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June 2006
Status: Undetermined
image The following technique to relieve nasal congestion by massaging points on your nose has been widely linked to (especially after getting posted on digg.com). Supposedly this technique will provide immediate relief from congestion. Here's what you're supposed to do:
Perform the below routine 3 times:
1. Perform 10 pressures on a cavity at the corner of the nostrils (point 1). You should almost close and open the nostrils when you do the round movement.
2. Perform 10 pressures on a cavity just below the corner of the eyes near the nose (point 2)
3. Perform 10 pressures on a cavity just below the ear, behind the earlobe (point 3)
4. Massage the earlobe 10 times (point 4)

After performing the above 3 times, you should feel immediate relief of your nasal congestion. It is advised to return on the above procedure again in about 10 minutes to make it more permanent or the congestion could return.
I haven't tried this, but I'd be willing to bet that it doesn't work for me. Massaging my nose might feel good and temporarily relieve some pressure, but I can't imagine it would actually clear up congestion. For that I rely on drugs. If I have an allergic reaction, zyrtec works pretty well for me. (Claritin does almost nothing.) If I have a cold, I use Nyquil. Though I've heard Nyquil doesn't work as well as it used to since ingredients have been removed so that it can no longer be used to manufacture home-made methamphetamines.
Categories: Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 12, 2006
Comments (16)
Status: Fake flavors
image The latest scandal in the world of French gourmet cuisine: the use of artificial bottled flavors (aka arômes artificiels) to substitute for high-end ingredients such as truffles, wild mushroom, caviar, prawn, crab, shallot, scallop, saffron, and even wine. The London Times reports:
in the kitchen, the chefs are spraying an omelette with a truffle-flavoured chemical and injecting fake wild-mushroom drops into a duck filet. Science fiction? No, this is the reality in many French restaurants, which are “cheating” their customers with a growing range of artificial products, according to gastronomic purists. They say that the use of flavourings to enhance the taste of otherwise ordinary dishes is misleading because they are rarely mentioned on the menu. For years, secrecy surrounded the products, which come in liquid and powdered form. They were an unspoken ingredient of contemporary Gallic gastronomy. But their existence has been brought into the open by two leading chefs, Joel Robuchon and Alain Passard, who have both spoken out against what they describe as a “scandal”. “It is shameful,” said M Passard
Many of these aromes can be purchased at chefsimon.com. Their pictures of the flavorings, such as the artificial wine powder, are kind of interesting. But their product page also bears the warning: USONS SANS ABUSER! (Let us use without abusing!)
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Sun Jun 11, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: Weird News (doesn't seem to be a scam)
A few days ago a Burger King restaurant in the Netherlands debuted a new dish: frog salad. The first customer of this dish, a 23-year-old woman named Astrid Roek, had not realized what she had ordered. ABC News reports:
"What's happened is that one of our guests Thursday evening found a frog in her salad. She went to the manager and showed him the frog. He saw it was there and that's a fact," said spokeswoman Christine Frey. Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad quoted the customer, identified as 23-year-old Astrid Roek, as saying "it was a big black thing, a frog or a toad." She said she found the amphibian while halfway through her meal at the Burger King restaurant at The Hague's central train station. "I stood up and screamed the place upside-down," she told the paper. Roek has submitted a complaint to the Dutch Food and Wares Authority, but is not expected to sue for emotional damages or punitive damages in the matter: large compensation suits are virtually unknown in the Netherlands.
So just to clarify: Burger King hadn't intended for the frog to get in the salad, but somehow it got there anyway. They're not really serving Frog Salad. (Though that item might go over well in France.) The question is, did the woman put the frog there, or was it Burger King's fault? It sounds like BK is taking the blame for this incident. Given the frequency of these gross-stuff-found-in-food stories, I think I'll soon need to devote a separate page to them. (Thanks to Stephen for the link.)
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 10, 2006
Comments (8)
Status: Hoax
imageTodd emailed me a link to this Phoenix New Times article about rogue chef "Kaz" Yamamoto, whose specialty is creating dishes from "meat, game and vegetation that's considered off limits, immoral or even illegal." We're talking about dishes such as Tenderloin of Bichon Frise, monkey brain stew, Arizona saguaro cactus salad, Yosemite brown bear, rhino genitals, giraffe tongue, Sea World sea lion (supposedly obtained by bribing a Sea World employee), etc. Yamamoto even claims to serve human flesh, obtained by paying Mexican immigrants a handsome sum for their kidney, arm, or leg. These delicacies are all served to a rich and powerful clientele who have a taste for forbidden food.


As Todd points out, this sounds a bit farfetched (and very reminiscent of the plot of The Freshman), but then again the Phoenix New Times is a real, credible paper. So why would they be making all this up? The answer is that the Phoenix New Times occasionally likes to print hoax stories. Back in 2004 I posted about their article on human taxidermy, which described a company that offered freeze-drying of corpses as an alternative to burial or cremation. (You could stand freeze-dried Grandma in the corner of your living room.) Human taxidermy was a hoax, and so is the extreme cuisine of Kaz Yamamoto. Clues (besides the outlandish nature of the article itself) are the photoshopped pictures (such as the one of Yamamoto cutting down a protected saguaro cactus) and the "Details" box which reads "Special Reports: As If. . .".
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 10, 2006
Comments (6)
Status: Weird News
I'm not quite sure what's going on in this story, but it's not often that a wild goose chase literally happens, so I thought it was worth posting. Chris Kaye reports for KSL local news in Utah:
Officers pulled over a car fitting the description of one allegedly used to swipe a goose from the Utah Botanical Gardens. Sergeant John Spencer says when he looked inside the vehicle, he found everyone inside was obeying traffic laws.
"The goose was in the front seat and was seat belted in. It had a seatbelt across it to protect the bird I guess," says Spencer. Davis County dispatchers got a good chuckle out of the call.
So did the dispatcher send Sergeant Spencer to pull over the car with the goose as a joke? Or had some people really stolen a goose from the Utah Botanical Gardens? And if so, why?
Categories: Animals, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 10, 2006
Comments (3)
Status: Real
image A video on YouTube shows a MacBook Pro that has supposedly been hacked to rapidly change applications whenever it's smacked on the side. (Thanks to Kathy for sending the link.) I have to admit that when I first saw it, I thought it was fake. I figured the guy was probably pushing a button to make the applications change. However, after reading Erling Ellingsen's description on Medallia blog of how the SmackBook was created, I'm now pretty sure it's real. He writes:
Turns out, the laptop has a built-in motion sensor. Nominally, it's there to protect the internal hard drive. The basic idea is this: If the accelerometer suddenly notices that the gravitational pull of earth is no longer present, the most likely explanation is that the laptop, sensor and all, is currently accelerating at 9.81 m/s² towards said earth. In that case, it will (wisely) try to turn the hard drive off in preparation for impact. It can, however, also be used in situations not involving lobbing the laptop across the room, fun though that may be.
More importantly, he also provides the code so that anyone else can hack the Mac's built-in motion sensor and create a SmackBook, if they desire. And a few people have reported successfully replicating the SmackBook. It's a cool little trick, but I don't see it having that many practical applications.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 09, 2006
Comments (8)
Status: Probably fake
image Peter Wenker sent along this picture of a giant jellyfish. He doesn't think it's real, and I'd agree. I know that giant jellyfish do exist, such as the ones that recently appeared off the coast of Japan, but those were about the size of a washing machine, not the size of a truck. I've never heard of a jellyfish this big. So is this picture another product of Worth1000?

Update: Accipiter found a version of this same photo minus the diver, which would seem to indicate that the version with the diver has been photoshopped. (Unless it was the diver who was photoshopped out, but that seems very unlikely to me... [Wait a second, on a closer look it does seem that something might have been removed from the version without the diver. This will require more investigation.] ) The page he linked to also had some interesting jellyfish trivia, such as "The largest jellyfish ever found was a lion’s mane, with a bell 2m (7ft) across, and tentacles extending more than 35m" and "A collection of jellyfish is known as a smack."
image
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 09, 2006
Comments (49)
Status: Case of mistaken identity
imageIt's not quite as dramatic as the cases of humans raised with wolves, but it's interesting nevertheless. Rolo the Sheep was raised with collies, and now seems to believe that she's a dog. The BBC reports:
Rolo - named after her favourite sweets - competes with sheepdogs to jump through hoops, walks on a lead and herds ducks at her Gwynedd home. Owner Emlyn Roberts says Rolo likes nothing more than watching football on TV after calling up for her food...
"She comes to the house to be fed and to watch the television," he added.
"She comes in dead on time every day and knocks the door with her head if I've forgotten," he added.
"She is growing up exactly like a dog. You can tell she thinks of herself as a dog."
Once her dinner is finished, Rolo will then sit with Mr Roberts as he watches the television and seems to especially enjoy ball games with plenty of action.
I'm not sure what my cat thinks she is. She definitely considers herself better than other cats, but also better than us humans. She probably considers herself a deity.
Categories: Animals, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 07, 2006
Comments (10)
Status: Strange but true
Here's the scene: a high school criminology class on a field trip to the local park. Their teacher has created fake bodies for them to find. But wait a second. One of those bodies looks awfully real. The AP reports:
Truth proved to be stranger than fiction for a high school criminology class investigating a fake crime scene after students discovered a real dead body on a field trip. Teacher Sue Messenger has been planting cardboard skeletons with bullet holes, fake knives and other evidence at mock crime scenes for more than 20 years to give her students a firsthand look at what crime scene investigators do. The discovery Monday at Fort Lauderdale's Holiday Park by 29 students from St. Thomas Aquinas High School suddenly brought the classroom to life - or death. "It was a good crash course," said Juan Cantor, a 15-year-old sophomore. "The first thing we thought was, 'That's a real good dummy she set up.'"
Reality has a strange way of doing that, intruding on our make-believe games. But I predict that it's only a matter of time before this particular event gets refictionalized as part of the storyline of a TV crime drama (probably CSI).
Categories: Death, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 07, 2006
Comments (3)
Status: Strange but true
Poor Prince Philip never seems to get that much attention, overshadowed as he is by his famous wife, the Queen. But he can console himself with the knowledge that the residents of Tanna, a volcanic island in the Pacific, worship him as a god. UPI reports:
Members of the Yaohahnen tribe have developed their own form of cargo cult, belief systems dating to World War II, when U.S. military planes dropped boxes of supplies by parachute that some Pacific islanders believed had come from the gods. The tribe, who live on one of the islands in the archipelago country of Vanuatu, decided that Prince Philip, consort of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, brings prosperity. The islanders realize that the prince, who celebrated his 85th birthday Saturday, is not immortal.
"We want him to spend the last years of his life here, because we believe that when he returns as our god, his powers will make our wrinkles disappear and we will have many wives to attend to our every need," Jack Naiva, the Yaohahnen chief, told the Daily Mail. "He won't have to hunt for pigs or anything. He can just sit in the sun and have a nice time."
Philip has sent the tribe pictures of himself. But Buckingham Palace said the prince is not planning to move to Tanna -- or even to visit.
It's the line about wrinkle removal that gets me. Are the Yaohahnen especially concerned about their wrinkles? And why would they think Prince Philip would be able to remove them, given that he's not exactly the smoothest-faced person in the world?

On the subject of cargo cults, Smithsonian Magazine ran an interesting article a few months back about them, specifically a group of South Pacific islanders who worship an American named John Frum.
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 06, 2006
Comments (12)
Status: Undetermined
Apparently the movie 40 Year-Old Virgin should have been set in Japan, if the new study ("Male and Female Life and Awareness") by the Japan Family Planning Association is to be believed. It found that "7.9% of the men in the 40-45 age segment claimed they have yet to experience sex." That seems like an awfully high figure, and without knowing any details about the study (how were the questions phrased, how many people were questioned, etc.) it's difficult to know whether to take it seriously. Kunio Kitamura, director of the JFPA, blames this figure on poor male-female communication in Japan and widespread performance anxiety among Japanese men: "Their concerns, over things like being unable to achieve erection, or enabling their partner to reach orgasm, became so oppressive they decided to avoid sex altogether." I've searched, but I can't find any more details about this study other than this lone article. (My lack of knowledge of Japanese obviously hindered my search.) But my gut feeling is that this study probably isn't too reliable.
Categories: Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 06, 2006
Comments (15)
Status: Strange, but true
California realtors have devised a new way to sell homes. They're hiring actors to play "happy families" during open houses:
Attractive film and stage actors are cast in the roles of cheerful-looking parents and their angelic children, recreating scenes of domestic bliss that they hope will impress prospective buyers...
With Hollywood just down the road, there is no shortage of photogenic and unemployed actors, for whom the alternatives are normally bit parts in television advertisements and waiting on tables. Centex recruited Jaason Simmons, 35, best known for his three-year stint as a lifeguard on Baywatch, to play the father of the fictitious family. Camille Chen, a television and film actress, is "mother" while two children from a local theatre company are the couple's offspring. While the "family" cooks, eats, chats, plays games and watches television, a stream of house-hunters passes through. The viewers are encouraged to treat the occupants as "real" people and quiz them on the items such as the oven or refrigerator, for which the actors are given fact sheets to mug up on beforehand. Normally, the "guests" will find themselves gatecrashing an uplifting family occasion, such as the baking of a birthday cake. "We do it as a free-flowing improvisation - set the parameters and make it like a play, with specific acts," said Mr Garfield.
My wife and I often go to open houses in our neighborhood, partially because we like seeing what other people have done with their homes and partially because we're thinking of moving. Just last week we went to one in which the homeowners were there with their kid. They seemed like nice people, but now I'm wondering if it was all fake. Maybe they were just actors.

My favorite part of the article is this line: "A second show day at the development, which features three to five-bedroom homes from $500,000 (£280,000) to $610,000, is planned for Saturday. The cast will be the same except for Miss Chen, who has a previous engagement and will be "changed out" for a new mum." This immediately brought to mind Lucy Clifford's short story "The New Mother", in which misbehaving kids learn that their poor suffering mother is going to be changed out for a new mother (a mechanical one with a rat's tail). So I'm thinking that parents who visit the Centex open houses can now warn their kids that if they misbehave they'll be sent to live with one of these fake happy families. That would scare me if I were a kid. (via J-Walk)
Categories: Entertainment, Places
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 06, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: Probably Real
An anonymous contributor sent me a link to this image depicting an ancient Huichol Indian labor pain relief technique. The text reads:
Huichol Indians are descendants of the Aztecs, and live in the mountains of North Central Mexico. During traditional childbirth, the father sits above his labouring wife on the roof of their hut. Ropes are tied around his testicles and his wife holds onto the other ends. Each time she feels a painful contraction, she tugs on the ropes so that her husband will share some of the pain of their child's entrance into the world.
image

Do the Huichol Indians really have such a custom? I assumed it was a joke, but after googling for a bit I came across a scholarly article that mentions this practice and also provides a source to back up the claim. The birthing tradition is mentioned at the very end of the article (I don't know who the author is):
I would like to leave the audience with one parting thought/image, from a yarn painting pictured in Art of the Huichol Indians (Kathleen Berrin, ed., 1978), which was created by Guadalupe, who was married to Ramón Medina Silva (a mara’akáme). The two of them participated in the filming of a peyote hunt (pilgrimage) in 1968, which became a documentary, To Find our Life (Furst 1969), and were the subjects of several ethnographic works on the Huichol... Here is the title of the painting and description (from the book):

How The Husband Assists in the Birth of a Child:
According to the Huichol tradition, when a woman had her first child the husband squatted in the rafters of the house, or in the branches of a tree, directly above her, with ropes attached to his scrotum. As she went into labor pain, the wife pulled vigorously on the ropes, so that her husband shared in the painful, but ultimately joyous, experience of childbirth. (Berrin 1978: 162)
So, given that the scrotum-tied-husband custom is apparently mentioned in Kathleen Berrin's Art of the Huichol Indians, I'm inclined to believe that the custom is real. Though, of course, the Huichol woman who created the yarn painting may have intended it as a joke. I'll need to do more research to get to the bottom of this.
Categories: Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 06, 2006
Comments (22)
Status: Hoax
The latest false celebrity death rumor going around concerns Jaleel White (best known for playing Urkel on Family Matters). Supposedly he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. This rumor is old. It was first posted on my site over half a year ago (in the comments to my post titled 'Is this Jaleel White?'). It's no truer now than it was then. I have no idea why it's begun circulating again, but here are the main highlights from the hoax AP report:
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Jaleel White, who played 'nerdy' neighbor Steve Urkel on "Family Matters" found dead Monday. He was 29 years old.
White was pronounced dead on arrival after admission to an LA hospital early Monday morning. The death is being investigated as a suicide.
Born Jaleel Ahmad White, he began his career at the age of three acting in television commercials, before landing guest spots on shows such as "The Jeffersons" and "Mr. Belvedere." It was in 1989 that White landed the role that would make him famous, playing wacky neighbor 'Steve Urkel' on the ABC program "Family Matters."
Following the cancellation of "Family Matters" in 1997, friends claim White became obsessed with the character, and grew despondent, despite further successes as star and producer of the UPN sitcom "Grownups", and as a writer for NBA.com
Neighbor and friend, Bradley Spencer alerted police after hearing what he described as "a loud bang" coming from White's Los Angeles apartment.
Authorities state that upon entering the home they discovered a young African-American male with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Also found was a note, which read simply "Did I do that?", a popular catchphrase from the show.
Like I said, this was all posted on my site over half a year ago. Which means that when people did a Google search for info about Jaleel White committing suicide, my site was one of the first they found. Because of this, my page about Jaleel White started to receive huge amounts of traffic. So much traffic that it was not only slowing the entire site down, but was also slowing other sites that were located on the same server at my web host. Nevin, the technical guy at my web host, has been exchanging emails with me about it all day. What we've done to try to ease the strain on the server is to automatically route people visiting the comments for that old Jaleel White thread to my page about false celebrity death rumors (which is a static page and therefore uses less of the cpu).
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 05, 2006
Comments (237)
Status: True
Most people think rock music got its start as an identifiable genre in the 1950s with artists such as Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley. Not so. As Paul Collins points out in the current issue of The Believer, there was a thriving tradition of rock music during the nineteenth century. In fact, rock music was invented in 1785 by a retired sailor named Peter Crosthwaite in the Lake District village of Keswick. Of course, the nineteenth-century version of rock music was a bit more low-key than its twentieth-century successor, since it involved music played with rocks, as opposed to guitars and drums.

When I first saw Collins's article, I thought he had to be joking. But no, a little research confirmed that Victorian rock music was quite real. I found an article in the Galphin Society Journal (Aug, 1989) about the "Till Family Rock Band," a group that toured quite widely during the 1880s, written by a modern-day member of the family, A.M. Till. He writes:
Their rock harmonicon was constructed from stones from near their home. The first lithophone of this kind, made from stones found in the Lake District was built in 1785, and from that time until the late nineteenth century several so-called 'rock bands' became well known. The late Professor James Blades has written about them in his textbook on percussion, and also, under 'Lithophone', in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (London, 1984). He also recorded briefly the 5-octave Richardson rock harmonica (constructed in 1840). These instruments have a wonderful, lively tone.
Below is a picture of the Till Family Rock Band, posing with their rocks. They look like rockers to me.
image
Categories: Entertainment, History
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 05, 2006
Comments (8)
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