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April Fool Hoaxes
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March 2006
Status: Insane rumor
Panic has struck mobile phone users in India as word spreads of "devil calls" that cause your phone to explode: "People started turning off their handsets after a rumour swept Orissa state of phones exploding like bombs killing their owners when they answered the calls. The random "devil calls" supposedly started Sunday from phones with 11 to 14 digit numbers instead of the regular 10, said an official from India's state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam phone company."

Obviously the rumor is completely bogus, but the theory of the general manager of the phone company in the area is interesting. He speculates that the 'devil call' rumor "could be the handiwork of vested interests to subsequently market anti-virus software for mobile phones." Sounds plausible. (I've never used anti-virus software because it seems to cause more computer problems than viruses themselves do... though I use a Mac, so viruses aren't a big issue.)

I also recall that almost the exact same rumor swept through Nigeria back in July 2004. Somehow it travelled from Nigeria to India.
Categories: Mass Delusion, Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 29, 2006
Comments (18)
Status: Commentary
Jeff Daniel, in a recent column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wonders if anyone celebrates April Fool's Day anymore. He writes:

For all practical purposes, the official day of practical joking appears to be as flat as a deflated whoopee cushion if reports from Sacramento, Calif., and Columbus, Ohio, are to be believed. Last April 1, newspapers in those cities ran stories investigating the tradition's demise. In one of the pieces, a reporter's random polling found not a single April Fools' Day participant.

Daniel conducted his own informal poll, asking people at a local mall if they observed April 1st. He found one person who did, but "The next 20 or so people queried at the mall have no April Fools' Day tales to tell. Zilch. Nada. No pranking. No punking. Just a lot of, 'Nothing leaps to mind' and, 'I don't think people do much these days, do they?' Our collective joy buzzer seems to have lost much of its buzz."

Of course, people have been predicting the imminent demise of April Fools' Day for a long time. On April 1, 1874 the New York Times printed this commentary:

"The absurd customs of All Fools' Day are fast passing away, and although there is but a yearly recurrence of the season, people are prone to tire of follies which are entirely destitute of even the slightest flavor of wit. In England the April-fools making custom has still some standing, but here it dies out apace, and if it has any tangible existence at all, it is among small boys, who adopt such shallow devices to make fools as suits their idea of fun."

I'd agree that most people don't bother to celebrate April Fools. They never have. But a small, dedicated group of pranksters does the hard work of pranking for the rest of us. And thanks to the internet, their exploits have a far larger audience than ever before. So, in this sense, April Fool's Day has never been more popular. In other words, I think there's no chance that April Fool's Day is going to fade away any time soon.
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 28, 2006
Comments (10)
The Museum of Hoaxes got mentioned twice in the Christian Science Monitor in the past two days. The first time is in a story by Randy Dotinga titled "When computers do news, hoaxes slip in." It's about the spate of recent online press release hoaxes, such as Tom Vendetta's hoax of a few days ago. I get quoted at the end of the article:

"In the old days, to perpetrate a hoax and get it in front of the eyes of the millions of people, you had to be in the media some way or have access to a reporter. Nowadays, literally anybody can do it," says Alex Boese, author of "Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide to Hoaxes and other BS." Google News and its rival sites offer pranksters a forum that seems legitimate, adding credibility to fake stories, Mr. Boese says.

I couldn't have said it better myself (though I think they added a 'the' in 'the eyes of the millions of people'). And then there's an article by Jim Regan titled "Beware the first of April" (which doesn't seem to be online yet because it's coming out in tomorrow's edition, though it's already posted in Lexis Nexis). It talks about my list of the top 100 April Fools Hoaxes and mentions that I also list April Fools hoaxes chronologically going all the way back to the 18th century. But then it says this:

while the Museum's coverage is impressive, the History page records events only up until 2002, so for those looking for a refresher on more recent deceits, Wikipedia's entry on April Fool's Day supplements its main collection with links to April 1st pages from the last four years.

This was true when Regan wrote the article. Up until last night my list of April Fools did stop at 2002. But it's no longer true because I spent much of the past week completely overhauling my history of April Fools section, so that it's now up to date.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 28, 2006
Comments (7)
Status: April Fool Pranks has issued a press release listing what they have determined to be the top ten office pranks, based on a survey of 2500 office workers. Here they are:

1. Change the caller ID on a co-worker's phone to read Mr. Kitten every time he calls someone.
2. Place random objects from people's desks in the vending machine.
3. Place a live goldfish in an IV bag in a clinic.
4. Sneak onto someone else's computer and send out an "I love you" email to the entire office.
5. Wall-paper someone's entire cube with headshots of his co-workers.
6. Pull the shelves out of the break room refrigerator, hide inside and jump out at co-workers as they open the door.
7. Sit on the copier and place the copies back in the paper bin. Anytime co-workers make copies, they have the image of the prankster's backside in the background.
8. Turn all the clocks in the office one hour back to make the work day seem longer.
9. Lock all the doors, shut off the lights and put a "Closed" sign in the window when the boss went out for lunch.
10. Place fake rubber chocolates in the break room and watch as co- workers try to chew them.

Which reminds me of another office April Fools prank someone told me about. (They swore they participated in it.) On April 1st everyone in the office quit, filing into the HR person's office one after another. Almost caused the boss to have a heart attack. Of course, the danger with that prank is that you might not get rehired.
Categories: April Fools Day, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 28, 2006
Comments (31)
I've been pretty busy lately, what with Hippo Eats Dwarf appearing in bookstores this week, and I've also been updating portions of the site to get ready for April Fool's Day. That's why posting has been kind of light. Anyway, I'm going to be doing a bunch of radio shows this week, so I've posted my schedule below. If you get one of these stations listen in and see if whomever I'm talking to manages to stump me (DJs seem to love to flip to random pages of my book and grill me on whatever they find there, as I struggle to remember what I wrote a year ago). If you live in San Diego, I'll be doing a book signing at the downtown Borders this Saturday. I'm also doing a bunch of taped radio shows, but I haven't included those in this list since I don't know when they'll be broadcast.

Tuesday, March 28
Cincinnati, OH: 8:40 - 8:55 am, WKRC-AM
Cleveland, OH: 9:10 - 9:30 am, WMJI-FM (Tentative)

Wednesday, March 29
San Diego, CA: 9:30 to 9:40 am, KPRI-FM

Thursday, March 30
San Diego, CA: 7:40 am, KUSI-TV News
Winston-Salem, NC: 3:33 - 3:43 pm, WSJS
Fargo, ND: 3:00 - 3:30 pm, North Dakota Public Radio, "Hear It Now"
Lexington, KY: 4:30 - 5:00 pm, WLAP-AM
Nashville, KY: 5:20 - 5:35 pm, WKCT-AM

Friday, March 31
Wisconsin: 7:00 - 8:00 am, Wisconsin Public Radio "Conversations with Joy Cardin"
Tucson, AZ: 8:20 - 8:35 am, KNST-AM
Denver, CO: 9:00 - 10:00 am, KOA-AM "Mike Rosen Show"
Chicago, IL: 1:35 - 1:50 pm, WILL-AM (NPR)
Knoxville, TN: 2:30 - 3:00 pm, WNOX-AM "The Phil Show"
Bloomington, IL: 4:00 - 4:20 pm, Radio Bloomington

Saturday, April 1
Palm Springs, CA: 10:30 - 11:00 am, KNWZ-AM "On the Mark"
San Diego, CA: 2:00 - 3:30 pm, Book signing at Borders, 668 6th Ave. (Downtown)
Chicago, IL: 10:00 pm - 10:30 pm, WGN-AM "Nick Digilio Show"

Monday, April 3
Cleveland, OH: 11:00 - 11:30 am, WWOW-AM "Louie Free Radio Show"
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 28, 2006
Comments (8)
Status: Hoax
image An article in the current issue of Esquire describes the tax-reform campaign of a sixty-six-year-old recluse named Irwin Leba. His idea is to enact a fat tax. The idea is pretty simple. Charge overweight people higher taxes. That way you raise more tax revenue and encourage people to be healthier, at the same time. Here's exactly how it would work:

sometime between January 1 and April 15, every American will have to visit a government-sponsored weigh station and step on a scale. You'll leave with a notarized certificate attesting to your body-mass index (BMI). If that number is 25.5 or higher—24.9 is officially the upper limit of normal—you'll have to pay Uncle Sam a little something extra, corresponding to how overweight you are and scaled to your income.

You can also check out Leba's website,, which operates under the umbrella of an organization calling itself the Institute for a Healthy America. No, none of this is real. It's an early April Fool's day joke. Irwin Leba is none other than Alan Abel, who you can see posing in the thumbnail as Leba. Leba is Abel spelled backwards. The hoax was revealed yesterday in the Washington Post.
Categories: April Fools Day, Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 27, 2006
Comments (35)
Status: Optical Illusion
image Not a hoax, but a cute optical illusion. (If this were an eBay picture, there would be a fat naked guy reflected in the pots, but nothing so crude here.) (via Ceticismo Aberto)
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 24, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: Real
image A lot of people still stumble upon the "Too Skinny" pictures that I have posted on the site. (Warning: one of the pictures may not be safe for work.) Andrea was one such person, and decided to send in a picture of a real-life skinny model that she once worked with to serve as a comparison. She writes:

I worked for 3 seasons at dolce&gabbanna in milan, italy and all the girl models were very skinny but we had 2 anorexic/bulimic ones, one (the one in the pic) more than the other. The thing that really got to me while working there is that the girl with the best body (thin but curvy, great breasts, ass and legs) was the one that fit into less clothes, no jeans would close or even go all the way up! but even worse than that, there was this new collection of leather/plastic skirts and trousers that we could only fit on the model whose pic i'm sending, two of the trousers we'd even have to close them between 2 people because they were so small... and whenever she had to model those ones she would stop eating for a day or two. To each their own ideas, but i saw her wasting away, partly fault of the fashion industry and i don't think that is right.

I agree that the girl in the picture is very skinny, but thankfully she's nowhere near as skinny as the models in the Too-Skinny pictures (which are all fake, by the way).
Categories: Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 24, 2006
Comments (59)
Status: Annual tradition
Joey Skaggs has once again announced details of New York City's Annual April Fools Day Parade. Here's the full press release. Details include:

This year's floats will include a Fundamentalist Noah's Ark float featuring two of all of earth's creatures, including dinosaurs; a Hurricane Katrina Victim's float where for $1 a throw you can attempt to dunk Michael Brown in a vat of toxic sludge packed with snakes, rats and a big crocodile; a Last Chance Cruise Ship float offering gambling and shuffleboard, plus off-shore abortions when Roe v. Wade is overturned; and a Clandestine CIA Prison float featuring the latest prison torture techniques.

Related Post:
March 23, 2005: 20th Annual April Fool's Day Parade
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 23, 2006
Comments (4)
Status: Real
Thanks to Peter Wenker for sending along these pictures of a bird-feeder thief. Though I don't have any details about where or when they were taken, there's no doubt in my mind that they're real, since bears are notorious bird-feeder thieves. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department even has instructions on their website titled "Don't Let your Bird Feeder Become a Bear Feeder!" Their recommendations include: "Stop all bird feeding by April 1, or as soon as snow melts;" and, "Clean up any spilled birdseed and dispose of it in the trash."

image image image image
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 23, 2006
Comments (40)
Status: Undetermined
image Some residents of Mobile, Alabama are claiming that a leprechaun is loose in their neighborhood. It shows up in the branches of a tree at night. Apparently it can't be photographed, but the thumbnail shows an "amateur sketch" of what people say it looks like. The NBC 15 news broadcast that covered this interesting phenomenon reports that: "eyewitnesses say the leprechaun only comes out at night. If you shine a light in its direction, it suddenly disappears." Make sure that you catch the guy who appears towards the end of the report who has "a special leprechaun flute which has been passed down from thousands of years ago from my great, great grandfather who is Irish."
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales, Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 23, 2006
Comments (51)
Status: Scam
This leaves me at a complete loss for words. It's amazing:

HARARE, Zimbabwe - A bogus traditional healer who persuaded a businesswoman to hire "mermaids" and accommodate them in a Harare hotel to help find a stolen car was convicted of theft by false pretenses, court officials said Tuesday...
In Zimbabwe, where tribal superstition is deeply entrenched, prosecutors said Chizema persuaded Margaret Mapfumo to pay 200 million Zimbabwe dollars (about $30,000) to hire mermaids, feed and accommodate them in a Harare hotel, buy power generators for a floodlit lakeside ceremony and invoke ancestral spirits to find the missing car. Some of the money was to be used to buy a bull whose genitals — described in court as the animal's "strong part" — would point out the car thief, prosecutors said.

All that was needed was the addition of a penis-melting Zionist robot comb, and it would have been a perfect trifecta of weirdness. (Thanks to Big Gary for the link.)
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 22, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Probably a rodent posing as a kitten
image About a week ago Smerk posted a link in the forum to a story about a cat who supposedly gave birth to a kitten that looks like a mouse. The story reads:

According to the owner of the cat, the litter included 5 regular kittens, and one that more resembles a mouse. The owner says the nose, mouth and ears look like that of a mouse, but the rest of the body is that of a cat. The mother cat doesn't seem to notice or mind. She's nursing and taking care of it, just like the kittens.

The thing is, when you watch the accompanying video you can see that the "kitten" doesn't just slightly look like a mouse. It really looks like a mouse. But why would a mouse be living with a bunch of cats? To clear up this mystery, I contacted Sarah Hartwell, who runs I figured that if anyone could shed light on this mystery, it would be her. Her verdict: That's no kitten! Here's what she writes (reproduced with her permission):

It is just a rodent that the cat has adopted. I've added information to
Possibly the mother took the rodent back to the nest and then her maternal instincts overrode her predatory instincts. This is not uncommon if the prey is the same size as her kittens and makes similar noises and especially if it doesn't run and re-trigger her predatory instinct. Alternatively it went into the nest attracted by potential food while the mother was absent and because it had ended up smelling like the kittens she didn't view it as prey. Once it starts acting like a mouse again i.e. jerky movements and instinctively fleeing, she will treat it like prey. Possibly it isn't acting like a mouse due to being injured by her if she hunted it. You may have seen documentaries on confused lions, usually inexperienced juveniles, that adopt young prey animals because the terrified or injured prey stops acting in a prey-like manner and this confuses their instinct to kill it.
There are several cases of young squirrels being fostered on nursing cats and the maternal instinct overriding the predatory instinct. On the other hand, but involving the same 2 instincts, in cat colonies, there are plenty of cases of kittens being killed by other females because their movements and sounds triggered predatory instincts and they were treated as prey (my friend's cat was a female that hunted another cat's kittens because of confused instincts).

Update: Boing Boing speculates that the rodent in question is a kangaroo rat.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 20, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Fraud
Korean investigators have uncovered a case of widespread degree fraud involving over 120 people who bought fake Russian music degrees from a woman "identified as Do":

Do advertised her institute as a Korean campus of the Russian university and the Russian college dean came here along with a couple of other Russian professors for about 10 days a year to provide lessons,'' said a prosecutor... Prosecutors said that the fake degree holders registered their degrees at the Korea Research Foundation (KRF) and some of them worked as lecturers at local universities, trying to create an academic clique.

This strikes me as odd as I would never have picked music as a field conducive to degree fraud, since other musicians would notice pretty quickly if you don't know what you're doing. Also, the idea that these fake degree holders were all colluding to create an academic clique is a bit bizarre. They must have figured there was strength in numbers.

The case also reminded me of the fake Moscow Philharmonic that was caught touring in Hong Kong back in 2000.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 20, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Photoshopped
image This cloud is sending a clear signal. The picture looks vaguely familiar, so perhaps it's been circulating around for a while. Anyway, I'd say it's definitely been photoshopped. When I fiddled around with the hue and saturation settings of the image in photoshop, the finger portions of the cloud stood out, indicating that they had been digitally pasted in.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 19, 2006
Comments (5)
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