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May 2007
Way back when -- almost four years ago -- I posted a brief entry about a doctor who was providing people with fake doctor notes. I titled the entry "Fake Doctor Notes," and soon, for some reason, that post became the number one result on google for the keywords "fake doctor notes." As a result, the comments began to fill with people asking me to provide them with fake notes. This went on for years. I'm sure the moderators remember it well. It only ended when we finally disabled commenting for that post, after the comments had grown to 46 pages and 911 comments in total.

I assumed that it would be illegal to actually provide people with fake doctor notes, but here's a site that's doing exactly that: myexcusedabsence.com. The site claims that, for only $24.95, it will provide you with a fake excuse saying that you've been at a doctor or a dentist's appointment, been to the emergency room, had jury duty, or been at a funeral. (I wonder who the note comes from in the case of a funeral? From the funeral director?) It looks like what you get for this money is a Word template formatted to look like an official note. For that amount of money, I think it would be a lot easier simply to create your own fake note in Word.

The site blatantly states that you can use these notes to get out of work or school, but then at the bottom of the page, in very small print, it says "For Entertainment Use Only." I'm guessing this is their legal cover for an otherwise shady operation.

Sunjournal.com has an article about a woman from New Jersey who tried to use an excuse provided by myexcusedabsence.com to explain why she failed to show up for traffic court. The court spotted the note as a fake, and is now considering filing contempt charges against her.
Categories: Business/Finance, Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Thu May 31, 2007
Comments (21)
Back in 2000 an email rumor was going around here in the U.S. warning of bananas infected by a flesh-eating bacteria. The rumor read, in part, that:
Several shipments of bananas from Costa Rica have been infected with necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh-eating bacteria... It is advised not to purchase bananas for the next three weeks.
Because of this rumor, the Centers for Disease Control had to issue a warning assuring everyone that no shipments of killer bananas had ever arrived from Costa Rica, or anywhere else in the world.

It now looks like a variant of the killer-banana rumor has popped up in China. The BBC reports that:
A rumour spread by text message has badly hit the price of bananas from China's Hainan island, state media say. The messages claim the fruit contains viruses similar to Sars, the severe respiratory illness which has killed hundreds of people worldwide.
The Chinese Health Ministry has issued a statement, assuring everyone that there is no truth to the banana rumor and noting that, "There has not been a case in the world in which humans have contracted a plant virus, and there is not any scientific evidence."
Categories: Food, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu May 31, 2007
Comments (8)
Inventor John Kanzius claims that he has discovered a way to make saltwater burn. This discovery could eventually lead, he suggests, to cars that run on saltwater. This suggestion places Kanzius in a long tradition of inventors (and con artists) who have claimed to have found ways to use water as fuel, reducing his credibility right away. But as always with these things, once is tempted to think that maybe this time the guy is really onto something.

Check out the video about his discovery on YouTube (below). Kanzius explains that he was originally searching for a way to cure cancer. He reasoned that if he injected tiny amounts of metal, such as gold, into cancer patients, that these metal bits would be attracted to the cancer cells, and he could then use radio waves to heat up the metal and destroy the cancer cells.

Fortuitously, Kanzius then discovered that these same radio waves would also heat saltwater and make it burn. He has yet to reveal the exact mechanism of his radio transmitter, but he has demonstrated the process.

Assuming the guy isn't totally lying (which is not necessarily a good assumption), then it would appear on the surface that Kanzius has discovered an interesting new phenomenon. But whether this phenomenon can be used to power vehicles is another question altogether. For instance, how much power is the radio transmitter using to ignite the saltwater? Somehow inventions like this always seem great at first, but they never seem to amount to anything.

There are more videos about Kanzius collected at magistrala.cz.

Categories: Free Energy
Posted by Alex on Thu May 31, 2007
Comments (33)
Residents of Ashford, England have been warned of a nefarious scam being practiced in the area. A "bogus caller" claiming to be a tree surgeon will knock on a person's door. The caller tells the person they have a problem tree in their yard that needs some work. Borough tree officer Mark Symonds warns that, "Sadly, some have been taken in and had prize trees ruined by shoddy workmanship. No reputable local tree surgeon would call unannounced in the hope of finding work.” The Kent News reports:
Mr Symonds warned people not to be taken in by doorstep callers claiming connections with the council, even if they showed a business card and appeared to have some knowledge of trees. And he said anyone could call themselves a tree surgeon - but he said a competent professional would have a certificate to show they had been trained. They would also often have other qualifications along with safety equipment to protect residents, property, and themselves.
Frankly, I had no clue there even was such a thing as a "Borough tree officer." And if someone had come to my door offering to work on my trees, I might have been totally taken in. Now I'll know better.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Wed May 30, 2007
Comments (5)
In recent weeks, seniors at high schools throughout America have once again been busy dreaming up pranks. Here are two that have made their way to YouTube.

image The Portland Peace Sign: Students at Wilson High School in Portland, Oregon planted $600 worth of marigolds in the shape of a peace sign on the front lawn of the school. That actually seems like quite a nice gesture. A prank that creates something positive instead of being merely destructive or obnoxious. But in a display of a complete lack of humor, school officials are holding one senior solely responsible for the prank and insisting that she pay up to $1,000 for the removal of the flowers. Her mistake was admitting to a local TV news crew that she participated in the prank. The school has turned down offers by parents who were willing to remove the flowers free of charge. The Oregonian has a brief article about it, and a video on YouTube shows a brief view of the peace sign.

image The Foothills Streaker: In a more traditional prank, Cameron Blazevich, a student at Catalina Foothills High School, streaked across the field during graduation wearing only a jock strap and sneakers. YouTube has the footage.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed May 30, 2007
Comments (10)
Belly Dancer Has Half Her Bottom Removed
German belly dancer Julia 'Cleopatra' Meyer went to a private clinic to get liposuction on her thighs. Unfortunately, the surgeon removed fat from her right buttock instead. She was awarded the equivalent of £12,000 - twice what she had asked for in compensation.
(Thanks, Sophie.)

Imposter at Stanford
For eight months, Azia Kim lived on campus, studied with friends, and ate in the cafeteria. Trouble is, she wasn't actually a student there.

Swedish TV Apologises to Prime Minister Over Water Prank
STV have announced that they "deeply apologise" after one of their reporters sprayed the Swedish Prime Minister with water from a fake microphone at the premiere of the Pirates of the Caribbean film.
Categories: Health/Medicine, Identity/Imposters, Pranks
Posted by Flora on Tue May 29, 2007
Comments (5)
imageChad wrote to the website of Coast to Coast with George Noory to talk about his experience with a UFO.

In April, Chad and his wife were on a walk when they saw the UFO for the first time. A few days later, he and a friend took a camera and found the craft again.

Chad claims that the craft is almost silent, but when neared, it seems to make crackling or humming noises - "almost like when you are near very large power lines." It usually moves slowly, but then will suddenly move off very quickly. It's also said to change direction abruptly.

Chad is worried that the UFO is causing the headaches and fatigue that he and his wife are experiencing (although it should be noted that his wife is pregnant, and her doctor says that would explain her symptoms).

As for the photographs, there are a number of questionable aspects to them. The size of the craft seems to be somewhat variable in comparison to the scenery around it. The lighting doesn't appear to match the lighting on the trees. I also have the personal problem that the UFO reminds me of a kitchen implement.

I can't identify the text on the wing(?). It reminds me of Klingon, but doesn't seem to actually be Klingon. If anyone recognises the text, do let us know.
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life, Photos/Videos
Posted by Flora on Mon May 28, 2007
Comments (20)
The London Times reports that Tony Wright of Cornwall recently stayed awake for 266 hours. He was attempting to break the world record of 264 hours awake set by Randy Gardner of San Diego in 1964. Wright was also attempting to demonstrate that, thanks to his "caveman diet" of raw food, he was able to "train his mind in such a way as to stay awake for 11 days and remain coherent and aware of what was going on around him."

The Times then goes on to report the bad news. Gardner didn't actually hold the world record for staying awake. Gardner's record had long since been surpassed by others. So Wright didn't set a new record.

The Times reports that: "The Guinness previous record was for 11½ days, or 276 hours, and was set by Toimi Soini in Hamina, Finland, between February 5 to 15, 1964." However, Soini's record was removed from the Guinness Book of Records in 1989. "It was deleted on the grounds that it could encourage records harmful to health and was unverifiable because of the claims of insomnia sufferers."

Actually, the question of who holds the world record for staying awake is a little more complicated than that, which I know because Gardner's sleep deprivation experiment is one of the experiments I discuss in Elephants On Acid: and Other Bizarre Experiments. I even interviewed Randy Gardner, who still lives in San Diego.

Gardner set his record on January 8, 1964. Two weeks later newspapers reported that Jim Thomas, a student at Fresno State College, beat Gardner's record by staying awake for 266.5 hours. And a month later Soini set the new record. 1964 was a banner year for sleep-deprivation trials.

However, subsequent issues of the Guinness Book of Records report far longer periods of sleep deprivation. The 1978 edition, for instance, states that:
The longest recorded period for which a person has voluntarily gone without sleep is 449 hr (14 days 13 hours) by Mrs. Maureen Weston of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire in a rocking chair marathon on 14 Apr.-2 May 1977. Though she tended to hallucinate toward the end of this surely ill-advised test, she surprisingly suffered no lasting ill effects.
Ironically, I don't believe Randy Gardner's record ever did make it into Guinness. Gardner reports that "I did not get listed in Guiness as I missed the publication date." However, Gardner's record is the most frequently cited because it was (and probably still is) the most scientifically rigorous long-term human sleep-deprivation study, since Gardner was monitored by Dr. William Dement of Stanford University.

The overall problem with determining the record for the longest a person has stayed awake is that people take "microsleeps" without being aware of it. To really determine if a person has been constantly awake you'd need to record their brainwaves throughout the experiment. As far as I know, such a study has never been done.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Science
Posted by Alex on Sat May 26, 2007
Comments (208)
image Quite a few people have emailed me about this. An eleven-year-old Alabama boy claims to have killed a wild hog that's even bigger than Hogzilla. Hogzilla weighed 800lbs and measured 8-feet. Hogzilla II apparently weighs 1050lbs and measures 9-feet-4.
Jamison, who killed his first deer at age 5, was hunting with father Mike Stone and two guides in east Alabama on May 3 when he bagged Hogzilla II. He said he shot the huge animal eight times with a .50- caliber revolver and chased it for three hours through hilly woods before finishing it off with a point-blank shot.
Since Hogzilla turned out to be real, I'm a little hesitant to be skeptical of Hogzilla II. After all, hogs can get big. The boy's father has created a website, monsterpig.com, about the hog.

The fact that the boy is fairly small, being only eleven-years-old, may exaggerate the hog's size in the photo, but I wouldn't call this an intentional attempt to deceive. Overall my hunch is that this is not a hoax.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Sat May 26, 2007
Comments (24)
As some people receive Museum updates via RSS feed, or just don't frequent the forum, we have decided to round up some of the most interesting threads each week for all to see.

imageRabbit-Headed Cat (Smerk)
Two carcasses discovered in 1988 and 1993 are thought to be a new species – rabbit-headed wildcats. These Kellas cats seem to be rare, and investigators are urging landowners and gamekeepers to help them discover more. Sadly, the rabbit-like ears aren’t as impressive as I’d hoped.

Get your free virus now! (Accipiter)
“Is your PC virus-free? Get it infected here!”
409 people decided to click the text advertisement that Finnish IT security expert Didier Stevens had placed on Google’s Adword. Stevens’s experiment was aiming to show that such advertisements could be used with malicious intent. There was, of course, no virus.

June 6, Théopolis World Contact with Aliens (Antoll MA)
On June 6th, the annual gathering to officially ask the alien gods to visit will take place in Théopolis.

Boost Car Remote With Your Skull (Tah)
This video (not suitable for work, due to the type of adverts on the site) demonstrates how, by placing your car remote under your chin and opening your mouth, you can boost the range of the remote. Apparently it uses your oral cavity to amplify the signal. The video doesn’t actually show the remote being used at the same time as showing the car react, so it could be faked. There’s really no way of telling. A couple of forum members have tried it, with mixed results.

Tims Don’t Look Like Bobs (Tah)
A new study reveals that the more a person ‘resembles’ their name, the more likely it is that others will remember it.
Categories: Animals, Extraterrestrial Life, Psychology, Technology
Posted by Flora on Fri May 25, 2007
Comments (13)
A series of articles by Dave Clarke of the Star Courier has revived interest in the legend of the Deerman. The legend is local to Kewanee, Illinois. It tells of a creature, with the upper body of a deer and the lower body of a man, that lurks in the woods, occasionally popping up to scare lovers parked on moonlit nights or people wandering around alone. Supposedly if you see Deerman three times you die.

Clarke credits Jerry Moriarity, the editor and publisher of the Star Courier during the '50s and '60s, with popularizing the legend of the Deerman in his column "Mostly Malarkey."

Half-human/half-animal creatures are a staple of local legends. Some of the other famous ones that I know about are Mothman of West Virginia, the Owlman of Cornwall, the Goatman of Maryland, and the Lizard Man of South Carolina. I'm sure there must be many others. (Thanks, Joe)
Categories: Cryptozoology, Folklore/Tall Tales, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Fri May 25, 2007
Comments (19)
I came across an interesting question asked to a reporter in the Charlotte Observer. Actually, I initially thought it was a really stupid question, but part of the answer surprised me. The question was:
Q. Is the name of the carnival game Whac-a-Mole derived from the word "guacamole"?
Like I said, I thought it was a stupid question. Just because the two words end in "mole," that doesn't mean they have anything to do with each other. And sure enough, the reporter, Jeff Elder, confirmed that the name "Whac-a-mole" is not, in any way, derived from the word guacamole. He called up Michael Lane, chief financial officer of Bob's Space Racers of Daytona Beach, Fla., makers of Whac-a-Mole. Lane said, "The name origin in English is a short way to describe the action of play."

But the weird part of the answer is that Guaca-mole is a trademarked name for the game in Spain, Mexico, and other Spanish-speaking countries. "The reason for this name, Lane says, is that pronunciation in Spanish is very similar for Whac-a-Mole and Guaca-Mole." So the two words are linked, in a roundabout way.

I say Whac-a-mole with three syllables and Guacamole with four syllables (pronouncing the "e" on the end), but I'm guessing Spanish speakers must pronounce Whac-a-mole with four syllables. And if you say it in this way, it can sound a lot like Guacamole.
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Fri May 25, 2007
Comments (16)
image Ananova reports a case of a cat in China that has grown wings. The owner of the cat, Granny Feng, says, ""At first, they were just two bumps, but they started to grow quickly, and after a month there were two wings."

Ananova isn't the most reliable of sources, but I don't see any reason to doubt this story. Winged cats are a rare, but entirely possible phenomena. I could have sworn they'd been covered on the MoH before, but apparently not (at least I can't find any mention of them after doing a search).

Messybeast.com offers the best discussion of winged cats, explaining that the "wings" are typically mats of fur, or the result of either a congenital deformity or a skin condition. (Thanks, Kathy)
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Thu May 24, 2007
Comments (16)

Robber holds up bank using baby doll
A 25-year-old man attempted to hold up a bank in Karachi, brandishing a baby doll and a blood pressure pump. He said the doll was a bomb and the pump was a grenade. The police were called and arrested the man. The bomb disposal team then discovered the doll was stuffed with harmless wires. The would-be robber "said that he had earlier tried to rob the same bank on Saturday, but had been foiled because it was closed."

image Paris Hilton Jail Edition Doll on eBay
"Comes with jail accessories like - jail window, handcuffs, LA County number sign, mugshot wall, and ball & chain. Also comes with a matching purse, and tinkerbell chihuahua"

Tiny Pocket People
The perfect gift for someone who has everything -- but you! Give them a miniaturized, doll-version of yourself. "At TinyPocketPeople, we create an unique, personalized miniature you, based on your uploaded digital photograph. And just like you, are each and every TinyPocketPeople doll unique."
Categories: eBay, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu May 24, 2007
Comments (4)
Taiwanese politics can get quite violent at times. According to a recent Reuters article:
In January, a brawl involving about 50 MPs who wanted to stop parliament speaker Wang Jin-pyng from accessing his podium lasted for four hours.
Shoes were thrown at the speaker, a microphone was ripped out and thrown across the chambers. MPs shoved and pulled one another's ties. Wang never made it to the podium.
Some of the brawling MPs turned to reporters and cameramen, yelling slogans to them and brandishing signs.
In 2005 one legislator needed stitches after he was struck by a mobile phone. Last year an MP used tear gas. Shouting exchanges occur almost every week on the parliament floor.
But according to the same article, these fights are all staged for the benefit of the media:
The brawling and histrionics in parliament that have put Taiwan politics on the world map for the past 20 years are staged acts, legislators and political observers say. They are planned in advance to generate media attention and garner favour with voters who like to see their representatives fight as hard as they can on tough issues. Lawmakers even call up allies to ask that they wear sports shoes ahead of the choreographed clashes. They have been known to meet up afterwards for drinks. "It's really a media event, staged for media coverage," said Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Joanna Lei.
I guess this would be the Jerry-Springer-Show model of government.

Well, at least staged fights make political debates more interesting. It would certainly liven up American politics to put all the candidates in a ring and let them duke it out.

Of course, there have been some scuffles in Congress, such as when, in 1798, Roger Griswold attacked Matthew Lyon with a stick. And in 1856 Preston Brooks attacked Sen. Charles Sumner with a cane. But those fights weren't staged. (Thanks, Joe)
Categories: Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed May 23, 2007
Comments (2)
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