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December 2007
Thirty-four people received Christmas cards from Oregon-resident Chet Fitch this year. What made this unusual is that Chet died two months ago. The cards, written in his own handwriting, had a return address of "Heaven" and contained messages such as:
"I asked Big Guy if I could sneak back and send some cards. At first he said no; but at my insistence he finally said, 'Oh well, what the heaven, go ahead but don't (tarry) there.' Wish I could tell you about things here but words cannot explain.
Better get back as Big Guy said he stretched a point to let me in the first time, so I had better not press my luck. I'll probably be seeing you (some sooner than you think).
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas.
Chet Fitch."

The cards were Chet's final practical joke on his friends. Impressively, he had been secretly planning the joke for over twenty years. He had arranged with his hairdresser to send out the cards in the event of his death. Every year he gave her an updated list and a little more money to cover the rising cost of postage. And this year he finally died.

I can't think of many other examples of practical jokes perpetrated from the grave. I guess most pranksters like to be able to actually see their victim's reaction. The one other example that comes to mind is the Bequest of Francis Douce. Douce was a wealthy British collecter who arranged to have his personal papers sealed in a box and donated to the British Museum after his death -- with the strange stipulation that the Museum would have to wait sixty-six years until they could open the box. When they finally did open the box, they discovered it contained nothing but trash and a rude note insulting the intelligence of the British Museum trustees.
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 25, 2007
Comments (8)
If you've been to Starbucks in the past week or so, you've been at risk of finding yourself trapped in a "cheer chain." What this means is that the person in line in front of you pays for your drink, and in return you're supposed to pay for the drink of the person behind you. This goes on and on, ad nauseam. The Associated Press reported on one cheer chain that totaled 1,013 customers.

The question is, are these cheer chains a true spontaneous phenomenon, or are they a cynically created pr stunt? The phenomenon supposedly began when Arthur Rosenfeld offered to pay for the drink of the guy behind him in the drive-thru line who was honking and yelling. Rosenfeld is a tai-chi master, and he wanted to change the man's consciousness through a random act of kindness. The guy who was honking decided to pay for the car behind him, etc. etc.

But I'm in the camp of those who, like, believe they're a pr stunt. Consumerist points out that Starbucks is even issuing coupons to encourage the cheer chain movement, plus they've set up a website about it. (Thanks, Bob)

Categories: Advertising, Food
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 23, 2007
Comments (16)
MAVAV Strikes Again
The State of New York produced an educational video to warn about the dangers of video games. The video includes a list of "resources" parents can visit to learn more, one of which is the website of "Mothers Against Videogame Addiction and Violence." Obviously the state of New York hasn't been reading this website, since we listed MAVAV as a hoax back in 2004.

Chuck Norris Sues
Chuck Norris is suing the publisher and author of The Truth About Chuck Norris for "trademark infringement, unjust enrichment and privacy rights." Plus, he disputes the claim that his tears cure cancer.

Painting in the Nude
Dennis Tawis created a lot of controversy in the town of Millville, New Jersey, when advertised that he would paint in the nude at a public event. He stayed true to his word, but he never disrobed.

Dairy Tax Hoax
When I first saw the headline of this story, I assumed they had misspelled "diary". But no, they mean "dairy". Some guy claimed over $2000 in tax refunds on account of his dairy, which didn't exist.
Categories: Art, Technology
Posted by Alex on Sat Dec 22, 2007
Comments (5)
Survivor Tale of Woe
A contestant on the TV show Survivor:China may have lied about losing her job as a janitor at an Elementary School. If I still watched Survivor I might care more about this, but I haven't seen it in years.

Princeton Hoax Exposed
A student at Princeton who was a member of an anti-sex club claimed he was beaten up by horny liberals who were enraged by his "brave stand against promiscuity." Turns out he beat himself up. Figures.

Gold Pills
Offered for sale at the New Store Museum. "Pure gold passes straight through the body and ends up in your stool resulting in sparkly shit!" Cranky Media Guy thinks this has to be a joke. But I bet it's real. After all, all it involves is putting some gold leaf, which isn't that expensive, in a pill. It doesn't even need FDA approval.
Categories: Entertainment, Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 19, 2007
Comments (16)
On eBay, right now, you have the chance to bid on a chance to participate in a prank that will "Drive Someone Insane with Postcards." The seller's description reads:
I will be spending the Christmas holiday in Poland in a tiny village that has one church with no bell because angry Germans stole it. Aside from vodka, there is not a lot for me to do.

During the course of my holiday I will send three postcards to one person of your choosing.

These postcards will be rant-ravingly insane, yet they will be peppered with unmistakable personal details about the addressee. Details you will provide me.

The postcards will not be coherently signed, leaving your mark confused, guessing wildly, crying out in anguish.

"How do I know this person? And how does he know I had a ferret named Goliath?"

Bidding is currently up to $185. It seems that the seller has figured out a clever way to make some money while on vacation.

Related Articles:
Lost Postcard Rescue Department (Dec. 10, 2007)
Postcards for Mom (Jun 22, 2004)
Categories: eBay, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Dec 19, 2007
Comments (4)
My 61 Memorable Games
A special updated edition of Bobby Fischer's book, "My 60 Memorable Games," is up for auction on eBay, and bidding has already reached $3,050. The New York Times Chess Blog wonders whether the book is real.

Giant Skeleton photo doing the rounds again
National Geographic has an article about the Giant Skeleton photo, which dates back to 2004. The article says it's now enjoying a revival. I'm even quoted, though I don't remember talking to National Geographic. However, it sounds like something I would say. It must have been a while ago that they talked to me. (Thanks, Joe)

BBC admits Lotto button is a fake
Viewers see a man press a red button to release the Lotto balls. But it turns out the button doesn't control anything at all. This was revealed when the guy hesitated before pressing the button, but the balls dropped into the spinning barrel anyway.

Private parking company issues fake tickets
"A private parking company will have to reimburse drivers who paid fake citations left on cars in free lots throughout the Bay Area... PCS employees left written notices that looked like government-issued tickets on cars that allegedly violated the posted parking rules or state laws." Wow. It's bad enough having real traffic cops issue tickets without a private company trying to get a piece of the action.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Sports
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 18, 2007
Comments (2)
A letter describing how a high school student received detention for using the Firefox browser -- apparently because his teacher didn't understand that Firefox is simply a different kind of browser -- has been doing the rounds:

The letter actually says "Foxfire" not "Firefox" -- which makes it sound like the teacher was totally clueless.

I believed the letter when I saw it. In fact, I didn't notice that anyone was skeptical of it (though apparently a few people were). But it turns out to be a hoax. The Big Spring School District has posted a notice online
Recently, a file was uploaded to the Internet purporting to be a copy of a letter from Big Spring High School to a student regarding a two hour detention. The uploaded letter was an altered version of a detention letter sent to a student. Unfortunately, privacy concerns prevent the School District from giving a full explanation of the nature and source of the letter’s alteration at this time. The Big Spring School District does have confirmation that the discipline letter was altered.

The reports, blogs and other sources on the Internet indicating that a Big Spring student was assigned detention for using the Firefox internet browser instead of Internet Explorer are untrue and were based on the fake letter. Detention is assigned in our schools after appropriate warnings are given. If students continue to engage in non-academic activities or fail to follow a teacher’s directive during class time, discipline can and will be assigned.

Sincerely yours,

John C. Scudder

High School Principal

Atomic1fire already posted this in the forum, but I thought it deserved to be on the main page.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 18, 2007
Comments (8)
Prank phone calls and electric-shock gadgets are perennial favorites of pranksters. So I guess what happened at the Judge Rotenberg Education Center was just a novel combination of the two: Call up and order electric-shock treatment for someone. It's actually kind of scary to think that it's that easy to order treatment for a patient. Boston Herald reports:
State officials are investigating complaints that staff at the Judge Rotenberg Education Center gave three people — including two teens — unnecessary electric shock treatments after receiving a prank phone call from someone pretending to be from the office of the school’s founder.

Initial investigations showed that a former student at the school allegedly called in orders for electric shock treatments on Aug. 26 and the Rotenberg center self-reported the prank call and unnecessary treatments the day after they occurred, Cindy Campbell, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Early Education and Care, said Monday.
Categories: Health/Medicine, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 18, 2007
Comments (2)
This is weird:
An east London electrician accused of having terror ties claimed he was not attending training camps but hunting for the Loch Ness Monster during a trip to Scotland with other terror suspects, the Scottish Daily Record reported Saturday.

Kader Ahmed, 20, was up in the Loch Ness area with a group organized by preacher Mohammed Hamid. I wonder if they went on the Nessie Hunter cruise with that boat captain who sounded like Sean Connery?
Categories: Cryptozoology, Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 18, 2007
Comments (1)
WTVY News reports on a prank that reminded me of the Winsted Wild Man hoax from 1895, although quite a bit less sensational:
A teenager wore an outfit depicting the mythical Bigfoot creature. He then carried a fellow young person on each shoulder.
Alarmed residents called the sheriff's department and several others armed with shotguns headed to where the prank was taking place.
The young people, ranging in age from 18-to-23, were given a warning.
However, sheriff's officials say those involved in any copycat incidents will face reckless endangerment charges.
Categories: Cryptozoology, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 17, 2007
Comments (5)
Here's another case of a misleading claim in an advertisement. This time from Papa Johns, who offers unlimited toppings, as long as you have a maximum of no more than five toppings. (posted by Nave_7 on flickr.)

Related posts:
Deceptive Ad (Dec 3, 2007)
Deceptive Sign (Sep 10, 2007)
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 17, 2007
Comments (13)
The Japan Kanji ability assessment association has selected the Chinese character meaning "fake" as the symbol that best describes Japan in 2007. reports:
The result represented Japanese people's anger over the society's darkness exposed in 2007, including a series of financial scandals involving Cabinet ministers, the Social Insurance Agency's blunder of losing about 50 million pension records and some well-know food companies' forgery of production dates.

My wife was recently thinking of getting a small tattoo, because she's always wanted one, but has never had the courage to get one. So I told her that if she got one, I would too. I was thinking of getting a small jackalope tattooed on my ankle. However, the Chinese symbol for "fake" also sounds cool. But with my luck, I would get the chinese symbol tattoo and later find out that it was actually the symbol for some random phrase such as "stupid American."
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 17, 2007
Comments (2) has an article describing a hoax perpetrated by Andy Warhol back in 1967. He had been asked to do a speaking tour at various colleges, but decided, at the last minute, that he didn't want to do it. So he sent someone else, Allen Midgette, who pretended to be him: "Midgette whitened his hair and face and adopted a Warhol persona, and, accompanied by Morrissey, went on tour. And most believed the forged artist was authentic."

People finally figured out that Midgette was not Warhol when they compared photos of the two men. Apparently the stunt was not an attempt to make any kind of artistic statement. Warhol just really didn't like public speaking. His friends say that he had undiagnosed Asperger syndrome.

Sending an impostor to an interview or lecture is a fairly common prank. Joey Skaggs has done it often. Though I don't think this type of prank has ever been given a name. Maybe it could be called the Impostor Interviewee Prank. Or the Substitute Speaker Prank. Or just the Impostor Prank. Or what about, the Official or Authorized Impostor Prank.

I have no idea what the earliest example of this kind of prank would be. Sounds like a good research project to waste some time on!
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 16, 2007
Comments (5)
A Florida man who recently had a chest X-ray says that he can see Jesus in it. Which raises the question, just what HAS that guy been smoking?

Personally, I can't see it at all. (Thanks Joe and Bob)
Categories: Pareidolia, Religion
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 13, 2007
Comments (21)
Sextuplet husband gets three years
Remember that couple who pretended they had sextuplets last year? The guy has now been sentenced to three years in prison for violating the terms of his probation. His wife is still at large.

Pregnant lawyer made up abduction
"pregnant Ohio attorney Karyn McConnell Hancock confessed Monday to fabricating a story about being kidnapped by three people at gunpoint in Toledo last week." I'm going to start keeping track of these fake abduction cases. There are so many of them!

Fake office assumed role of government
A fake government office in northern India was collecting taxes, providing civic services, and even issuing birth and death certificates. Sounds like a good scam. Some say there's also a fake government here in the States, installed in the White House -- but unlike the one in India, it just collects taxes and doesn't provide any civic services.

Fake Poo Crisis Hits UK
A global shortage of quality providers of fake poo has led to a crisis that has affected more than just the comedy market.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Gross, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Thu Dec 13, 2007
Comments (4)
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