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August 2007
Elliot's latest addition to the Hoaxipedia details scams involving the Brooklyn Bridge. I like this one in particular:
In 1886, not long after the Brooklyn Bridge opened, another famous scam was perpetrated by a Brooklyn bookie named Steve Brodie. According to the story, Brodie’s scam originated in a bet with a Brooklyn bartender named Chuck Connors. The bookie wagered Connors that he could jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and survive the fall.
Steve Brodie ultimately won the bet and wound up becoming a major New York City celebrity and legend.
It was discovered years later that Brodie had actually pushed a dummy off the Bridge and hid under a pier.
Categories: Con Artists, Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 30, 2007
Comments (5)
imageA Cape Town property developer, Brett Jolly, is claiming that a mine he owns shares in has found what could be the largest diamond ever, weighing in at 7000 carats. Plus, it's green.

By contrast, the largest diamond found to date is only 3106.75 carats. And the largest green diamond only 40.7 carats.

Initial reports said that this new diamond was as big as a soccer ball, but a photo of it has now been released, and in the photo it doesn't look quite that large. I'd say it looks only about as big as a softball. Which is still pretty big. In the photo it's sitting on a table next to a cellphone.

However, most experts are extremely skeptical of the find. No one is being allowed to examine it. So far, the photo is the only proof of its existence, and in the photo, as News24.com notes, "it looks conspicuously smooth on top, almost like a paperweight."

Experts also note that it comes from an area not known for producing large diamonds.

It all sounds very fishy to me. (Thanks to Eric Laurence)
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 29, 2007
Comments (12)
imageWhite House pranksters wrapped Karl Rove's car in plastic wrap, as a way to say goodbye to the guy. CBS News reports:
Rove, the top White House political strategist who recently announced his resignation, left his car on the driveway while visiting Texas and traveling with President Bush. He was due back in Washington Wednesday evening. Since the lot is heavily patrolled by the Secret Service, reports Maer, the joke looks like an inside job.

It would have been funnier if they shrink-wrapped Rove himself and shipped him away somewhere. And if they had done it seven years ago.
Categories: Politics, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 29, 2007
Comments (8)
Elliot has posted an article about great golf hustlers. Read it and find out why, if someone wants to bet you that they can drive a golfball a mile, never bet that they can't.
Categories: Sports
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 29, 2007
Comments (6)
I've posted a list of the Top 20 Most Bizarre Experiments of All Time. The descriptions are all summarized from longer accounts that can be found in my new book, Elephants on Acid. Basically, although the list can stand on its own, it's meant to be one big ad for the book. My hope is that people might be intrigued enough by what they read in the list to want to find out what else can be found in the book. (They'll either be intrigued or horrified. When people hear about some of these experiments those are the two most typical reactions.) There's definitely plenty more material in the book.

My publisher tells me that the book should start shipping in early October, about a month ahead of schedule.
Categories: Science
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 29, 2007
Comments (8)
I was browsing the web a few days ago when I came across a guy who was posting lots of great hoax-related articles to the Associated Content site. He seemed to know all kinds of fascinating, obscure things.

That guy was Elliot Feldman. I emailed him and asked him if he'd consider posting some articles here to the Museum of Hoaxes. Luckily, he agreed. So I want to introduce everyone to Elliot. We should be getting to read his articles regularly from now on.

Elliot says that he was a game show writer for 25 years. Shows included the Match Game, Hollywood Squares, Nickelodeon's Double Dare, and (yes, it's true) That's My Dog. He published his first novel, Sitting Shiva, in 2003. You can buy it at Amazon.

Elliot is also a cartoonist. You can check out some of his comics at detroitcrazy.com and scene4.com.

He supplied four facts about his life, half of which are fake. You have to guess which are the true Feldman Facts and which are the fake ones:

• He once dressed in a molting chicken suit and was beaten to death by San Diego Padres fans.

• He was a cartoonist long before he was a writer.

• His first TV job was as a (blank) for The Match Game.

• He is currently searching for the Loch Ness Monster in Florida.

Elliot's first article, posted in the Hoaxipedia, is about John Howard Griffin, a white man who had his skin darkened so that he could pose as a black man.

He promises future articles about subjects such as thirties and forties con artist Titanic Thompson, golf hustlers, pool hustler Minnesota Fats, con artists who have sold landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Brooklyn Bridge, and Bob, Ivan Stang, and the Church of the SubGenius.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 28, 2007
Comments (12)
I'm torn between thinking this is one of the stupidest products I've ever seen, and actually kinda wanting one.

It's a self-adhesive sunroof, recently offered for sale on eBay. The seller writes:
Do you want your car to have the look of a real sunroof? You can install it in 5 minutes!! Extremely fashion and new aparent sun roof, made of a sticker that will give any car the image of a real sunroof...

The DECANO™ adhesive sunroof feels like glass, it´s anti-scracth and mirror like. Each package comes with photographies and step to step installation instructions...

High Status at a very low price !!! A CAR WITH A SUNROOF LOOKS EXTREMELY GOOD!!!
image image image

I like some of the questions people have left for the seller, such as:
Q: my car does not have an anti lock braking system - i am interested in an abs light for my dash - i cannot afford nor am i interested in the actual braking benefits of an abs system - i am solely interested in tricking people into thinking my car is safer than it is. do you or are you looking into prototyping this product - it seems like its up your alley.
A: We are working on new ideas, thank you.
And also this one:
Q: Will this work with my convertible?
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 27, 2007
Comments (21)
Newsgroper is a parody site full of fake celebrity blogs. To make sure that no one confuses its content with real news, it posts the warning "Fake Parody Blogs, Political Humor, Celebrity Satire, Funny Commentary" in the title bar of every page.

Apparently, this warning wasn't enough for MSNBC's Alex Johnson. In a piece about Michael Vick, he quoted from Newsgroper's fake Al Sharpton blog, presenting the following quotation as if it were something Sharpton really had said:
"If the police caught Brett Favre (a white quarterback for the Green Bay Packers) running a dolphin-fighting ring out of his pool, where dolphins with spears attached to their foreheads fought each other, would they bust him? Of course not," Sharpton wrote Tuesday on his personal blog.

Caught in the blunder, MSNBC quickly removed the quotation from the article and posted this correction:

image

To me, the self-serving correction is worse than the original mistake. The fake Al Sharpton blog isn't a hoax. A hoax is a deliberate deception. Since the Al Sharpton blog announces right in the title bar that it's a parody blog, it hardly counts as a hoax.

MSNBC should retract their correction, and admit they're victims of sloppy reporting, not of a hoax. (Thanks to Cranky Media Guy for the link.)
Categories: Journalism, Sports, Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 27, 2007
Comments (7)
Damon Armagost probably thought he had a pretty good scam going. He had printed up some fake $100 bills from an image he downloaded off the internet. He was then using this counterfeit money to pay for lap dances at a strip club. He must have thought the strippers would never notice the money was fake. Unfortunately for him, they did and alerted the police, who arrested Armagost and charged him with manufacturing and passing counterfeit currency.

Carl Sifakis, in his book Hoaxes and Scams, reports on a similar scam called "tishing a lady." It involves paying a prostitute with tissue paper instead of real money. The con artist flashes a large bill at the prostitute and makes a show of stuffing it into her stocking. But in reality he palms the bill and stuffs in tissue paper instead.

Sifakis writes that the con-artist Count Victor Lustig frequently used this scam. He would "warn the female that he had given her trick money, and if she removed it before the following day it would turn to tissue paper. The lady would promise to comply with the rules, but as soon as Lustig left, she would remove her reward; alas, it had indeed turned to tissue paper."
Categories: Business/Finance, Con Artists, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 27, 2007
Comments (7)
Due to personal circumstances, this week's Best of the Forum post is brought to you by guest writer and board moderator Madmouse.

Unauthorised Reincarnation Banned in Tibet (MadCarlotta)
China has banned Buddhists from reincarnating without permission, in an apparent attempt to have the next Dalai Lama chosen by the Chinese government.
From the news article:
"According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.”

This could lead to a situation where there are two Dalai Lamas, one recognised by millions of Buddhists around the world, and one by the Chinese government.
I don’t know how much of an effect this would have, but it would be a situation best avoided, if possible.

Skype Outage Caused By U.S. Government Spy Plan? (LaMa)
There’s been a lot of discussion in the forum about this conspiracy theory.
www.skype-news.com says:
“Skype says the problem was triggered by a Microsoft patch, delivered by Windows Update, which caused an automatic reboot of many PCs. "The high number of restarts affected Skype's network resources. This caused a flood of log-in requests, which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, prompted a chain reaction," says Skype's Villu Arak. According to Arak, the system would normally have recovered quickly, but on this occasion "a previously unseen bug" caused the network to fail.”
However, this news item suggests that the outage was in fact caused by the introduction of eavesdropping technology, made permissible by a newly-introduced law.

Online Game Used As Epidemic Scenario (Hulitoons)
Scientists have been studying players’ reactions to a disease in online game ‘World of Warcraft’. The researchers say that the information gathered about people’s varying reactions to a crisis like this could prove useful in the event of a genuine epidemic.
From the BBC article:
Researcher Professor Nina Fefferman, from Tufts University School of Medicine, said: “Human behaviour has a big impact on disease spread. And virtual worlds offer an excellent platform for studying human behaviour.The players seemed to really feel they were at risk and took the threat of infection seriously, even though it was only a game.”
Even if people might act somewhat differently in a game, I think that this is a reasonable (and safe) way of gathering data.

Rampant Rabbit In Stick-Up (Dave and Madmouse)
A man was jailed for five years for a robbery at a bookmakers in which he used the sex toy instead of a gun. The vibrator was hidden in a carrier bag, and seemed realistic enough that the shop staff handed over £600.
I do wonder what on earth made him think of using that rather than, say, a toy gun…
Categories: Conspiracy Theories, Health/Medicine, Law/Police/Crime, Religion, Sex/Romance, Technology
Posted by Flora on Fri Aug 24, 2007
Comments (11)
The Texas Attorney General has filed charges against three individuals who were running an elaborate citizenship scam. They claimed to represent the Kaweah Indian Nation, and were telling non-citizens that $400 would purchase a "tribal membership" in the Kaweah Nation. This membership supposedly carried the significant benefit of allowing them to circumvent the ordinary legalization process and entitling them to U.S. citizenship.

Of course, becoming a member of an Indian tribe doesn't circumvent the process of legalization. In addition to this, the Kaweah Indian Nation isn't even a federally recognized tribe. The International Herald Tribune reports:
The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs denied the Kaweah group recognition in 1985 because it was not a real tribe. A Kaweah tribe did exist once, but is unrelated to the one that applied for recognition.

Big Gary, who forwarded me the story, notes that, "Prices for membership in the Big Gary Nation are negotiable." Last I checked, membership in the Museum of Hoaxes Nation was totally free. Plus, it entitles you to become a card-carrying citizen of reality.
image
Categories: Scams
Posted by Alex on Fri Aug 24, 2007
Comments (7)
I decided to add a few visuals to the top of the page. I thought it was looking a bit too plain before. I wonder if anyone can identify all the figures without looking through the museum to find out what they are. (There's no prize. I'm just curious if anyone can do it.)

At some point I'll make the figures clickable, so that they'll link to whatever they represent, but that's a bit of work. I'll save that project for later.

Also, from time to time I might change them around. Take some out, put in a few new ones. It's quite easy to do. I can even have special ones for holidays like Christmas, Halloween, and April Fool's Day, like Google does.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 23, 2007
Comments (17)
Posters for Camp Okutta have recently been appearing in various Canadian cities. Camp Okutta is described as an adventure camp for kids. But in addition to normal activities such as hiking and games, kids also get a summer of "throwing grenades, shooting AK-47 assault rifles, and receiving minefield training — all for children aged eight through 12."

Some people have been so outraged by the signs that they've ripped them down. Sarah Heywood is one of these people. She told CBC News that, "I immediately thought, wow, this is real, this is happening, people are now actually providing these kinds of services and opportunities for people who actually allow their children to go and experience something like that here in Canada."

Actually, the posters are a marketing hoax designed by War Child Canada. The intention is to raise awareness about camps around the world training child soldiers.

Below is a video ad, posted on YouTube, for Camp Okutta. Also check out Camp Okutta's website.

This reminds me of an earlier (and still ongoing) ad campaign in a similar vein: The Coalition to Promote the Use of Child Soldiers.

Categories: Military, Websites
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 22, 2007
Comments (10)
imageThe Feejee Mermaid is apparently currently on display as part of the American Museum of Natural History's exhibit on Mythic Creatures. A Flickr user, despite being told that photography was forbidden in the exhibit, managed to surreptitiously snap a picture of it anyway.

The one time I saw the Feejee Mermaid was back in 1998 when it was housed at Harvard's Peabody Museum. It wasn't on display, so I had to ask for special permission to see it back in the archives. I managed to snap a few pictures of it, despite also being told that photography was not allowed. I always wondered what the big deal was about taking pictures of it.

Anyway, I have a pretty thorough description of the Feejee Mermaid and its history in the Hoaxipedia. The irony is that the creature currently on display as the original Feejee Mermaid almost certainly isn't. The original probably was destroyed when Moses Kimball's Boston Museum burned down in the 1880s.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 22, 2007
Comments (5)
I have no problem believing it when the old man uses a leaf to play the theme from The Godfather. It's when he plays the tune while simultaneously balancing on the neck of a wine bottle that the video turns kind of surreal. Still, I think it's possible, though he must have very good balance, and very sticky feet.


Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 22, 2007
Comments (2)
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