they fell for a hoax website. That's not that elaborate a deception. The man they interviewed was reportedly (in reality) Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men (a movie about them is currently in theatres).
Categories: Business/Finance, Journalism
Posted by Alex on Sat Dec 04, 2004
Comments (0)
image A mock CNN page with news about Bush being arrested in Canada and charged with war crimes has been doing the rounds, and apparently fooling quite a few people. It's pretty well done. The url even looks like it could be the real thing. Axis of Logic also has a satirical article about Bush being arrested on their site. Apparently the Axis of Logic article got picked up by the Google newsbot and was temporarily posted as a real headline on Google News. Hairy Houdini, as he promised in the Hoax Forum, sent me a screen cap of this (Thanks, HH, though unfortunately it doesn't look like your christmas wish will come true). I'm not sure if the mock CNN page and the Axis of Logic article are related in any way.
Categories: Politics, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 03, 2004
Comments (21)
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