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April 2008
I recently received a nice letter from a reader in England:

Dear Mr. Boese,
I have enjoyed the Museum of Hoaxes greatly. I do not know if you want any more examples, but if not just throw this away.
The Veterinary Record is the weekly journal of the Veterinary Profession, and I did the index for 36 years. So on 1st April 1972 I met some observations on the diseases of Brunus edwardii (Species Nova), Vet. Rec. (1972) 90, 382-395. It reads like a perfectly authentic scientific paper though the illustrations give the game away. So I suppose it does not really qualify as a hoax. I understand that the British Library had some difficulty with the classification! But the authors had great fun doing it. If you would be interested to see the text I will send you a photocopy. I am not a vet but a librarian, understandably retired at 92! With all good wishes for 2008.
Yours sincerely,
M.M. Raymer

After debating whether or not to throw away her letter (of course not!), I decided to drive up to UCSD, where I hunted down the Veterinary Record (UCSD has a complete run of it), and made a copy of the article.

The article does describe, in a dry, scientific fashion, the diseases of Brunus edwardii, which is described as a species "commonly kept in homes in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe and North America." The article warns that: "Pet ownership surveys have shown that 63.8 percent of households are inhabited by one or more of these animals, and there is a statistically significant relationship between their population and the number of children in a household. The public health implications of this fact are obvious, and it is imperative that more be known about their diseases, particularly zoonoses or other conditions which might be associated with their close contact with man."

The pictures do give the joke away:

For months afterwards the correspondence section of the Veterinary Record was dominated by letters about Brunus edwardii. A few readers were outraged by it, such as A. Noel Smith who wrote:

I have been practising veterinary medicine for the past 12 years or more "across the pond" and my Veterinary Records arrive a month or more late. However, I still open them with interest and read what is going on "at home". April 1st's edition thoroughly soured my interest. How three members holding sets of impressive degrees can waste their time writing such garbage in a journal that is the official publication of the B.V.A. is beyond my comprehension, as is your effrontery to publish it under "Clinical Papers".

But most of the correspondents loved it. It proved so popular that it was eventually published in a special edition by Whittington Press.

Anyway, thanks to M.M. Raymer for the reference.
Categories: Animals, Science
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 30, 2008
Comments (14)
Three pranks that recently made headlines:

Riding the elevator
Elizabeth M. "Betsy" Ormsby's state Supreme Court lawsuit against Michael W. Behling, her former supervisor at the Washington Street office building, continues. Mrs. Ormsby, wife of Jefferson County Legislator Barry M. Ormsby, alleged she was duct-taped to a chair while working at the building in April 2006 and then, while bound, sent to several floors on an elevator. She claimed she complained about the incident to Mr. Behling, the building's superintendent, but was told by him to keep the matter quiet.

Gorilla Chases Bananas
Last week ten students in larger-than-life banana costumes ran through the halls of the Zion-Benton Township high school with an eleventh student dressed as a gorilla giving chase. "The boys entered the school's main entrance around noon last Thursday and made their way through the English and science hallways before running into a crowded lunch room and then out a back door. All the while they flailed their arms and yelled "Seniors '08."" School officials have responded by giving the bananas and gorilla a seven-day suspension.

Prank or Art?
Potted plants were taken from the atrium of the Center for the Arts at Luther College and moved into a single room, where they blocked students from moving around and accessing projects. This sparked a debate about whether moving the plants was a prank or an artistic statement. Jeff Dintaman, professor of theatre and head of the art and theatre/dance departments, noted: “Artists will always push the boundaries, and if we’re not doing that, we’re not artists.” But Kate Martinson, Professor of Art, said: "I think ‘prank’ is the word whether it’s artistic or not."
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 24, 2008
Comments (10)
PETA recently offered a $1 million reward to the first company that can produce In Vitro meat in commercially viable quantities by 2012. (AussieBruce posted about it in the forum.)

But Daniel Engber, writing for, explains why PETA's prize has so many strings attached that it's basically a bogus offer.

1) According to the contest guidelines, the fake-meat must be sold in stores to qualify for the prize. Engber writes: "Fake-chicken entrepreneurs have to demonstrate a "commercial sales minimum" at a "comparable market price"; in plain English, they need to move 2,000 pounds of the stuff at supermarkets and chain restaurants spread out across 10 states during a period of three months. And the Franken-meat can't cost more than regular chicken."

2) This is an impossible condition to meet, since the FDA would have to approve the fake-meat before it could be sold in stores. And there's no way a product like this could be invented and make it through the FDA's approval process in the next four years. The FDA review process itself typically takes years to complete.

So don't expect anyone to win PETA's prize.

I'm still waiting for those "Meat Trees" (genes from cattle spliced into the reproductive cells of grapefruit trees) described by the Weekly World News back in 2003 to become a reality. (Thanks, Christopher)
Categories: Animals, Food
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 24, 2008
Comments (10)
Neil Steinberg's classic advice about college pranks was that "If at all possible, involve a cow." The zebra (named Barcode) that was found locked inside Seney Hall at Georgia's Emory University this morning is a novel substitute. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Campus police were still trying to find out who put the zebra on the third floor of Seney Hall sometime Tuesday night...
Putting animals inside Seney Hall has passed for a dry wit on the Emory at Oxford campus for decades...
Bowen said it was unlikely the responsible party would be punished. "We're not launching a major manhunt" he joked. And whoever put Barcode in the building made sure it didn't get hurt. "They lined up a row of chairs so the animal couldn't get close to the windows and injure itself," Bowen said.

Good for the pranksters for making sure the zebra wasn't harmed in any way.

I found out about the prank because I received an email this afternoon from the pranksters themselves. Or someone claiming to be the pranksters. Here's what they had to say. I didn't correct for spelling:

So i was looking at your top 10 college pranks and i think that you are missing one.. last night some friends and i locked a Zebra in a building at Emory University. here are the details.

I was deeply disappointed when i read what the press had wrote about the Zebra incident at the Oxford College of Emory University. Quite frankly everyone has it wrong. I know, because i organized it and the executed the prank with a group of friends and lookouts.

First of all, the prank had no intentions other than to raise a certain spirit in the Oxford College community. The was no malice what-so-ever.

To the detail that you can varify that I am , in fact , the one whom the credit is due. -I cut a chain around a gate that contained the Zebra that was accompanied by only a donkey. This "pasture" is off of Collingsworth drive after the dead end. - then i unhinged the second gate with a wrench because that chain was too thick to cut. - I then proceeded to transport the Zebra on foot down Collingsworth to Wesley street and then down a power-cut that leads behind the college off in the woods. At approximately 0455hrs I left the Zebra in the care of my cohorts as i met another accomplice that had slept in Seney hall in order to let me in from the inside. We prepared the 3rd floor by placing chairs and tables by the windows so that the Donkey would not be tempted to go near them. We also moved picture frames so that they would not be hurt. Lastly we barricaded the doors using 2"x2"x4' board that extended over the door frame and then were secured to the door with duct tape, zip-ties, and 11/2 inch U-bolts. Once the buildings was prepared we then moved the donkey through the front doors of Seney to the elevator to the 3rd floor. We then unloaded the donkey and took the elevator back down to the first floor. (now this is a good part) we sent the elevator back up to the second floor (which was also barricaded from the inside) with a Chair, books, and a small shelf leaning against the doors of the elevator so that when they opened on the second floor, the chair would fall prohibiting the doors of the elevator to close for use. As a back up we removed the elevator call key panel from the 1st floor lobby and Removed, NOT Cut, wires from the back of the button. The most damage this may have caused is a blown fuse. All in all I believe that once people see the brilliance behind this prank and get off their high-horse they may be able to see that college is about relationships and memories, not a grade on a test or your attendance record. - Seney hall was discovered to be locked down at approx 0735 and it took until 1115hrs to remove the Zebra. - Ultimately this was a HARMLESS prank, NOT vandalism. - and when all is said and done, it may have been one of the greatest pranks ever pulled off in history of American academia... A zebra was barricaded into the most historic building of one of the highest ranked universities in America... thats awesome!!

Regards, The Emory Pranksters
Categories: Animals, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 24, 2008
Comments (34)
Gelf Magazine has an article about Alan Abel, who will be speaking at Gelf's Non-Motivational Speaker Series on Thursday, April 24 in New York City.

The article gives a quick overview of Abel's career: The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, his obituary in the New York Times, Citizens Against Breastfeeding, etc.

One interesting part at the end, which I've heard people speculate about before, is how Abel funds himself:

This subject is the only one which he's vague about in the interview. He mentions I am probably better off watching his daughter’s recent documentary about him—Abel Raises Cain—to ascertain the details of his day-to-day affairs, but says he works as a consultant, and then gives some examples of the kind of consultations he’s done in the past. Rather than traditional consulting jobs in which one is brought in to advise on business or personal matters, all three of Abel’s stories involve tracking down people or money in cross-country adventures, leaving me with the idea that perhaps Alan Abel is some sort of vigilante mystery-solver, a cross between Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction and Encyclopedia Brown. As for securing funding for his hoaxes, Abel is similarly ambiguous, attributing his financial backing to an anonymous millionaire from Florida.

I wonder if this "anonymous millionaire from Florida" would care to fund the Museum of Hoaxes?

Jenny Abel, Abel's daughter, recently sent me a copy of her movie, Abel Raises Cain. I plan to watch it sometime in the next two weeks (right after I finish work on the proposal for my next book), and will post about it then.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 23, 2008
Comments (10)
From Secret Thoughts of Stuffed Animals, the following photo and accompanying caption:

Many years ago, two brothers inherited their father's house. The brothers were not on good terms, in fact they didn't speak to each other and wanted nothing to do with one another. They could not come to agreeable terms over the disposition of their father's house. Neither brother wanted to sell, nor did they wish to live together. Taking a cue from King Solomon, they did the only logical thing. They split the house in half.

I don't know what the real story is with this picture, but I'm pretty sure it's not what the caption says. They look a bit like multi-level shotgun houses.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 22, 2008
Comments (10)
From the Wired music blog: "It appears that the company [Ticketmaster] hired someone or something to create fake Facebook friends in order to look more popular to other Facebook users."

I can understand why Ticketmaster would need to create fake friends. I recently bought tickets to see The Cure. After paying $35 for each ticket, I found out I also had to pay a $20 "convenience charge" to Ticketmaster, which didn't make me feel very friendly toward them.
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 22, 2008
Comments (9)
Penis-melting Zionist Robot Combs have struck in the Congo. Minus the Zionists and the Robot Combs. From Reuters:

Rumours of penis theft began circulating last week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo's sprawling capital of some 8 million inhabitants. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings.
Purported victims, 14 of whom were also detained by police, claimed that sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in what some residents said was an attempt to extort cash with the promise of a cure.

So how do you argue with a man who claims that his penis has been stolen. Kinshasa's police chief, Jean-Dieudonne Oleko, isn't having much luck:

"I'm tempted to say it's one huge joke," Oleko said.
"But when you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it's become tiny or that they've become impotent. To that I tell them, 'How do you know if you haven't gone home and tried it'," he said.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Mass Delusion
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 22, 2008
Comments (11)
Don't miss out on this gem on eBay. The seller says: "I have here for auction one ruffled potato chip that looks like Bigfoot. Just for fun, let's call him Chipfoot. grin The chip is in very good/stable condition and should ship quite nicely."

I'd make a bid, but at $3 it's already too pricey for me.
Categories: eBay, Food, Pareidolia
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 22, 2008
Comments (12)
One of the big problems in modern America is that there are simply not enough lawsuits. A new website promises to end this. It calls itself "Sue Easy," because it makes it so easy to sue someone.

The concept is that instead of litigants trying to find a lawyer, which is the traditional way these things are done, the lawyers should seek out the litigants. So if you have a case, or even just an idea for a case, list it on SueEasy, then wait for attorneys to contact you. The site promises "instant legal bliss."

Some of the proposed cases that people have listed so far:

Hotdog and Bun Mismatch
Currently buns are sold in packages of 10 but hotdogs come in packages of 8. Thus, it is impossible to perfectly match the number of hotdogs to the number of buns without buying 4 packs of buns and 5 packs of hotdogs.

Circumcision is sexual abuse, torture and mutilation
Any man that was circumcised is due reparations for the lost sexual functioning he inevitably suffered since circumcision removes the most sensitive part of the penis.

These sound like real winners.

As bizarre as the site sounds (note that I was being sarcastic about there being too few lawsuits), it's apparently not a joke. It's the creation of a guy named Sahil Kazi, whose other projects include

If SueEasy proves to be a success, eventually someone will sue it for encouraging frivolous litigation. That's inevitable.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 18, 2008
Comments (12)
Yale undergraduate Aliza Shvarts' senior art project has created a little bit of controversy. She has apparently created "a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself 'as often as possible' while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages." That's just lovely. (Already posted by whoeverur in the forum, but so bizarre it warrants being on the front page.)

Shvarts insists that her project was not designed for "shock value." Funny. I would have thought it was designed precisely for shock value.

She also says that "she was not concerned about any medical effects the forced miscarriages may have had on her body. The abortifacient drugs she took were legal and herbal, she said, and she did not feel the need to consult a doctor about her repeated miscarriages." I'm always puzzled about why people think that just because a drug is "herbal" it can't possibly be harmful.

The final display of the project will be like something out of a horror movie:

The display of Schvarts' project will feature a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery of Green Hall. Schvarts will wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around this cube; lined between layers of the sheeting will be the blood from Schvarts' self-induced miscarriages mixed with Vaseline in order to prevent the blood from drying and to extend the blood throughout the plastic sheeting. Schvarts will then project recorded videos onto the four sides of the cube. These videos, captured on a VHS camcorder, will show her experiencing miscarriages in her bathrooom tub, she said. Similar videos will be projected onto the walls of the room.

As word of Schvarts' project got around, Yale hurriedly released a statement assuring everyone that it was all just "creative fiction":

“Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages,” a Yale spokeswoman, Helaine Klasky, said in a statement sent by e-mail to reporters. “The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body.”

But according to a follow-up report in the Yale Daily News, Sharvarts is still insisting that she really did what she initially claimed:

Shvarts reiterated Thursday that she repeatedly use a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself. At the end of her menstrual cycle, she took abortifacient herbs to induce bleeding, she said. She said she does not know whether or not she was ever pregnant. “No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,” Shvarts said, “because the nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties.”

My hunch is that Shvarts probably did conduct her bizarre project. But who can say for sure? Creating doubt seems to be the basic point of her project.

There's a long history of hoaxes and "art projects" involving reproduction, which is why I devoted an entire chapter to that subject in Hippo Eats Dwarf. The two that remind me most of Shvarts' project are Mary Toft, the woman who gave birth to rabbits, and Chrissy Caviar, the performance artist who claimed she harvested the eggs from her body and sold them as food.
Categories: Art, Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 18, 2008
Comments (15)
Marilyn Monroe seems to attract hoaxes, in the same way that Hitler, Bigfoot, and Paris Hilton do. I guess it's because any news about Marilyn is guaranteed to get attention, which is what many hoaxers are looking for.

The latest Marilyn news is that a sex tape starring her was sold for $1.5 million to an anonymous wealthy businessman, who swore he would never make it public. The tape is said to be a copy of a film that has been kept classified by the FBI.

The promise of the businessman to not market the tape sounds very noble, but nobility probably has little to do with it. The tape is probably being kept from the public because it doesn't exist.

Defamer, with the help of Marilyn Monroe expert Mark Bellinghaus, has put all the pieces of this story together. (If I'm a "hoax-pert," does that make Bellinghaus a "Monroe-xpert"?)

The key point, as Defamer argues, is that the sale to the anonymous businessman was brokered by Keya Morgan "whose main objective is to promote himself and the Monroe documentary that he is working on." Defamer argues that "What Keya Morgan is promoting equates to questionable stories generated simply to sell another book or push another cheesy documentary." Some of the questions that Defamer and Bellinghaus raise:

· The film was supposedly made of Marilyn Monroe as a starlet. If filmed in this time period of Monroe's life, why would the feds have cared about the activities of a young starlet, considering that Marilyn Monroe had not reached the heights of fame at the time this footage was claimed to have been filmed?

· "You see instantly that it's Marilyn Monroe - she has the famous mole." This is a quote by Keya Morgan, which is one of the flimsiest pieces of evidence ever presented. Just because this alleged film has a person with a mole, it's instantly Marilyn Monroe?

· Essentially Morgan is claiming that this is a bootleg copy of a classified FBI film. So if an original is classified, why would the FBI allow this public brouhaha in the press and not stop this sale from taking place? Why would this film copy not be destroyed?

Keeping key pieces of evidence hidden (such as the tape itself!) is the classic modus operandi of hoaxers. So I'm definitely with Defamer on this. It smells like a hoax.
(Thanks Bob and Joe!)

Related Posts:
Man mistakes Madonna for Monroe
The JFK-Marilyn Monroe Correspondence

Update: The Smoking Gun has conducted research that also casts doubt on Morgan's claims.
Categories: Celebrities, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 17, 2008
Comments (23)
A disturbing article in the most recent issue of JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) suggests that the practice of ghostwriting medical studies is widespread. How it works is that a big drug company writes a study touting the merits of its latest drug. Then the company hands off the study to a prestigious researcher who agrees to be listed as the author. This adds a veneer of scientific credibility to what is basically corporate propaganda.

The dupes in this entire process are the patients who are convinced to shell out big bucks for medicine that's either worthless or actually harmful (such as Vioxx).

The drug companies, of course, claim this isn't how it works at all. The International Herald Tribune notes:

Merck acknowledged Tuesday that it sometimes hired outside medical writers to draft research reports before handing them over to the doctors whose names eventually appear on the publication. But the company disputed the article's conclusion that the authors do little of the actual research or analysis.

I wonder, do the drug companies expect anyone to believe them anymore?
Categories: Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 17, 2008
Comments (15)
A few days ago The Sun posted this article:

THIS spooky image of an unknown boy gave Angie D'Arcy the shivers when she had her photos developed. She took the picture in 2003 in Evercreech, Somerset, but only just got round to having the disposable camera film printed. Angie, 40, of Shepton Mallet, cannot remember anyone being in the shot when she took the snap and said the figure, dressed in old-style country clothing, remained a mystery.
"I don't believe in ghosts but I just can't explain it," she said.
"It was among pictures of our old house. No one recognises the boy."
The child also appears on the negatives.

I can't tell if The Sun printed the picture as a joke, or if they're really so clueless that they didn't realize the mysterious "ghost boy" in the photo is Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I'm leaning towards clueless.
Categories: Paranormal, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 16, 2008
Comments (16)
On Monday (April 13) Buster Martin completed the London marathon in a time of approximately ten hours. What made this remarkable was his age. Martin claims to be 101-years-old. If true, this would make him the oldest person ever to complete a marthon. (The former record holder was 98-year-old Dimitrion Yordanidies who completed the Athens marathon in 1976 with a time of 7.5 hours.) But Martin's age has been called into question.

Martin says he was born on September 1, 1906. The British National Health Service, however, says he previously told them he was born in 1913, which would make him a mere 94.

The problem is that Martin has no birth certificate because he was born in France and later moved to a British orphanage. So there's no way to verify his exact age. Guinness World Records has refused to list him as the new record holder, insisting they need a birth certificate.

Perhaps Martin actually comes from Vilcabamba, the Ecuadorian town of very old people. As Vilcabamba demonstrated, the phenomenon of age exaggeration is well known to anthropologists. The problem is that it's very tempting for very old people to add a few more years onto their age, since it's an easy way to get more attention. So a lot of people who are getting close to 100 decide to bump up their age to make themselves older than 100.

Also running in the marathon were a man who dribbled a basketball the entire way, a girl on 4ft stilts, an 80-year-old woman, a blind man, and a team of six Masai warriors who sang traditional songs as they ran in shoes made from tires.
Categories: Sports
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 15, 2008
Comments (9)
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