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May 2006
I'm back from hunting the Loch Ness Monster and Wild Haggises (Haggii?) with fellow Museum of Hoaxers in Scotland. It was a great trip. Despite the Scottish climate staying true to reputation by raining every single day I was there, I saw and did lots of stuff: went on a ghost tour, sampled some whisky, experimented with a Victorian electric shock machine, etc. But the best part was meeting everyone else who was there. My theory that regular readers of this site are all exceptionally fun, intelligent, and attractive people was definitely confirmed. I kept being amazed that what started out years ago as a way for me to procrastinate (i.e. creating my website) ended up inspiring a group of people to travel from all corners of the world to meet in person in Edinburgh.

Below are some photos from the trip.

Row One (from left to right): Museum of Hoaxers posing with a copy of Hippo Eats Dwarf in the studio of BBC Radio Scotland, Dolly the Sheep (stuffed) in a museum in Edinburgh, MOHers posing in front of ancient ruins on Arthur's Seat (that's me on the far right), MOHers posing at Loch Ness.

Row Two (from left to right): MOHers on the Loch Ness Nessie Hunter cruise, a picture of a mysterious object we spotted in the water that might have been Nessie (you need to see the larger image to see what I'm talking about), MOHers posing with a statue of Nessie, and me collecting a sample of genuine Loch Ness water.

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Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue May 23, 2006
Comments (24)
I've signed up with a new ad network called Federated Media recently started by John Battelle (one of the founders of Wired Magazine, according to the Wikipedia entry about him). In an effort to better match readers of this site to potential advertisers, Federated Media wants you all to take a brief survey. It's only a few questions: age, address, social security number, credit card info, bank account info, etc. (No, just kidding... they're not looking to steal your identity.) Apparently these surveys are important to advertisers, so if you have a few minutes it would be a great way to help the site out. And hopefully it will result in some better ads. Thanks.

(This should be a one-time thing... the survey will stay active for a few days and then close, and after that I don't think they'll need to collect survey data again. Oh, and if the survey says 'March 2006', just ignore that. I was supposed to link to the survey back in March, but I procrastinated.)
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Mon May 15, 2006
Comments (24)
Status: Real
image A rare heart-shaped potato has been found by Linda Greene of Moon Township, Pa. She found it in a sack of potatoes back in February and emailed the Idaho Potato Commission about it in March. For some reason it's only making headlines now. What makes the discovery of the potato strange is that irregularly shaped potatoes are supposed to be removed during the sorting process and used for french fries. The potato commission president said: "I would guarantee someone saw it and thought, 'This is cool, we'll let this go through.'... Typically, unique shapes will go into processing _ dehydrated or cut up into french fries." To those who suggest the love spud is a plant (pun intended), being used by the commission to drum up publicity, the commission president says, "We didn't plant it. We'll have to start sorting for heart-shaped potatoes." (Thanks to Big Gary for the story)
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Sun May 14, 2006
Comments (3)
Status: Strange, but real
image Speaking of fake Irish bars, now it's possible to have an instant fake British pub, anywhere you like. It's advertised as "the Worlds first fully functioning Mobile Inflatable Pub." This comes from the same people who brought us the world's first inflatable church. Ideally it should come with a bartender who fakes a British accent.
Categories: Food, Places
Posted by Alex on Sun May 14, 2006
Comments (3)
Tomorrow (Monday) I'll be flying to Edinburgh to participate in an exciting experiment: the first face-to-face meeting of Museum-of-Hoaxers. We'll be coming from all corners of the earth: Australia, America, and Europe. Will we be able to tolerate each other in real life (as opposed to virtual life)? Will we all end up in jail? Stay tuned. I hope to post some reports from Edinburgh.

I should note that this adventure wasn't my idea. The credit goes to a group of regulars who hang out in the forum (often seen congregating in the off-topic chit chat thread) and who decided that they wanted to meet each other in real life. I was invited along since my site facilitated the whole thing. And how could I say no?

Activities will include going on a ghost tour of Edinburgh, viewing Gordon Rutter's collection of curiosities, whiskey drinking, and hopefully taking a day trip up to Loch Ness to see Nessie. It should be fun.

Now I'm just hoping I don't arrive in Edinburgh to discover that I'm the only one there, the whole thing being an elaborate hoax designed to lure me halfway around the world on a wild goose chase.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun May 14, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Case of mistaken identity
Guy Kewney, editor of newswireless.net, was scheduled to be interviewed by the BBC about the Apple Computer vs. Apple record label case. But as he stood in the lobby of the BBC building waiting to be met by the studio manager, he saw, to his surprise, someone else introduced and then interviewed under his name. Guy Kewney, according to his own description, is "fair-haired, blue-eyed, prominent-nosed, and with the sort of pale skin that makes my dermatologist wince each time I complain about an itchy mole." By contrast, the Guy Kewney being interviewed on air was "Black. Also, he spoke with a French-sounding accent, and he seemed as baffled as I felt."

So what was going on? It turned out that the studio manager had confused a taxi driver sitting in the reception area for Guy Kewney. The taxi driver didn't really understand what was going on and happily followed the studio manager's lead. The Times gives this description of the interview:
The cabbie, who is better qualified to talk about traffic jams in Shepherds Bush, answered questions for several minutes on Apple Computer’s victory at the High Court against Apple Corps, the record label for the Beatles, The Times has learnt. Karen Bowerman, the BBC’s consumer affairs correspondent, asked the driver what the implications were for Apple Computer, which is allowed to continue using its name and symbol for its iTunes music download service. He gave a rambling answer about how people would be able to download songs at internet cafés. Ms Bowerman was nonplussed, but persisted. What about Apple? "I don’t know," the driver replied. "I'm not at all sure what I'm doing here."
I've always thought that many of the "experts" interviewed on news shows aren't much more knowledgeable about the topics being discussed than any random person would be. They just happen to be the first person the news show could find who was willing to go on-air. So I think this cabbie should start a new second career as a freelance expert on all topics. Once he hones his b.s. skills, he could be as good as any of them.
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Sat May 13, 2006
Comments (5)
Status: Hoax
Here's an amusing article that deserves mention on Regret the Error (the weblog about newspaper corrections), if it isn't already there.
Tabloid Aftonbladet has been forced to withdraw an article about naked Swedish skydivers, after it turned out that the paper had been the victim of a hoax. The article, headed "It's wonderful - but cold", described how Stockholm Skydiving Club had celebrated spring by jumping from a height of 4,000 metres in their birthday suits. The paper quoted Johan Persson, a supposed member of the club, who described the naked jump over the Gärdet area of Stockholm as an annual tradition.
"The scrotum really flaps about when you're freefalling," he'd told the paper, adding, "I've become a dad recently so it can't do any harm."
But appealing though the story was, it turned out that Aftonbladet's journalist had been taken in by a hoaxter.

The article also mentions a picture, but unfortunately doesn't reproduce it. I'm curious to see that picture.
Categories: Journalism, Sports
Posted by Alex on Fri May 12, 2006
Comments (7)
Status: Obituary
George Lutz of Amityville Horror fame has given up the ghost. He died of a heart attack in Las Vegas on May 8. George and his family lived in the house in Amityville, New York for four weeks in 1975 before supposedly being driven out of it by repeated paranormal occurrences (weird sounds and voices, green slime dripping from the ceiling, etc.) They left the house in a hurry, but weren't so scared that they weren't able to return and hold a garage sale. Personally I think the Amityville Horror story is complete baloney, but reportedly George Lutz always swore what happened was real. But then, he had so much invested in the tale (both emotionally and financially) that he would swear it was real. (Thanks to Joe for the link.)
Categories: Death, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Fri May 12, 2006
Comments (34)
Status: Real doors
image Fairy Doors are popping up around Ann Arbor, Michigan. No one knows who's building them. They just mysteriously appear. The Washington Post reports:

The entryways are Thumbelina small and are so subtle and incongruent that they're easy to overlook -- or dismiss. At first glance, you might mistake one of the eight doors for an electric socket or a mismatched brick. But look closely and you'll see evidence that, yes indeed, something very little could live in there.

One Ann Arbor resident speculates that the fairies are moving into Ann Arbor because they're being displaced from their rural homes by urban sprawl: "Searching for a new domicile, the winged ones -- who count among their relations the Tooth Fairy and Tinkerbell-- ventured into Ann Arbor... Wright surmised that, liking what they saw, they decided to uproot to specific addresses amenable to fairies." So how long before we get photographs of the Ann Arbor fairies?
Categories: Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Fri May 12, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: New Book
Kurt Kortenhof has sent word that his new book, LONG LIVE THE HODAG — The Life and Legacy of Eugene Simeon Shepard is now in print. For anyone interested in hoaxes, tall tales, and folklore, I figure it should be interesting. I've already ordered a copy.

For those who don't know what the Hodag is, it's a creature native to Wisconsin. It's said to have the head of a bull, the back of a dinosaur, and the leering features of a giant man. You can still find it featured on many Wisconsin postcards. Here's the book description:
Eugene Shepard was perhaps Wisconsin’s greatest prankster. His most famous accomplishment, the 1896 capture of the Hodag, created a legacy in and around Rhinelander, Wisconsin that has endured for over a century. Although other publications offer brief discussions of Shepard and his Hodag, Long Live the Hodag! is the only study dedicated to a detailed investigation of the Hodag and the Life and Legacy of Eugene Simeon Shepard.
This revised and updated edition incorporates previously unpublished historic photographs and new archival research, including a 1963 interview with Eugene Shepard’s son Layton, into the original 1996 version. In addition, this edition highlights Shepard’s talents as a humorist through the inclusion of more of his cartoons, hand-written photo captions, and an appendix of three of his lengthy writings.
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Wed May 10, 2006
Comments (2)
Status: Joke ballot
Reuters reports on a case of a dead guy who was temporarily in the running for Italy's president:
With no hope of immediately electing a president, lawmakers have been throwing away votes for the past two days while party leaders negotiate a consensus candidate. A secret ballot has allowed them to get creative. For one elector, the political deadlock offered a rare chance to vote for Padre Pio, a 20th century mystic monk who had the stigmata -- bleeding wounds in the hands and feet similar to those of Christ -- and was made a saint in 2002. The speaker of Italy's lower house of parliament immediately annulled the ballot paper. Padre Pio died in 1968.
For a second I thought this was some kind of allusion to Napoleon Dynamite. But that's Vote for Pedro, not Vote for Padre Pio. The similarity is coincidental, I'm sure. (Thanks to Big Gary, who has a knack for finding these 'dead guy running for office' stories.)

Related Post:
Apr. 9, 2006: Dead man runs for New Orleans Mayor
Categories: Death, Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed May 10, 2006
Comments (5)
Status: Practical joke
I evidently don't spend enough time on LiveJournal, because if I did I would have known about the IQ Challenge sooner. (It was evidently quite popular on LiveJournal.) As it is, I completely missed out on it, and now it's over.

What it was (or claimed to be) was an IQ test offered by IQ-Challenge.com. Once you completed the test, it produced a small graphic showing your score that you could post on your site. The joke was that the test gave everyone a high score. But the graphic that you posted on your site would (unbeknownst to you) show a low score. You can imagine the results this produced. Here's one person's description:
a lot of people got really cocky about how they scored on the IQ test. I saw one woman post the results on her blog and beneath the image she wrote something like: “Wow, I scored a 155! [My friend] only scored a 70. I guess I scored so much higher due to life experience and being a good test taker.” But the image said she only scored a 70-something as well.
Someone else’s blog post said, “I’m superior! I always knew I was brilliant!”
Just check out Google blogsearch…there are a ton of posts, mostly on Livejournal, of people proudly showing off their phony IQ scores. A few people even said, “This is a much better and more accurate IQ test than the one at Tickle.com!” Even though you could have guessed any question wrong on the phony test and have scored a 150+.
The weird thing is that I bet those people who believed they scored well on the test will continue to believe they have above-average intelligence, even after finding out that the test results were meaningless. That's just the way the mind works.

The test is no longer online, although I think whoever created it should keep it up. It would be like a permanent trap for the gullible.
Categories: Psychology
Posted by Alex on Wed May 10, 2006
Comments (36)
Status: Purposeful plagiarism
A hoax? A ploy? A gimmick? I'm not sure what to call this. Check out this piece by David Edelstein on plagiarism. Now read this, which reveals that Edelstein's piece on plagiarism was, except for the first and last lines, entirely plagiarized from other sources. Very clever! Seriously -- that's pretty neat. Very meta.

(This post was plagiarized from Penguins on the Equator... and thanks to Joe Littrell for the heads up about the New York Magazine piece.)
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Tue May 09, 2006
Comments (5)
Status: Believed to be a hoax
Here's an interesting news report from Ireland:
It has emerged that a joke bronze plaque found on Dublin's O'Connell Bridge has been there for three years. The plaque claims to mark the spot where a Father Pat Noise drowned when his carriage plunged into the Liffey, in suspicious circumstances, in 1919. But Dublin City Council says the priest is a fictitious figure, and wants the mystery sculptor to come forward. The plaque is arousing great public interest, and flowers and candles have been left on the bridge in memory of "Father Noise".

The Irish Sunday Tribune (no link) has a few more details:
The plaque, which even contains a picture alleging to be that of the mysterious religious figure, claims to mark the spot on which Fr Noise died "under suspicious circumstances when his carriage plunged into the Liffey on August 10th, 1919." The plaque states that Fr Noise was an "adviser to Peader Clancey."
After being informed by the Sunday Tribune of the plaque's existence, council officials inspected it on Friday afternoon and hope to identify when and how it was placed into a hole on top of the wall on the bridge. The plaque is located on the Ha'penny Bridge side of O'Connell Bridge, near to the traffic lights on Bachelor's Walk.
The plaque claims to have been erected by an organisation called "the HSTI", although the heritage department of the city council said it had never heard of a group by this name.
"Council officials had a look at the plaque (on Friday) but they said they had never seen it before," said a spokeswoman. "It is certainly very unusual for this to happen."
The council said that it was possible the plaque was erected legitimately a number of years ago, although this would seem most unlikely given that nobody seems to have noticed it until last week.
The rough manner in which the plaque is inserted into the wall would also suggest that it was placed only recently. Although it appears expertly made, it is too small for the hole, which has several rough edges.
Council officials will now attempt to pinpoint the age of the plaque and the historical significance of 'Fr Pat Noise' before making a decision on whether or not to remove the memorial.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any pictures of this plaque.

[Update:] Here's a picture of the plaque, though it doesn't let you see it very well.
image
Categories: History, Places
Posted by Alex on Tue May 09, 2006
Comments (11)
Status: Imposter
image The scam of pretending to be British peerage is still going strong. A few months ago we heard about that guy in Minnesota who was picking up teenage girls by claiming to be the Fifth Duke of Cleveland (aka the Earl of Scooby). Now comes word of a far more elaborate scam. The man in question called himself Christopher Buckingham, the Earl of Buckingham. He had been living under that identity for almost twenty years. Police realized last year that he was living under a false name when his passport got checked as he was crossing the Channel. (The real Christopher Buckingham had died as an infant.) But police couldn't figure out what his true identity was. Until now. Turns out he's Charles Stopford of Florida. The Stopford family recognized him when they saw a story about him in The Times. He had disappeared twenty years ago and they had no clue what became of him.
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Tue May 09, 2006
Comments (8)
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