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June 2008
This morning I received an email from SueEasy, a website about which I've posted previously:

Hi,
This is Andrew Richards, Manager Operations at SueEasy.com
We would like to express our discontentment regarding your entry about our
company: http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/weblog/permalink/sue_easy/
We are NOT a hoax of any kind. We have several respected law firms and
attorneys signed up with our service & we were hand picked by Michael
Arrington
(http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1733748_1733758_1735848,00.html)
at TechCrunch.

here's some press:
http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2007/10/19/sueeasy-hey-tort-reform-this-ones-for-you/print/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/04/12/sueeasy-goes-live-your-class-action-lawsuit-lottery-ticket/
http://www.lawyersweeklyusa.com/index.cfm/archive/view/id/430595
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-15046732.html
http://abajournal.com/news/new_website_plays_matchmaker_for_would_be_plaintiffs/

Please do not make sweeping statements and write false stories about things
you haven't reserached. We'd appreciate it, if you took the link down
please.

Sincerely,
A. Richards
SueEasy.com

To which I replied:

Dear Andrew,
Thanks for your email, though it puzzles me. I state a number of times in my post that SueEasy is NOT a hoax.
Can you please indicate, specifically, what you believe to be the inaccurate statements in my post.
-Alex Boese

I've run into this problem before. Companies complain to me after seeing their name on my site, because they assume that EVERYTHING I discuss on the site must be a hoax, even if I state that it's not. We'll see where this leads.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 16, 2008
Comments (15)
I turn forty today. Getting old! Shown are two of my birthday presents: a Feejee mermaid (from my wife) and a replica of the Piltdown Man skull (from my parents). They look kind of creepy together, but I think they're cool. With all these things I'm acquiring, I'll be able to open a real Museum of Hoaxes soon!
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 13, 2008
Comments (26)
Just as popular recently as the Office Freakout video (posted about below), has been a video titled "Wii Fit - Why You Should Buy It For Your Girlfriend." It's one minute of a girl in her underwear working out with the Nintendo Wii Fit as her boyfriend ogles her.

There's been a lot of speculation that the video is a (not-so) covert marketing campaign by Nintendo. People grew even more suspicious after it was discovered that the woman in the video, 25-year-old Lauren Bernat, and her boyfriend, 30-year-old Giovanny Gutierrez, both work in advertising. Even better, they both specialize in internet advertising. But Nintendo insists it had nothing to do with the video. The Telegraph reports:

"This has and is absolutely 100 per cent nothing to do with Nintendo," a spokesman said.
"Nintendo did not create it and were not aware of it until it was brought it to our attention."
Mr Gutierrez has also denied that it was a viral advert for the Wii Fit.

Nintendo may not have created it, but I'm sure their pr people have been busy trying to spread the word about it, once they realized the interest it was attracting. Of course, it could also be a "sub-viral" campaign (defined as a viral campaign a company creates, but then denies having any hand in.)
Categories: Advertising, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 12, 2008
Comments (14)
For the past few weeks a video (apparently Russian) of some guy freaking out at his office has been doing the rounds. Tobester posted about it in the forum, speculating that it was real. But no, it isn't. Wired reports that it was covert marketing for the upcoming movie Wanted, starring Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie:

The undercover advert hit its target spot-on, amassing nearly 4 million views and almost 5,500 Diggs in the week since it was posted.
The video is supposed to invoke themes about escaping one's everyday life -- a point that was probably missed by many, seeing as the guy in the video (above) appears to be going completely and utterly insane.
Wanted hits theaters June 27. It's the first stateside production for Russian director Bekmambetov, whose previous works include the phenomenal dark fantasy flicks Day Watch and Night Watch.
Categories: Advertising, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 12, 2008
Comments (5)
I found this picture on Puld.net, who writes: "The sources said this is not photoshopped or edited and this person really have no THUMB at all! I wonder how he “Thumbs Up” his friends?"



Update: Posted to the Hoax Photo Database.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 11, 2008
Comments (7)
A man posing as a deputy stole nearly $1000 from an Ohio couple by telling them they had to hand over the money so that his dog could sniff it for drug residue. From AP News:

the fake deputy knocked on the Waverly, Ohio, couple's motel room door last week. The man told the couple a drug raid just happened next door and a police dog needed to sniff all of their money. Kuzinsky says the couple handed over the money and the fake deputy got into a small gray car and drove off. Kuzinsky says the man flashed some sort of identification and pretended to talk into a handheld radio during the robbery.

The guy got lucky that the couple had $1000 in cash on them.
Categories: Scams
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 11, 2008
Comments (1)
I'm not sure if this is a prank, or just a case of bizarre willfulness. Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut warned a father and daughter not to bring their horse to school. They brought it anyway, so the school has charged them with breach of peace. From nbc30.com:

Police were called Friday morning when a Westport man and his daughter walked a horse onto the campus of Staples High School, police said. School officials became concerned when a large group of students gathered near the horse and reported it, police said.
School officials had previously warned the family not to bring the horse onto school property and became concerned about the safety of students, police said.
Security personnel at Bedford Middle School in Westport told the father and daughter not to enter the campus with the horse but they entered the property and continued to walk to the high school, police said.

It would be a prank to lock a cow or some other animal inside a school building. But in this case it seems like the father and daughter just really wanted to show off their horse. One hundred years ago it would have been quite normal to ride your horse to school.
Categories: Animals, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 10, 2008
Comments (6)
A Salt Lake City news station exposes a panhandling scam. Or, rather, one panhandler scammer -- a young woman who leaves her parents' house every morning to stand on a street corner and beg for money. She tells people she was kicked out by her boyfriend just a week before Christmas and she's trying to earn enough to buy a bus ticket back to Seattle:



It reminded me of Alan Abel's long-running "School for Beggars" hoax, from the 1970s and 80s. He claimed to be running a school that taught people how to panhandle professionally. The media, of course, ate it up because they love to play on people's fears that beggars are taking advantage of them.
Categories: Scams
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 10, 2008
Comments (15)
A youtube video purports to show popcorn popping when placed in between cell phones all ringing at once.



Clearly fake. It's a new spin on the old joke about cooking an egg with two cell phones. The only question is how they got the popcorn to pop. My guess is there must be a heating element beneath the table.
Categories: Food, Photos/Videos, Technology
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 09, 2008
Comments (14)
Last week 28-year-old artist Yazmany Arboleda rented an empty storefront across the street from the New York Times building near Times Square to house his art exhibit. He then posted the title of the exhibit in the window: "The Assassination of Hillary Clinton / The Assassination of Barack Obama."

It didn't take long for the secret service to show up and haul him in for questioning. Arboleda pleaded innocence, insisting he was referring to character assassination (by the media), not the murder-type of assassination, and the secret service released him a few hours later.

Arboleda insists that what he did was not a hoax, and I'd agree. Seems more like a publicity stunt to me. But he did engage in some media hoaxing a few months ago. From mediabistro.com:

Earlier this year, Arboleda crafted elaborate press releases, exhibition websites (complete with PhotoShopped installation shots), and even fake Chelsea art galleries where his Clinton and Obama shows were allegedly installed and hastily censored (Michael Musto fell for it, as did the news team at a Univision affiliate).

So, if I have this straight, Arboleda first invented a hoax exhibit. But last week he opened the exhibit for real. Some of the works on display included a gigantic representation of a black penis, and lettering on the wall that asks "Would you have sex with her? Neither would Bill." Obviously he's not one for subtlety. (Thanks, Bob)
Categories: Art, Hate Crimes/Terror, Politics
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 09, 2008
Comments (1)


What are the odds this scene is real? Not very good, I'd say. The photo is from 1923. I found it in a book by Mark Sloan titled Hoaxes, Humbugs, and Spectacles. Despite that title, most of the photos in the book are not fake. The majority show circus performers and publicity stunts. Sloan titled this photo "High-Pressure Hijinks." He provides a short caption:

Perhaps this soldier needed a lift. Experimenting with water pressure outside his barracks, he discovered an ingenious alternative to mounted patrol.
(The New York Times; courtesy National Archives and Wide World Photos)

Pressure from a fire hose would be enough to lift a man straight up. Check out this youtube video of a car being lifted by water pressure. But I doubt a man would be strong enough to keep the hose pointed downward. The tendency would be for the hose to kick him straight back. I'm guessing the photo is a composite -- the soldier having been cut-and-pasted onto the background shot.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 09, 2008
Comments (16)
Derrie-Air claims to be the world's only carbon-neutral luxury airline. From its website:

Welcome to Derrie-Air, the world's only carbon-neutral luxury airline, where you don't have to choose between living the high life and saving the planet. Nine out of ten scientists agree—we need to reduce our carbon emissions or perish from the face of the earth. Air travel is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions and global warming. Derrie-Air will be the only airline that plants trees to offset every pound of carbon that our planes release into the atmosphere.
But not only will we do our part to protect the environment, we will expect you, our passengers, to do your part as well. The magic comes from our one of a kind "Sliding Scale"—the more you weigh, the more you'll pay. After all, it takes more fuel—more energy—to get more weight from point A to point B. So we will charge passengers based on how much mass they add to the plane. The heavier you and your luggage are, the more trees we'll plant to make up for the trouble of flying you from place to place.

The reality is that Derrie-Air doesn't exist. It's a fake company dreamed up by Philadelphia Media Holdings, owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. In addition to creating the Derrie-Air site, they also ran Derrie-Air ads in their papers as a marketing test "to demonstrate the power of our brands, in print and online, to drive traffic awareness -- in this case for a brand that doesn’t exist and is fictitious." More details in Editor & Publisher, and on MSNBC.

I predict this will become a case of satirical prophecy, in that it won't be long before airlines actually are implementing measures such as charging by the pound. (Thanks, Rebecca)
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Journalism, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 06, 2008
Comments (7)
A science teacher posting on the Bad Astronomy forum describes an experiment in which he polled his students to find out how many of them believed humans had walked on the surface of the moon -- before and after watching the Fox TV documentary "Did We Land on the Moon?"

I began by asking my students (9-12th graders taking earth/space honors) the simple question, "Do you believe that humans have walked on the surface of the Moon?". Initial results were 81.0% "Yes", 7.6% "No" and 11.4% "Not sure" (sample size 105 students).
Then I showed them a DVD I have made of the infamous FOX show (thanks to Jim Oberg who helped me land a copy of the video tape when my own was "mysteriously" partially taped over). I converted to DVD so I could knock out the 18 minutes (!) of advertisements and break the segments up into easily accessible chapters. I showed the video completely through without comment and asked the same question. This year, the "after video" results were 50.8% "Yes", 21.3% "No" and 27.9% "Not sure" (sample size 122 students).

So belief in the moon landing dropped by 30% after watching the Fox documentary. Thankfully, he didn't leave his students in a state of disbelief. The next day he showed them a powerpoint presentation rebutting every point made in the show:

I made sure to cover every single topic and then I asked the question a final time. The final results this year were 92.9% "Yes", 2.0% "No" and 5.1% "Not sure" (sample size 99).

It's no wonder so many people believe in bizarre conspiracy theories and the paranormal. They watch all these shows on TV and never hear a reasoned rebuttal from someone who knows what they're talking about.
Categories: Conspiracy Theories
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 06, 2008
Comments (11)
With the price of gas going through the roof, there's been a lot of interest in alternative fuel supplies. For instance, various schemes to use water as a fuel have been getting renewed interest. But a new idea (at least, new to me) is the Diesel Tree. This is a tree that directly produces diesel fuel. All you have to do is tap the tree (just as you would tap a maple tree for its syrup), then fill up your tank with the oil, and you're good to go. From treehugger.com:

the Brazilian Copaifera langsdorfii, to use its botanical name, can be tapped not unlike a rubber tree, but instead of yielding rubbery latex it gives up a natural diesel. According to the nurseryman selling the trees, one hectare will yield about 12,000 litres annually.
Once filtered—-no complex refining required, apparently—-it can be placed straight into a diesel tractor or truck. We read that a single Copaifera langsdorfii will continue to produce fuel oil for an impressive 70 years, with the only negative being that its particular form of diesel needs to be used within three months of extraction.

You can also check out this video on YouTube in which an Australian farmer who's growing Diesel Trees is interviewed. He admits it "sounds like a fanciful concept," but insists it's real. There are also articles in the Sydney Morning Herald and ABC.net.au.

As odd as the idea sounds, Diesel Trees do appear to be real. Here's the wikipedia article about them. They simply produce a plant oil pure enough that diesel engines can run on it. The Alaska Science Forum notes:
Though not likely to become a significant source of diesel fuel in temperate climates, in the tropics Cobaifera plantations might produce as much as 25 barrels of fuel per year. Still, Cobaifera relatives in the same genus, Euphorbia, are producing 10 barrels per acre in northern California.

It would be pretty cool to be able to fill up your car directly from a tree in your backyard.(via geoisla)
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Free Energy, Science
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 06, 2008
Comments (4)
Nyack High School seniors claim their prank got pranked. Their intended prank was to remove all the desks and chairs from the classrooms and line them up in the field behind the school in the shape of a giant "2008." The principal had given them permission to do this. But during the night someone rearranged the desks into the shape of a penis. From lohud.com:

Senior Erin Cummings, 17, said about 100 seniors came to the school at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and worked for several hours arranging the desks. But it seems another group came out to the field afterward and rearranged the desks in the shape of a penis, leaving the image that way for everyone to find yesterday morning.
"Personally, it was upsetting to see all our hard work turn into a huge penis," Cummings said, though she conceded she was proud her class was able to cause a little chaos for the day.

Of course, the paper just had to interview a student named Cummings for this story.

Creating gigantic representations of the male anatomy on hillsides or in fields is a tradition that goes back thousands (maybe even tens of thousands) of years. The Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorchester is the most famous example of this. It's interesting how, despite the school administration's effort to impose a neutered form of the prank on the students, the old ways reassert themselves. Human nature just doesn't change much.

Surprisingly, I can't find any pictures of the Nyack penis. I felt sure the media would come through with one.

Update: Got a picture! (Thanks, Nyacker)

Categories: Pranks, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 05, 2008
Comments (7)
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