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January 2008
About 100 sheep in Kington, Herefordshire spontaneously formed a ring in a field. Apparently they did this entirely on their own. A photographer was on hand who captured the strange scene.

The Daily Mail interviewed Dan Seaborne, farm manager at Herefordshire College of Technology, who speculated:

"I just think they've been fed with dry feed in that shape - you can get snacker feeders now and you tow behind a quad and it drops pellets on the ground. I would imagine that's what's happened... I think there was a chap in Yorkshire who spelled out 'will you marry me' to his girlfriend in sheep by putting feed down."

Or it could be a signal from extraterrestrials. wink
Categories: Animals, Crop Circles
Posted by Alex on Sat Jan 26, 2008
Comments (4)
In what is one of the most absurd articles I've read in a while, Chicago Tribune reporter Nara Schoenberg tries to argue that "blue" is the new "green". In other words, green (as a symbol of environmentalism) is old hat. So people are now starting to say "blue" instead of "green".

Her main evidence is that Mercedes-Benz calls its new clean-diesel technology BLUETEC. And a few environmental websites have blue pages.

I refer to this journalistic technique in Hippo Eats Dwarf as the "Generalization from a Single Example": "A reporter makes a sweeping statement, but backs it up with only one or two examples... [leading] audiences to believe they represent a larger trend, even if the reality is the opposite."

David Roberts of Grist Magazine offers this analysis of Schoenberg's article:

Culture reporter wants to write something on green, but needs something new, a counterintuitive trend piece that can get some attention.
PR shill pitches reporter on fake trend: blue is the new green! Perfect.
Reporter calls actual green journalist. Actual green journalist points out that trend is fake.
Even better! Now you've got a trend piece with some he-said she-said controversy attached!
Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 25, 2008
Comments (7)
Caught Lipsyncing
Amusing video on youtube of a guy caught lipsyncing. I like how he tries to pretend that nothing happened.


Live Frog in Lettuce
Yet another case of a family finding a live frog in their lettuce. The amazing thing is that instead of trying to sue someone, the family has adopted the frog as a pet. They call him "curious."


Fake Leg as Weapon
"Police said Donna Sturkie-Anthony took her elder sister's prosthetic leg and beat her with it."
Categories: Food, Law/Police/Crime, Music
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 25, 2008
Comments (4)
17-year-old Matthew Summers used his mobile phone to take a picture of his sister and some friends as they were preparing to go out. Closer inspection of the photo revealed a ghostly face floating near the floor.





Thisislondon.co.uk writes:

His photo joins a long line of apparently paranormal snaps. The most memorable in recent times was a cloaked figure photographed standing in a doorway at Hampton Court Palace in 2003.
However, Ciaran O'Keeffe, a parapsychologist on Living TV's Most Haunted show, has a more down-to-earth explanation for the "child" in Matthew's photograph.
Dr O'Keeffe said: "As human beings we're very good at finding a pattern in randomness and related to that we're good at finding faces in randomness. The term for this is pareidolia.
"First it was ink blots, then things like clouds in the sky and now mobile phone pictures.
"There is no ghost in this picture, just the coincidental effect of pixelation and darkness and light which combine together."

Sure, it's pareidolia. But it also looks like something was either superimposed on the original picture or smudged the pixels. I'd guess it's an artifact created by the software used to compress the size of the image. (via spluch)
Categories: Paranormal, Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 25, 2008
Comments (27)
The Unrecognised States Numismatic Society (USNS) describes itself as a "group catering to numismatists whose collecting interests largely focus on coins minted by groups purporting, pretending or appearing to be sovereign states, but which are not recognised as such by established governments."

They've got examples of coins from a bunch of unrecognized nations, including the Principality of Sealand, Atlantis, the Confederation of Antarctica, and the Dominion of West Florida, which apparently is "an internet-based micronation created on 29 November, 2005... founded on an eccentric interpretation of actual historic events." The Dominion has a website!

My favorite coin is that of the Ultimate State of Tædivm (the thumbnail image).
Categories: Business/Finance, Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 25, 2008
Comments (3)
Renee Brewster of Florida found Jesus while preparing potato salad. His image was clearly visible in the moldy rot that had formed in the center of the first potato she split open. She put aside the holy potato and finished making the potato salad, which reportedly tasted excellent.

According to MyFoxOrlando, Renee and her husband feel that "the site of their savior in a potato has reinvigorated their faith."

But Cranky Media Guy wonders if this is manufactured pareidolia, noting that, "For the first time in memory, I can actually make out the figure they think they see."

If one Jesus-in-a-potato isn't enough for you, then you're in luck, because the MyFoxOrlando article links to a second story, from just a few weeks ago, about a Houston woman who also discovered Jesus inside a potato. But I think the Florida Jesus-Potato is better.
Categories: Food, Pareidolia, Religion
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 25, 2008
Comments (7)
Does Halle Berry have six toes on her right foot? There are people out there who have spent a lot of time pondering this question. The evidence for the six-toe theory is based on these pictures, which are at least two years old.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, no matter what these pictures appear to show, Halle Berry is not polydactyl. If she was, she'd admit it.



Categories: Body Manipulation, Celebrities
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 24, 2008
Comments (25)
SpySite.com is selling a prank gadget that seems like it would have the potential to drive someone crazy... such as a boss you intensely dislike. Unfortunately the gadget costs $89, which is a bit steep. From spysite's description:

It causes calls made from the target phones to reach wrong numbers! Think about how absolutely maddening and frustrating that would be if it were to happen to your phone. Now, you'll begin to appreciate the devastating effect that this device can have.

Just to toy with their fury and confusion even more, it is engineered to allow about 25% of the calls dialed to go through correctly. (Note: calls to 911 will always go through.) And, as is the case with all of the devices in this section, even once the target realizes that something very weird is going on, they'll be hard-pressed to stop it; replacing their telephones or even getting a new phone number won't do any good since they would have to locate the actual device and remove it. Installs anywhere along the telephone line;


(via OhGizmo)
Categories: Pranks, Technology
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 24, 2008
Comments (5)
Canadian police are searching for two men who "falsely represented themselves as a spiritual healer and his assistant." Which raises the question: what counts as a real spiritual healer?

The healer guy advertised himself on the radio as Brother Roshan. He used a magic trick to con his victims out of money. CTV.CA reports:
Roshan wrote the names of each of his client's family members on each egg. He then placed the eggs in a covered pot of boiling water. Once they were cooked, he took out each egg and broke them open.
When he opened the egg with the client's name on it, there was a lottery ticket inside with a note saying they will win the lottery.
Clients were then told they must do the good deed of donating money if they hoped to claim their lottery prize. They were told the money was for expensive "prayer powder" from India that would help him rid people of curses.

Some people "donated" over $100,000 to Roshan.

This gives me an idea. Instead of a Museum of Hoaxes, I should open a "Museum of Good Luck and Prosperity." I'll tell people that if they make a donation to the museum it'll guarantee them good luck. I'd make a fortune.
Categories: Con Artists, Religion
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 24, 2008
Comments (2)
Hiding in plainview
A police officer agreed to escort a car containing a pregnant woman to the hospital only to find the car was stolen - and the woman wasn't pregnant.

An honest politician?
Ed Hamilton is running for the position of Kerr County treasurer. His campaign promise is that, if elected, he won't serve. He won't even take a paycheck. Sounds like the right man for the job.

More men opting for chest implants
At least, that's what the headline claims. The article itself gives the impression that the number of men who get pectoral implants is very small.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Law/Police/Crime, Politics
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 23, 2008
Comments (0)
Julian Lee Hobbs, aka Rory Emerald, recently placed an ad in the Helena Independent Record claiming to have found H.G. Wells' time machine. The ad became the talk of Helena.

Turns out Emerald is a serial prankster who's done this kind of thing often:

The prankster, which California papers have called “a would be actor,” has placed fictitious ads in the past, including the Roanoke Times, where he allegedly found the diary of a “very famous American” inside an old clock, and in the Miami Harold, where he convinced the entertainment media that he was Elizabeth Taylor’s new beau.

Once, he said, he received a call from Nick Nolte after posting an ad in California suggesting he found an Academy Award in a Beverly Hills park.

Years ago, he said, he even placed an ad in the Missoulian claiming to have found an ancient sarcophagus filled with a mummy and artifacts.
Categories: Future/Time, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 23, 2008
Comments (2)
Flora posted an image in the forum of what looks like a Martian bigfoot. (I inserted a picture of the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot for comparison.)

According to metro.co.uk, the image was taken by NASA's Mars Explorer Spirit, but it "wasn't until space and science fiction enthusiasts became involved that the images were taken more seriously."

Here's the complete NASA image (thanks, Mongo) from which the image above was enlarged. I drew a red circle around the Bigfoot image. It's barely visible, in the far left corner. As you can see, the Martian Bigfoot is very, very small. Perhaps Littlefoot would be a better name for him.




The image of the Martian Bigfoot comes on the heels of the Martian "Doorway" which was doing the rounds last month. It's just non-stop Martian Pareidolia.

Categories: Cryptozoology, Extraterrestrial Life, Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 22, 2008
Comments (15)
Down in the Antarctic researchers are building an "ice cube telescope" to detect neutrinos. It's one of the stranger telescopes ever built. Popular Science provides this description of it:

Using a five-megawatt jet of hot water, technicians are melting two-foot-wide holes 1.5 miles into the Antarctic ice near the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Before the water refreezes, they insert a cable strung like a set of Christmas-tree lights with globular camera housings. By the time the technicians are done in 2010, Ice Cube’s 80 vertical strings will adorn a cubic kilometer of ice from a depth of 1.4 kilometers down to 2.4 kilometers. In other words, it’s an instrument of 4,800 cameras looking at solid black ice...
One in a million neutrinos passing near Ice Cube’s photomultiplier cameras will—just by chance—smash head-on into an atomic nucleus within the ice and produce a muon particle that will give off a blue glow called Cherenkov light. Unlike the ice in your freezer, Antarctic ice is stunningly clear, and the blue light travels more than 100 meters in the dark ice. Each muon’s glow will be picked up by several cameras, and its position and direction triangulated.


But, of course, the conspiracy theorists have some different ideas about what is really being built down there in the South Pole. One such theory has been posted in an unlikely place, explorersweb.com -- a site that's usually devoted to news about the exploration community, not woolly conspiracy theories.

The theory was posted by Irish South Pole skier Kevin Dempsey. Here's the gist of it:

the so called Ice-Cube project is in fact the first of a new generation of ARC, as we believe it is now as internally. Think ARC, think Noah. But not in the same way. Noah used his arc to save all life forms from extinction. This new ARC is in a way a reversal of that process."
"ARC stands for..... ALIEN RECEPTOR CENTRE."

"They are bringing aliens in from outer space & other galaxies, processing & programming them for eventual release into countries, societies, cultures all over the planet, that they ultimately want to control. This is not a simple war on the battle for control of oil. This is total & ultimate control of the planet.


I'm not sure whether or not Dempsey's article is meant to be a joke. Supporting the joke theory is the unusual note that Explorerweb appended to the article: "Dempsey is not a scientist; his emails carry advertisements for stylish blinds and rugs."

(Thanks to CuChullaine O'Reilly of the Long Riders Guild for the link.)
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Extraterrestrial Life, Science
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 22, 2008
Comments (7)
At the beginning of this month, James Randi announced that he will be ending his offer of $1 million to anyone who can provide "evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event." From the announcement on his website:
The James Randi Educational Foundation Million-Dollar Challenge will be discontinued 24 months from this coming March 6th, and those prize funds will then be available to generally add to our flexibility. This move will free us to do many more projects, which will be announced at that time. This means that all those wishing to be claimants are required to get their applications in before the deadline, properly filled out and notarized as described in the published rules.

This announcement has predictably brought out the crazies -- people shouting and fuming that Randi is some kind of charlatan. Members of this crowd have been sending out mass emails ranting about Randi, and for some reason they've cc'ed me on these emails. Randi eventually responded with a detailed reply that he promises he'll post in full on his website. Here's a snippet of it:
6. Re: You refer to the speculation that [our] bonds are worthless.  As I’ve written many times, and as specified in the Basic English rules for the challenge applicants, a simple inquiry to the JREF via fax, phone call, e-mail, postal letter, or perhaps telepathy (?) will promptly bring anyone a copy of the current JREF Prize Account status – which I append, since you seem to lack any of these means of communication!  The million dollars is there, reserved for this purpose alone.  Our regular bank accounts are separate from this account, Dustin. See? Here is a copy of the statement, above, as GSdocument.jpg.  
 7. Re: You ask: Economy hitting those IOUs hard these days Randi?  Umm, no, Dustin. Try to understand: the JREF owes no money, we have no mortgage, we own the JREF property, free and clear.  We have an excellent credit rating – as I do, personally, and I, too, have no mortgage nor loans of any sort. Sorry to disappoint you.
 8. Re:  You refer to my spat with Geller.  No, that’s not a “spat,” Dustin.  It’s a full battle that has lasted 35 years now, and has resulted in Mr. Geller having to admit that he’s a trickster, and that he has lied for all those years to anyone who would listen.  You forgot about all that, did you…?

Personally I think that Jennifer Dziura's proposal deserved the prize money. But no one else even came close.
Categories: Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Tue Jan 22, 2008
Comments (3)
This is one of the stupidest eBay auctions I've seen in a while:

GEORGE WASHINGTON COIN,MISS PRINT WHIT BOUTH 2 FACES OF GEORGE WASHINTON 1 IN 1994 AND OTHER SIDE 1979.


Starting bid is $1,000,000. No bids yet.

Some people in the coin talk forum think it might be two magician's coins, cut in half and glued together. I think the guy just took photos of two separate coins.

The misspellings definitely add to the seller's credibility.
Categories: eBay
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 21, 2008
Comments (6)
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