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May 2006
Status: Hoax
image Hans Mobius, the 72-year-old president of the Erie County Farm Bureau, claims that last week he saw Bigfoot wandering around on his horse farm in western New York. And he has the pictures to prove it. Here's how the sighting happened:
On Saturday, Mobius said he was heading out on his green John Deere Gator to take some photographs of the ash trees in a small forest - so he could try to sell the trees. He positioned himself in front of the woods to take a panoramic photo when, he said, he "saw this thing out of the corner of my eye." The creature, he said, which was about 150 to 200 feet away, seemed to notice him. It turned to one side, then the other.
"It looked like he might have been confused," Mobius said. Then it "zigzagged" its way into the forest and disappeared.
"The way it moved - it kind of loped a little bit," Mobius said.
I don't think I'm going out on a limb if I say that this is an obvious hoax, and such an amateurish one that it's hardly worth adding to my page of Bigfoot hoaxes. And yet it's getting news coverage. Mobius claims that if it is a hoax, then someone is playing a hoax on him. But I have a suspicion that Mobius is in on it since, as Jeffrey Meldrum (a biology professor at Idaho State University) points out, the guy in the gorilla suit looks like he's posing for the camera.
Categories: Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Wed May 31, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: Weird, but real
image The U.S. Patent Office recently awarded patent number 7037243 to Lester Clancy, inventor of the cordless jump rope. It's a jump rope without the rope. I guess you could call it an 'air rope'. However, it does have handles. Here's the description from the patent:
An exercise apparatus is provided that simulates the effects of jumping rope, but does not utilize an actual rope. Two handles are provided similar in appearance to jump rope handles. At the end of the handle, where the rope would typically be, a donut-shaped enclosure is provided and mounted to the handle along its symmetrical axis. Inside of each donut-shaped enclosure, a weighted ball that rotates around a circular chamber within the enclosure. When rotated, the weighted balls generate rotational torque to simulate the use of a jump rope.
Clancy's logic for inventing this is that if there's no rope, there's nothing to trip over. Which makes sense. Of course, learning how to avoid tripping on the rope is part of the challenge of jumping rope... what makes it fun. Jumping up and down with weights is great exercise, but for that you're better off using a pair of dumbbells. More info about this at Patently Silly. (submitted by Beverley)
Categories: Sports, Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed May 31, 2006
Comments (20)
Status: Apparently True
Tom Robinson, a mild-mannered professor of Accounting living in Florida, has been identified as a descendant of the fierce Mongol warlord, Genghis Khan. When informed of his ancestor, Robinson expressed admiration for the Mongol leader, but has not yet indicated any plans to begin a campaign of raping and pillaging.

Although it sounds odd, the science behind the claim seems valid enough. It stems from a 2003 genetic study that identified Genghis Khan as the common ancestor of 8 percent of Asian men. A British company, Oxford Ancestors, searched its client database to find more matches with Genghis Khan and identified Tom Robinson as one of his descendants. He is the first man of European or American background to be so identified. Here's how the match was made:
The link is revealed by the Y chromosome, a packet of DNA that determines male sex, which is passed down from father to son. Men who share a Y chromosome are invariably descended from the same man at some point in the past, and the accumulation of mutations can be used to date the common ancestor. Women do not have a Y chromosome, so they cannot be tested in the same way, although millions are likely also to be descended from the warlord.
The Mongolian embassy is going to be holding a reception in Robinson's honor next month. Like I said, the science seems sound enough, but the entire article about this guy reads like an extended advertisement for Oxford Ancestors, which is now inviting the general public (men only) to submit DNA samples to find out if they too are descended from Genghis Khan. It'll cost you only £195.
Categories: History, Science
Posted by Alex on Wed May 31, 2006
Comments (16)
Status: Unlikely
An article has begun to circulate around the internet warning of a secret government plan to enlist pastors in an evil plan to create a submissive populace:
A Pastor has come forward to blow the whistle on a nationwide FEMA program which is training Pastors and other religious representatives to become secret police enforcers who teach their congregations to "obey the government" in preparation for a declaration of martial law, property and firearm seizures, and forced relocation. In March of this year the Pastor, who we shall refer to as Pastor Revere, was invited to attend a meeting of his local FEMA chapter which circulated around preparedness for a potential bio-terrorist attack, any natural disaster or a nationally declared emergency. The FEMA directors told the Pastors that attended that it was their job to help implement FEMA and Homeland Security directives in anticipation of any of these eventualities. The first directive was for Pastors to preach to their congregations Romans 13, the often taken out of context bible passage that was used by Hitler to hoodwink Christians into supporting him, in order to teach them to "obey the government" when martial law is declared.
And it goes on and on in this style. The article originally comes from prisonplanet.com, which is a conspiracy-theory site. Tellingly, the article doesn't provide any verifiable source for its claims. The story relies solely upon the word of "Pastor Revere". Of course, as Marx said, religion is the opium of the masses, so such a plan wouldn't be all that farfetched, but it seems a bit unnecessary. After all, isn't pacifying and brainwashing the populace what Fox News is for?
Categories: Conspiracy Theories, Religion
Posted by Alex on Wed May 31, 2006
Comments (24)
Status: Phony Ghost
image For the past month villagers in West Bengal have been terrorized by a ghost that took the form of a floating skull with fiery red eyes. A number of people have suffered scratch marks when attacked by this ghost. Now police have taken a suspect into custody, "A pigeon with a miniature plastic skull dangling around its neck and with glowing red bulbs in the eye sockets." The police don't know who outfitted the pigeon in this way, but suspect that their sole motive was to create a panic. In other words, it was a random prankster. However, the cause of the scratch marks remains undetermined. Also, demonstrating how unreliable eyewitnesses can be, police noted that "people had described the ghost variously as a man and a monkey." Which recalls the Winsted Wild Man panic in Connecticut over 100 years ago, in which witnesses swore they had seen a (nonexistent) wild man sporting tusks and as large as a gorilla.
Categories: Mass Delusion, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Tue May 30, 2006
Comments (6)
Status: Photoshopped
A Brazilian ad agency (FCB Brasil) has created some pictures as part of a campaign for a diving magazine, one of which illustrates the firediving urban legend (in which a diver gets scooped up by a helicopter bucket and dumped onto a forest fire). The second picture shows a diver getting shot out of a dam. The tagline is "Read Before Diving." Cute. (via Coolzor)

image image
Categories: Photos/Videos, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Tue May 30, 2006
Comments (3)
Status: Undetermined
The Associated Press reports that software engineers in Menlo Park, CA, taking a cue from the movie Fight Club, have begun forming real-life fight clubs in which they pummel each other senseless after work:

They may sport love handles and Ivy League degrees, but every two weeks, some Silicon Valley techies turn into vicious street brawlers in a real-life, underground fight club. Kicking, punching and swinging every household object imaginable -- from frying pans and tennis rackets to pillowcases stuffed with soda cans -- they beat each other mercilessly in a garage in this bedroom community south of San Francisco. Then, bloodied and bruised, they limp back to their desks in the morning.

This could very well be true. Probably is. But it sounds kind of comical, like nerd combat. I'm wondering if the techies dress up as Captain Kirk and Spock when they fight each other. Also, it's not clear to me how the reporter learned of these techie fight clubs, or if he personally witnessed them.
Categories: Sports
Posted by Alex on Tue May 30, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: a real x-ray (showing what looks like an alien head to me)
image It seems like it's been a while since there's been anything really unusual or novel offered on eBay, which is why this auction for an alien head inside a duck is a bit of a relief. At last, something new. (To be a bit more specific, what you get if you win the auction is an x-ray of an alien head inside a duck, not an actual alien head, nor a duck.) From the description of the item:

On Sunday, May 21st, an adult male mallard was brought to the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), with what appeared to be a broken wing. Since 1971, the IBRRC has been rescuing birds from the devastating effects of oil spills around the world. Marie Travers, assistant manager of the center, radiographed the mallard and was immediately shocked by what was revealed on the x-ray. A very clear image of what appeared to be the face, or head, of an extraterrestrial alien was in the bird's stomach.

Bidding has already reached $3,450.00, and there's a couple of days left before the auction ends. I can't imagine Golden Palace will want to pass this up.
Categories: eBay, Extraterrestrial Life
Posted by Alex on Mon May 29, 2006
Comments (19)
Status: Must be False (by reason of being physically impossible)
image Pat Robertson claims to be able to leg press 2000 pounds. If this is true, it would be a world record. Even more improbably, his trainer claims to be able to leg press 2700 pounds.

I don't know when Robertson first posted this bizarre claim on his Christian Broadcasting Network website (it's included in a sales pitch for his "age-defying protein shake"), but it came to the attention of the blogosphere on May 22 when Clay Travis wrote about it on CBS Sportsline. Putting Robertson's claim in context, Travis noted that the leg press record is held by Dan Kendra of Florida State University who pressed 1,335 pounds, causing the capillaries in his eyes to burst. Robertson, who's 76 years old, has apparently managed to beat Kendra's record by 665 pounds (without doing any damage to his eyes).

Robertson has posted a video of himself leg pressing 1000 pounds, which seems pretty remarkable (kind of unbelievable, actually), but we have to take his word for it (and the word of his trainer) that he lifted the 2000 pounds. Here's the description of how it supposedly happened:

Pat Robertson worked out at the gym on an incline leg press machine with weights up to 570 pounds. Working with his physician, who was an amazing strength trainer, he worked up to 800 pounds, then 1,000 pounds. Then one day he was able to leg press 1,500 pounds one time. Then over the succeeding months, he trained with multiple reps of 1,200 pounds, 1,300 pounds, and 1,400 pounds. One Saturday morning, his physician said, “I’ll get you bragging rights. Let’s go to 2,000 pounds.” Then he worked up multiple reps of 1,400 pounds, 1,500 pounds, 1,600 pounds, 1,700, pounds, 1,800 pounds and 1,900 pounds. When 2,000 pounds was put on the machine two men got on either side and helped push the load up, and then let it down on Mr. Robertson, who pushed it up one rep and let it go back down again.

I'm simply not willing to believe that a man his age set a leg press world record. In fact, I find it hard to believe that he even lifted 1000 pounds (he's either lifting magic weights, or using a lifewave patch). As Big Gary wrote to me in an email, if this isn't a hoax, I'll drink his age-defying protein shake.
Categories: Sports
Posted by Alex on Sun May 28, 2006
Comments (38)
Status: Photoshopped
image This image of a billboard for Miele vacuums has been circulating around. It's a cool concept for an ad... an enormous vacuum sucking a hot air balloon out of the sky. However, this billboard can't actually be seen anywhere in real life. It's an ad concept dreamed up by Jon Kubik, a student at the Miami Ad School. (via Adrants)
Categories: Advertising, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sat May 27, 2006
Comments (0)
Status: Undetermined
I've received quite a few emails about this. A British paper, metro.co.uk, reports that resourceful teenagers have devised a way to make the ringing of their cellphones inaudible to adults. The trick is that they've recorded the sound of the Mosquito, which is a device that emits ultrasonic tones inaudible to most people over the age of twenty-five, but quite audible, and rather annoying, to people under the age of 25:

Techno-savvy pupils have adapted the Mosquito alarm, used to drive teenage gangs away from shopping centres. They can receive calls and texts during lessons without teachers having the faintest idea what is going on. The alarm, which has been praised by police, is highly effective because its ultra-high sound can be heard only by youths but not by most people over 20. Schoolchildren have recorded the sound, which they named Teen Buzz, and spread it from phone to phone via text messages and Bluetooth technology. Now they can receive calls and texts during lessons without teachers having the faintest idea what is going on.

Can this be real? Well, the Mosquito is real enough (I posted about it back in November 2005), and it is true that young people can usually hear higher frequencies than older people because we lose the ability to hear high frequencies as we age. The question is whether cellphone speakers can generate these ultrasonic frequencies. Boing Boing posts a comment from one of their readers who swears that cellphone speakers would not be able to do this. However, another reader links to an article that contains an mp3 recording of the Mosquito sound. (When I listen to it I can't hear any high-pitched noise, just a bunch of street noise.) So if computer speakers can generate these frequencies, perhaps some high-end cellphone speakers also can. Seems plausible. In other words, I'm not yet willing to label this story as a hoax or false rumor, even though it does seem to be a bit far-fetched.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri May 26, 2006
Comments (147)
Status: Hoax
image Here's a hoax that I missed while away in Scotland. Geoff (who withheld his last name) claimed to be a twenty-five-year-old virgin. He launched a website (avirginsplea.com) on May 1, declaring that if his site received five million hits by the end of the month, a girl he knew had promised to sleep with him. Soon blogs were linking to his site to help him out, and the media (unable, as always, to resist an unusual story about sex) deluged him with requests for interviews. Predictably, it all turned out to be a hoax. Geoff, although a real person, was not a virgin, as reporters found out who tracked down a former girlfriend of his. In addition, Geoff hadn't created the site. He was merely the front man for it. The creator of the site was web designer Matthew Gamble who had intended it, so he later claimed, to be an experiment in viral marketing.

I learned about this hoax yesterday when I got a call from MTV Canada, who, after initially having been taken in by the hoax, were now interviewing Gamble on air. They telephoned me to get my opinion as a 'hoax expert'. Specifically, they were very curious about whether Gamble's hoax warranted inclusion in the Museum of Hoaxes. I assured them that it did, which seemed to make them happy. I didn't add that my standards for what warrants inclusion on the site are pretty low. As long as something sounds kind of hoaxy, I'll post about it on my blog. (The standards for what makes it into the Gallery sections of the site are much higher.)

I should also note that avirginsplea.com was a spoof of helpwinmybet.com, a site launched in March by a guy claiming that his girlfriend had agreed to a threesome if his site received two million hits. To my knowledge helpwinmybet.com hasn't been exposed as a hoax, per se, but I'm guessing that it's just a scheme to generate revenue from ads for dating sites.
Categories: Sex/Romance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri May 26, 2006
Comments (8)
This will be the last video I post of one of my trips (for now). I took this one last year, sometime in July, at Marvin's Marvelous Museum in Farmington Hills, Michigan (right outside of Detroit). I was visiting Marvin's Museum because it contains a fake copy of the Cardiff Giant, but the real attraction there is all the bizarre mechanical marvels and coin-operated machines on display. (Though the museum seems to make most of its money from video games.) This video shows Marvin demonstrating one of the machines to me and my wife. If you're ever in the Detroit area, I would highly recommend making the trip to see Marvin's Museum. But bring along a lot of quarters so that you can play with the machines.

Categories: Exploration/Travel, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed May 24, 2006
Comments (2)
I'm getting a little carried away with the newfound ability to upload videos to YouTube, but bear with me. I've only got a few of them to share. Here's a video I took last year (July 2005) at the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, New York, current home of the Cardiff Giant. The guy in historical dress was an actor/storyteller giving a dramatic account of the Cardiff Giant hoax to the school children you can see gathered around. At one point during the video I pan left and you can see a brief glimpse, from the side, of my wife, Beverley (she's the one holding a handbag). If you recall, I used a photograph of the Cardiff Giant for a caption contest I held a few months ago.

Categories: Exploration/Travel, History, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed May 24, 2006
Comments (0)
Here's a short video I shot at Loch Ness, showing the Museum of Hoaxes group aboard the Nessie Hunter on Loch Ness. It's not a thrilling video, but unfortunately it's the only one I took the entire trip. Most of the time it never occurred to me to use the movie option on my digital camera, because in the past videos I've taken have ended up sitting in my hard drive never viewed. But I just realized how easy it is to upload videos to YouTube and share them. If I had realized this while in Scotland, I would have taken more of them. Oh well, next time. In the video pay attention to the voice of the tour guide whom you can hear giving a running commentary over the ship's PA system. He sounded just like Sean Connery. (That's actually why I decided to switch to movie mode, so I could record his voice.) Also, the two guys on the far left in the initial scene were not part of our group, but everyone else was.

Categories: Cryptozoology, Exploration/Travel, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed May 24, 2006
Comments (4)
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